You’ve heard of the three Rs – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Let’s sum it up in one word – RESPECT. Let’s show some respect for our Earth home.
The 40th anniversary of Earth Day is April 22. If you want to show respect but don’t know where to start, I’ve made it easy for you. I’ve come up with a little list of things you can do THIS WEEK to help the environment. I know there are many, many, MANY more things we can all do, but if you need an easy way to start, or want something you can do NOW, here is what I came up with.
Simply put, the less we consume the less we need to reuse or recycle.
1. Buy Less Stuff
The world today seems to be a throw away society. Before making a purchase, stop to think how long you might own that item. Is it really something you need? (And you all remember the difference between “wants” and “needs”, right?) I bet we could all do just fine without so much STUFF!
2. Avoid Overly Packaged Goods
When you do make a purchase, try to buy products that come without boxes or excess packaging.
- Consider buying items in bulk from the grocery store to save packaging. Many grocery stores have a “bulk food aisle” containing everything from sugar, flour, and rice, to popcorn and snacks.
- Do not buy “snack pack” sizes of food and drinks (pretzels, raisins, chips, carrots, apple slices, juice boxes, etc.) since that leaves so many packages that go to waste. Instead, buy bigger packages of the item and put small serving sizes into reusable containers. Stores like Costco provide many household items in bigger containers.
3. Conserve Water
In addition to saving money on your utility bill, water conservation helps prevent water pollution in nearby lakes, rivers, and watersheds. There are many ways you can conserve water around the house; here are just a few:
- Take shorter showers
- Install slow-flow shower heads
- Don’t use the toilet as a waste basket
- Install float booster, or other safe device, in toilet to reduce flow rate
- Wear clothes several times between washings
- Turn water off while washing dishes or brushing teeth
- Use a broom, not a hose, to sweep leaves or grass off driveways and sidewalks
- Water your lawn during the early (cooler) part of the day and do not water on windy days
- Position your sprinklers so water lands on the lawn or garden, not on paved areas
4. Avoid Disposable Items
Do you ever stop to think about the lifespan of items we use everyday? Things like coffee cups and their wrappers at your favorite coffee joint are meant to be used for 15 minutes or so, then they are usually tossed. If you regularly use disposable items during your day, find a way to provide a reusable option instead.
*Today only (April 15, 2010) bring a reusable travel mug into your local Starbucks and get FREE brewed coffee. According to their website, Starbucks is encouraging everyone to switch from paper cups to reusable travel mugs.*
5. Drive Less
Another way to save money and the environment is to drive less. Consider combining errands into one trip or one area, take public transportation, share rides with friends, or just stay at home if you don’t really have anything to do; no need to go on “Sunday drives”. Ask if your employer would allow you to telecommute a few days a week; it could save billions.
6. Take Advantage of Libraries
Save paper and petroleum by borrowing books instead of buying them. This is another option that’s good for your wallet as well as the environment.
7. Stop Receiving Paper Catalogs in the Mail
Contact the companies that send you paper catalogs in the mail and ask to be removed from their mailing list. Perhaps sign up for their email list instead. There are free services that will contact all your catalog companies on your behalf and ask them to stop sending you catalogs. Check out CatalogChoice.org.
8. Turn off Your Computer at Night
Turning off your computers, and other electronics, at night will not harm them and will save energy, thus lowering your electric bill.
Reusing items avoids the production of new items as well as cuts down on the waste that would be sent to a landfill or incinerated.
9. Get Reusable Shopping Bags – and Use Them!
More and more stores have reusable shopping bags to purchase, usually for around $1. And more stores are offering a discount, usually $0.05 – $0.10 per bag, for using them. To make it easy to remember to use them keep some reusable bags in your car so you always have them with you, even on unplanned shopping trips.
10. Reuse Items Around House
There are many ways to reuse items around the house:
- Cut used paper, with blank back sides, into scrap paper for lists, notes, and message instead of buying cutesy notepads.
- Reuse old clothing by donating it to a local charity or selling it, either to a used clothing store or in a garage sale.
- Old towels or t-shirts can become rags.
- Reuse glass containers with lids for storing rice, pasta, sugar, or flour.
- Save gift bags you receive for future gifts you may give.
