Make a new start in the New Year and get a little greener
By Valerie Beerbower
You know the drill: Turn off the faucet while you brush your teeth. Don’t let your car’s engine sit idling. Switch off lights if you’re not in the room. Recycle. If nothing in a children’s television show montage about green practices is news to you, congratulations, you’ve got the eco-friendly basics covered. As you make your New Year’s resolutions, consider adding a challenge to the list—one you’ll carry out past February. Step up your Earth-conscious game with these tips, compliments of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Recycling and Five Rivers MetroParks:
1 RECYCLE SMART: Make sure what you’re tossing in that bin really is recyclable. Your waste disposal providers will be able to supply you with information about what can and cannot be recycled. Most places accept:
A Metal and glass, including aluminum, tin, clear and colored glass, and other containers. Be sure to empty aerosol containers, discard lids and rinse cans, jars and bottles before recycling them. Remember, organic matter like food particles can compromise the quality of recycled items, so be sure to rinse or clean recyclable items before tossing them in the bin.
- Paper and cardboard, including newspapers, cereal boxes, magazines, phone books or junk mail.
- Number 1 and 2 plastic items—check the bottom of the package for the number. Some recycling facilities accept more varieties; verify with your waste services.
- Yard waste—does your community offer yard waste for mulch or compost?
- Electronics—machines like computers or even appliances can leach toxic chemicals. Many local waste services offer electronic recycling services on specific days. Check with your waste services provider or local municipality.
2 REDUCE WASTE: Recycling is great, but it still takes energy to produce items, even made from recycled materials. Reducing the amount of waste you generate and reducing your reliance on disposable convenience products are great ways to be kind to the planet.
- Avoid prepared foods. Often these items are sold with several layers of packaging—and not all of it may be recyclable. Prepared/packaged foods often are higher in salt, fat and calories, so switching to home-cooked meals not only helps you reduce waste, it can help reduce waist!
3 PICK PRACTICAL PACKAGING: At least 10 percent of the average grocery bill pays for packaging, so shopping for less packaging can save money as well as environmental resources. Choosing the right kinds of packaging can help reduce waste. Look for:
- Products packed in a single recyclable material, rather than layers of various materials.
- Containers for liquids or deodorant that are not further contained in paperboard boxes.
- Concentrates that can be mixed with water at home.
4 SAVVY SHOPPING STRATEGIES: Bring your own bag to the store. Look for ones that fold up or tuck tightly into smaller shapes. These can be conveniently stored in your purse or vehicle to encourage use over paper or plastic grocery bags. You can find reusable bags, as well as recycled household products and environmentally safe cleaning supplies from A Greener You at the PNC 2nd Street Market (open Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays).
5 CLOSE THE LOOP: Buy products made from recycled materials. Think about things you buy with the intention of disposing them—like paper towels or toilet tissue. Do we really need to cut down more trees to make these items? Other recycled products include:
- Glass bottles and jars—approximately 35 percent of glass in glass bottles in the United States is recycled material.
- Paperboard boxes—recovered paper and paperboard accounted for nearly 38 percent of new paper production in the United States in 1998, but read the label for post-consumer content.
- Aluminum beverage cans—the average aluminum can is made of more than 51 percent recycled aluminum from old beverage cans. With more than five of every 10 aluminum cans being recycled in the United States, they are the most recycled beverage container.
6 NEW LIFE FOR OLD ITEMS: Reusing items or finding a new purpose for them keeps these items out of landfills and helps you avoid purchasing new products. Plastic dishes with fitted lids (such as what you find for butter, sour cream, etc.) can find a new life as a container to store extra buttons, or nuts and bolts in the garage. Glass jelly jars often have patterns or texture to the glass that can make beautiful little luminaries for your next outdoor party. Look around your home and try to come up with alternative uses for some of your household items.
7 JUST SAY ‘NO’ TO JUNK MAIL: Did you know junk mail (flyers, pamphlets, catalogs or any other mail you receive without request) creates 4 million tons of preventable waste each year? You can cut down on junk mail by opting out of lists or adding yourself and your address to “do not mail” lists.
8 FRUGAL FOODIES: Americans throw away over one-third of the food they buy in grocery stores. You can help reduce waste by buying only what you need and using those items—that includes leftovers! You’ll find no shortage of blogs and recipes for creative ways to reinvent last night’s pot roast. You can also buy nonperishable products in bulk or large quantities. Large containers use less material than several small ones for the same amount of product, and generally cost far less.
9 BOAST YOUR COMPOST: Before you toss those egg shells, coffee grounds and fruit and veggie peels, think what a tasty treat you could be making for your begonias! Composting is a great way to reuse organic materials and save you money on store-bought plant food or other product that promises bigger blossoms—these are often loaded with chemicals that are unnecessary. Check out MetroParks’ Compost Kitchen series March 15, March 22 and March 30, 2012, to learn the basics of composting and earn a free composter!
10 WORK IT: Why stop being green at your front door? Ask your office manager or other appropriate personnel about implementing green practices at work. Switch to compostable cups at the water cooler (or see if your company will provide employees with their own mugs or water bottles and really cut down on waste). Default to printing on two sides of paper instead of just one (or make the switch to digital—there are lots of types of software that will let you share information electronically). You could also start a carpool list at work, or recruit riding buddies who will bike to work together. Get great transportation hints at drivelesslivemore.com.
Reach DCP freelance writer Valerie Beerbower at ValerieBeerbower@DaytonCityPaper.com.