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You’ve probably heard the slogan, “Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.” The three Rs are actually written in a specific order when it comes to waste. First, you should reduce the amount of waste you generate. Then, reuse or repurpose any waste that you can. Only then should you do the final step – recycle. 

The most effective way to reduce waste is to not create it in the first place. Making a new product requires a lot of materials and energy - raw materials must be extracted from the earth, the product must be manufactured, and then transported to wherever it will be sold. Reduction and reuse are the most effective ways you can save natural resources, energy, water, money, and more.


Reducing waste: 

  • Reduces pollution from mining raw materials to make new products

  • Reduces the need for landfills or waste incinerators that create toxic air and water pollution

  • Saves energy and water compared to making new materials

  • Reduces emissions that contribute to climate changes

  • Saves money for individuals and businesses

  • Creates economic impact like jobs and tax revenue for Indiana

There are many easy ways to reduce & reuse waste.
















This kind of waste reduction means you don’t purchase or use things that have waste

  • Bring reusable bags when shopping to prevent taking single-use shopping bags 

  • Use a refillable water bottle instead of plastic water bottles

  • Bring a travel mug to your favorite coffee shop to avoid disposable coffee cups

  • Bring your own container when shopping at the deli and meat counters at the grocery store

  • Shop the bulk section when shopping for beans, rice, coffee, and more so you can bring your own storage containers

  • Use a portable silverware set instead of plastic silverware and straws

  • Use microfiber cloths or unpaper towels for cleaning instead of paper towels or disposable wipes

  • Switch to washable fabric or silicone bags instead of one-use food storage bags

  • Buy a reusable microwave popcorn popper instead of pre-packaged popcorn

  • Consider giving gifts of time or service for holidays to avoid packaging and wrapping

  • Switch to solid shampoo and soap bars or refill the bottles you have

  • Use a reusable coffee or k-cup filter to brew coffee at home

  • Switch to dryer balls to reduce drying time and avoid dryer sheets

  • Grow fruits and vegetables in the summer to enjoy tasty produce without the packaging

  • Bring a reusable garment bag when dry cleaning items



Think about how frequently you might use a new product before buying it

  • Do you know how much waste you make in a week? A month? Find out with a waste audit (i.e. the fancy term for keeping track of how much you throw out)

  • Before purchasing an item, ask yourself, “How often will I use this?” Set an amount that feels right for you - if it’s less than the number you chose, consider renting or borrowing the product.  

  • Before purchasing an item, consider if you already have something you could use as a substitute, such as using a flat iron to curl hair instead of a curling iron, or making popcorn on the stove instead of a popcorn maker

  • For items you use frequently like toilet paper or cleaning supplies, consider buying in bulk to reduce packaging

  • Try using less of waste you can’t quite quit. Still keep some paper towels on hand for super gross or gooey messes? Buy paper towels with perforations or rip in half to use smaller sheets when cleaning. 

  • Support businesses that create innovative and circular products that reduce packaging, reduce waste, and increase recyclability

  • Purchase items with the best packaging for recycling

  • Purchase items that use recycled materials in the product or packaging

  • Reuse sturdy plastic takeout containers for storing leftovers instead of buying new ones OR use to send leftovers home with guests instead of disposable packages/plastic wrap



Try to use products and packaging over and over again 

  • Use old packaging like multi-material shipping envelopes or the plastic toilet paper comes in for pet waste disposal

  • Ask at the local farmer’s market if vendors can reuse egg cartons, berry containers, or plastic storage containers

  • Use old socks as dusters instead of disposable dusting cloths

  • Use water from drinking glasses and pet bowls to water plants

  • Reuse sturdy plastic takeout containers for storing leftovers instead of buying new ones OR use to send leftovers home with guests instead of disposable packages/ plastic wrap

  • Use clean glass food jars as vases, food storage containers, and more

  • Refresh charcoal odor and moisture absorbers (like trash can or shoe deodorizers) by placing outside in the sun for 60 minutes

  • Reuse holiday gift bags that you receive to give next year’s gifts

  • Cut apart paper egg cartons and use as seedling starters for plants - they can be planted straight in the pot or ground and will biodegrade

  • Restaurant gave you plastic silverware with your takeout? Consider leaving them in your workplace kitchen area for people who forget to bring some

  • Wash old toothbrushes and use for scrubbing delicate items or in small spaces

  • Sprinkle used coffee grounds around plants to deter pests

  • Send plastic medication bottles to organizations that distribute medicine in impoverished countries



Some items can be repaired easily and/or cheaply to prevent needing to buy new goods

  • Check online for locals who are handy, perform odd jobs, or do repairs in your area

  • Search online for how-to-guides and videos for sewing, repairs, and more

  • Post in social media groups like NextDoor for recommendations from neighbors on how to repair things - who knows, someone may even offer to help you out


Buy used/donate

buy secondhand to reduce waste & Consider donating to a local thrift store or posting for free on social media

  • Shop second-hand, thrift, and consignment stores for gently used items

  • Social media sites like Facebook Marketplace and NextDoor can be helpful in finding items for cheap or free

  • Prefer to shop online? There are a variety of online resale stores selling everything from furniture, to homegoods, to clothing, to more

  • Check out local events like garage sales, book swaps, toy swaps, and flea markets

  • Donate homegoods to organizations like Corburn Place, who supply necessities to families fleeing domestic violence

  • The Buy Nothing Project is a mobile app allows users to give away or receive free items from people in their area



Buy high-quality products that will last for many years

  • Prioritize items that are functional as well as stylish (ex: choose a water bottle that fits in your car’s cupholder). The more convenient a product is, the easier it will be to use it

  • Choose items that can be washed or easily be cleaned, such as Swedish dishcloths (dishwasher or washer/dryer safe is always a plus)

  • Make it fun! There are many durable goods that reduce waste and look good doing it, like makeup remover cloths in every color/pattern imaginable

  • Get recommendations from family and friends - everyone has some reusable product or brand that they swear by



Instead of buying new goods, consider remaking products that would normally go in the trash

  • Cut up old clothing, towels, sheets etc to make upcycled wet cleaning wipes. Store with your favorite liquid cleaner and a glass jar (be even more savvy and repurpose a glass food jar)

  • Make reusable produce bags from old pillowcases and sheets

  • Turn old t-shirts (even with holes) into a reusable grocery bag

  • Make a t-shirt blanket, quilt, or rug from old clothing

  • Make a mini greenhouse from plastic clamshell containers

  • Grow new herb plants from cuttings

  • Compost soiled paper and cardboard products to make nutrient-rich soil

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