7 Steps to Removing Your Trash Can at Home (and reduce waste)

An infinite, clean Ocean/California Coast/Image: Berna Tural

I’m sharing with you how I got into reducing my impact. You’ve been reading and hearing about how much waste we all end up creating and how this waste ends up harming the planet. You feel like you want to take action but don’t know how to start or what steps to follow. It’s a commitment and mostly puzzling and frustrating if you’re not prepared.

When I got back from one of my plastic pollution trips to the middle of the Pacific Ocean, I came home and put away my trash bin. It was the single most impactful choice that made the most significant difference by reducing the amount of waste I create and making me conscious about the waste before purchasing something. A side effect was that it helped me save money and plan my days and life better. Saying this though, I don’t recommend you remove your trash bin today and put yourself into a stressful situation. Instead, you can PLAN to get there even if you start putting out 50% less waste that is a win!

Below are the six steps to follow to get to a point to remove the trash bin and to make it enjoyable.

1 — Commit. Commit to reduce your impact and set a timeline and make a plan following the steps below. When I did this, I didn’t put a timeline on myself. I just went literally full-on, gave away my trash bin, and removed it from my house. Including the bathroom, and that was THE most difficult part. I was very committed, still am, and determined that I would be the one in control of the waste I generate.

No need for absolutism here — it’s not a failure if you continue to generate some waste in some of your activities, or if you couldn’t avoid that plastic bottle on a hot day you got stuck waiting for the train. The commitment is about empowering yourself and inspiring others — not about feeling guilty, inadequate, or inaccurate.

2 — Invest in reusables. If you don’t already have mason jars and reusable produce bags — invest in a couple of these. I have 6 produce bags and they mostly get used for the same thing all the time — coffee, dried grains, citruses, leafy greens, onions, veggie of the week — whatever it might be. I have a separate bag I use for bread if I’m buying, and one BIG bag holds ALL the groceries. I take mason jars too with me, but I started this practice afterward. You can also read my post about using reusables in your day to day — like coffee and water.

3 — Compost. Find a composting facility/service near you and sign-up right away. Without composting, removing the trash bin is not going to be possible. Especially as a vegetarian who eats at home all the time — this was my biggest win.

4 — Plan! Make a list of your weekly purchases and find alternatives as needed. Be planned, especially if you have kids. In my case, I would go to the store and not buy anything that had any plastic on it and decide on the spot about finding an alternative. This took a lot of dedication — I couldn’t eat any pasta at home for over 2 years because almost every single brand that makes organic wholesome pasta includes some unrecyclable plastic on their packaging and/or boxes.

5 — Research. Learn what is recyclable and non-recyclable in your area. Remember putting something in the blue bin doesn't mean it’s recycled. For instance, #5 plastics (yogurt containers) are NOT recyclable in a curbside pick-up in more than 80% of the US municipalities, unfortunately.

6 — GO! Do what you’re ready to do. Stop giving any chucks about what “others” say and any judgments that come your way. Trust me, you’ll be “too much” for some and “not enough” for others. They’ll all be wrong because whatever you’re doing will be precisely perfect for you at the time you’re doing it with the intention you’re doing it. Stay the course and keep on going!

7 — Assess. What’s working and what’s not working? At the end of the first day, the first week — make a note of things that you’ve eliminated and a note of things that you haven’t been able to. Look at your recycling bin and any trash you might be generating. Is there any way you can avoid those products?

Accept that this is an on-going process — you’re not going to be at zero waste every day or week, or month, and that is ok. The world is not on your shoulders, and you know that you’re doing what you can and your part. For me, right now, I’m most challenged when I travel — it’s tough to find composting and learn about recycling or avoid plastics when going to a grocery store in a foreign country. I do my best and speak with the locals and learn from them. I’m low-impact and by no means zero waste. Instead of using that to feel guilty, I use it as a challenge to prevent it next time, learn more about what’s happening, and participate in change rather than be on the sidelines.

BONUS 1: Be kind. Be kind to yourself. You might not be able to get this 100% right on the first go, and there might be a couple of items you’ll need to buy that DOES have plastic in/on it — it’s ok. It’s not your failure, it’s the system’s failure, and YOU are choosing now to arm yourself with the knowledge and experience to do something about it. It’s all good. Be proud. And revisit #6: no judgments and no anger. I wish I had somebody to tell me this when I was going through the change myself. I surrounded myself with a lot of angry and bitter people, and that did NOT help me.

BONUS 2: Pick one critical routine/habit that you have — coffee, tea, smoothie, whatever you MUST have in the mornings. Declare to make this item completely waste-free — in my case, it’s coffee, and I only use a french-press; I buy my coffee from either a roaster or the bulk section at the local grocery store. I take my own reusable produce bag and always get precisely 1lbs, making it easy to plan for the next trip!

Most importantly, make it enjoyable, FEEL the difference you are making and get passionate about your impact on our planet!

Thank you for reading. Please leave a comment if you have any specific questions and suggestions. Stay in love with mother nature and our beautiful blue, and wishing you a high inspiration day! 💙🐬💙

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