Get Informed

Reducing Waste At Home



A good portion of what you throw in the garbage each day is paper. Much of the paper generated in our homes comes in the mail. The average American household receives more than 500 pieces of advertising mail each year.

Take action to reduce the amount of unwanted mail you receive.

  • If you want to get off most national marketing lists, you can register with the Direct Marketing Association's Mail Preference Service.
  • If you just want to stop certain catalogs, you can contact individual mailers and ask them to remove your name from their mailing lists; call them or send your request by mail or e-mail.
  • There's also a toll-free number to stop mailings of credit card offers. One call to 1-888-5-OPT-OUT will reach the major national credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian and Trans Union. Have your Social Security number ready — they will ask you for it to confirm your identity.

Recycling junk mail is okay, but reducing the flow of junk mail will conserve natural resources, save landfill space, and save you time and money.

Packaging makes up 30 percent of municipal solid waste. You can reduce the amount of packaging you throw in the garbage by purchasing items that have less packaging.


  • Reduce the amount of packaging by purchasing concentrates and diluting them with water in reusable containers.
  • Avoid single-serving products in favor of larger servings or buying in bulk.
  • Take your own reusable cloth bag so you don't need "paper or plastic."

Over-packaged products often cost more than less-packaged products. This means that you can save money when buying products with less packaging.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), 27 percent of the nation's total food supply — 97 billion pounds — went to waste in 1995. Food is wasted in many ways, such as preparing too much, letting fresh food go bad and buying too much.


  • Planning meals and creating a list of products needed before shopping will help you buy exactly what you need.
  • Composting leftover fruit and vegetable food waste with your yard waste helps create high-nutrient compost.
  • Donate excess canned goods to a food bank.

Making better use of the food you buy will save you money and reduce how much food you throw away. Composting the remaining food waste will provide you with a great additive for your garden.

Reducing Waste at School


There are lots of ways that we can reduce waste at school. By thinking ahead and being creative, you can reduce your impact on the environment and save money at the same time.

A "waste-free lunch" is a meal that does not end up in the trash. You can buy food items in bulk then put them in reusable containers to carry to school. (Additional information is available from the DEQ at 405.702.5166.)

Use a reusable lunch box or bag and fill it with your lunch in reusable containers. You could also include a cloth napkin – don't forget to bring it home so you can wash it and use it again. Another idea is to ask your school cafeteria to use items such as reusable trays, napkins and silverware.

You create less waste by using washable containers to pack your lunch. Packing your food in reusable containers is typically less expensive than buying food that comes in disposable containers.

More than 20 percent of the food we buy gets thrown away. One way to figure out how much food you waste is to measure and track all the food you throw away from your lunch over a fixed period of time. Then you could brainstorm ways to reduce how much food you are throwing in the garbage. Eat what you take.

If you are bringing lunch from home, you can use an icepack so that it stays fresh until it is eaten. If you buy from the school cafeteria, only take a small portion of food; if you're still hungry, go back for seconds!

About 48 million tons of food are thrown away in the United States each year. By taking only what you can eat or sharing your extras with a friend, you are taking steps to waste less and save money.

Reduce Your Use of Office Paper


Copy paper, like the kind used in photocopiers, computer printers and plain-paper fax machines, is the most common type of office waste paper.

  • According to the U.S. EPA, the average office worker uses 10,000 sheets of copy paper each year.
  • The U.S. EPA estimates that paper and paperboard account for almost 40 percent of our garbage.
  • Office paper is highly recyclable, but a lot is wasted. Waste reduction is more cost-effective than recycling because it reduces the amount of material that needs to be collected, transported and processed. Waste reduction can save money for businesses and institutions of any size.
  • Nearly 3.7 million tons of copy paper are used annually in the United States alone. That's over 700 trillion sheets.

Paper is bulky to store, in boxes or in file cabinets. By using fewer sheets, you can put storage space to more productive use.

For example, Owens Corning recently made all of its offices worldwide "paperless." Having had 14,000 file cabinets around the world, the company has already saved around $30 million in lease costs.

