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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Reduce Reuse Recycle

Lots of people have questions on how they can and/or excuses why they can’t reduce, reuse and recycle. You don’t need to go out and buy a fancy set of recycling boxes to sort your things at home. Get some reusable plastic bins or use old cardboard boxes. You don’t have to shell out a lot of money on a compost bin. There are plenty of suggestions and instructions online for making your own. It’s not as hard or as expensive as you think. I’ll break it down into three sections.


This literally means reduce the amount of stuff you buy and use. Use washable reusable plates, cups and silverware. Yes it means you’ll have to wash the dishes more but think of how much less often you’ll have to take out the trash.

Consider using cloth napkins rather than paper ones or paper towels. If you’re eating a few grapes or crackers, put them on a plate or bowl rather than using a napkin as a container.

Look at what you buy in the store. Instead of buying prepackaged single serve chips or cereal, buy the big bag and dose it out into reusable plastic containers at home. A lot of times it’s cheaper this way too. There are lots of things on the shelf with too much packaging, try to be mindful of that and steer clear.

Consider taking reusable canvas or net bags or baskets with you to the store. Shun the plastic grocery bag. If you can’t take your own, ask for paper or an empty cardboard box. If you have only one item or something with a handle, a gallon of milk, for example ask that they not use a bag at all.

Consume less in general. Do your banking and bill paying online, refuse the receipt at the ATM, turn the water off when you’re brushing your teeth, carpool, ride a bike or walk, turn lights and electronics off when you not using them, hang your clothes outside to dry.


This one takes a little creativity sometimes but lost of things can be used again for another purpose.

Reusing glass or plastic jars is easy, Just wash them well and then use them to store leftovers in the fridge, dry gods in the pantry, change on your night table, nuts and bolts in the garage, pencils on your desk . . . The list goes on.

Old cereal boxes, magazines, the lids from plastic jars and tubs, etc, can turn into craft projects for the kids, gift boxes or storage boxes for other things.

Old clothes can be cut up and used in crafts or home décor (a small wall hanging quilt made of little squares cut form your child’s baby clothes); old tee shirts can become cleaning cloths. Or donate gently used clothes to a local charity.

Catch rainwater to use to water your plants or your garden.


That’s the one everyone’s talking about these days. But something they often forget is food. Have a little chicken leftover from dinner? Don’t throw it out recycle it into tomorrow’s lunch. Don’t like the crusty ends of bread? Save them in a reusable container in the freezer until you have enough to make your own croûtons, bread crumbs, or bread pudding.

Start a compost bin. Throw kitchen scraps, potato peels, carrots tops, coffee grounds, etc in and let them decompose naturally. Keep anything that comes from animals out to prevent bad smells and pests in your compost. No bones, meat, cheese, milk, butter. You can use this compost in your garden, in your flower pots; give it to a family member with a garden, etc.

Most communities have a recycling plan of some sort. Some cities pick your things up from the curb, some have special recycle points throughout the town. Check your yellow pages under recycle; call your town’s sanitation department.

This link may help:

What you’re able to recycle varies by location. Most places except plastics #1 and #2, paper, cardboard, aluminum, and glass.

There are seven types of plastic in all, but we’ll focus on 1 and 2. You may also be able to recycle the other forms of plastic, locally. Make sure you rinse all bottles and containers well and remove the lids or caps.

Number 1 plastic is PETE or PET - Polyethylene terephthalate. It ranges from semi rigid to rigid and is used most often in plastic bottles. One use for recycled PETE bottles is the popular polar fleece fabric.

Number 2 is HDPE or high density polyethylene. It’s harder and less transparent than PETE and is used for things like milk jugs, laundry detergent bottles and refillable bottles. HDPE is used in wood plastic composites. Like mug jug fences.

Any kind of paper that can be ripped can be recycled. Newspaper, old magazine, paper grocery bags, school and office paper, etc are allowed. Wrapping paper that doesn’t contain metal can be recycled as well. Note: You do not have to remove staples from magazines or the little plastic windows from envelopes.

Most places accept flat cardboard, like in cereal boxes, and corrugated cardboard, like shipping boxes. Some places ask that you place flat cardboards with your paper goods when you sort.

Aluminum food cans, drink cans and aluminum foil can all be recycled. As with the plastics, make sure you rinse them out. You do not have to remove the paper from cans.

Glass is usually divided into clear, green and brown. As mentioned earlier, make sure to rinse the glass out and remove the lid.

Some recycle centers accept used motor oil, old tires, and large appliances. You may want to look into that locally.

Also see if your town has a freecycle program. You can give away things that you know longer need but that still have a lot of use in them. You can read more about freecycle here: Donate gently used things to a local charity.

If you find that your local community doesn’t have a recycling plan, let you elected officials know that you’re interested in having one. If your area doesn’t have a freecycle group or something similar, start one. Remember one person making one change can make a huge difference!

The dawn of a new day

John's finally started to get excited about green living. He was doing a few things before, switching our light bulbs to compact fluorescent, mostly remembering to throw his recyclables in the recycle bin when he was in the same room, things like that. But he watched a few hours of the discovery channel's green programming this weekend and now he's calculating how much sun light we get a day for solar panel optimization and starting a recycle program at work.

I'm so glad he's made this change. Before I felt like I was the only one who cared. I was the one who took everything to the recycling center, Sam was into throwing the glass in and hearing it shatter at the bottom, but the novelty soon wore off. I was the one on guard to make sure kitchen scraps go into the compost, and I was the one digging things out of the trash when they didn't go where they were supposed to. I was also the one sorting through wastebaskets from other rooms. I felt like the recycle police! I was the one who tries to make sure the rain barrel is functioning, who tried to fix it's leak. It's me who turns the compost and put the garden (such as it was after the draught) to bed for the winter and planted the garlic. I was the one trying to make conscious decisions to buy things in less packaging, fish that was sustainably caught. I was the one who saved glass bottles and bits of cardboard for reuse.

Maybe I'll have a little more help learning about home remedies and herbs for health, keeping those nasty chemicals out of our bodies. Hot tea instead of Tylenol for that headache, for example. Maybe some help finding healthy recipes, some support for buying organic, and locally. Our farmer's market is only open on Saturday mornings and it's hard to get out of bed early on a weekend.

Maybe it's the dawn of a new day here. maybe I won't be alone in this any longer.