Reducing the amount of stuff you consume is a great way to reduce the amount of waste you produce and money you spend—meaning you lower your impact on the earth and have more money at the end of the month. Here are some tips from Nicky Scott’s Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: An Easy Household Guide.
Lighten your garbage can—take out everything that can be composted and use your current recycling service. Don’t use that empty box to store toys or tools: it’s for recycling! Most of us now have some sort of curbside program. Read the information that comes with it, or contact your local authority for more information. If you have Internet access, look on your municipality’s Website.
- Avoid over-packaging. Do you need to buy items individually wrapped? If so, is the wrapping material made from recycled materials? Could you buy the same product made from recycled materials?
- Take a bag when you go shopping—put plastic shopping bags in your pockets so you always have some handy.
- Contact your local authority or recycling group before you clear out the garage or attic and see what you can take (and where) for reuse or recycling.
- Use your consumer power in the workplace too. For example, nearly every office has a photocopier. Does it use recycled paper? Has it ever been tried? Do you collect paper used only on one side for reuse? Tell your boss how the business can save money by recycling
- Choose longer-life, energy-efficient, solar-powered, and rechargeable products
- Try out a low-energy light bulb.
- Give up burning trash.
- Buy recycled products, e.g., recycled toilet paper, kitchen rolls, tissues, refuse sacks, writing paper and envelopes. Switch to recycled paper in your printer.
- Use proper cups, plates, and cutlery rather than plastic or paper disposable items.
- Keep asking questions at your local store about the availability of recycled products. Congratulate the store manager when new recycled content product ranges are stocked.
- Shop at thrift shops.
A bit more effort
Can anyone else use your cast-offs? Try your local playgroup, school, charities, community group, community hall, or social services.
- Compost all your garden and kitchen waste.
- Collect plastic bottles for recycling.
- Look at what you are currently throwing away (e.g., plastic bottles, aluminum foil, clothes, boots and shoes, etc.), and see if you can find places locally to take them: contact your local authority and/or recycling group for more information and help.
- Buy remanufactured printer cartridges for home or workplace computers, and return spent cartridges for recycling.
- Buy loose fruit and vegetables—refuse excess packaging.
- Buy local produce. Use your local shops and services.
- Plan any building or renovation project with recycling in mind—advertise materials you will have in advance. Educate your builders. Remember that you can sell metals—lead and copper are especially valuable. Cables contain the highest grade copper.
- Buy reclaimed materials for building projects. Buy fixtures and fittings from salvage yards.
- Furniture and household goods can go to people on low incomes.
- Switch all your light bulbs to low-energy ones.
- Buy a paper shredder and use the shreddings for pet bedding. Then you can compost soiled bedding (with your kitchen waste, naturally).
- Search the Web for recycled goods.
Go the whole hog!
Volunteer to help your local recycling or composting project.
- Find out even more about waste minimization, composting, reuse and recycling.
- Find out if you can be involved in going into schools to spread the message—contact www.paperrecycles.org or talk to your local school district.
- Go to community meetings and ask why they are not doing even more.
- Become a collector of those ‘fringe’ recyclable items that charities collect, such as corks, metal foil, printer cartridges, jumble, books, bric-a-brac, etc.
- Start your own resource center or recycling/composting project.
- Take part in a Master Composter training program.
- Help your local authority promote composting in the community; contact your local recycling officer and see if there are any opportunities available locally.
- Be a ‘positive’ shopper—try to buy only things that are grown locally, produced locally, or are fair-traded and/or organic. Think every time you buy something. What’s it made of? Can it be composted, or reused or recycled at the end of its life? Has it harmed anyone or the environment during its production? Should we be making anything that has a negative impact on the planet? Consider this quote from Cradle to Cradle by William McDonough and Michael Braungart:“All the ants on the planet, taken together, have a biomass greater than that of humans. Yet their productiveness nourishes plants, animals and soil. Human industry has been in full swing for little over a century yet it has brought a decline in almost every ecosystem on the planet. Nature doesn’t have a design problem. People do.”