Ever felt the inspiration and willpower after an Earth Day talk all ready to be the change in the world, only to be pulled back into reality once reaching home? Trust me, I’ve been there. Aquinas College, where I go to school, is a zero-waste community. This means they divert all possible waste from landfills by using recycling, composting, and special collections (which can be found ALL over campus).
I returned home after my first semester recharged and ready to change the way not only my house functioned, but also the way my neighborhood and community viewed the trusty 3R’s: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. What shocked me was how deeply embedded in my house were practices of wastefulness and lack of knowledge of the topic. For this reason, I compiled a list of tricks and tips to help you pull your roommates, family, or campus out of the consumer culture lifestyle and into a more sustainable future, and I hope they can help you start creating change one recycled item at a time.
1. Recycle – this one is the most basic. You can recycle aluminum and tin cans, aluminum foil, cardboard, magazines, office paper, newspaper, juice cartons, phone books (do people still have these?), clear/green/brown glass, and CLEAN plastic. Your recycler probably collects certain batteries as well (but check with them first).
2. Compost – most people have either a) never heard of composting or b) are absolutely terrified to start composting (no shame). Composting is the process by which organic material (like leaves or vegetable peels) are converted back into a very rich type of soil. I like to say that you can compost anything that came from the earth; this can include any food waste, used napkins, lint from the dryer, paper, Q-tips, and much-much more.
3. Special Collections – Instead of throwing them away, donate your old electronics and clothing. Also try to find vendors in your area that will recycle Styrofoam or has TerraCycle (think chip bags).
4. Bring your owns bags to the grocery store – reusable bags are the new chic
5. When at the grocery store, don’t use the plastic bags for vegetables and fruits – who needs those bags anyway?
6. Reusable water bottles – never plastic. never. ever.
7. Buy clothing secondhand – thrift stores are economical as well as green
8. Use rags in the kitchen instead of paper towels – it is surprising how much waste this reduces
9. Real dishes – try to avoid using paper and plastic if at all possible (unless you plan to recycle and compost them later)
10. Tupperware not plastic baggies to pack your lunch – this is my personal favorite
Although I could probably list 100 more tips, these 10 are a good place to start. I know it can be hard to completely change your lifestyle overnight, but with a little determination, you (regardless of where you live) can make a difference and lower the amount of waste you generate.