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I wanted to title this post something about going “Beyond Recycling,” because my assumption is that most people recycle as a matter of course these days. That feels true where I live, where the city’s goal is to divert 80 percent of waste from the landfill by 2025, but a 2007 poll found that 25 percent of people don’t recycle at all.
That number has probably changed through the years, but it’s not always easy to recycle, some towns make it hard, and some people just won’t do it no matter how easy it is to throw something in one bin versus another.
So for Earth Day, and every day, and as part of the local #NWArkCares initiative to shine a light on important issues in our communities, I’d like to offer some easy ways to help the earth, no matter where you’re starting from.
- Recycle. If it’s at all possible in your community, even if you have to drive to the recycling center, or smuggle your recyclables across town lines (which I used to do because my workplace didn’t recycle), do it. It’s a simple thing that makes a big difference.
- Recycle more. If your place of business doesn’t recycle, ask why and see what can be done about it. Be mindful of places in the house where you might not be recycling, such as the bathroom, and put a bin or a basket there so you’ll start gathering those things.
- Reuse things you can’t recycle. We buy dishwasher pods by the box, and the boxes are No. 5 plastic, which can’t be recycled where we live. I use them in organization projects, to hold little bits of yarn, and to contain all sorts of stuff, for example.
- Resell and donate what you can. Just because you don’t like a thing or aren’t using it doesn’t mean it’s trash. Have a garage sale if that’s your thing (it is so not mine), find resale shops or events you can sell at, donate items in good condition, have a swap with friends, leave things on the curb, whatever. Don’t throw away things that are in good condition.
- Upcycle what you can. Note I said good condition. No one wants your stained shirts or ripped up books. But even here you can reuse some things in different ways. Old shirts and worn out napkins can be come rags or cut up for fabric used in sewing projects.
- Mend things. If a garment is just missing a button or has a little stain, you can do things to fix them and not have to throw them away. Even if you have no sewing skills. Promise.
- Use cloth napkins. A huge source of waste in a lot of homes is paper napkins and plates. Invest in a good collection of cloth napkins (if you have a sewing machine you can make your own) and use them at every meal. We’ve done this since before the girl was born and it makes me feel good to think about all the paper napkins we haven’t used in that time.
- Reduce consumption. Paper products are one easy place to use less, but remember some other basics, too: turning off lights, taking shorter showers, adjusting the thermostat so your home isn’t comfortable for polar bears in summer, that sort of thing. Every little bit really does help.
- Learn about local resources. Find out when and where electronics can be recycled where you live. Take advantage of prescription drug take-back events (please don’t flush pills!). Learn who is doing what to help the planet where you are and help as you feel. Locally check out the Northwest Arkansas Land Trust, the Beaver Watershed Alliance and the Ozark Natural Science Center, among others.
What do you do to lighten the load on the planet? How are you teaching your kids to be more environmentally responsible? We talk about food waste, have a little garden and I think the girl used the recycling bin before she used the trash can. I’d love to know what you’re doing!