I'm always looking for better ways, simple ways to conserve, recycle or help our planet just a little bit here and there. Perhaps you are too. I've read and seen numerous blog posts about zero waste. They preach big changes. And if many of you are like me, making significant changes in the way we live every day, can be tough. My thought is if everyone makes small changes collectively, these changes can amount to big differences for our planet. I'd love to hear your ideas. In the meantime, here are a few things I've learned from reading, tweeting and chatting with others. They're listed in no particular order.
1. From time to time I reach out to Green America
and LA Sanitation
on twitter or facebook. I read their posts, and some of them inspire questions. I was wondering if all glass is recyclable. And I was wondering about all that oil packed food we purchase and how to best dispose of the oil. What I learned:
Yes. Just about all glass can be dumped in the blue recycle bins. (Clean it first. More on that in #2.)
Old light bulbs or broken drinking vessels are a few of the items you shouldn't toss in the blue bins. It was suggested that I keep a large glass container (mine often come from sun dried tomatoes I purchase)
under my sink. Each time I have a recyclable container with oil, I add the oil to the container under the sink. (You definitely do not want to toss oil down your drains.)
When the container under my sink is full of oil, I was told to discard it in the trash, the black bin. Doing this allows me to dispose of many more glass jars into the blue bins.
2. Yes. Wash out all of those plastic and glass containers before dumping them into the blue bin. It was explained to me (by Green America
reps) that they don't need to be sparkling clean or put through the dishwasher before disposing. But, most of the gunky stuff must be gone. Otherwise, these containers will contaminate everything in the bin and none of it will be recyclable. I was told that cost (financially and for conservation purposes) of using water to clean containers before tossing made complete sense. My trick for saving water is to fill containers partially full, close and shake. Shake a lot. No need to run the water 24/7 while washing this or that. I seem to wash and toss a lot of yogurt containers. One day, I'll learn to make my own yogurt. For the present time, I make sure that most of the plastic containers I receive can be recycled.
3. This is a great tip and certainly one I never thought of. A friend of mine, a optometrist told me that most people do not realize the containers their contacts come in are recyclable. Stop throwing them in the trash. Those plastic containers should absolutely go in the blue bin. (Yes, toss the foil top.)
4. Did you know that thermal paper receipts
are made and printed with chemicals that are not recyclable. Those are the flimsy receipts from the grocery store, gas station and post office. One way we can help our environment is by accepting less receipts when given a choice. If you don't need a record of your spending, why take this nasty paper. Have you noticed the ink on this type of paper fades too? Not great for accounting purposes. And, when you are given them, don't throw them in blue bin. They are black bin - land fill trash.
5. Here's a two part-er. Why not consider using metal coffee filters versus paper ones that go into our trash bins? Some experts say the gold-tone filters can last up to seven years. The choice is not only environmentally sound. It saves money. Part #2. If you have a garden, use the grounds for plants
. Some gardeners suggest coffee grounds are best for plants that love acidity, such as azaleas. Others say no matter the plant, coffee grounds make terrific mulch. Another article we discovered from Tips Bulletin
explains how coffee grounds can help you rid of garden pests. Who knew?
6. More gardening tips. I don't cook very much these days. But I do steam vegetables and boil pasta. When I'm finished, my pots are full of water. What do I do? I let the water cool and then I dump it in the yard and water my plants. Why put it down the drain?
7. Don't buy the bag. If you're like me, you receive some sort of goody bag at every conference, gift show or meeting you attend. I even have a few from the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power from when they were dropping off efficient light bulbs at every residential door last year. I keep a bunch of bags in my car so I can easily take them into grocery stores, hardware stores and just about any other store where I'll need some. Why would you do otherwise?
8. I don't use liquid soap. I also know that a lot of people do. When I visit friend's homes, I always see liquid soap by every sink. When did liquid soap become so popular? I say go back to using bar soap.Why do we need to purchase one more thing that comes in plastic containers? I love purchasing handmade soap from small artisanal vendors. Give it a try. You'll be hooked.
9. I operate a small fair trade business and ship a lot of boxes full of fair trade jewelry.
Reusing packing material is not only good for the environment, it make economic sense. We receive parcels filled with Styrofoam, bubble pack and biodegradable peanuts. Many boxes are stuffed with tissue and brown craft paper. And many boxes we receive are in good shape. Heck, sometimes when I have a busy season, I look for people giving the stuff away on Craigslist. Why not use it all again and again? Dunitz & Company
notes on our website that we recycle much of the packing materials we receive. I had one customer ball me out recently for using Styrofoam peanuts in a box I sent her. I explained to her that we don't purchase these materials. Her belief was that we should never use these materials no matter the source. What are your thoughts?
10. I know some of my tips seem obvious. They are obvious. Just the same, I'm certain a lot of us forget the obvious. So, here is a reminder. Turn off the lights. If you're not hanging out in a room, turn the darn things off. I think we all could be a bit more conscientious of this one! (I know this photo shows an old fashioned light bulb. It's a cool photo. And if you still have these type of bulbs in your home, change 'em out for the ones that are much more energy effecient.)
12. This one is on my to-do list. If you're anything like me, you've got some old computers and non-functioning electrical gadgets or stereo equipment taking up space in your home (or office). Finding the best way to get rid of this stuff may take a little online research. One friend of mine in Albuquerque told me there's a small local computer store that responsibly recycles these things. In Los Angeles, we have Home Boy Industries
. They're actually certified and guarantee not only to responsibly recycle, they also provide secure data destruction. Like you, I worry about all those old hard drives I've been holding onto for years.
11. Something small, makes a difference. Don't walk past that potato chip bag in the street. Why not pick it up and put it in the trash. Make the planet just a little prettier. When you do pick up a bit of trash here and there, it does make our living spaces just a bit more lovely. Evidently September 21, 2019 is slated as National Clean Up Day
. Did you know this even existed? [I don't plan it. But I do participate. My neighborhood association organizes a clean up day each year.]
Choose a few of the options from my list to implement
into your life. Start today. Why not reduce your carbon footprint just a wee bit and have a positive impact on the environment. And then tell a friend or coworker about the changes you're making. It may encourage others to step up to the plate as well. Like I said in the beginning of this post, small changes by all of us collectively can make big differences. -ND