Monday, January 9, 2012

Recycle Last

I friend living in another area said to me, "Before we moved, I recycled all the time but there is no recycling program in my area anymore and it is just too much of a pain to do it now."   I COMPLETELY understand this feeling and often wonder it I would make the effort if the city wasn't meeting me half way with recycle pick up. The retired woman next door brings her cans and bottles in for the CRV (California Redemption Value) but doesn't recycle anything else.  She says that she say on the news that most of  the commingled recyclables are thrown away anyway. I looked but never found anything online to substantiate this claim but lets, for the sake of today's blog, assume that is true.  SO WHAT?  Really, so what?  Trash is trash, even if we are calling it "recyclable".  It is still a discarded waste product.  We should be doing everything we can to keep them from going into recycling to begin with.

At the bottom of every post I "write" ~ Reduce, ReUse, Recycle and Rejoice.  Is this my attempt at subliminal messaging?  Ok, maybe it isn't all that "subliminal", but I do hope it is something you take with you.  Every day we use products, some are one use, disposable products, some we use for years, some we pass from generation to generation.  HOW we acquire these products and HOW we use them is just as important as how we dispose of them.

Reduce the amount of stuff you buy.  Americans are the WORST with over consumption.  We have to have everything we see, even if we don't see for years after the initial purchase because it was buried in a closet full of clothes that don't fit.  But, it isn't all our fault.  The manufacturers INTENTIONALLY make products disposable so that you will buy a new phone every year and a new computer after 2 years.  I have 2 computers.  I have a 10 lb. brick Windows '98 computer that I still use regularly.  It has expensive programs on it that, due to technology limitations of the time, I can't remove and put on my "newer" computer.  A friend gave me an older computer to replace the Win. '98 when I could no longer get an antivirus and was afraid to go onto the Internet with it.  The newer one, the one I am typing on now is Win. XP.  I have had it for 5 or 6 years now, my friend gave it to me because she had already upgraded twice since putting it aside(so that makes it what, 10 years old??).  It works fine despite my dumping a glass of juice into the key board a few years ago - so I type a few stokes slower because of it. They both still work, I will continue to use them until they won't anymore.  But I have been "eco-responsible" since before it was cool - because I am cheap.  JUST STOP BUYING.  If you were holding the last dollar you would even have in your hand, would you want to spend it on the thing in front of you?  If you have to THINK about the answer, DON'T BUY IT.

Reduce the packaging.  Do you need to put the 2 apples you are buying in a plastic bag that will be put into another plastic bag once you pay for it?  I am not saying go out and buy 20 canvas grocery totes or even the fancy net bags for veggies. Did you grocery shop last week?  Where are THOSE plastic bags?  Most people buy the same amount every week, bring them back until they are falling apart.  On a personal note, the canvas and t-shirt bags I have last a lot longer and can be washed if they get dirty AND when I finally do throw them away, they will  break down like nature intended.

And what about the cans and boxes from your soup and Mac and Cheese? The bigger you buy, the less packaging you consume.  Of course, if the food it contains will go bad before you finish it that isn't good either - find a happy medium.  As a single person, I buy in the bulk sections.  Yup, let me repeat that - I BUY IN BULK. Why?  Because as humans we tend to eat what is familiar.  I buy huge containers of rice and lentils.  But here is a thought for you.  Have you ever made a new recipe that called for an ingredient that you have never used before and don't know if you will even like?  If you are buying "in bulk" you can buy ANY amount, even a few tablespoons.  Some stores even have spices this way.

ReUse.  I always capitalize the "U" in "reUse" so that you realize that even if you are REusing it, you are in fact NOT Using something else.  I mentioned T-shirt bags.  After removing all the size Large t-shirt from my 6'2" 350lb. room mate's drawer, I made T-shirt bags from them. (Sorry for the lack of pic, they are in the car we share which is at his work today.)  It's not an original idea, or Martha's idea, but there are easy instruction on Martha's site, and who doesn't have too many t-shirts?  And, while you are in your drawer, can you wear everything in there?  Why are you holding on to it?  By the time it fits again (IF it fits again) it will be out of fashion - yes, I said it - just because I still wear stuff from the 80's doesn't mean you will - so re-purpose it to something that will get some use or give it to someone that will use it.  The t-shirt bags started for me because said room mate had t-shirts that would never fit him but had sentimental value.  Now he can see them every week instead of never because it is sitting in the back of his dresser.

Recycle.  Well, if you are bringing less packaging and waste in, it stands to reason that there is less out right?  SO, if you have done all that, you will probably still have recyclable products to dispose of, what to do?  Cans and bottles:  Glass jars w/ lids are great storage and wine bottle can be used as vases or to hold homemade oils and vinegars.  Post an ad online to see if someone wants to bring them in - even if you don't have a home recycling service, most cities have a center that will take them and most places will give a small  cash back - maybe not enough to make it worth YOUR while but some kid that can't afford a uniform or cleats may see the value in the trip. Paper and junk mail:  These are great for shipping stuffing (make sure there are no bank statements, etc) just shred and stuff.  Get online and find a local paper artisan who can make it into beautiful handmade paper.  Use the bank statements to start fires in your fireplace or grill.  Cardboard:  There is ALWAYS someone moving and your box is cleaner that the one they would get from the grocery store.  Find a local seamstress that will use the cardboard for patterns. Use it for your child's next project display instead of buying new foam core - you are just going to paint over it anyway. There are SO MANY ways to either use it yourself or find someone who can, why throw it away??  Put an ad on or - there IS someone out there who wants it.

Rejoice!  I add this because if you have done all the above, you should be rejoicing about what you are doing for the environment.  Everyday, you should be rejoicing  and enjoying that you live in a country relatively without want.  Sure you want a new whatever, but do you NEED it, probably not.  Rejoice in the people that you have in your life.  Rejoice over the food and time you share together.  Rejoice that you are not one of over 3 BILLION people that make less that $2.50/day and can afford the hassle of what to do with your trash - the things that life are made of for so many.  Rejoice in the choices we have to make.  Rejoice in LIFE.

Over the next year, I will expand of A LOT of ideas on how to reUse your unused items.  I hope that you enjoy the process as much as I do.

~Reduce, ReUse, Recycle and Rejoice!

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