Household waste comes in many forms. There’s personal food waste, which can account for as much as 40 percent of the food that is brought into the home. There’s packaging waste, which ranges from food packaging to the boxes and envelopes that magically appear on your doorstep from Amazon Prime and other mail order businesses. E-waste is also a growing problem. Add things like dirty diapers, magazines, old clothes and more into the mix, and household waste can get out of control.

All of that waste comes with environmental and financial ramifications, but it’s hard to break the habit of tossing things away. It’s just so easy to dispose of things quickly. It might take some incentive to change your habit of creating waste into one of curbing waste. Tracking your waste may be all the incentive you need. Here's some help.

Tools for tracking household waste

  1. Food Waste Diary Chart — This printable chart encourages you to write down every bit of food you waste. Do you throw away the milk in the bottom of a cereal bowl? Measure it, estimate how much it cost, and then write it all down, at every meal for a week.
  2. Food Waste Diary App — If you’d rather track your food waste on your smartphone, this app will help you do it on your Apple or Android device.
  3. Spreadsheet software — If you want to track non-food waste too, you can do it easily in a spreadsheet like the free online Google Docs Spreadsheet or any spreadsheet program you have on your computer. Spreadsheets let you quickly estimate the amount of money you’re throwing away as well as help you to visualize the number of items you toss.
Tips for tracking household waste
  • When tracking packaging waste, a week or two should suffice to see how much you get rid of (whether it’s thrown away or recycled) on a regular basis.
  • When tracking e-waste, don’t just track your devices, track all the peripherals that go with them — chargers, cables, batteries, gaming controllers, earphones and anything else that supports your devices. E-waste tracking may be a long-term project, perhaps tracking for a year to determine how much waste is created from your entertainment and technology habits.
  • Even items that are sent for recycling count as waste. Recycling may be disposing of an item in a more responsible manner, but it’s still getting rid of something you used (or maybe never used but brought into your home) and is now no longer wanted. One of the goals of tracking is to make you think twice before bringing something into the house that will eventually become waste. Tracking items you send for recycling will help with that.

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.