By: Susan Harmon, Director of Safe Place National Operations, NSPN
I have been recycling for a long time and around our office I’m affectionately known as the “Recycling Queen.” I’m not ashamed to say I occasionally rummage through the garbage when I see recyclable materials in the can. This all started because my neighborhood was part of a pilot recycling project in Louisville and we became fanatics about how to reduce, reuse and repurpose. At home, my husband and I produce less than one bag of trash each week and we even purchased a larger recycling can from the city to pick up each week. We would have even less to throw away if we had a way to easily dispose of or compost organic trash – coffee grounds, old flowers, egg shells and other kitchen garbage.
If you’re not quite into recycling yet, it’s OK – it’s not too late to start! Here are a few recycling and reusing tips I’ve picked up over the years:
- Get a recycling container and place it in a location it will most likely be used.
- Don’t just throw it away! Think and look before throwing something into the trash. Does the item have the recycling triangle on the bottom – can it be recycled?
- Purchase items that have minimal packaging or that are not individually wrapped. For example, purchase the larger-sized products and re-package them in your own reusable containers.
- When getting that cup of coffee at a meeting or conference, use the ceramic or glass mug instead of the paper cup with the lid. Those mugs can be washed and reused!
- Use cloth napkins instead of paper and use real cloth dish towels instead of paper towels.
- Use re-usable shopping bags – keep them in your car so they are handy
- Don’t just throw those plastic shopping bags away. You can repurpose them – they make good trash can liners) or save and take them back to retail stores that reuse them (grocery stores, etc.)
- Don’t get a shopping bag if you don’t need it. If it’s one or a few small items, do you really need a bag to put them in? Don’t hesitate to say you don’t need a bag.
- Dry cleaners often use more environmentally friendly techniques and options, such as reusable laundry bags – ask about this option. I put shirts I need to be laundered and dry cleaning items in my laundry bag and when I go pick up our clean items, that bag turns into a garment bag and covers those items just like the old plastic bags – no garbage produced.
- Use a reusable water bottle instead of purchasing plastic water bottles.
- For yard waste at home, purchase a large metal or plastic garbage can and place your yard waste in that container. If you have a large yard, you might need more than one. Make friends with your neighbor and borrow theirs if you have a lot to get rid of. My neighbors borrow our containers many times in the fall.
- Consider installing a rain barrel or two to collect water coming off of your roof and gutters. Use that for watering your plants.
- Does your workplace recycle? Does your neighborhood recycle? If not, try to get a recycling effort started. If this doesn’t work out, find out where the recycling drop-off sites are in your community and take items there.
- Consider purchasing items made of recyclable materials when you can afford to do so.
- Recruit more recyclers – it takes all of us to make a difference.