Mailing costs
Fewer sheets mailed may mean reduced postage. A single-sided 10-page letter costs $0.60 to mail; that same letter, copied onto both sides of the paper, uses only five sheets and requires only $0.39 in postage. The price of postage is rising, and those extra ounces can really add up.

Environmental benefits
By increasing double-sided copying (duplexing), U.S. offices could reduce annual paper use by 20 percent (Inform, Inc).

By using and discarding less paper, you are conserving resources, reducing water and energy use, and preventing pollution.


  • Try to use both sides of a sheet of paper for printing, copying, writing and drawing.
  • Reuse paper that's already printed on one side by manually feeding it into copiers and printers. Use it for internal documents like drafts and short-lived items such as meeting agendas or temporary signs.
  • Once-used paper can also be reused in plain paper fax machines — they only need one clean side.
  • Use less paper E-mail can be used to share documents and ideas. Be sure to only print the e-mails you need to have a hard copy of. This advice goes for Internet documents as well. Instead of printing a Web page, bookmark it or save the page on your hard drive and pull it up when needed.
  • Desktop fax, electronic references (CD-ROM databases), electronic data storage, electronic purchasing and direct deposit are all ways to use electronic media that reduce office paper waste.
  • Help minimize misprints by posting a diagram on how to load special paper like letterhead so it will be printed correctly. * Practice efficient copying — use the size reduction feature offered on many copiers. Two pages of a book or periodical can often be copied onto one standard sheet.
  • Use two-way or send-and-return envelopes. Your outgoing envelope gets reused for its return trip.
  • Use reusable inter- and intra-office envelopes.
  • Reuse old paper for notepads. It can be cut to custom sizes and simply bound with a staple.
  • Draft documents can be reviewed, edited and shared on-screen.

The National Recycling Coalition recently published Purchasing Strategies to Prevent Waste and Save Money. This publication contains many useful ideas on how to purchase products that create less waste. Remanufactured toner cartridge Here are some purchasing ideas for offices to make the workplace more environmentally friendly.

  • Refurbish and buy refurbished office equipment.
  • Reuse and refill toner cartridges and ribbons.
  • Purchase non-toxic, biodegradable cleaners that contain low- or no-volatile organic compounds.
  • Buy concentrates.
  • Buy in bulk.
  • Buy products that are reusable, returnable or refillable.
  • Buy recycled office products that contain post-consumer recycled material.
  • Use flexible interior features, such as movable walls, to reduce waste associated with renovation.
  • Choose durable materials and furnishings to reduce the costs and waste associated with replacement.

Tips for Reducing Waste while Traveling


The U.S. Travel Data Center estimates that 43 million U.S. travelers are "ecologically concerned." There are several ways that travelers can reduce waste while traveling. Here are just a few ideas to get started.

  • Businesses are responsive to their guests, customers and clients who voice concerns, so speak up. If you have compliments or comments regarding their company's environmental performance, write a note or speak directly to the general manager of the hotel, the operator of a resort or campground, the captain of the airplane, or the manager of your tour company.
  • Book your guestrooms, campsites or meeting rooms in places that are clearly interested in protecting our environment, and let management know that's why you've chosen their establishment. Encourage the places you visit to reduce waste and to implement water- and energy-saving measures.
  • Use reusable bags, storage containers and towels. Rent equipment, avoid disposables, and pack waste-free picnics by bringing reusable containers and recyclables home with you. Buy fruits and vegetables without packaging.
  • Purchase electronic tickets for air travel whenever possible.
  • Going on a fishing trip? Use non-lead sinkers. This will protect wildlife from lead poisoning.
  • Gas boats on land instead of in the water to reduce pollution in lakes and rivers.
  • Upgrade to the most efficient boat motor. A 4-stroke engine is quieter, 40 times cleaner, and 2 to 4 times more fuel-efficient than a 2-stroke engine.
  • Keep campfire ash far from lakeshores to protect water quality.