Striving for Zero Waste Living on America Recycles Day

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Wondering how you can reduce, reuse and recycle on America Recycles Day? Here are tips for recycling food and beverage cartons and zero waste living as well! This post was sponsored by the Carton Council as part of an Ambassador Activation for Influence Central and all opinions expressed in my post are my own.

garbage dumpster - 15 ways to reduce your trash on the path to zero waste living

Striving for Zero Waste Living on American Recycles Day

My family has a long way to go to achieve zero waste living. I doubt we will ever make it there, but we have one important aspect of zero waste living down pat: recycling. Recycling is essential for zero waste living. Luckily, it’s becoming easier and easier all over the country. Often times, it doesn’t even require sorting. If you don’t currently recycle, please, please, please seek out your local recycling center and learn how truly easy the process most likely is.

food and beverage cartons

 Recycling Facts from the Carton Council of North America:

  • About 75% of our trash is recyclable, yet most of it ends up in landfills. Did you know landfills release harmful methane gas that speeds up global warming?
  • When Americans recycle just 30% of all municipal waste, we save the energy equivalent of 11.9 billion gallons of gasoline. That’s the greenhouse gas equivalent of taking 25 million cars off the road!!
  • A ton of paper made from recycled fibers instead of virgin fibers conserves 7,000 gallons of water, 17-31 trees, 4,000 KWh of electricity, and 60 pounds of air pollutants.
  • Every time you recycle, you’re helping to make the earth a greener place.

Each week, my family sends more items to the recycling center than we do to the transfer station. I would love to be a zero waste family, the reality is just not practical for us. But given that each day every American produces about four pounds of trash, I know we can do a better job! Here are several easy ways we can all take baby-steps toward zero waste living, starting right now.

Choose Food & Beverage Cartons 

There are lots of reasons for choosing food and beverages packaged in cartons over plastic. Not only are food and beverage cartons recyclable, but they take a lot fewer resources to make in the first place. According to the Carton Council of North America, food and beverage cartons are approximately 93% product and only 7% material which means there’s a lot less left over.

To check if carton recycling is available in your area, you can use the zip code locator at Not only are food and beverage cartons recyclable, but they often go on to become other paper products or chemical free environmentally friendly building materials. My husband even uses some of these recycled products in our home building business, Oak Tree Homes.

garbage dumpster for America Recycles Day

How to Recycle Food & Beverage Cartons

You might remember my first post on food and beverage cartons a couple of months ago. In it, I explained that all types of food and beverages are packaged in cartons, including tomatoes, soup, broth, milk, juice, beans, coconut and other waters, and even wine.

There are two types of food and beverage cartons. Shelf-stable cartons are called Aseptic. They are made of up about 74% paper, 22% plastic and 4% aluminum. The other kind of cartons are for refrigerated foods and they are found in the chilled section of the grocery store. Milk and juice cartons are very common example. They are 80% paper and 20% plastic. So you can really reduce your plastic consumption by choosing food and beverages packaged in cartons instead of plastic. And if you then also recycle those cartons, you are reducing the amount of waste you send to the landfill.

I also explained in that post how easy it is to recycle food and beverage cartons as many recycling centers now accept them. To recycle food and beverage cartons, all you have to do is put the empty cartons in your recycling bin. You don’t have to take off lids, and recyclers would prefer that you do not crush them as they recycle more efficiently in their original shape. You can also leave the caps ON! Easy peasy. Buy cartons. Empty food. Throw cartons in recycling bin. DONE!

12 More Ways to Reduce Waste on American Recycles Day

bento lunch - zero waste living

Now that you understand the benefits of switching to (and recycling) food and beverages packed in cartons instead of plastic, here are 12 more things you can do to minimize the waste you product and strive toward zero waste living.

  1. Get out those cloth bags and use them
  2. Stop using straws in restaurants
  3. Stop buying water bottles – guys, water is free from the tap! Drink it.
  4. Take your own refillable water bottles to restaurants to avoid take-out cups, lids, and straws
  5. Take reusable containers to restaurants for leftovers
  6. Buy in bulk whenever possible
  7. Compost food waste
  8. Eat your leftovers!
  9. Switch to cloth napkins and cloth paper towels. (I quit using paper napkins and towels cold turkey about ten years ago. It is doable!)
  10. Use cloth diapers if you have babies. (I did this with four kids, you guys.)
  11. Buy fruit and veggies directly from local farmers (and grow whatever you can yourself!)
  12. Buy meat from the meat counter or from local farmers
  13. Use reusable containers for school lunches
  14. Donate unwanted items instead of throwing them away

On America Recycles Day, I hope you will think a little harder about the trash you produce, start recycling if you don’t already, and think about steps you can take to move toward zero waste living! Let’s make the world a better place for everyone!

To learn more about the Carton Council of North America, visit them on facebook, instagram, twitter, and youtube.

What tips for Zero Waste Living do you have that I didn’t share? Please comment with your best tip below.

About Michelle Marine

Michelle Marine is the author of How to Raise Chickens for Meat, a long-time green-living enthusiast, and rural Iowa mom of four. She empowers families to grow and eat seasonal, local foods; to reduce their ecological footprint; and to come together through impactful travel.

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