Waste Reduction For Residents

Download our Steps Toward Zero Waste Tip Sheet

Beginner  —  Intermediate  —  Advanced  —  Expert

Reducing waste is a process — it starts with making small changes to your everyday life and works up to a broader shift in overall lifestyle. Here are some steps you can take to reduce waste regardless of where you are right now, ranging from the smaller, simple actions at the Beginner level to the changes in habit and public engagement at the Expert level.


For Those Just Beginning To Think About Zero Waste


Sort Your Recycling And Waste Properly

Be sure to know what materials can be recycled and place them in the proper bin. For more information on what can be recycled in Princeton, check the municipality of Princeton's website. If you participate in the *Curbside Organic Waste Program, remember - "If it Grows, It Goes!"

*Princeton’s Organic Waste Program is temporarily suspended



Bring Your Own Bag When Shopping

According the to EPA, only about 12% of plastic bags, sacks and wraps are recycled each year. It's better to bring your own, reusable bag. Concerned about the spread of germs, simply wash your bags as you would any other household textiles.



Pack Lunches In Reusable Containers

Start with a reusable lunchbox, backpack or brief case. Pack your food with reusable containers. Include a drink in a refillable container and reusable utensils. 

More Beginner Steps To Consider:

Avoid buying products that are designed to be disposable — get a renewable replacement instead

  • Carry a reusable water bottle

  • Get a reusable coffee filter to replace your paper filters

  • Stop using disposable air fresheners — consider buying a houseplant instead

Go paperless by…

  • Canceling your newspaper subscription and read the news online

  • Filing your taxes electronically to cut back on paper usage.

  • Using electronic ticket purchasing apps instead of getting tickets at the movies

  • Paying your bills online

  • Buying eBooks or borrowing books from the Library

  • Recycling phone books

  • Using old clothes and towels instead of paper towels

Buy products with less packaging

  • Buy in bulk and use it all

  • Don’t use k-cups or use biodegradable k-cups

  • Avoid buying frozen foods because of plastic coverings (recycle at Whole Foods)

  • Find package-free solid soap, and don’t use soap with plastic beads

  • Go to the local farmers market to buy produce

Use biodegradable bags for…

  • Home garbage

  • Pet waste


For Those Looking To Step Up Their Waste Reduction From The Basics



Stop Buying Bottled Water

Bottled water is no better than tap water but it is about 300% more expensive. Get in the habit of carrying your own water bottle.



Join The Curbside Organics Program - this program is temporarily discontinued



Shop Garage Sales And Thrift Shops Before Buying New

Princeton has a number of great thrift shops: Greene Street Consignment, Jane,  Nearly New Shop

More Intermediate Steps To Consider:

Try cooking simple things at home, rather than buying out or eating out

  • Make small snacks for parties

  • Make your own baby food

  • Liven up tap water with fruit instead of buying soda

Recycle your hazardous waste and e-waste though local programs

Buy seasonal, not out-of-season produce 

Eliminate as many disposable products as possible from your household

  • Use cloth napkins in the house

  • Buy a battery charger and switch to using rechargeable batteries

  • Recycle or refill empty printer cartridges

Don’t throw things out — repurpose or reuse instead

  • Turn used household paper into notepaper before recycling

  • Repurpose used containers instead of buying new ones

  • Sell or donate things you no longer want, rather than just throwing them out

Bring your own mug or cup to coffee shops


For Those Trying To Incorporate Zero Waste Principles Into All Aspects Of Their Lives



Leave Grass Clippings and Leaves on Your Lawn

Use a mulching mower to mulch grass and leaves into your lawn. The benefits of mulching are numerous: it provides nutrients for the soil, saves a great deal of time and money, helps protect water quality in our streams by keeping decomposing leaves out of storm sewers.



Compost In Your Backyard

Composting reduces the amount of waste we send to the landfill, turn waste into a useful product and reduces the need for water and fertilizers. 

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Support Or Join A Community Garden

Princeton has a number of local farms that offer community supported agriculture (CSA). Here's a list of CSA's in Mercer County.

More Advanced Steps To Consider:

Adopt a long-term mindset when shopping and buying products

  • Avoid disposable fashion

  • Buy products with quality materials and craftsmanship that will last

  • Only buy what you really need

Make a garden at home for fruits and vegetables

  • Can and freeze foods for the winter

Use washable cloth diapers rather than disposable ones

Avoid purchasing packaged foods and make more home-cooked meals

  • Make your own everyday snacks

  • Make your own fruit bars

  • Cook dinner at home more often


For Those Looking To Advance The Zero Waste Movement Beyond Just Themselves


Stop Using Disposable, Single-Use Plastics At Home

Using plastic utensils, plates and cups for parties and events may be convenient but most are not recyclable. Invest in a set of inexpensive flatware and reusable plates and cups. And to reduce the amount of single-use bags, keep reusable bags in places that are handy like by the door and in the car so you'll remember to grab them on your way to the store.


Encourage Local Restaurants And Businesses To Go Eco-Friendly

A number of Princeton restaurants and shops have made sustainable practices part of their business such as not using styrofoam, composting food waste and installing energy efficient equipment. Encourage the businesses you patronize to join the trend of sustainable business. 



Host a Zero Waste Event to Educate Others

It is easier than you think to host a zero waste event. Use electronic invitations (e-vites), reusable dishes and utensils, and compost food waste. 

More Expert Steps To Consider:

Get involved in or start a local campaign that pushes for zero waste policy

  • Volunteer at zero-waste events

  • Encourage your local representative support zero-waste policies

  • Work with your local school about organizing zero-waste events

Come up with creative new ways to live zero waste