Mother Earth Living

50 Ways to Use Less, Waste Less

Trim your waste line.
By Misty M. Lees
January/February 2005
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Plastics, Petrochemicals and Packaging

• Learn to love your unique looks without cosmetics—others will too.

• Use less laundry detergent. Are your clothes really that dirty?

• Borrow books, CDs, DVDs, and video games from the library, rental store, or friends.

• Use fewer household cleaners. Try soap and water, baking soda, or vinegar instead.

• Skip prepared and frozen food. Make dinners from scratch; make lunches from leftovers.

Food and Land

• Buy produce from local farms, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), or co-ops.

• Choose beans over meat.


• Share a car. Visit for info.

• Buy an alternative-fuel car as your next vehicle.

• Carpool, walk, bike, or ride a bus to work and on errands when possible.

• Use a push mower and trim bushes by hand.

• Shop online or by phone rather than drive around.

Building Materials

• Fix up an old house rather than build new.

• Clean out your garage, basement, and closets rather than buy a home with more space.


• Avoid shopping for fun.

• Share a lawnmower and tools with your neighbors.

• Rent a truck, power tools, and camping equipment when the need arises from a rental company.

• Limit your holiday gift giving and make personal gifts like homemade bread.

• Shop at garage sales and thrift stores.

Create Less Trash

• Learn to do your own repairs rather than throw things away.

• Swap and recycle anything and everything you can; join

• Donate extra paint to graffiti abatement or urban renewal programs.

• Trade extra school supplies from last year; have a swap in your neighborhood.

• Give scrap lumber to scouts.

• Use raked leaves and cut grass as mulch.

• Throw vegetable and fruit scraps into compost.


• Use recyclable containers when possible.

• Put a cookie sheet instead of foil on the bottom oven rack to catch drips.


• Reuse bath water for plants.

• Limit sprinkler time on your lawn.

• Wash clothes after two wearings instead of one (hang them inside-out after one use).

• Flush less often.

• Xeriscape your garden.

• Wash your car less—and do it yourself with a bucket.

• Use a low-flow showerhead with a shut-off button.

Paper (Wood)

• Borrow books from the library.

• Use the back side of copy paper.

• Get off junk mail and catalog lists; visit

• Give gently used books and magazines to a nursing home, hospital library, or literacy group.

• Get the newspaper online rather than at your doorstep.

• Share magazine subscriptions with friends.


• Turn out the lights when you leave a room.

• Use ceiling fans to boost your cooling/heating system effectiveness.

• Use lower wattage bulbs or unscrew one from a too-bright fixture.

• Use compact fluorescent bulbs.

• Choose not to hang holiday lights.

Clothing and Material

• Give clothing you don’t wear to charity.

• Learn how to mend clothes.

• Save dingy towels, holey T-shirts, and old sheets for cleaning rags and dropcloths.

• Recycle old denims or wool suits to make a woven or braided rag rug.

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