- Reuse coffee grinds by keeping them aside and putting them into your garden or soil.
- Reuse packing peanuts, air pillows, bubble wrap, and boxes for your own shipping, or bring them to the local post office or recycling center for others to use.
11. Use Grocery Sacks in Garbage Cans
Even if you use reusable shopping bags, you are bound to collect a few plastic bags here and there. Instead of throwing them away, you can use them in your small garbage cans around the house, thus eliminating the need to purchase garbage bags.
12. Freecycle or Freeshare Usable Items
Many communities have turned to online swapping sites such as freecycle.org and freesharing.org. These organizations allow members to post items they want to give away so that other members can ask for the items they would like, from paint to furniture to baby items. Yes it’s that simple; people giving and getting stuff for free in their own towns and in the process saving many usable items from landfills.
13. Recycle as Much as You Can
The American Forest and Paper Association (AF&PA) states that 87 percent of the U.S. population, or 268 million people, have access to curbside or drop-off recycling programs. For many people, knowing exactly what goes in the recycling bin, and what to do with stuff that doesn’t, is the challenge.
The top 10 items to recycle:
- PET Plastic Bottles
- Corrugated Cardboard
- Steel Cans
- HDPE Plastic Bottles
- Glass Containers
- Mixed Paper
14. Learn What Can Be Recycled in Your Area
Use the Earth911.com Recycling Search to find recycling locations near you. Find recycling resources by state. Read up on the recycling rules for your area and make sure you don’t send anything in that can’t be processed. Each city has its own specifics, so try to follow those guidelines as best you can.
15. Make it Easy to Recycle
Set yourself up for success. Keep the recycling containers in a convenient location, probably in your kitchen. We keep a small bag or box in our pantry so we can put items into it easily. Once it gets full, we dump the contents into our bigger container outside.
16. Donate or Sell Gently-Used Clothing, Household Items, and Toys – and Purchase Used, Too!
Did you know that it takes over 400 gallons of water to grow the cotton for an ordinary cotton shirt and 1,800 gallons of water for one pair of jeans? When you are done with your gently-used clothing, donate it to a charity, give or loan to friends who can use it, sell at a garage sale, or sell to a resale or consignment store.
Buying gently-used clothing saves natural resources in creating the material, processing it, and transporting it. Here are a few clothing resale stores; check for these and others in your area by doing an online search:
- Kid to Kid: This is my favorite place to shop for clothes and toys for my son. (They also carry maternity clothes.)
- Once Upon a Child: Another children’s resale shop.
- Plato’s Closet: Resale store for brand name teen and twenty-something fashion.
- Clothes Mentor: Resale store for all women size 0 to 26 and including maternity.
Usable household items can also be sold on Craigslist or eBay. I saved a bundle buying gently-used baby items for our son; a swing, stroller, toys, etc. I just made sure it was safe and in good working order.
17. Donate Shoes
We love to support Soles4Souls, a Nashville-based charity that donates new and gently-used shoes to those in need around the world. According to their website, last year alone Americans discarded more than 300 million pairs of shoes. When these shoes break down in our landfills, the toxic glue that holds the shoes together can leak into our water supply and atmosphere. Since its inception following the Asian tsunami, Soles4Souls has distributed over 7 million pairs to people in 125 countries.
Another option is to donate your shoes to Nike’s shoe recycling program. Donated shoes are ground up into materials that are used to make track surfaces, playground surfaces, interlocking gym flooring tiles, cushion for outdoor basketball and tennis courts, and new Nike products.
18. Purchase Items Made from Recycled Materials
To close the recycling loop, don’t forget to purchase items made from recycled materials. An easy first step is to purchase paper products such as toilet paper and paper towels that are made from recycled paper. We buy Marcal Small Steps, but there are other brands, such as Seventh Generation, Green Forest, and Earth Friendly Products.
- 50 Things You Can Reuse
- The Story of Stuff
- Recycling Facts
- How Many Gallons of Water Does it Take to Make…
- A to Z Steps to Take (living more sustainably)
- Water Footprint Calculator
- Recycling 101
- Recycling – The Basics
- Top 10 Reasons to Recycle
If you can think of more things people can do THIS WEEK, please leave a comment and share!
Wendy – ParentingTips365.com