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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Green Living: Throw Away Less Stuff

Resources to help you green your home and make better environmental decisions.


In 2008,  the United States generated 249.6 million tons of trash. That's 4.5 pounds per person, per day. Of that, 82.9 million tons was recovered for recycling or composting (1.5 pounds per person, per day). That's only 33%. The rest is either landfilled or burned. The garbage we throw away contributes to climate change and water pollution.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Repurpose -- RETHINK

  • Buy items in bulk from loose bins when possible to reduce the packaging wasted.
  • Avoid products with several layers of packaging when only one is sufficient. About 33 of what we throw away is packaging.
  • Buy products that you can reuse.
  • Maintain and repair durable products instead of buying new ones.
  • Check reports for products that are easily repaired and have low breakdown rates.
  • Reuse items like bags and containers when possible.
  • Use cloth napkins instead of paper ones.
  • Use reusable plates and utensils instead of disposable ones.
  • Use reusable containers to store food instead of aluminum foil and cling wrap.
  • Shop with a canvas bag instead of using paper and plastic bags.
  • Buy rechargeable batteries for devices used frequently.
  • Reuse packaging cartons and shipping materials. Old newspapers make great packaging material.
  • Compost your vegetable scraps.
  • Buy used furniture. There is a surplus of it, and it is much cheaper than new furniture.
  • Visit your local resale shop to donate gently used old clothes, toys, and household items and to find things that you need.
  • Recycle newspapers, magazines, cans, milk jugs, and anything else your local recycling program will accept.
  • Donate or sell stuff you don’t want if it’s still usable.
  • Repurpose or upcycle stuff you have to make something new.
  • Don't throw away your unused medications. Take them to a local dropoff facility or save them for a household hazardous waste collection day.
  • Remove yourself from catalog and bulk mailing lists.