A guide to reducing your waste stream
Recycling is Green Living 101. Domestic and commercial recycling programs are in full swing across the country and it's slowly becoming a ubiquitous method of disposal. Heck, even Target Retail Stores have added a recycling program for it's patrons.
Recycling is beneficial because it recirculates existing materials instead of cutting, mining or drilling for new renewable and non-renewable resources. Many people know plastic is derived from crude oil, metals from iron ore, paper from trees, etcetera. Ideally, recycling will become the first option when discarding old stuff in the national scope.
But as great as recycling is, there's another option. Several of them, actually.
Items that don't qualify for recycling wind up in the the waste stream. Recycling has helped stave off the ever-growing waste stream in the United States, but there's more to be desired.
The recycling industry, like any other industry, requires an incredible amount of energy to operate. As beneficial as it is, pitfalls remain. Pitfalls like the fuel consumption for transporting recyclables, the energy used to perform the processing and melting of the material, the operating of massive facilities, and the energy used to create the recycled end-product. It's a massive process and all of these factors add up.
So other than recycling, what can you do to decrease your waste stream?
Repurpose. The world of repurposing is very interesting. Some examples are downright brilliant. The idea is simple, you take an item that is no longer relevant in your life and make it so. Cut back on your e-waste stream by turning a television into a fish aquarium (or better yet, a terrarium) or repurposing an old walkman into a protective, yet trendy, iPod case. Get creative by repurposing containers (or make-shift containers) into beneficial containers for gardening. Turn old fabrics into quilts or other useful crafts.
We're not all Martha Stewart, but with a simple internet search we can pretend to be. There is an endless source of online resources for repurposing your old stuff. Instructables and Lifehacker are just a couple of handy online sources I've utilized over the years. Get creative. Scour the web for ideas and put them into action.
Buy timeless styles, buy quality. When you do buy new, buy timeless styles that won't become dated in the years to come; And buy quality that lasts.
Spruce it up. Instead of buying new products and discarding your old ones, put a little time and TLC into your existing or salvaged items. Refinish your old wood tables, chairs, or shelves. Sand the existing finish and use your imagination to make the item relevant again.
Donate! There are several options for recirculating your old goods with minimal processing impacts. Goodwill, Salvation Army, and ARC are just a few donation options. They are all also charitable organizations with healthy agendas. Do a little research to decide which organization best fits your charity preferences.
Sell it! One man's junk is another man's treasure. Whether it's a full on garage sale, a craigslist listing, or selling your scrap iron to a steel recycling facility, it's possible to make some money on your undesired stuff. The 'free' section of your local Craigslist database is a noteworthy method of diverting stuff from your waste stream.
Barter. The art of bartering goes way back. Trade your old video game system for a broken scooter. Trade your leftover lumber for some local farm fresh eggs. Again, Craigslist can assist here. Navigate to Craigslist.org > For sale > Barter to see what's in your area.
Reusable, NOT disposable. Some disposable products are recyclable, but that doesn't make them the best option. It's beneficial to avoid the energy consumption used to recycle. This list of measures ranges from simple to complex, but should prove useful to even the least avid sustainable lifestyles.
- Use hand towels instead of paper towels.
- Use reusable storage containers instead of disposable sandwich baggies. Pyrex makes a great range of glass storage containers, but inexpensive 'Gladware' and the like will do just fine.
- Use reusable grocery bags instead of the disposable options of super markets.
- Use reusable water bottles instead of bottled water. The bottled water industry is devastating the world. There's a misconception that bottle water is better than tap water, which is very untrue. Implement a water filtration system in your life. Buy a water filter system for your home. Something as simple as a Brita or Pur filter and fill your reusable bottle, and if you choose plastic you might prefer a BPA-free container.
- Use cloth napkins versus paper napkins. It's not as strenuous as you might imagine. There's no reason you can't use a cloth napkin for a couple meals; Depending on the nature of your meals, of course.
- Use cloth diapers instead of disposable diapers. This measure is definitely the most involved. It's not going to be easy, but it also doesn't have to be all the time. Have some disposables on back-up for those times of little time.
These are just a few options for reducing your waste stream. Surely there are more than those encompassed in this list and many more that haven't been discovered or created. That's where you come in.
Get creative. Get active.