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Traditional Bedroom design by San Francisco General Contractor Bill Fry Construction – Wm. H. Fry Const. Co.

Part of a green lifestyle is cutting back on waste. When we put something in our trash can, a truck comes and gets it, and it gets dumped into a big hole in the ground. It eventually gets buried, and more trash dumped on top of it until the hole is full. Then another hole is created for more trash.

This, of course, is the simplified version, but filling the earth with trash creates air and water pollution. Released methane is worse than CO2 for causing warming, and toxic chemicals leach into the soil and water. We can reduce these ills by reducing our trash at home and at work.

Being organized and thinking ahead can cut the amount and types of things you throw away. It’s also helpful to the environment while lowering your carbon footprint.

Be deliberate

Make shopping lists and eliminate impulse buying. Make a list of what you need and stick to it in the store. So many times, we’ll go to the supermarket hungry. That is a recipe for disaster, as you all know, I’m sure. You get home, unload your bags and wonder why you bought the gourmet chips or the extra two pounds of ground meat. So much of the food we buy on impulse goes bad, and then it’s relegated to the landfill.

The same holds true for clothing and household items. If you need a new teapot because the handle has melted off of yours, go buy one. But don’t buy a new one just because you think it’s pretty or you want something new. What are you going to do with the old one? And do you really need another pair of pants, a sweater, a hat, a chair or more towels, magazines or electronics?

Own your stuff, don’t let it own you

Don’t hoard things, either. When my next-door neighbor died, we filled six contractor sized dumpsters full of trash. Not just trash, but things that could not be sold at the estate sale or reused by family or any of us in the neighborhood. It literally was trash. If you hold on to things, they will eventually find their way to the landfill.

Clean up after yourself. How many times have you bought something simply because you couldn’t find the one you had? You know that old saying – A place for everything and everything in its place. Sticking to that keeps you from being overwhelmed with clutter, which makes you avoid cleaning up! It seems easier to just go buy something new, but resist! When you are done with a project, throw out what is trash, put away all the things you used, and clean up surfaces.

Organize as you go

Put your laundry away when it’s done, too. Did you ever buy clothes, because your clean clothes were in a pile somewhere and you couldn’t find something? We all have…

By cleaning up after yourself and keeping your home tidy, you are constantly taking an inventory of what you have. You can see what you own, it’s easy to know what you need, and you can reduce unnecessary shopping and trash.

Most of what goes into a landfill can be recycled or composted. Think ahead, and purchase items that are recyclable, such as plastic containers or corrugated cardboard. Think of second uses for these items – yogurt containers for leftovers and cardboard boxes for storage. Put a small recycling center in your kitchen.

Keep your life simple

Build a compost pile, get a tumbler, keep a worm bin, or find out if your city has composting at the recycling center. A little research ahead can build soil and save room in the landfill for things that actually have to be thrown away.

Being organized and reducing trash is about being aware of what you use, what you can reuse, what you need and what you throw away. If you can create small organizational systems to maintain awareness, you’ll be keep your family and the planet healthy.

Keep your life simple. Think before you throw something away!

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Nan Fischer

Nan Fischer has been living and building green for over 35 years. Nan’s emphasis on the BuildDirect blog is about how to make your dollar stretch further, while also moving toward a more sustainable lifestyle, as well as upcoming and existing technology to help us live in an ecologically-friendly way. Nan also authors posts on the website of her seed business, sweetly seeds.