We all know that caring for the environment is essential. This is our home, and if we fail to care for our home, we, our children, and our grandchildren will suffer the consequences.
And if you’re like most people, you probably have some basic ideas about the importance of recycling. It keeps garbage out of landfills, allows producers to reuse materials, etc. Make no mistake, recycling, is essential.
But with the amount of garbage in the world growing at a frightening pace, we need to get even more creative with our recycling. We need to come up with new, more effective ways to reduce the amount of waste that goes into landfills.
If we don’t take these steps, the consequences will eventually catch up to us. Commenting on a World Bank study, Masaru Goto notes:
In the earlier report, they warned that global solid waste generation was on pace to increase 70 percent by 2025, rising from more than 3.5 million tonnes per day in 2010 to more than 6 million tonnes per day by 2025. The waste from cities alone is already enough to fill a line of trash trucks 5,000 kilometers long every day. The global cost of dealing with all that trash is rising too: from $205 billion a year in 2010 to $375 billion by 2025, with the sharpest cost increases in developing countries.
Clearly, action must be taken. But what specific steps can we take to cut down on our garbage output?
Here are 11…
Become More Environmentally Conscious
Let’s start big before we become more practical. In order to move past recycling, you need to be more environmentally conscious. This means understanding exactly how your actions affect the earth. When you have a thorough understanding of the cause and effect, you can then think more carefully before you purchase and discard specific items.
A really simple way to understand the outsized effects our action have, spend some time watching simple videos like this:
Once we grasp that what we do has a very real effect on the earth, it allows to be more mindful of every decision we make.
Know What You Can Actually Recycle
Now let’s get practical.
Many people assume that recycling is still limited to aluminum and glass, and in some places that still is the case. But in many locations, plastic, paper, cardboard, and even electronics can be recycled. This dramatically increases the amount you can recycle, especially if your city offers single stream recycling in which everything can be thrown into the same container.
Call your municipal center or visit their website and ask what can be recycled. You may be surprised by what you find.
Additionally, if you’re having junk removed from your house, consider hiring a removal company that takes pride in the fact that they recycle junk that can be reused.
Purchase Recycled Materials
Purchasing recycled materials takes the cycle a step further. You’re fully immersing yourself in the recycling loop, which starts with recycling your waste and then purchasing products that have themselves been recycled.
Additionally, when you put your dollars into recycled materials, it motivates companies to produce more of those products. This is the type of virtuous cycle that must be created in order to dramatically cut back on the waste we’re producing.
Get Others Involved In Recycling
If you have a family or coworkers, seek to get them more involved in recycling. To do this, you want to make recycling as easy as possible. People will be resentful if you ask them to do more work.
Some simple ways to make it easy:
- Put clearly marked recycling bins in central locations.
- Offer to help people recycle things they may not think of, like electronics.
- Replace disposable items with non-disposable where possible.
- Hire a waste removal company to occasionally come and transport large amounts of recyclable material to a plant.
In terms of incentivizing people to recycle, consider offering some sort of reward for the person who recycles the most. This could be a cash prize for your coworkers or special treat for a family member. You don’t want them to feel like recycling is a chore.
Reuse Whenever Possible
Rather than using disposable items, such as plastic water bottles, plastic bags, paper plates, and plastic cutlery, try to move more toward non-disposable items. Take your own canvas bags to the supermarket. Buy sturdy water bottles for your family. Instead of throwing food out after dinner, compost it.
Old clothing can be donated to secondhand stores and homeless shelters, and cloth napkins can be used instead of paper. Your goal is to reduce your overall footprint on the environment.
If you really want to be inspired, check out this story of a girl who produces almost zero trash every year.
Bulk items use far less packaging, which then means you have far less to throw away or recycle. Consider shopping at stores that allow you to buy bulk food. These can include big box stores such as Costco, as well as smaller places like farmer’s markets.
Some items, such as produce, can be purchased with almost no packaging at all. These can be loaded into canvas bags, weighed, and then taken home, which leaves zero waste footprint.
Single serving containers, like Jello, pudding, fruit cups, and water bottles add up to a massive mountain of trash. By purchasing in bulk, you cut way down on your waste output.
Cut Down On Unwanted Junk Mail
The average American receives an absurd amount of junk mail every year, from credit card offers to coupons. This represents an enormous amount of garbage going into the landfill and an easy way to reduce waste.
For some simple steps to reduce your junk mail, read this article.
For bills, consider going paperless and only getting your receipts via email.
Grow Your Own Food
Consider how much waste is generated by a simple trip to the grocery store. Everything is packaged. You take away your groceries in plastic bags. You receive a lengthy receipt printed on paper.
All of this is eliminated by growing your own food. You don’t have to be an expert horticulturalist to get started. Grow a few simple veggies and see where it goes from there.
Always Print Double Sided
When you print something, there’s a 90% chance you only print on one side. Printing on both sides literally cuts your paper waste in half. When you consider how much of what you print gets thrown away, this seemingly small step can actually have a considerable impact. In fact, that’s how most of these steps work. Small effort, large impact.
Purchasing used items at thrift stores or online is a fantastic way to massively cut back on your waste. And the beauty is that almost everything can be found in almost new condition.
- Used books are available on Amazon.
- Used and refurbished electronics can be purchased on eBay, Craigslist, and dozens of other sites.
- Used clothes can be found at Goodwill, on eBay, and at garage sales.
Your options for buying used are almost endless these days. Take advantage of this.
The internet has made it possible for us to buy thousands of things in digital form. This presents a simple, powerful, inexpensive way to cut back on waste.
- Instead of hardcover books, go digital.
- Purchase or rent digital movies and television shows instead of buying the DVD’s.
- Utilize online music services instead of purchasing CDs (which may not be an issue for many).
There is zero waste produced with digital items, which make them ideal for cutting back on garbage.
The beauty of all these suggestions is that they require very little effort or money. And yet they truly do make a difference. They are what we call compounding actions. When you stack them on top of each other, they begin to add up to something much bigger than each individual one.
Margaret Mead said: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
By taking these small, yet thoughtful actions, we truly can make a difference in the environment.