Are you interested in finding out how to reduce your environmental footprint? Or, at least how to have less trash each week? If so, start at home.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines trash, or municipal solid waste, as things people throw away after they’ve used them. That includes food waste, product packaging, and even household goods, like old furniture or broken appliances.

Each family and household is different, but if you’re anything like the average American, you get heavy use out of your trash can. In fact, Americans produced 292.4 million tons of municipal solid waste in 2018, according to the latest report by the EPA

One of the easiest ways to lower your impact on the environment is to reduce the amount of waste your family generates. While some households strive for a completely zero-waste lifestyle, this may require such drastic changes that you end up facing a family mutiny. Luckily, you’ll still find many easy ways to make improvements and reduce your household waste without dramatically changing your lifestyle. And these gentle changes should be sustainable every day of the year.

Below are 11 simple changes you and your family can make to produce less household waste all year round – and save money in the process!

Reduce Household Waste with Reusable Grocery Bags

1. Replace Plastic with Reusable When Possible

Plastic is everywhere. Even in the ocean, there are 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic debris. From plastic wrap and sandwich bags, to single-use water bottles or shopping bags, plastic is an everyday household material that frequently gets tossed. The good news is that there are many better alternatives. Reusable shopping bags are a great, cost-effective way to reduce waste – and they are much sturdier. When it comes to food, you could invest in a few cloth bowl covers, which are great for leftovers, or beeswax wraps to wrap around food products, which also keeps food fresh longer! If you end up with plastic bags or bottles, that doesn’t mean they need to immediately be thrown out, either. Get creative with it! Use your shopping bags as trash can liners, or craft a plastic bottle so it’s a vase or plant propagation station.

2. Learn How to Properly Recycle Aluminum

Many of us use aluminum foil to line baking trays when roasting vegetables or baking muffins. Our instinct may be to just throw it out after for an easy clean-up, but aluminum is fully recyclable as long as it’s free of any food debris or particles. Giving it a quick rinse will do wonders to the environment (and your wallet). If it’s still in good shape, you can even use it again. Or, possibly an easier option, is to invest in reusable baking tray liners or cupcake liners. These are both easy to clean and store, and may end up saving you more money over time.

3. Say Goodbye to Paper

Paper products account for 26% of landfill waste. While your family probably won’t embrace reusable cloth toilet wipes, it’s pretty easy to replace paper towels with cloth kitchen towels. Microfiber is quick drying, or to save even more money, cut up an old flannel shirt. While you’re at it, it might be time to rethink your tissue use. As long as you wash them after use, hankies are a great alternative.

4. Buy Less, or Buy in Bulk

To truly produce less waste, we have to buy less. In a world where we can buy almost anything within seconds, it’s important to be mindful of our shopping habits, and critical if need be.

For those items or times where not shopping isn’t an option, try to buy in bulk. By doing so, you’re using less single-use packaging, typically going to the store less, and ultimately saving more money at the end of the month. Win-win-win!

Next time you’re at the supermarket, check out the bulk food aisles. You should be able to find everything from breakfast cereals to baking ingredients. Eventually, you could even try shopping at a grocery store that only sells in bulk. If you’re worried about food going bad, remember that the freezer is your friend.

5. BYORC: Bring Your Own Refillable Containers

The one downside to buying in bulk is that it sometimes encourages using plastic or other single-use materials to store each type of food. You can cut down on this waste by storing bulk foods in refillable containers, such as glass mason jars, tote bags, or that plastic takeout container from your lunch last Thursday. Just don’t forget to bring them with you to the store, and make sure you don’t pay extra for the weight of the container.

6. Choose Digital Over Paper & Opt-in to Paperless

Another way to reduce the amount of paper your family wastes is to choose digital over print whenever possible. While you can choose to buy the Kindle edition of the latest book by your favorite author, it’s especially important to do so for your weekly newspaper and monthly magazine subscriptions.

And, if you haven’t already done so, ask to receive paperless statements and bills from your service providers. Many financial institutions now offer paperless credit card, investment, mortgage, loan, and line of credit statements. Utility and telecommunication companies similarly send bills and usage statements through email.

7. Say No to Disposable Beverage Containers

Another easy way to start working towards a zero-waste home is to avoid buying drinks in disposable cups, like Styrofoam or plastic. Instead, choose reusable water bottles for cold drinks or travel mugs for hot beverages. Get in the habit of always having them on you, and asking your local barista to use them instead of their own cups the next time you’re at the drive-thru for your morning cup of joe.

Reduce Household Waste with Reusable Water Bottles

8. Bring Your Own Reusable “Doggy Bags” for Restaurant Leftovers

Enjoy a dinner out but couldn’t finish your meal? Many restaurants still offer to package up your leftovers in Styrofoam containers so you can enjoy the rest of your meal at home. To avoid accumulating more trash, bring along a reusable plastic or glass container to store your leftovers until you’re ready to eat the rest of your meal.

9. Donate or Exchange Unused (or Gently Used) Clothing and Household Goods

Whether you’re downsizing or doing a big spring clean, hold off from tossing your unwanted clothing or household goods. If they’re unused or still in pretty good shape, you can donate them to a local charity or thrift shop, such as the Salvation Army or Goodwill. Another option is to offer them for free in your community. Most areas have Facebook groups called “Buy Nothing” where folks swap or donate anything from clothing to outdoor furniture to food.

10. Compost Your Scraps

According to the USDA’s Economic Research Service, Americans waste between 30% and 40% of food – an incredible number with lots of room for improvement.

Instead of throwing your coffee grounds, eggshells, and vegetable peelings into the trash, consider composting them. It’ll help you take big strides toward your goal of becoming a zero-waste household. Plus, you can use the resulting soil in your backyard garden. If you don’t garden, check with your regional waste-management facility to see if you can contribute your compost to a local community center.

11. Find Fun Ways to Reuse Everyday Items

Ultimately, it’s hard to start a new habit if it’s not fun. So enjoy getting creative with it! Finish a candle or jar of salsa? Clean it out and use it as a decorative container. Have old t-shirts that are on the brink of ruined? Cut them up and keep them in your car for emergency spills. The possibilities are endless.

Keep Your Zero-Waste Journey Simple and Gradual

Don’t make trash reduction at home complicated. Instead, focus on small changes and quick wins that are relatively painless and sustainable for your family (and hopefully, fun!).

If you suspect your spouse or another household member might balk at a waste-reduction tip, choose a less drastic one to focus on at first. You don’t need to “do it all” in one day.

Lastly, don’t feel bad if you fall short of a true zero-waste household. We’re all doing the best we can.

Have you found any tricks that could help readers adopt a zero-waste lifestyle? Share your tips for reducing household waste in the comments below!