We all want to do our part to protect the planet, and the easiest place to start is at home. There are several things you can do to and within your home to have a smaller environmental impact, but perhaps the biggest is recycling. It’s been estimated that most Americans produce 5 pounds of trash per person, per day. Of this trash, only 1 pound is recycled. We can do better than that. Here’s how in just 10 steps:
1. Have dedicated recycling bins around the home.
You’ll be less likely to recycle if you don’t have easy access to bins. Keep one in the bathroom, kitchen, and office areas.
2. Check your local rules as far as what can be recycled.
Rules change from city to city depending on which company the recycling center has a deal with. This means that while you might be used to recycling milk cartons in one city, they won’t let you in another. Always check to see what your local center allows and what it does not.
3. Buy less that cannot be recycled.
The first principle of “RRR” is “reduce.” If you have less that needs to be recycled in the first place, you’ve cut out a step and have saved not only your own money (because part of what you pay for is packaging), but the wear and tear on machinery at the recycling center.
4. Reuse what you can.
The other principle of RRR besides reduce and recycle is reuse. Much of the glass we buy can be reused for other purposes, and if you get creative you can repurpose cardboard and plastics too.
5. Don’t forget about electronics.
Recycling everyday goods is important, but so is recycling electronics. Many electronics contain metals that can leach into the environment when they’re dumped in landfills, so find the proper recycling methods for them.
6. Plastic bags don’t go in curbside bins.
You might think that consolidating your recyclables into plastic bags is a convenient way to put them in curbside bins or take them to centers, but this actually counts as trash. Plastic bags can only be taken directly to recycling centers or back to grocery stores, not placed in curbside bins.
7. Make sure everything is clean.
When your recyclables are contaminated with food waste, they can contaminate all the other recyclables they’re put in with at the center. This means that several pounds of otherwise recyclable material has to be taken to the dump because it’s no longer able to be reused.
8. If you don’t have a curbside pickup, don’t throw in the towel.
We’re all about convenience, and once that’s gone we tend to get lazy. If curbside recycling isn’t available to you, you can still recycle. It will just take a little more work. Chances are there’s a recycling center near you that you can take your things to for free. Keep your own recycle bin in your garage or outside your home, and once a month take it in.
9. Never add trash to your recyclables.
This seems obvious, but a lot of people do this with good intentions. If you aren’t sure something is recyclable or think it should be but know it isn’t, don’t toss it in there anyway. Once again, this is contamination and will result in more waste.
10. Recycling isn’t just for cardboard and plastics.
When you think of recycling, don’t just think of products and packaging. Water is something that can be recycled as well. Leftover bathwater or water collected at the bottom of the shower can be used in gardens, and you can set up a rain barrel to collect rainwater or runoff from your house. If you’re creative, almost everything can be recycled!