How to Do a Waste Audit + Free Worksheet
Great to have you back!
Congratulations! We are the first generation to know, beyond a shadow of doubt, what humankind has done to our planet. But we also know what we can do to fix it. We now, more than ever, have the power to shape the environment we live in.
As promised, in this journey of adopting a greener lifestyle, I took the first step towards lessening my carbon-footprint. Overwhelming AF? Don’t worry bud, will simplify. We are going to take it one-step-at-a-time.
Management guru, Peter Drucker, is often quoted as saying, “If you can't measure it, you can't improve it.” Which is so true, right? We make business strategies based on the corporate buzz-word “data” and even track every almond we eat in health apps (guilty!).
Therefore, I thought why not start with auditing my trash? I mean, if I don’t know what I am throwing away, how would I know what I have to deal with.
So, for a week, I led my usual normal life with no “green” changes. Just noted down everything I was buying and discarding. This helped me analyze the sustainable changes I could make to both my consumption and my trash process to reduce my overall garbage load.
If this is something that you’re curious about, I’ve laid down the exact process I followed to audit the trash that a family of four was generating in one week.
1| Decide the timeline
One week was an excellent time frame for me to get a fair idea of my shopping and tossing habits. You can do it for a day or two weeks as well. Whatever suits you the best.
2| Prepare the means to measure
You can use a notepad or a spreadsheet (I've got a template for you at the end of this post!) for this part of the process. The Key is to keep it in the most accessible place so that you can make quick notes.
Make 2 tables for the items you buy and trash respectively. Within each broader table, make the following columns:
- Date*: Date of activity viz. purchasing or trashing
- Item name*: Item that is bought or binned like eggs, milk packets, packaged food, vegetables, stationary, LED bulb, etc.
Quantity*: Number of items.
(I also made a note of size and weight, but that’s completely optional).
Type of waste: Reducible, reusable, recyclable, rot-able
Don’t worry it’s not a mandatory column. Fill the information as per your knowledge. You may also reach out to us, in case you need help categorizing.
- Quick note: It can be anything that you feel can help you in the future. It is primarily to keep a tab on your findings like what can be avoided, frequently bought items, what could have been reused but you threw instinctively, an alternative that you opted for, and so on and so forth.
3| Make a note of everything you buy or bin
Since it would be tedious to update the spreadsheet every single time that I would throw something in the bin, I simply made notes on my phone during the course of the day. I made it a habit to update the spreadsheet for the day’s the consumption/trashing before going to bed.
4| Analyze the audit sheet
To be honest, digging through the trash at the end of every day does feel gross. But we have already crossed the mountain and have the data in front of us. You just have to analyze your notes to figure out where you can make the biggest impact. For me, the easy ones are – avoid plastic bottles, use plastic straws, carry reusable totes for shopping.
5| Set goals
Find easy swaps, reduce the quantity or buy larger packs for frequent items, replace your disposables with reusable items, and ultimately, reduce your overall consumption.
I have elaborated more on the effective steps that I took in separate blogs.
Now, you just need to stick to the plan you have made and simply repeat. Believe me, it’s easier said than done. Even sending one packet of chips less in the landfill is a great start. IT IS!
The goal is to create as little trash as possible.
Trust me, I realized that we are all victims of the “culture of convenience”. The potential of making changes in our lives is astoundingly huge. And it’s easy too!
So, I will wake up tomorrow morning. Make greener, more sustainable choices and stick to my plan as best as I can. If I mess up, will just put it in a bag AND still share the learning with you.
There ain’t no looking back now, bud!
Your Eco Story-teller,