9 Ways to Save on Garbage!

Save Money On Garbage ~ Our Cozy Den

Did you know that the average American produces 4.5 pounds of trash per day? For my family of 6, that would be 189 pounds every week! That’s crazy!!

Producing a lot of garbage is expensive, not to mention the fact that it just feels wasteful. I feel like a bad human being if we have a big pile of trash. It’s bad for the environment and my pocket. Here are some ways to save money on your garbage pile, and help the planet in the process!

1. Stop trash before it starts.

Buying things isn’t just expensive at the cash register. You also spend money transporting your purchase, disposing of the packaging, storing your stuff in your home (more stuff = more space needed to hold it), and eventually — throwing your purchase away. If you buy fewer items that you don’t need, then you will save a LOT more than just the amount on the price tag.

2. Buy used.

When you shop at thrift stores & yard sales, those items already have no packaging. You save a ton by buying used, and you also don’t have to get rid of all that trash to go along with it.

3. Buy in bulk.

I’ve mentioned before that we do most of our grocery shopping at GFS. When you buy in bulk, there is a lot less packaging, so there is less to throw away!

4. Cook from scratch.

We buy almost no groceries that are prepackaged or premade. Those things (in addition to being less healthy and more expensive) come with more trash! Cooking from raw ingredients: flour, eggs, spices, etc. — will result in less garbage.

5. Recycle.

We lived in Germany for 3 years, and one of my favorite things about being over there was that everyone recycled. They had to, it was the law! And it was color-coded to boot! {swoon!} This is what the trash cans looked like over there:

Save Money On Garbage ~ Our Cozy Den

In Germany, we could recycle almost all of our garbage. Only diapers and used tissues/napkins went in the regular trash. Back here in the U.S., we can’t recycle quite as much as we could in Germany, but we can still recycle quite a lot! We have a recycling station set up in our back room, where we have separate bins for: cardboard, glass, newspaper, plastic, & cans. And we have 2 in our kitchen for regular garbage and paper (my little arts-and-crafters go through a LOT of paper, so this made the most sense to have in the house. Also, it doesn’t stink.) We drive to the recycling center once or twice a month to take it all in, which costs us nothing.

6. Change the way you do holidays & birthdays.

Holidays and birthdays tend to be a big trash-producer for many families. Since we only do 3 small gifts per child, and I sewed reusable gift wrapping sacks, we don’t have much garbage from the holiday. For gifts from extended family, if you can convince them to spring for a membership to the zoo or a children’s museum, that’s another way to cut back on trash (and toys and clutter and room cleaning… it’s really win-win-win if the grandparents will go for it!) And there’s no rule that says you have to use disposable plates and cutlery when you have guests. Yes, it’s easier to just throw it away. But it’s not really that hard to throw it all in the dishwasher either, and it produces no trash that way.

7. Compost.

We started a compost bin this year, and I was surprised at how much we are able to put into it! All of our scraps from fruits and vegetables, banana peels, apple cores, egg shells, yard clippings… there’s just so much! It’s all going to turn into rich, fertile soil for my garden next year. And if you don’t garden, you could start a compost bin anyway and give the compost away to someone who does! (Or sell it! $$$)

8. Don’t use consumable things when you can use reusable things.

I haven’t purchased napkins, paper towels, or tissues in years. We just don’t go through them that often, because I can usually use a cleaning rag, a dish towel, a washcloth, a cloth napkin, or something else washable instead! We never use things like paper plates or plastic silverware. Even when we went on a camping trip, we took washable plates and I did dishes after each meal. I have a small stack of paper plates in my back room that have lasted for years that I use to take the occasional plate of cookies to the neighbor (and they were items I didn’t purchase, but were left at my house by some party or some guest at some point).

I do use a lot of ziploc bags for traveling and moving, but I never use them for daily tasks, like food storage or packing lunches. We use washable containers for those! When I do use them for travel & moving, I save them and use them over and over again. I’m still using a $1 box of bags that I bought from the dollar store in 2011.

9. Shop around for trash providers.

When we lived in Tennessee, we could drop off our garbage at one of the city’s trash places for free. That was nice! Here in Ohio, there is no free trash pickup, so we have to pay to have our garbage hauled away. I looked around for quite a bit, and the cheapest option I found was a 1-bag-per-week pickup for $6 a month. That’s pretty cheap for curbside pickup! It’s easy for us to stay under 1 bag a week, because we are diligent at following steps 1-8.

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Our Home in Germany

We live in housing for Americans, so I’m sure that it is different than a German German house would be. But even so, there are lots of differences from our house in the states. Here are some of them:

The lightswitches are squares instead of the funny looking things that we’re used to. I like these much better.
We have both American outlets and European outlets, so we have no problems plugging in all our stuff.
Our heat comes from these units below the windows.
The door handles look like this instead of the round US kind. This makes things much easier for Squirrel, and Bunches can’t quite reach them yet.
The doors look like this in the edges, so they sit partially outside the doorframe instead of completely within it.
So it looks like this when it’s closed. It took me some getting used to, I kept thinking our doors were open when they were not.
Toilets are mounted to the wall, not the floor (it actually makes cleaning around it a LOT easier). And the flusher is on the wall, too. There is a little button for a little flush, and a big button for a big flush. I’m sure you can figure out what that means.
The bathrooms both have towel warmers on the wall. That’s going to make me SOOOO spoiled…
Windows open 2 different ways. When the handle is turned down like this, it is closed.
When the handle points in like this, it swings open like a door.
And when the handle is turned up like this, the window tilts open from the top. I LOVE these windows!
Curtains hang in a track installed on the ceiling. The tracks are already installed in the houses.
European curtains have a strip sewn in, with wheels that clip into the strip. This is the most attractive and durable way to hang curtains.
This is the strip/wheels on the back of the European curtain.
Most of my windows have curtains hung like this, because I wanted to reuse my US curtains and not spend a boatload on new ones. I used these little clip on wheels instead of the sewn-in strip kind. These are super easy to hang, but any time a kid pulls on the curtain, it’s going to come right out of the clips. So, I have to fix them often.

So that’s a rundown of some of the differences between a US house and our “American” German house here. Most things I think they do better here! Maybe I should hire a German to build me a house back in the states…