10 Green Tips how to Reduce Home Waste and Recycle More

Green Your HomeThe following in an excerpt from the book “The Ultimate Guide to Greening your Home”.

In 2008, 222 million tons of waste will be generated by Americans. Americans’ total yearly waste would fill a convoy of garbage trucks long enough to wrap around the earth six times and reach halfway to the moon. That is not very green!

✔ Be aware of your ‘waste’ stream – Many people are unaware of their personal waste stream.  Your waste stream is your personal contribution of waste that ends up in landfills. Every item you buy, unless recycled, will eventually end up in a landfill.  The most significant materials (listed in order of volume) include paper, yard trimmings, food waste, plastic waste, metal waste, textile waste (including rubber and leather), glass and wood.

✔ Reduce the amount of garbage you create - The most effective way to reduce your waste stream is to reduce the amount of items you purchase.  Before making a purchase, think about whether you really need that item.  If it is not important, don’t get it.

✔ Pay attention to the packaging – Always try to find products that come with the minimum amount of packaging.  Product packaging represents one of the most serious environmental problems of the modern consumers goods market. Often times, more resources and energy go into the packaging than the actual product itself. Once discarded, the packaging will need to be collected, transported, sorted, processed, stored, and either disposed of or recycled.

✔ Avoid buying disposable items – Try not to buy disposable when a reusable alternative is available. Good examples of this include disposable cameras, nonreturnable bottles, styrofoam cups, paper plates, paper towels, plastic beverage bottles and many more.

✔ Reuse items instead of throwing them away - Second only to reducing consumption, reuse is a top way to create less garbage. If you can’t think of any ways to reuse your trash items yourself, consider donating them and giving someone else the chance to breathe new life into your used items.

✔ Recycle everything that you can - By recycling your garbage, you not only cut the amount of solid waste that enters landfills and incinerators, but you also promote a market for goods made with recycled materials and minimize the need for virgin resources. Recycling also helps you reduce your carbon footprint.

The first step to recycling is to find out what programs exist in your area.  More and more municipalities are offering (and in some cases requiring) ‘curb side’ recycling.  If your city offers this, request and review their recycling guidelines so you are aware of exactly which items they collect. If there are items that they do not collect, put a box in your garage, collect these items yourself, and do a quick internet search to find drop-off points in your area.

Materials that are commonly collected for recycling include: steel cans, aluminum cans, newspapers, magazines, catalogs, junk mail, plastic beverage bottles, milk jugs, glass bottles and jars, cereal boxes, other clean and dry cardboard boxes. The following are generally not collected: plastic grocery bags, styrofoam, lightbulbs, food-soiled paper, wax paper, and ceramics.

✔ Compost your biodegradable and organic waste – Collect your biodegradable and organic waste and either compost it in your backyard or sending it to your local composting facility.

✔ Opt for recycled-content products - Shop for products that use recycled content. Recycled content is appearing in more and more products.  Some common examples include wrapping paper, toys, fabrics (clothing, carpet, rugs) and products made with glass.

✔ Dispose of household hazardous waste properly - The phrase household hazardous waste (HHW) refers to products used around the house that can harm human health or the environment if improperly handled. These products can include pesticides, car batteries, disposable batteries (even though these are sometimes defined as universal waste – which can be thrown away with regular trash), cleaners and solvents, paint, motor oils, unused medicines, e-waste (old computers, printers, and electronics), antifreeze and pool chemicals.  Collect these items and drop them off at your local Hazardous Waste collection point.

✔ Paper vs Plastic – the correct answer is neither – Both paper and plastic are harmful to the environment.  Neither is clearly better than the other when it comes to a green choice.  Instead, use a durable reusable bag made from recycled materials.

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  • http://twitter.com/auwiserthansome steven n. o’grady

    I’d like to thank you for caring enough about this important yet simple ‘change of everyday habits’ approach. It is simple and cost-effective means for anyone to help from homes around the world. My compost heap is the highest point of soil in my suburb and I use a mesh screen to make my own high quality potting mix. It is also a haven of birds and wildlife to enjoy watching when tv becomes too much to bear.
    During the Wet Season here in Tropical Australia, I raise my mower setting a few notches to sequester extra carbon (and save work and fuel). All the clippings, trimmings and organic wastes (including spent tea-bags, fish carcasses, bone, eggshell, etc from the kitchen) are buried-in daily. as well as paper and cardboard waste. This is all processed by termites, worms, woodlice, and other organisms to form a very rich mix and a veritable mini-ecosystem attracting larger wildlife, and benefitting trees in adjoining properties.
    Turning the Compost Heap forms a weekly part of my exersise regime and I can thank it for keeping me a ‘lean machine’.
    Another simple way I save money and resources is to use only powdered fullcream milk which stores much better and does not require refrigeration or excessive freight costs (Darwin is remote and we have no local Dairy, hence all milk is remixed from powder or tansported at great environmental cost in any case).
    I also choose to buy Turkish/Greek style coffees which are cheaper, longer shelf-life, and reduced freight costs (also smells, tastes and ‘works’ better than granulated/freeze dried versions)
    My Glass waste goes into an artificial reef project (see darwincoralculture.com) and I am trying to develop this as a community recycling project for better management of ocean resources. I would be pleased if other communities around the globe took up the idea, hence I make no claims whatsoever regarding copyright or intellectual property.
    Keep up your good work.
    Sincerely, S. O’Grady Darwin NT Australia

    • http://twitter.com/ahtohg Chris Price

      Thank you so much for your comment! Fantastic information.

  • http://twitter.com/Parisleaf Parisleaf

    It’s amazing to see how much people can really do to become more eco-friendly! Although recycling is a great thing to do, reducing and reusing are equally as important, so I really liked that you touched on that. I actually work for an eco-friendly printing and web design company, Parisleaf Printing and Design (http://www.parisleaf.com). We’re all about educating our clients and community about the effect they have on the environment and how they can help reduce their carbon footprints.

    • http://twitter.com/ahtohg Chris Price

      We would love to do a post on your company! Please contact my boss if you are interested (just go through the Contacts form).

  • http://www.sanantonioshredding.com/ shredding San Antonio

    A careful note must be remembered that every time when you buy something, be sure to check on how earth-friendly it is. You may not be positively contributing to the movement of going green, but at least you don’t contribute to the waste being dumped in the landfills every morning.

    • http://twitter.com/CaelusGreenRoom Caelus Green Room

      Very good points. I am looking forward to the day when there is a generally accepted definition of embedded carbon and this value is put on products. This is done to a limited extent in the UK, but the methodology still needs work.

      This will make it easier for people to decide, because now you have to be pretty well informed to make a good decision.