You might be pretty surprised at how much money is spent on everyday items that just end up in our trash and landfills.
If you are an average American, you produce 4.4. pounds of trash every single day. Considering there are 324 million people in the USA, that amounts to more than 700,000 tons of garbage produced every day— that’s enough to fill around 60,000 garbage trucks EVERY DAY! And, that’s just talking about the U.S.
Which is why I have earnestly started reducing, or stopped buying completely certain items that just end up in landfills.
I also found out that my city has free recycling centers that I can take plastics, glass, cans, cardboard and paper to.
Plus, reducing and completely ditching these items can lead to savings of THOUSANDS of dollars. The average American spends around $5,000 on products that are eventually thrown away EVERY YEAR!
For example, this one blogger saved $12,000 in 2.5 years by ditching simple, but wasteful household items!
1. Paper Towels and Napkins
Did you know that disposable paper towels were created by accident in the early 1900’s?
The average American family uses two rolls of paper towels per week, and at an estimated $14 for an 8-pack you could be spending up to $182 a year for paper towels alone.
Thankfully, paper towels and disposable napkins are so easy to ditch! I have not bought paper towels or napkins all year.
Instead, I use dish towels and homemade, reuseable fabric napkins. My sister actually made my napkins by cutting up some old linens and a bed comforter. Nothing fancy since it’s for my personal use.
I found these on Etsy! Saving trees can look cute too!
2. Aluminum Foil, Plastic Wrap and Plastic Baggies (ie Ziploc)
These products are very handy in the kitchen to use when cooking/baking and storing food.
However, not only do these get thrown out after being used only once, but there is some evidence to support cooking with aluminum can leech and contaminate food.
There is also growing health concerns for plastic, including plastics used in food packaging.
And, kids will love these cute cloth sandwich bags that are adorable!
3. Trash Bags/Liners
Less waste = less trash = less trash bags!
You could also just skip buying plastic garbage bags and simply empty your trash into the garbage can itself. This will require you to wash the can from time to time, but if you are also composting it won’t get too messy.
A typical family spends on average $210 on trash bags!
And, if you do go zero waste, you could cancel your trash pick-up service all together and save even more money.
But, if you aren’t there yet and still want to forgo plastic trash bags, they make compostable trash bags and liners.
4. Tissues (ie Kleenex)
Time to go back to handkerchiefs!
Again, you can sew and make your own. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Or, find some cute ones on Etsy!
Whenever they’re dirty, you just throw them in the laundry hamper and wash them with the rest of your laundry.
5. Disposable Water Bottles
Americans (and the entire World) spend WAY too much on bottled water. If you don’t like the way your tap tastes, just invest in a good water filter.
I am lucky though. I get fresh-tasting, mountain spring water from my tap living in Colorado.
However, sometimes bottled water is unavoidable. For example, I recently traveled to Bali, and unless I wanted to get “Bali Belly”, I could only drink bottled water. It was also recommended to use bottled water to brush your teeth.
Otherwise, bring a reusable bottle with you when you’re out and about.
6. House-hold Cleaning Supplies
According to this article, American’s spend an insane amount of money on cleaning products and supplies!
It’s anywhere from $300-800 per year per household!
Not only that, but most of these products can contain dangerous, unhealthy chemicals and ingredients. For example, popular air fresheners like Febreeze actually contain dangerous chemicals and pollutants according to several studies.
A University of Washington study found that the typical American air fresheners released an average 18 chemicals into the air. With one in five of these chemicals labeled as a hazardous substance highlighted in either federal or state pollution standards.
EWG conducted more in-depth testing of Febreeze Air Effects as part of a 2009 study of cleaning supplies used in California schools. They detected a total of 89 airborne contaminants, including acetaldehyde, a suspected carcinogen according to the EPA.
Do a simple Pinterest search and you will find dozens of easy DIY cleaning recipes.
I use distilled white vinegar and warm water. Simple and non-toxic. I also buy the DWV in the glass container to reduce plastic consumption.
In addition, if you are a fan of Swiffer Sweepers (like me!) go to Etsy and buy some reusable, fabric pads. They work better than the expensive, disposable pads!
7. Beauty Products
As a female, it is amazing how much cosmetic and beauty supplies I ended up buying and accumulating. I have drastically cut down on my spending in this category. This includes make-up, shampoo, conditioner, lotion and body wash.
I discovered this fabulous store called Lush at a local mall this year. They make fresh, handmade cosmetics and beauty products! They sell no bottle shampoo and condition. It comes in a concentrated bar that lathers really well and lasts up to 80 washes. They sell lots of bath and beauty products that have minimal to no packaging at all!
Or, learn to make your own! There are lots of tutorials online to make your own lotion, shampoo, conditioner, body scrub, bath bombs,toothpaste and deodorant!
8. Convenience Food
Not surprising, but the average American spends 30-40% of their entire grocery and food budget on overly processed and convenience food.
Not only does this food actually increase your food bill, it is full of hidden salt, fat and sugar.
Did you know that “maltodextrin” is actually an additive made from starch with a much higher glycemic index than sugar? Look at some food labels, you will probably find it listed under the ingredients.
I have switched to buying mostly real food and whole ingredients. Not only is it great for your health, it is also great for your budget.
Buying whole ingredients and foods allows you to control how much salt, sugar, preservatives and additives get in your food.
9. Plastic Utensils
I never really bought plastic utensils to use at home before, but I usually end up using ones at work to eat my breakfast and lunch, and certain restaurants like Chipotle offer only plastic utensils.
I now pack my own fork and spoon into my lunch box for work.
There are also zero-waste, bamboo kits you can buy that fit in your purse on Etsy.
10. Toilet Paper
Yes, I said TP! It’s not all that healthy or hygienic for you anyways.
Toilet paper and flushable wipes are full of chemicals.
According to an article in the New York Times, the average person uses at least 57 sheets of toilet paper per day and 27 rolls per person annually, which adds up to 384 trees in a single lifetime.
Consider using family cloth instead of toilet paper. I am dead serious! It’s softer, healthier and far more efficient at cleaning than you would think.
11. Magazine and Newspapers
Cancel your magazine and newspaper subscriptions and read them online or at the library.
If you like to read, buy e-books instead of paper books, unless it is a reference book you will need if the power goes out (not likely in my case). Organize your e-books for easy browsing and searching with this free software.
Use the library for books you don’t want or need to own. Most libraries now have a e-lending service, where you borrow and download books for free on devices like Kindle.
12. Baby Wipes and Diapers
The cost of cloth diapers is significantly lower than the cost of typical disposable diapers. Diapering a baby in generic disposables will cost you over $1,400 over 2.5 years. With some premium earth-friendly options, this cost can go to $2,500 over 2.5 years.
This family saved an estimated $835 over 2.5 years for just one baby by switching to cloth, reusable baby wipes and $1,680 by using reusable cloth diapers ($3,360 for 2 kids).
For only 1 kid, using cloth diapers and wipes could save you $2,515!
Side Note: The Growing A Green Family has a goal of saving $50,000 by just switching to greener, eco-friendly options for their family!
13. Feminine Products
Feminine care products are usually a consistent, monthly expense that also adds considerable waste to landfills.
If you’re a women, just think about how many pads, tampons, liners, etc. you use each month. Then remember that each comes individually wrapped.
Switching to reuseable cloth pads and menstrual caps (like the Diva Cup) are much more economical. Plus, cloth pads and menstrual cups can be so much more comfortable.
More importantly these reusables come without the unhealthy additives like bleach (and who knows what else) that are typically found in pads and tampons! There are organic feminine products but they are more expensive and will still end up in landfills and sewer systems. Just more money down the drain.