More On Recycling

First, I am not an "environmentalist" and recycling isn't a huge issue to me, but on the other hand, I do think it's good; first to conserve and reduce what we use, and then to recycle. It's much better to not have tons of stuff to recycle, obviously!

I'll be the first to admit that when we lived in a small apartment (with no garage) and trash pick-up was a required flat rate, I didn't think as much about what I was tossing. It was when we started having to pay money based on the amount of trash we accumulated that I got more serious about reducing our waste.

Where we live now, we have a garage, and so I keep the recyclables out there. That's more convenient, since we don't have curb-side recycling pickup, and I store my recyclables for weeks. Even though it's in the garage, I still don't want trash taking up lots of space, so I flatten boxes, smash cans (or stack smaller cans inside larger ones), and things like that so it takes up less space.

Composting: Your lawn or garden will thank you!

Joshua was reading up on compost, since we started our compost pile, and he read that food scraps or organic matter that will turn into compost on a compost pile won't decompose into compost in a landfill, because it's not the right environment. Here's a fascinating article about composting and another article about grass clippings, which are a great boost to your lawn or compost pile, but not-so-great for landfills.  We've dumped lots of garbage on our compost pile, but it keeps sinking and doesn't look like much at all! It would have been several big bags' worth if I were throwing it in the trash. Composting is so much easier than throwing food scraps in the trash, besides being good environmentally, once we started doing it we wondered what had taken us so long!

But how do you make less trash?

The little things add up. It's a slow lifestyle change, and a mindset of constantly thinking of ways to conserve "stuff", which is good for us, the environment, and my bank account.

I guess for example, I try to "conserve" on laundry. We don't wear dirty clothes, but I don't change the childrens' outfits every single day. Joshua's work clothes needs washed after one wear, but his other clothes lasts for a couple days before it needs washed.

So, the less clothes we throw in the wash, the less soap and water we use (and unless it's a very dirty load, I use about 1/2 the recommended soap amount, and never fabric softener). The less soap/fabric softener/etc. we use, the fewer plastic bottles we have to throw away. It sounds like it wouldn't really make a difference, but it's just a lot of little things that add up.

One of the reasons I like home canning (besides the high quality of food :D) is that I have very few glass jars to recycle. Or rather, "recycling" my glass involves washing the canning jar with my dishes and storing it until next year's garden harvest to be re-filled! ;) That's definitely less energy than it takes to recycle glass on a larger scale.

We do have a few things that we simply can't cut out OR recycle. Light bulbs, for example. We are trying to use mostly the energy-efficient light bulbs, which last a long time, but we still have some regular ones and every month or two, there's a dead one to throw away. And spiral notebooks (the metal part), empty pens, etc. So we aren't magical people who wash and re-use everything. ;)

But once you're separating your trash and seeing what is actually accumulating into trash, it's easier to figure out how to reduce. For example, I like to use notebook paper in a 3-ring binder rather than a spiral notebook when possible, because there's less waste. Or, gradually decrease how liberally you use things like shampoo, lotion, laundry detergent, hair gel, etc. and you'll empty fewer containers. It's good to recycle, it's better to re-use (when possible), and it's even better to reduce what you use. :)

And lastly: it's unrealistic to expect to change your lifestyle overnight.

It's a gradual process, and it takes time to learn, like anything new. But once you're accustomed to conserving more, or have made major changes (like switching to cloth napkins, washable cleaning rags/products, or cloth diapers) you'll hardly notice the extra bother.


Gradual changes are the best way, that way you don't feel so deprived. As for making trash, we don't pay by the amount yet, but we do try to make less. We recycle plastics, cardboard, newspapers and magazines, and glass. That alone cut our trash by a third. We use cloth bags I made when we go to the store so we have fewer of those pesky plastic bags to manage, too (we still manage to accumulate enough for the wastebaskets).

Buying things in bulk is so smart on many levels and I know that all those quart yogurt tubs mean a lot less waste than all the little cups that seem so "handy." The large tubs sure were much handier when I used them to cover plants in all the frosts we've had this year!

We use cloth napkins (which can handle a lot more use), cloth pads (well, me only), and cloths for dusting and cleaning up spills and even doing the occasional "Tammy-style mopping." I have to say that the choice to stop using paper towels seemed to be the hardest, but now we don't even miss them.

I love reusing and it makes me think of my Grandmother and life before all these "conveniences." ;-)

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