There’s no question that America has a waste issue. While over 75% of waste is recyclable, only about 30% actually gets recycled. That garbage in America adds up to over 200 million tons every year. And our food waste problem? Even worse. Over one fifth of our waste is food, and we throw away more food than plastics, paper, and metal.

So in the spirit of Earth Day on April 22, try implementing one or two (or all!) of these easy, eco-friendly habits to decrease your waste and save some money.

1. Bring your own mug

According to Carry Your Cup, just one disposable cup of coffee or tea a day can create 23 pounds of waste in a year. All of that waste is so easily preventable by carrying a reusable mug.


Photo Courtesy of Ban the Bottle

2. Stop buying plastic water bottles

Similar to bringing your own coffee mug, getting in the habit of carrying a reusable water bottle is an easy fix. Even if water bottles and coffee cups are recyclable, they don’t necessarily get recycled every time and recycling still requires a lot of resources to transport the waste, recycle it, and so on.

3. Use re-usable containers in dining halls

If you know you’re going to get food to-go, bring along your re-usable containers instead of taking one of the to-go boxes they give you.

4. Ditch the paper towels

Just use washcloths instead. They don’t take up a lot of space in your laundry, and it’s one less thing you have to buy at the grocery store.


Photo by Ana Cvetkovic

5. Use loose leaf tea

Those tiny little tea bags might not seem like a lot of waste, but when you consider the production and transportation costs of every little tea bag, it adds up. Besides, loose leaf tea is often higher quality than what you’ll find in bags.

6. Buy beer on tap

Do you think there’s a recycling bin behind the bar to throw away your bottles? For some reason, I doubt it.

7. Don’t use a tray in the dining halls

Eat only what you can carry and you’ll avoid overeating while helping to protect the environment. Doing this will help save the soap and water it takes to wash a tray that probably wasn’t even dirty in the first place.


Photo by Helen Poon

8. Bring your own bag to the grocery store

Paper might be better than plastic, but a paper bag still needs to be used three times to counteract the single-use plastic bag. Your best bet is to get into the habit of bringing your own reusable bag.

9. Eat less meat

If going vegetarian doesn’t suit your lifestyle, that’s fine. However, if we all cut back on our meat consumption, we would cut back on our environmental impact as well. Red meat requires 28 times more land, 11 times more water, and five times more climate-warming emissions compared to pork or chicken.

Which of these will you add to your life for Earth Day?