Waste comes in many forms. Sometimes we get very caught up in the individual waste a person creates.
But what about our community?
To think about how much waste our community makes can be overwhelming. Especially knowing not everyone cares or is aware of it.
That said, collective action is certainly important, and we need to do what we can to better our communities.
After all, the more people who reduce their waste, the less waste there’ll be! Here are 9 ways to reduce waste in your community.
9 Ways to Reduce Waste in Your Community – Table of Contents
- Start a Community Compost Program
- Set up Recycling Stations In Your Building
- Post Zero Waste Tips On Community Message Boards
- Support Bulk Refill Shops and Farmers Markets in Your Neighborhood
- Host a Local Cleanup
- Host a Self-Sustaining Themed Workshop
- Support Your Local Maker Space or Art Studios
- Opt Out of Junk Mail & Tell Your Neighbors How As Well
- Directly Share an Informative Climate Change Article With a Friend
1. Start a Community Compost Program
Think about all the food scraps that get dumped into garbage pails to be sent to a landfill.
Now imagine those food scraps being collected and sent back into the earth. Doing this would help reduce methane emissions, a powerful greenhouse gas that’s 30 times more potent than CO2! In a landfill, food scraps don’t decompose properly, but actually create methane gas.
While it’s always a great idea to compost individually, you can create an even bigger impact by getting your neighborhood on board. Starting a community compost program would be ideal.
I recommend looking into the Institute for Local Self-Reliance which has forums, workshops and guides for running community compost programs.
You could try to setup a local compost drop off site in your neighborhood, like at a café or library. Residents could drop off their food scraps in the bins you setup there, then the scraps could be donated to a local farm to be made into nutrient-rich compost.
2. Set Up Recycling Stations in Your Building
Does your apartment have recycling? If not, consider setting up recycling stations where your neighbors can drop off their recyclables.
A designated person can take the recyclables to the building’s main bin. I suggest looking up your local recycling laws to see what’s applicable and if they’ll give you bins to use or provide you with free on-site collection.
It may be extra helpful to print out some basic recycling rules to abide by.
Create a sign, laminate it, then put it near the bins to remind people of these rules and what they can/cannot put into the bins. For example, make sure people don’t put in any plastic film or plastic bags as most recycling facilities don’t accept these (though you could try to setup a plastic film recycling bin in your building as well!).
If you live in a home, you can still make sure your community has access to proper recycling bins.
Observe garbage collection in your neighborhood and see if everyone has access to curbside recycling. If not, perhaps petition to get everyone on board and have someone contact your state’s recycling department to give everyone bins.
3. Post Zero Waste Tips On Community Message Boards
Know of any community message boards near you? Consider posting some infographics and informative posters on them about ways to reduce waste.
It can be simple tips, facts or statistics about waste, recycling or composting – whatever you think will help your neighbors best. During the holidays, maybe something on sustainable gift wrap would inspire them?
Great places for posting information are near the mailboxes, elevators and stairs, and other high-traffic areas residents regularly visit, Of course, before posting anything, be sure to check community guidelines first.
You could also try creating an account on NextDoor and connecting with your neighbors through there. Posting about low waste tips on there will help reach more targeted people in your community, even if you never meet face to face! It’s also a great way to create mutual aid and help those in need or ask for help.
4. Support Bulk Refill Shops and Farmers Markets in Your Neighborhood
If you have access to bulk food stores and farmers markets, you should take advantage of them! Often, these shops help reduce the amount of waste by making it very easy to shop plastic-free.
Many bulk refill shops will have bulk bins full of dry and liquid goods you can put in your own container.
Some bulk shops will have glass containers available for you to use and return on site. You simply tare your jars, fill them with what you want, then pay for them upfront.
It’s a low waste way to stock up on dry goods like beans, cereal and nuts. Plus these shops sometimes even offer other zero waste swaps like package free soap bars and shampoo bars.
Farmers markets will sell produce that’s often package-free and have none of those annoying produce stickers. You can just take your own reusable produce bags and tote bags with you to cut back on waste even further.
Most farmers will also be super local which helps support your local economy and the food won’t have to travel as far to get to you (meaning fewer emissions!).
After all, most food at the grocery store is probably grown on the other side of the USA or even overseas. Farmers will also love it when you give them back their berry and egg containers, or any rubber bands they use to tie their greens with. It’s truly a circular economy!
Supporting these businesses will only help your community become a much less wasteful place. Better yet, tell your loved ones about them and take them with you – the more people shopping there, the less waste your community will create!
5. Host a Local Cleanup
Have you noticed an area of your community that has too much litter? Maybe it’s a river, park, sidewalk or beach. Litter is bad for the environment because animals often mistake it for food or get trapped inside it. It also degrades soil and water quality over time. Organizing a local cleanup is a great way to help!
Here are the steps you need to take to get the cleanup going:
- Know the basics: Where will you be cleaning and when? You’ll want to plan the cleanup at least 2-3 months in advance.
- Find a partner: You’ll need someone to bring you supplies like trash bags, gloves and pickers. You can call your public works department or contact a local official. Look at local volunteer groups as well.
