Reducing Single-Use

What is Single-Use?

As defined by Oxford, single use (adjective) is anything that’s:

designed to be used once and then disposed of or destroyed.

Why is it bad?

A takeout coffee cup, a snack bag wrapper, a paper towel to wipe up a spill: looked at on their own, they seem benign. These convenient items are ever-present and so easily thrown away that most of us barely even acknowledge their presence. But single-use items come with a steep environmental price: our plastic and insurmountable trash has a devastating impact on our oceans, our wildlife, and our health.

Single-use items are a glaring example of the problems with throwaway culture and our linear economy. Rather than investing in quality items that will last, we look for convenience over durability and consideration of long-term impacts. Our reliance on this single-use lifestyle means we are accumulating waste at an alarming rate. 

Where do I start?

We live in a disposable world, and everywhere you go you’ll be faced with accumulating trash. The more single-use items you can avoid, the better! Use reusables wherever possible and avoid purchasing anything in packaging that you can find elsewhere without it (like produce wrapped in packaging instead are available loose, like lettuce or squash). Start to take a look at all the single-use trash you accumulate daily and you might be shocked to find just how much there is.

There are tons of ways to avoid single-use items like water bottles, paper towels, food wrap and storage bags, wipes, cotton pads, toothbrushes, and more. Instead of using them, check out our Guide to Swaps for a list of easy swappables. (But be careful! Wait to make your swaps until you run out of items to ensure you’re not accumulating more waste along the way.)

And let’s not forget about reducing: you don’t need to replace everything with all new eco-friendly products. A lot of the time, the most eco-friendly thing to do is not buy anything at all. For example – you could buy a reusable straw, but do you really need one? Just opt for not using one at all! When you think you need something new, ask yourself, “do I already have something that does this? Do I really need this item?”

Other ways to reduce


It can feel really great to fix something that’s broken or transform something into a beautiful piece or useful item. Keep in mind that you can also repair electronics and mechanical items too when they break instead of throwing them out. You would be surprised at how simple it is to repair some things. Learn more about repairing here.


Upcycling and DIYs can be rewarding and a really fun way to spend your time. With upcycling, you’re repurposing and giving a new life to something that would have been thrown away. And DIYs provide a sense of pride in your work and allow you to customize it any way you like. Plus, it’s a great family activity to get everyone’s creative juices flowing! Learn more about upcycling here.


The more you buy second-hand or use hand-me-downs, the more you’re helping to contribute to a circular economy. And again, you’ll save so much money along the way. Learn more about thrifting here.


Let’s make regifting cool again! Giving gently used items you may not want or need anymore as a gift can even be more meaningful and useful for someone than buying something new. Learn more about regifting here.


It’s great to get in the habit of refusing what you don’t need. For example, giving back a straw at a restaurant, or telling the cashier you don’t need a bag if you didn’t bring a reusable one. When you order takeout, let them know you won’t need any cutlery or condiments. If a store is giving free samples, refuse them!

Start Small

Reducing your single-use can be overwhelming, so we recommend starting small. Pick one item you use a lot of and make it your goal to figure out how to eliminate it from your waste.

Our Earth Day Everyday Pop-Up Diverts Thousands of Plastic Water Bottles from Entering the Waste Stream

Our Earth Day Everyday Pop-Up has made a notable impact in Pound Ridge on the reduction of single-use and composting efforts with the participation of our community. Learn more by looking through the recaps of past events we have reduced single-use with our Water Refill Station that has diverted thousands of plastic water bottles from entering the waste stream to date.

Feel free to reach out to us to help you or your organization create a low waste event with our Earth Day Everyday Pop-Up. Let’s work together to reduce trash and make a significant impact on waste reduction in our community.

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