Friday, January 15, 2010

REDUCE, Reuse, recycle

For my entire adult life, I have recycled. I'm really not sure the reasons that I began recycling... possibly for a little extra cash?? Whatever the reason I started... it stuck. AND ever since I lived on the UNCW campus-- with the most convenient of recycling dumpsters-- I have been what I like to call addicted to recycling. I call it an addiction because once I started.... I couldn't stop.

Admittedly, I am a recycling junkie. I have recycling bins in my kitchen, bathrooms and garage. Nothing gets by me... I have no problem reaching in trash cans (at home or out) to pull out recyclables. Most people look at me like I'm nuts. I'm quite OK with it. I will not throw a recyclable item in the garbage... receipts, plastic bottles/cups, etc... I carry them with me until I find a recycling bin-- which is usually at my house. Yes, I feel like a trash hound... but I just can't make myself throw something away that ISN'T trash.

Now, for the past several years... I've taken a look at my "waste habits". Sure I recycled, but as I looked at my recycle bin... I thought, "I bet I could reuse some of this stuff BEFORE I recycle it." So the quest started to Reduce by Reusing before I Recycled. If it sounds complicated... it's not. The first thing that I did was start saving glass jars-- applesauce, pickles, artichokes, pimentos, jams/jellies, peanut butter,... yes, the list goes on. Oh how my pantry runneth over because I can't bear to chuck a glass jar into the bin. BUT...I've found them to be quite useful-- from storing leftovers, seashells, cookies, candies... and not to mention when I make sauces, jams, salad dressings or some sort of edible gift. I even have a maple syrup bottle that I saved and now refill with "bulk" maple syrup from the local Co-op.

Before I put something in the bin... I think about whether or not it has another use. One thing that I saved from the recycling bin was at my son's school. The PTA had an ice cream party reward for one of the grades and had purchased buckets of ice cream. At the end of the party, they were rinsing out the buckets to recycle them. I, of course, double checked and asked if they were going to keep them or recycle them. The answer was "recycle." My response was: "Can I have them?" I had big plans for those buckets-- mainly strawberries, blueberries, blackberries... picked fresh from Lewis Farms. And when we picked too many to eat... we froze them and stored them in a bucket. 2 years later... those buckets are still put to good use-- including working as a compost bucket.

Here's a short list of some things that I save and reuse (or repurpose):
  • Aluminum foil-- I wash and reuse until it can be used no more.
  • Yogurt containers (the big ones)-- I use them to freeze homemade stocks/sauces, freezing and storing homemade vegie burgers, for my summer fresh berries (frozen to enjoy all winter long), ice cream... and when I'm not using them as storage containers in the freezer, I use them for unbreakable snack storage.
  • Twist ties & rubber bands (from produce)-- I have a drawer that is full. They're useful and I think it's silly to toss something that is useful.
  • T-shirts-- once they're no longer wearable, I use them to clean (mostly windows).
  • Bread bags-- when the kids have field trips and have to bring a disposable lunch :( I don't have to buy a single use disposable bag.
  • Lunch Meat Bags/ Zip-locks-- I used to laugh at my grandma for rinsing out and reusing her ziplocks... now I do the same. When I get them... I wash/scrub with soap and rinse them out and save them for later.
Things I keep for the kids art bin:

Bread bag "tabs", milk carton lids, beads, strings, popsicle sticks, old magazines/catalogues, twist ties... basically if the kids or I think it could be used for art-- which most things can-- we keep it. Oh yeah, we keep them all in a "Basmati Rice" container ;)

So... what impact has this had on our waste? Over a year ago, we eliminated trash service at our house. (The article is a little embarrassing for me... and not quite as accurate as I'd like it to be...but I figure it's out there... why not share ;))

Thinking that's impossible? It's not. I never once thought...

"today is the day that I'm going to eliminate my trash."

Honestly, it was one of those things that just happened. We made a lot of little changes and over time... all the little bits added up. We had a 95-gallon roll cart that was not even half full after a month. After months of the same near empty trash can... we decided that we would cancel our trash service.

Today, we create less trash than we did just a year ago.

I've been looking at our trash lately...

I'm thinking it's time to reduce something...