7 Tips for Extending the Lives of Your Products to Reduce Waste

The concept of sustainability has become a buzzword in today’s world — and for good reason. Some scientists claim that even taking aggressive measures to reverse climate change now will not completely eliminate the chance of environmental catastrophe within the next few decades. With so much at risk, taking simple measures to reduce the waste we produce literally could mean the difference between life and death for Mother Earth and her inhabitants.

While few of us heedlessly toss aluminum cans in the garbage bin rather than the recycling container any longer, the vast majority of us still fail to think about all the ways we can reduce waste, including extending the lives of our personal items. Extending the life of the products we rely on for activities related to daily living saves money while protecting the ozone layer. Here’s how to extend the shelf-life of seven products often overlooked in household energy conservation efforts.

1. Ditch Dryer Lint

reduce waste dryer lint
Credit: Jessica Alpern, FlickrCC

Keeping your dryer clean improves your conservation quotient while also protecting your life and home. Lint trapped in dryer hoses can lead to fires, so practicing proper maintenance is a must.

Dirty dryers use far more energy than clean ones, so always empty the lint trap after each load of washing. Once per year, disassemble the appliance and use a vacuum with a long hose to suck out any stray lint. If you notice a decrease in drying efficiency, contact a qualified repair person.

2. Keep Exhaust Fans Clean

Those bathroom exhaust fans that keep your mirrors somewhat steam-free when you shower serve as the perfect breeding grounds for mold and bacteria. Like dryers, exhaust fans pose a fire hazard, so keeping them clean protects your loved ones as well as cuts energy consumption. Remove exhaust fan covers and vacuum them thoroughly. Also, scrub your kitchen exhaust fan to keep it free of built-up grease.

Avoid leaving exhaust fans on when the air clears. This increases the fire risk and uses up a ton of electricity to boot.

3. Prolong the Lifespan of Your Batteries

Low temperatures make some types of batteries last much longer, decreasing potentially toxic waste significantly. While the verdict remains out on whether freezing alkaline batteries actually works, lithium batteries retain more of their initial charge at cold temperatures. Storing such batteries in the freezer allows them to maintain 94 percent of their charge even after a full year.

All batteries are different, though, so take the time to research your items to see how to best protect them and make them last longer. For example, hearing aids burn out batteries quicker when clogged with ear wax, so you can use a small pick to remove any deposits and help them last longer.

4. Keep Your Munchies Fresh

Food waste makes up much landfill fodder, so storing food properly shows a commitment to protecting the Earth. Avoid using costly and unsustainable plastic wrap by investing in various sizes of reusable storage containers. Switch to reusable food storage bags in lieu of single-use zip-top bags and reserve the warehouse store run for non-perishable bulk items to eliminate spoilage. Buying meat or produce in bulk often results in much of it going bad before you have a chance to eat it.

5. Cut the Amounts of Cleaning Supplies You Use in Half

Most of us use far more cleaning products than necessary to get our household chores done. Avoid wasting cleaning products by spraying disinfectants on a cloth versus the surface you intend to clean.

You can also cut products such as sponges and reusable microfiber cloths in half to double their usefulness and to reduce the numbers of these items clogging landfills and waterways.

6. Ditch the Second Shampoo

We’ve all read bottles of popular hair care products instructing you to lather up twice, but unless you’ve been working in a coal mine, skip the second shampoo.

Washing more than once releases more chemicals into waterways and strips hair of protective oils, leaving you with dry, flyaway locks. For bonus ecology points, select shampoos and other body care products free of sodium laurel sulfate and parabens — substances proven to impact hormonal function and damage the ecosystem.

7. Treat Your Car with Care

Some of us think of our vehicles as extensions of our unique personalities, while others consider cars to simply be a mode of transportation from Point A to Point B. Regardless of your personal attitude, maintaining your vehicle reduces the environmental impact of commuting.

Even if you can’t quite afford a Tesla, keeping tires properly inflated improves the miles per gallon your vehicle gets. Additionally, try to avoid hauling around bulky, heavy items as these can reduce fuel efficiency. The same goes for running the air conditioner, so on days that aren’t scorchers and quick trips around town, enjoy some wind in your hair and roll down your windows.

Switching to Sustainable Practices

Decreasing your carbon footprint does require a bit of sacrifice, but it keeps the planet clean while also saving you money. Making simple adjustments to your everyday routines reduces your overall environmental impact. Cutting down on waste makes both moral and financial sense.