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Published on June 25th, 2019 | by Sarah Dephillips


3 Categories of Stuff You Don’t Even Want (Let Alone Need) in Your Zero Waste Lifestyle

Here at Green Living Ideas we’ve been doing a series on zero waste living. The upcoming segment of our series will talk about easy steps that ALL of us can take to reduce our waste. It’s not something that happens overnight! Rather, reducing waste is a mindful process of baby steps. 

You’re probably familiar with the 3 Rs – reduce, reuse, and recycle. Did you know they’re in that order for a reason? The first and most effective step to zero waste is to REDUCE what you use and consume. Some zero-wasters break this step down further, calling the first part “REFUSE.”  It’s all about refusing stuff you don’t even need or want. In later articles we’ll go more in depth about how to be more intentional about what we use and how we use it, but today we’re tackling low hanging fruit for those just getting started.

So if you’re just beginning on the zero waste journey, ask yourself: “What did I throw in the trash today that added absolutely no value to my life?” We’ve come up with some categories of commonly unwanted stuff to get you started!

Junk mail

Yep, this nuisance goes straight from mailbox to trash can. Did you know you can unsubscribe from many of the ads, magazines, and solicitations that clutter your mailbox every day? You can read a New York Times article about how to unsubscribe from junk snail mail here:

Those extra sauce packets

Take out food is marvelously convenient, but it’s also massively wasteful. If you have to get takeout sometimes, there are ways to cut down on the stuff that goes straight from your takeout bag to your trash can. When you place your order, tell them what you do need – like specifying how many packets of dressing or sauce you actually want, instead of letting them pile a whole handful in your bag. If you’re taking it home, tell them to leave the sauce out completely (assuming there’s ketchup in your fridge) and to leave out the plastic ware, too. Check the bag to make sure they didn’t give you extra just in case. Maybe forget the bag, too!


If you’ve ever been to a conference, carnival, or other festival, you know these are freebie heaven! The pens, magnets, candies, bracelets, notebooks, and little packets of literature are so alluring. Sometimes they’re not alluring, but the vendor wants you to take one so badly and you don’t want to be rude. Before taking a freebie, ask if it’s something that will really add value to your life or if you’re just taking it because it’s there. Rather than taking lots of literature, bring a notebook to write down contact info or take photos of their cards with your phone.

It only takes a little bit of time and intentionality to say “no” to things you don’t want. And reducing clutter directly reduces stress for most people. The more we learn to reduce things we don’t want or need, the quicker we can reduce the waste burden we put on our planet. 

Attribution-free image courtesy of Pixabay.

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