- Find out where your trash is going: Find out who is going to pick up all the trash you collect. I suggest calling or emailing your local waste management facility – they may be able to pick it up for free.
- Sort out the bathrooms, refreshments and safety guidelines: Are there bathrooms nearby? Will you provide refreshments like snacks or a water cooler? What should people know to not touch or be cautious with? Do people know to bring closed toe shoes? Make sure this is sorted out and told to all your attendees ahead of time and at the beginning of the cleanup.
- Gather your flock: Start spreading the word about your event with a flyer that has the time, date and location of the cleanup and everything else they need to know. It’s a good idea to remind them to bring a reusable water bottle, sunscreen and wear closed toe shoes. If you’ll be near a wooded area, tick spray may also be a smart move. You can share the event online as well for the best reach, like on Facebook and Instagram or the neighborhood app NextDoor. Consider printing a flyer and posting it in nearby cafes too. Emailing your local paper and local radio station to share something about it is also a great idea!
6. Host a Self-Sustaining Themed Workshop
Do you know how to sew? Or how to fix things? Are you good at cooking, gardening, canning or bread making?
Share those self-sustaining skills with your community! Something you take for granted could be an invaluable skill your neighbors don’t know how to do. The best part is all of those skills I listed help create a more sustainable future and ultimately a more circular economy.
The workshop can be virtual or in person. If you feel comfortable, host it in your home. If not, renting a space works too.
I suggest creating an event for it on Eventbrite – it can be free or you can charge for it if you so choose. Invite your neighbors to signup for it when you see them in person, via the app NextDoor or on social media. You can see if local cafes, libraries and community centers will let you hang up posters for it in their businesses.
The goal of the workshop should be to teach your students something, be it an intro class that covers the basics or something very specific (like how to sew a button/patches or how to make tomato sauce from scratch).
If you choose to do the workshop online, make sure you have a good video camera, internet connection, decent lighting, and good audio. You may demonstrate your skills or simply talk about how to do something – you can even request they have something in front of them to try doing what you’re demonstrating themselves. The choice is yours.
7. Support Your Local Maker Space or Art Studios
Maker spaces are places where you can make things. It’s a place for hands-on learning with all the tools for creativity. Every makerspace is different, but you might find a woodshop, 3D printing, audio-visual equipment, ceramics, textiles, and hand tools. Most require a membership, or a day pass. Some even offer classes or private space rentals.
Art studios are places you can practice painting, pottery, woodworking, photography and so much more. They typically provide you with all the tools you need like canvases, brushes and paints, etc. Some studios offer classes too.
What both these places have in common is that they encourage a sharing economy which greatly reduces waste.
After all, why would you need to buy an item when you can just borrow it? A lot of resources go into the process of making our items – the extraction of raw materials to make them, the energy, water and fossil fuels it takes to manufacture them.
The less items in the world the better, which is why sharing is definitely caring.
If you haven’t yet, start utilizing your local maker spaces and art studios! You could also meet some amazing members of your community there on top of it. Better yet, get your friends and family into using them too.
8. Opt Out of Junk Mail and Tell Your Neighbors How As Well
unk mail can contribute to so much waste – because most of the time we don’t want it anyway. And that means it just ends up in the trash. Your neighbors are probably singing the same tune, so you can imagine how much waste that creates. Why not do them a favor and help them get rid of junk mail once and for all?
Share these tips with a neighbor to reduce junk mail:
- Most junk mail books, coupons and newsletters have a way to unsubscribe via their website. Check the physical mail and you should find a website to visit. You can also call the number and tell them to add your address to a no-send site.
- Try not to give out your zip code or address too much. This makes it harder for retailers to get your info.
- If you donate, immediately send the organization a note via email asking them to make sure your name doesn’t go on their print mailing list or get shared with other organizations either.
- Switch to paperless billing.
- Signup for a free account at Catalog Choice. They’re a non-profit that’ll send an automatic note to companies on your behalf to remove you from the mailing list!
9. Have a Clothing Swap With Neighbors
Have a lot of clothes you don’t wear? Be honest. Go through your clothes and see what you haven’t touched in months or liked how you look in. If you have a decent amount, don’t toss them or donate them – host a clothing swap instead.
Let your family, friends and neighbors know about it by posting on social media, NextDoor and on community boards. If you have friends at local businesses who might be interested, tell them about it too to see if they’ll stop by! Set the date, time and place and tell them to bring some clothes they no longer want either. You never know what you’ll find, and some items may even be great gifts!
Giving your clothes to someone in your community is so much better than donating them or selling them because you’re helping a neighbor. You know where your clothes will be going. And, they’ll stay out of the landfill a little longer too.
How would you like to reduce waste in your community? Let us know in the comments!
About the Author:
Ariana Palmieri is the founder of Greenify-Me, a blog dedicated to zero waste living and sustainability. Her work has been featured on Going Zero Waste, Mother Earth Living, Green Matters and several other publications. Get her free e-book “10 Ways to Reduce Trash” by signing up to her newsletter and learn how to reduce your waste today.