Waste Less: How to reduce waste and save money 

There are many reasons to reduce waste in our lives, and lots of benefits. Cutting back on waste not only saves you money, but it also reduces greenhouse gas emissions, plastic pollution and can help nature too. The more we waste, the more we are using the Earth’s resources, like water, land and energy, and these all have an impact on nature, wildlife and climate change.

graphics of a recycled lightbulb, water bottle and apple core on a light green background surrounded by leaves, butterflies and bees. This is to symbolise the good things happen to our world when we reduce waste.

The average person in wealthy nations throws out their bodyweight in edible food every year and this equates to hundreds of dollars, pounds and euros wasted per household. But, the good news is, there is lots of potential to cut waste and get a win win for you and for our planet.

So how can you avoid food waste and save money? Here are some tips to help you:

  1. Plan your meals ahead and buy only what you need. Make a shopping list and stick to it. Avoid impulse buying and check the expiry dates of the products you buy.
  2. Store your food properly and use it up before it goes bad. The most commonly discarded foods are fresh vegetables and salads, so try putting these at the front of the fridge or cupboard as they get older. Have the most impact by not throwing out any meat, fish, or cheese, as they have a much higher carbon footprint than vegetables and fruit. It’s also how you’ll save the most money.
  3. Get creative with leftovers and use them in new dishes. You can make soups, salads, sandwiches, casseroles, or stir-fries with leftover ingredients. You can also freeze them for later use or share them with friends or family.
  4. Compost your food scraps or donate them to a local farm or community garden. This way, you can turn your waste into fertilizer for plants and reduce landfill waste.

Here are a few of our favourite food waste steps to help you. Just select the ones you like, and click ‘I’ll try’

Buy Less

This is one of the best ways to cut waste and in particular food waste. 25% of all food waste is caused just because we prepare or cook too much. Imagine how much money we’d save too, if we cut out this type of waste. The same goes for non food items. Many cupboards are filled with stuff that is rarely or never used. Next time you plan to buy something, check with yourself if you really need, and if you will use it a lot. If not, why not save yourself the money?

Before you buy check list

Reduce, reuse, recycle

Recycling can be one of the easiest ways to reduce waste because recycling means that materials can be used again and again, instead of being thrown out and emitting carbon emissions in landfill. By recycling materials already made, you save energy (which reduces carbon emissions), and help reduce new materials being dug up from the Earth.

Although cutting out plastic is best if you do use it then it’s important to recycle where you can. It takes hundreds of years to break down, is made from fossils fuels which cause climate change, and is causing a huge global pollution problem that kills millions of animals every year.

Top tips to help you recycle more:

  1. Check local facilities for best ways to recycle everything you can. It can often vary, and sometimes you can recycle all sorts of unexpected items too.
  2. Reduce the amount of packaging you use and buy products that are recyclable or reusable. For example, choose paper bags over plastic bags, glass jars over plastic bottles, or cloth napkins over paper towels. Or find some favourite shops which minimise the use of packaging.
  3. Reuse items instead of throwing them away. For example, you can reuse glass jars for storing food or crafts, plastic bags for lining bins or picking up after your pet, or old clothes for cleaning rags or making new clothes.

It’s also important to avoid ‘wish cycling’. Wish cycling is when you put something into your recycling bin that might not be recyclable in your local waste scheme, or hasn’t been washed and cleaned. When dirty recycling ends up in waste bins, it can contaminate the whole batch leading to this being directed to landfill instead.

By recycling more, you can do your part to protect the environment and reduce your carbon footprint.

Non food waste

We throw out around five times in our bodyweight every year. Everything from plastic packaging to clothes, unwanted presents to electronics and old mobile phones to white goods like fridges or dishwashers.

So here are some tips to reduce your non food waste.

  1. Giving presents: Ask if you can first; consider giving an experience, like a restaurant meal, cinema, or spa trip. Or go homemade or customized with their name, initials, photo, or message.
  2. Repair where possible. Although many items now have planned obsolescence, some items can be repaired and their life prolonged, which is good for saving money and avoiding the need to buy more.
  3. Old electronics: Recycle. Many phone companies now offer to pay for your old mobiles.
  4. Buy less, and avoid impulse buys – great for the planet, and for your wallet.

Here are a few of our favourite steps to help you. If you give one a go, don’t forget to mark “I’ll try” to access some additional help and info:

Wherever you start, the great thing about cutting waste is it saves money and helps our planet all at once. And if you want to do a quick check on your food waste, try our mini food waste calculator here to find out how much carbon you can save by cutting out food waste.

gif showing food waste calculator, the user inputs details of the food they they have used and how they disposed of it and the calculator returns the carbon footprint

If you are taking part in a Waste Less challenge with your organisation, head to your account now and take any step to join in. Don’t forget to visit the leader board to see who’s topping the tables.