How to generate less trash

Last night I got some tangible proof that our efforts to waste less food and create less trash are paying off. My husband mentioned that he was going to call the city since we didn’t need our trash picked up every week anymore, and so maybe it would cut our bill. I asked him how much he thought we had cut our trash output, and he said we were generating less than half of what we used to have.

Awesome. I actually think it’s even less than that, but either way, it’s great. And it makes a lot of sense. I had a heaping plate of “produce debris” waiting to go out to the compost bin that in the past would have gone into the trash. So in addition to keeping it out of the landfill where it creates harmful gasses, and creating compost to use in a garden, our new habit also keeps the trash from smelling rotten. It’s a win/win/win, one of those brilliant intersections that Katy Wolk-Stanley at The Non-Consumer Advocate calls a trifecta.

Composting is one of the main reasons we’re creating less waste, the others are:

*Cooking from scratch more often and buying less packaged food
*Refusing to buy products with over-the-top and nonrecyclable packaging (as much as possible)
*Throwing away a lot less food by participating in Food Waste Friday

That’s it. Those four things have contributed to cutting our household waste by more than half.

My husband generally abhors what he considers banal conversations about household management and the like, preferring abstract topics like what makes you care about a character in a short story and what makes an individual vote against their own self-interest. It makes him fun to live with, especially since he can always come down to earth long enough to perform useful household tasks like taking out the trash.

Are you creating less trash these days? Please leave your tips and advice in the Comments section. And if you need inspiration, visit My Zero Waste and follow the saga of the Green family in their attempts to cut waste.


  1. This Thrifted Life says

    I remember how stoked I felt last year when I realized we could easily go 2-3 weeks without having our garbage picked up. It really is a great feeling.

    When we are working on remodeling projects, our trash output unfortunately creeps back up. All that old sheetrock and wiring really adds up. But when we don't have a project going on, our trash output is pretty low and I'd love to get it even lower. Recycling, composting, and buying non-packaged items at the thrift store really helped us reduce our trash.

  2. Alea says

    A couple other things that helped reduce our trash:

    Last year we started buying items from companies that packaged purchases with material that could be recycled or reused (Amazon comes to mind with the reusable boxes and brown paper stuffing.

    Buying items used, so we don't have to discard packaging.

    BYOBag, not just to the grocery store, but any place where we might be buying more than one or two items that could be easily carried out.

  3. Jenni says

    Our little family of four has always cut our garbage output in half. We do not have curbside recycling, so we collect everything we can recycle and take bi-monthly trips to our local center. This alone has reduced our garbage output in half. Next step is to get more serious about composting as we are building our first veggie garden this year! :)

  4. Cate says

    We also don't produce much trash anymore, thanks to a combination of composting, eating at home, eschewing excessively-packaged products when possible, recycling, wasting less food, and shopping less. The bulk of our trash is made up of cat litter, baby wipes (we use cloth except for #2), and packaging. We usually only have to put our trash out once or maybe twice a month.

  5. Non Consumer Girl says

    We have decreased our trash too. We always recycled, but now we are using our indoor composting system, we have at least halved our trash.
    And we have lots of lovely compost to put on our garden.

  6. Those Tricks says

    Great way to put it simply, Ang.
    Hopefully information will just keep pouring out to the masses showing how these small changes that have wide effect require little sacrifice.

    Your blog is one of many sources that continually influence me to consciously and continually make healthier (for myself and the world at large) choices.

    As Gandhi said,


  7. Shymom says

    OK, I admit it, I have become something of a garbage snob these days. I leave my itty, bitty, trash can at the curb a bit longer than I should just to show off its petite dimensions.

    Walking to work on garbage day, I always wonder how a family of 6 (neighbors a block or so over) can produce 3 FULL garbage cans a week when our family of 4 often only 1/2 fills a half sized one.

    Yep, I'm a snob.

  8. Betsy Talbot says

    Shymom, you could start a club for us garbage snobs!

    We live in a townhouse community so we have a shared dumpster, but I find that I need to take the trash out less and it can stay in the house longer because it doesn't stink – all the food scraps are going to compost.

    I'm visiting family this week in an area that does not promote recycling and composting, and it is so hard to see overflowing trash bins around town with soda bottles and the like.

    One day I hope we'll all be garbage snobs.

  9. mrs green @ says

    Great ideas and it's fab to see how much you've reduced your waste with those 4 tips. Thanks so much for mentioning our site – i appreciate it!

  10. Magdalena says

    Most of our waste is a small amount of packaging that can't be recycled, some disposable diapers, and the worst – compostable kitchen waste. But I can't start composting here until I know if we are staying! We live in an area with a dense raccoon – stray cat population, and compost has to be contained rather than just layered. I feel like I'm throwing away black gold! (We are a two-family household, I have no control over the diaper situation!)

  11. Angela says

    Thanks for all your tips. Of course I forgot to mention one of the main reasons we're creating less trash: being on The Compact, so no new packaging.

    Magdalena- I use a "worm bin" from the city that is entirely enclosed. We have skunks, raccoons, possums, and feral cats in the area and I haven't even seen them in that area, much less get into the bin. They can't. It's covered. There are just holes drilled in the bottom. It's a sort of Rubbermaid container. Check out The Frugal Girl's compost tutorial and you can see her large Rubbermaid bin that would keep out small animals just fine.

  12. Laura says

    We too are putting out less and less trash for the same reasons everyone else cites: less packaging and more bulk food purchases, composting and more recycling, especially plastics (which are still ubiquitous, unfortunately). Lowering our food waste has made a big difference as well. Our trash goes to the curb once every three weeks now (for a family of 5), and our trash service was nice enough to negotiate a lower fee for pickup so that was another benefit. Our city is currently debating whether to include food waste recycling with its other recycling requirements–we're keeping our fingers crossed that it's approved.

  13. Gypsy says

    Cloth nappies, cloth wipes, and using teatowels for everything rather than paper towels seem to make a real difference for us! When our second was born we used sposies for a week and were horrified that we filled a whole bin! We are 'compacters' more or less, and also buy most of our groceries in the bulk bins and at the farmers markets! But still not composting … I just can't convince hubby to try again after our disastrous experiment with our bokashi bucket that saw him puking into the garden!

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