Top Things You’re Wasting -- and How to Stop

You don't have to install solar panels to be on board with Mother Earth. Small, everyday behaviors can be just as important. With minimal effort, you can conserve more (energy, water, trees and natural resources), create less trash and save money. Here's how.
  1. Water

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    It's easy to take water for granted, but remember that for many people around the world, access to clean drinking water is a luxury. So stop being so damn greedy.
    Stop Wasting By:
    *Only running your dishwasher and laundry machine when they're full.
    *Installing a toilet flapper and a low-flow showerhead.
    *Taking shorter showers (15 minutes is just unnecessary!).
    *Turning off the water while brushing your teeth, washing your dishes or shaving.
    *Washing your car -- without water. Eco Touch has a line of waterless car cleaning and detailing products that will leave your vehicle sparkling without using a drop of water (go to to buy).
  2. Paper Towels and Wipes

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    Disposable cleaning wipes and paper towels might make cleaning up spills and wiping down counters a lot easier, but they're a lot harder for the earth to get rid of than the rags your mom used. Most end up in landfills, where their hazardous chemicals can make their way into our water and soil.
    Stop Wasting By:
    *Using cloth napkins and towels whenever possible. And we don't mean use it once and then toss it in the laundry. Then you'd be back to wasting water. Reuse!
  3. Paper

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    The average office worker uses 10,000 sheets of paper a year -- multiply that by everyone who works in your office building, and you've got a small forest right there. Plus, Americans use about 68 million tons of paper and paperboard every year at home, and there are 350 million magazines and 24 billion newspapers published each year, which eventually end up in the trash (or, hopefully, the recycling bin). Yikes!
    Stop Wasting By:
    *Using both sides of paper and buying 100 percent recycled paper.
    * Taking the initiative and starting a recycling program if your company doesn't already recycle paper.
    *Recycling paper, newspapers, magazines and mail when you're done.
    *An even better solution: converting to online newspaper and magazine subscriptions. If you like to take your reading materials with you on your commute or, ahem, into the bathroom, invest in an e-reader.
    *Switching to online banking and bill paying, and going to to remove yourself from mailing lists for catalogs you don't want.
    *Going digital: Send e-cards and e-vites, use your BlackBerry's digital calendar, create grocery lists and to-do lists online or on your get the picture.
  4. Plastic Bags

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    Did you know that every year enough plastic bags are produced in the US to cover the entire state of Texas? Crazy visual, huh? And those plastic baggies are not biodegradable, so the ones that aren't recycled (which would be the majority -- plastic bags, sacks and wraps are only recycled about 9 percent of the time, according to the EPA) leak chemicals into our soil and water supply as they break down over time.
    Stop Wasting By:
    *Investing in reusable grocery bags (you can find great ones at
    *Avoiding taking more bags and packaging than you need from takeout restaurants, drugstores and supermarkets.
    *Using a reusable lunch bag if you carry your lunch to work (Seven Planet makes great eco-friendly bags and containers that you can check out at

  5. Plastic Water Bottles

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    We hope you already know this by now, but ditching those plastic water bottles is one of the best and easiest things you can do to save the planet (and some dough). If we all did it, we'd keep over 2 million tons of plastic out of landfills every year.
    Stop Wasting By:
    *Using a BPA-free water bottle (BPA has been associated with a host of health issues, including cancer) and just refilling it.
    *Purifying your own tap water (if you're worried about what's in it) by installing a water filter on your faucet or getting a Brita pitcher. Considering 44 percent of "purified" bottled water started out as municipal water, the water in your Brita will be just as "pure."
  6. Razor Blades

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    An estimated 2 billion disposable razors are deposited into landfills every year, according to the EPA. And as you can imagine, those blades don't break down very easily.
    Stop Wasting By:
    *Drying your razor after every use to avoid rusting, so the blade will last longer. *Even better: investing in an electric razor.
  7. Paper Cups

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    Americans consumed about 23 billion paper coffee cups in 2010 -- that's 9.4 million trees! If you regularly drink your joe on the go, then you're probably partly to blame.
    Stop Wasting By:
    *Using a reusable coffee cup. Some coffee shops, like Starbucks, will even reward you for your green ways by giving you a discount.
    *Keeping a mug and a reusable water bottle at the office for when you're thirsty.
  8. Coffee Filters

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    Using a mug? Good. Now it's time to talk filters. Disposable paper filters are a waste. You use at least one every day, and you're just one person.
    Stop Wasting By:
    *Buying a metal, reusable filter. Added bonus: You'll never stumble groggily into the kitchen only to discover you're out of filters on a morning when you really need your coffee.
  9. Food

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    You might be surprised to find out that food releases the toxic chemical methane when it decomposes. And since 14 percent of the food we buy ends up in the trash, that's not good.
    Stop Wasting By:
    *Bringing last night's dinner to work for lunch the next day, and using leftover meats and veggies to create salads, casseroles and soups. Get more ideas for making great meals with your leftovers.
    *Composting food scraps to create your own organic fertilizer (sans toxic chemicals) for your lawn and garden. It's easy to do: You can buy a compost bin or make your own, using a trash can, a little water and some soil. Or go to to find a composting facility near you.
    *Being knowledgeable about those expiration dates. Before you toss that yogurt or trash those eggs, keep this in mind: Those "best if used by" and "sell by" dates don't actually mean that's the date when your groceries go bad. They indicate when the food is at its freshest, and most foods last a lot longer than we think. For example, milk is actually fine for up to 10 days past the "sell by" date, and frozen meat never goes bad. Go to, which will tell you how long foods typically are good to eat.
  10. Aluminum Cans

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    The average American drinks 2.5 cans of soda every day and has a pantry filled with canned soup and vegetables, which contributes to the 3.4 million tons of aluminum waste piling up in landfills every year.
    Stop Wasting By:
    *Recycling just one aluminum can, which saves enough energy to run a computer for three hours. So toss those in the blue bin, okay?
    *Buying fresh produce and foods whenever possible and cutting back on the soda habit to limit the amount of cans you trash.

    Another big thing we all waste? Energy! Check out ten great products that will help you save energy and find great tips for trimming your energy bill.