There’s only one thing worse than having to leave the cottage after a long weekend—and that’s having to deal with the garbage and recycling produced during the long weekend. Recycling facilities and garbage dumps are often closed on holiday weekends, which may mean a very long and smelly drive back to the city with a trunk full of trash.
When it comes to reducing waste at the cottage, it’s best to stick to the key principles: reduce, reuse, and recycle. Here’s 22 ways that you can minimize your cottage trash this summer.
1. Buy fresh foods from the local farmers’ markets. Reduce packaging even further by bringing your own bag.
2. Plan your meals carefully. When it comes to purchasing fresh produce and perishable foods, only buy what you need.
3. Minimize packaging by buying in bulk. Yes, that includes the magnum of wine that you’ve been eyeing. Many craft breweries also offer refillable growlers.
4. Even better, brew your own. Making—and drinking—and your own beer or wine is a great group activity. When it comes time to bottle, reuse old bottles.
5. Hit up the bulk food store for dried goods and snacks. Bring your own reusable zipper bags to reduce waste even further.
6. On that note, wash and reuse zipper bags and aluminum foil whenever possible. Instead of plastic wrap, try reusable containers.
7. Cook finger foods on the barbecue or over the fire. Fewer dirty dishes means less water used—not to mention less work for you.
8. Switch from K cups back to a brew coffee machine. Take it one step further by using a reusable filter rather than paper ones.
9. Offer toiletries to guests. Tell visitors to leave the travel-sized containers at home. Biodegradable shampoo and soap can often be purchased in bulk from health food stores.
10. Buy a water filtration system or a water cooler. There’s no need for bottled water when it flows freely from the tap. Let guests know in advance that the water is safe to drink.
11. Regardless of whether you’re buying a new water toy or a new frying pan, focus on quality. It might be tempting to skimp out, but buy products that won’t end up in the landfill at the end of the season.
12. For summertime celebrations, skip the dollar store decorations. Instead, get kids to make placeholders using painted rocks or stones. Decorate using wildflowers, feathers, and glass found on the beach.
13. Start a tool or kitchen library in your cottage area. Before you run out to buy a screwdriver or special baking pan for a one-off job, see if you can borrow one from your neighbours. Shared economies reduce consumption and create community.
14. Choose reusable drink containers for the trip to the cottage. If the long drive to the cabin involves stopping for food, pack your own reusable water bottle or insulated mug.
15. Don’t buy disposable dishes, cutlery or glasses. If you don’t have enough dishes, encourage guests to bring their own. Kitschy cups from home are way harder to get confused or forgotten than red solo cups.
16. Buy second-hand whenever possible. Rather than buying new, head to the local consignment or thrift shop.
17. Remove excess packaging before you head to the cottage. Ensure that recycling gets put in the bin before you even hit the highway.
18. Bring all recycling to the nearest facility or back to the city. That includes clear berry containers, burner liners and roasting pans, foam polystyrene containers, and even plastic shopping bags.
19. Start a compost pile. Don’t worry about bears—choose a spot far enough away from your cottage and don’t include meat or cheese. If you are worried about raccoons or other wildlife, you can still compost yard and animal waste.
20. Leave grass clippings on the lawn. As a bonus, grass clippings are nutrient-rich and will leave your lawn looking much greener.
21. If you’re landscaping, make sure you don’t buy plants in black pots. Trays of this colour can’t be recycled—look for green plastic trays instead.
22. Start a little free library. Don’t throw out your magazines—your neighbour definitely wants to read the latest celebrity rag.