America Recycles Day is just around the corner on November 15th, a reminder of the role we all play in managing and disposing of waste in a responsible way. Overproduction of waste in our city impacts not only our environment, but our health and economy as well. That’s why reducing waste, increasing waste diversion, and improving waste system management are all key goals of Columbia’s Climate Action and Adaptation Plan (CAAP). In fact, by 2050, we’re aiming to reduce waste in our city by 45%.
While our city is taking strides to manage waste levels on a municipal level, everyone in Columbia can play a part in reducing waste in our city and ensuring that the waste we do produce is properly disposed of. Especially with the holiday season coming soon, being mindful of everyday waste reduction habits everyday can make a serious difference in the health and safety of our community and environment.
The most significant advantage of reducing waste is the substantial decrease in greenhouse gas emissions. When waste produced in our city decomposes in landfills, it releases greenhouse gases (GHGs) that pollute our air and contribute to climate change. When we reduce the amount of waste initially created, we limit the amount of pollution and emissions created in our community.
Waste reduction isn't just environmentally friendly; it's budget-friendly too. Focusing on reducing unnecessary purchases and consumptions helps reduce spending on an everyday level, and buying products with less packaging or opting for reusable items can help you save money over time.
By choosing to be more careful with consumption and waste production, you can also help benefit the local economy. This effect is cyclical: the more intentional you are with sustainable purchases from local businesses and farmers, you reduce spending and your carbon footprint. In turn, local businesses are able to invest in sustainable practices and provide more goods and services within our community.
- Recycle Right: Recycling is a popular method of waste reduction in our community, but it’s only effective when done correctly! When sorting through your solid waste, make sure you’re following Columbia’s solid waste guidelines so your trash and recycling make it to the right places. The CoMo Trash and Recycle App can help to explain how to properly dispose of waste and how to find recycling centers near you.
- Shop Local: Especially as the holiday season approaches, make an effort to buy from local Columbia businesses and merchants for food, clothes, and gifts. Transportation of the goods we buy, along with packing materials necessary for long-distance shipping, contribute to emissions and waste for our purchases.
- Compost Organic Waste: Organic, compostable waste makes up about a third of the waste we send to landfill. Start a compost pile in your backyard or consider using a local composting service. Composting food scraps, yard waste, and other organic materials reduces landfill waste and enriches soil for gardening.
- Say No to Single-Use Plastics: Carry a reusable water bottle, coffee cup, and shopping bags to reduce your reliance on single-use plastics. If you want to move even closer to a zero-waste lifestyle, you can try buying some goods (like grains, nuts, laundry detergents, and soaps) in bulk to decrease the amount of packaging involved in production and purchase.
- Repair and Reuse: Before tossing something out, consider if it can be repaired or repurposed. Extend the lifespan of your possessions by fixing minor issues or finding creative ways to reuse them.
Ready to start reducing waste? Try utilizing Columbia-specific programs and markets to help reduce your waste and carbon footprint.
Attend a Composting Workshop to learn more about turning your kitchen scraps and yard waste into valuable compost for your garden. It's a fun and educational experience for beginner composters or community gardeners.
If you want to focus on shopping local, try visiting the Columbia Farmers Market for local produce and artisanal goods this holiday season. From November to March, the market is open on Saturdays from 9am – 12pm at the MU Health Care Pavilion at Columbia’s Agriculture Park. For more information surrounding vendors and additional scheduling or parking information, check out the Location Details page on the Market’s website.