HAPPY EARTH DAY!!!
This is probably my favorite awareness day all year long. Two years ago I wrote about some simple steps towards more sustainable living that give you very quick and easy little tips to live a more sustainable, earth-friendly life. Today, I want to talk a little more deeply on one specific area that we've been focusing on in our home: trash.
Trash is an inevitable part of our lives, but what we do with it can make all the difference. You probably remember being raised with the Three R's: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, but now it's commonly the Four R's with repair/repurpose added in. Using these four principles, you can greatly reduce what of your waste becomes trash to sit in our landfills.
This is the first, biggest, most important step in reducing waste. The concept is to reduce the potential trash that makes it into your home. Here are some tips to reduce your waste:
- Borrow instead of buy. Ask a friend to borrow a dress for a formal occasion. Borrow that tool that you only need once a year from a neighbor. Borrow books from the library. Rent movies from a local video store. By buying less, you'll have less waste coming into your home from packaging, receipts, tags, etc.
- Buy used. Check out pawn shops, consignment shops/sales, garage and yard sales, church rummage sales, etc. for things you need and will use often. Kids clothes are a great item to buy used as they out grow each size so fast that there's usually a plethora of used kid's clothes that are hardly worn. Check out garage sales for appliances that need replacing or for unique housewares.
- Buy in bulk. Buying in bulk can help reduce the packaging that comes into your house. Just don't get fooled by bulk packages that are really just multiples of the normal package with extra packaging holding them together.
- Don't buy single use items. Paper plates, napkins, and towels, plastic cups, flatware, and bags- these convenience items are a terrible drain on our resources. Whenever possible, use reusable alternatives and if you have to buy one-time use items, try to recycle or compost them afterwards. (Go the extra step and eliminate single-use diapers, toilet paper, or feminine hygiene products.)
- Bring your own packaging. Bringing your own shopping bags is becoming more and more popular, but you can also bring your own reusable produce bags or mason jars for loose items.
Reusable items can make any home more sustainable with minimal extra effort. Most items will simple need to be washed in between uses. Here are some reusable items to consider: cloth diapers, un-paper towels, cloth snack and sandwich bags for kids' lunches, glass food storage instead of plastic bags, cloth rags instead of paper towels for cleaning, cloth menstrual pads, menstrual cups instead of tampons, cloth wipes instead of toilet paper.
Also, reuse items that are designed to be single use.
- Save gift bags you receive to use again when you have a gift to give.
- Rinse and reuse plastic food containers.
- Save bread and tortilla bags and reuse to hold snacks or as trash bags for road trips.
Repair or Repurpose
How many times has something around the house broken and you immediately thought to go buy a new one rather than repair the one you have? It's an easy thing to do and we've been told for over a generation that we shouldn't have to repair old things. Whenever possible, repair broken items or buy a replacement part rather than replacing the whole thing. Learn how to fix a busted seam and sew a button back on. Ask friends to lend their skills to help you fix appliances or tech as it breaks. See if there's a trade school in your area that would like to have the item to teach students.
When something is truly past repair, repurpose the item. Find it something new to be. Many household items can be changed into interesting planters or lawn art. Cut up worn out clothing for cleaning rags. Shred magazines for packing material. There are craft projects on Pinterest to cover just about anything from bottle caps to burnt out light bulbs. Before tossing something in the trash, make sure you can't find some sort of use for it.
Most of us think of taking bags of plastic bottles and soda cans to big green dumpsters when we think of recycling, and while that is an awesome way to reduce your trash output, there are other ways to recycle things around the house as well. If you're just getting started, check out these tips on recycling.
Composting is the ultimate green recycling. Home composting can take your kitchen and yard scraps and turn them into glorious dirt, perfect for growing your own organic veggies. There are plenty of ways to compost and I'm sure you can find a system that works for your household. (Foods that can't be composted can usually be sent through the garbage disposal instead of doing in the trash bag.)
Return food packaging to the producer when appropriate. Local egg farms usually love for you to return your egg cartons as they can be pretty pricey to buy new. Some companies will take back their glass bottles to refill them (many companies stopped this program some time ago, but there are still some accepting bottles, check with any local bottling plants).
You can do it!
We just took our trash can to the curb to be picked up for the first time in over a month (maybe about six weeks). It took us that long to fill the can up. It may seem cumbersome at first and it can be trying, but if you just take it one step at a time, you can significantly reduce the amount of trash your household produces.
Here are some Pinterest boards to help you find tips and tricks to reduce your trash output:
- Tips to Reduce Waste: http://www.pinterest.com/OurLittleClan/waste-less-reduce/
- Reusable items: http://www.pinterest.com/OurLittleClan/reuse-no-more-disposable/
- Composting: http://www.pinterest.com/OurLittleClan/compost-creation/
- General "green" tips: http://www.pinterest.com/OurLittleClan/greener-life/
- Canning Info (great way to keep food from being waste!): http://www.pinterest.com/OurLittleClan/canning/
- Cloth Diapering: http://www.pinterest.com/OurLittleClan/cloth-diapering-crazies/
- Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: http://www.pinterest.com/OurLittleClan/reduce-reuse-recycle/
- Earth Day Activities for Kids: http://www.pinterest.com/OurLittleClan/earth-day-activities/