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15 ways to make 2023 your year to reduce waste

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Amy Speare of Zero Waste Arlington submitted the following New Year's resolutions about waste. The group is an advocacy and education-focused town committee, working at both the local and state levels to effect change and reduce our waste. Follow Zero Waste Arlington on Facebook or visit its website.

Protecting the environment will take collective and long-term action, but every individual has the power to make small daily decisions to reduce their individual amount of waste, which will also help protect our planet. We need to go beyond the 3Rs and practice these five Rs: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Rot, Recycle.

In 2023, challenge yourself to adopt one (or more!) of our suggestions below to fight back against the environmental foes: consumerism and disposability.

  1. Create less waste. Period. 
    You don’t have to take the giant leap to Zero Waste, but creating less waste is an accomplishment in itself. Set reasonable goals like cutting garbage by half each month, or adopting one lower waste habit or Zero Waste swap each month or season.

  2. Do a self-assessment to learn what your household impact is.
    Look through your home for plastic (especially in the kitchen and bathroom) or even perform a home waste audit to determine where you can make changes.

  3. Reduce use of single-use plastics.
    This is one of the most impactful changes you can make. Here are a few everyday tips:

    • Say ‘no thank you’ to take-out utensils, napkins, condiment packages, etc. (learn about our ‘No Plastic, Please’ campaign).

    • Bring reusable containers for restaurant leftovers.

    • Choose glass or aluminum single-use beverage bottles.

    • Bring a reusable coffee/tea mug to your local cafe.

    • Stop stocking disposable food packaging that leaves a waste trail (ziploc bags, plastic wrap, wax paper) and seek alternatives (glass containers, beeswax, reuse bread bags, etc).

  4. Bring a reusable water bottle with you everywhere.
    Sale of single-use plastic water bottles less than 1 liter are now banned in Arlington. To stay hydrated when you’re out, keep reusable water bottles in your car and backpack and bring them with you to work and the gym.

    Learn more about our ‘Arlington on Tap’ campaign to build a network of refilling stations.

  5. Pay attention to packaging.
    Shop local whenever possible and avoid buying online to prevent box and packaging waste. When shopping, choose low(er) waste packaging or more recyclable plastics. Review what items are accepted in your curbside blue bin.

    The next time you go to the grocery store, look at the aisles with a critical eye and choose items not packaged in plastic. If alternatives are not available, choose plastic packaging that is recyclable.

    Grocery produce sections are increasingly problematic so send a message to the store (even talk to the store manager!) and purchase individual produce (placed in produce bags you’re reusing) rather than those wrapped in plastic.

  6. Make some noise and advocate for change.
    Start vocalizing what you have learned. Consider this resolution as a commitment to acting on your social conscience and using everyday interactions as opportunities to reach someone new.

    • Attend Zero Waste Arlington monthly meetings (fourth Thursday of the month, 7 p.m.) or get involved with one of our subgroups.

    • Follow Zero Waste Arlington on Facebook, share posts and educate your friends.

    • Write to your local representatives and tell them what matters to you.

    • Show up if there is a rally, meeting or vote on an issue important to you.

  7. Buy in bulk.
    Eliminate packaging all together and buy food in bulk (i.e. package-free) at Neighborhood Produce, Whole Foods or Wegmans.

    Bring your own container to purchase health and beauty products (toothpaste, shampoo bars) and household cleaning products (laundry detergent, dish soap, plastic-free dishwasher packets) at a refillery such as Yes! Plastic Free, Cleenland, Center Goods, or Trove Green Provisions.

  8. Be a conscientious recycler.
    Improve your recycling IQ. The practice of ‘wishcycling’ (where items we hope are recyclable but are not, are placed in blue bins) causes recycling contamination and can tangle up recycling machinery. Educate yourself on what, how and where to recycle with these resources.

    1. Arlington Reuse & Recycle center (local recycling guide)

    2. Recyclopedia (searchable recycling database)

    3. Beyond the Bin (how to recycle unusual items, the extra effort is worth it!)

    4. Film recycling (recycle all stretchy plastic at grocery stores).

    5. Textile recycling (mattresses and miscellaneous textiles)

  9. Reduce junk mail.
    The average U.S. household receives 41 pounds of unwanted junk mail each year. Reduce this unnecessary waste by opting out of credit card offers, removing your name from marketing mailing lists, and contacting charities you donate to and ask them to send you only one or two solicitations per year.

  10. Start composting.
    Thinking about composting but not sure how to start? 24% of municipal waste is food waste which can easily be diverted from the waste stream. Arlington offers a few easy options: backyard composting, curbside subscription service or food scrap drop-off.

  11. Waste less food.
    Composting works for excess food, but try these tactics to reduce what comes into your home in the first place.

    • Use 90% of what’s in the fridge and pantry before buying more

    • Check the pantry every week for foods that need to be used ASAP

    • Put the foods that need to be cooked and eaten in a highly visible place

    • Don’t shop when you’re hungry

    • Make a list and stick with it

    • Freeze what leftovers you can

  12. Shop second hand.
    Shopping at second hand stores not only saves you money but it also helps you live more sustainably. In addition to our lengthy list of used goods and consignment stores, here is a list of Boston area thrift stores. Before you shop, go through your belongings and bring donations with you.

  13. Try before you buy.
    Try before you buy or loan instead of own. The Robbins Library’s Library of Things includes gadgets, tools, games and more.

  14. Watch an educational documentary.
    Looking for a winter weekend activity with your family? Relax and watch a documentary or film together and talk about what you learned and what actions you can take.

    • "Planet Earth" (Amazon, HBO Max, Discovery Plus, Apple TV, etc.)

    • "Our Planet" (Netflix)

    • "A Plastic Ocean" (Peacock, Amazon, Apple TV)

    • "The Story of Plastic" (Amazon)

    • "Bag It" (Amazon)

  15. Skip the stuff all year long.
    Hopefully, you opted to give low(er) waste gifts over the holidays. How about making this a year-long practice for all occasions including birthdays, anniversaries, and weddings? You can also give the most precious gift of all - a gift of your time. Go for a walk together, prepare a meal, babysit, help organize their house, help with yardwork; the possibilities are endless.


Aug. 23, 2022: Zero Waste Arlington launches website

This public appeal was published Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023. YourArlington volunteer Kim Haase prepared it for publication.

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