San Francisco Department of the Environment

How can I reduce waste?

Waste happens before you take it home - in the production, manufacturing, and transportation of materials and the final product. Help reduce waste by refusing what you don’t need, reducing what you consume, and reusing what you have.

Refuse what you don't need. 

  • Remove your address from junk mail and phone book delivery lists.
  • Think twice when you’re offered “free stuff” so you don’t take anything home that you don’t need.
  • Make a shopping list before you go to the store to prevent impulse buys.

Reduce what you consume.

  • Borrow or rent items that are used infrequently, like camping gear, tools, and party accessories.
  • Check out books from your local library branch instead of purchasing them.
  • Save food jars to store small household items and bulk food products, instead of buying special containers.
  • Get creative with gift wrapping. Try using old calendars, catalogs, maps, and newspapers.
  • Try these tips for using the food you have, shopping wisely, and keeping food fresh longer.

Reuse what you have, and bring your own!

  • Bring reusable bags when shopping.
  • Rethink disposable and choose to use your own durable utensils, even if disposable utensils are available.
  • Didn't bring your travel mug to work and need some coffee? Grab a mug from the office kitchen.
  • Practice bringing your own to-go containers and bag to restaurants to pack leftovers.
  • Carry a handkerchief or use cloth napkins instead of napkins and tissues.

Purchase responsibly.

  • Purchase services and activities for gifts instead of material goods.
  • Choose items that are made with recycled content.
  • Shop at thrift, consignment, and antique stores.
  • Purchase potted flowers instead of freshly cut flowers. 
  • Avoid buying plastic wrap, plastic sandwich bags, and plastic packaging. Purchase products in reusable or refillable packaging to prevent one-time use and disposal, and use reusable containers.