Recycling is a fundamentally important conservation concept that often dominates the conversation about how we can help the environment. Two other concepts, "Reduce" and "Reuse" actually provide a much higher return for the environment for the effort expended. If you are looking to take action beyond recycling, check out these easy things you can do at home and work that will help reduce waste, save energy and help the environment.
Reduce - Not creating waste in the first place
Waste prevention, also referred to as "source reduction," means changing habits to reduce the amount of trash created every day. Putting reduce into practice is one of the best ways to help your community decrease the amount of material that goes to the landfill. Here are a few tips to help make less garbage and save money and resources:
Shop with the Environment in Mind
- Buying in bulk is the best way to reduce packaging.
- Avoid purchasing items like juice boxes that have packaging that cannot be recycled.
- Avoid purchasing individually wrapped snacks.
- Avoid buying single-use items like paper or plastic plates, cups and disposable silverware.
- Instead of buying that new electric saw for that one-time project, can you borrow one from a neighbor or rent one?
- Look for products that are durable, can be repaired and have extended repair warranties. This allows you to extend the life of the product without giving in to the impulse of tossing and buying new.
Reducing waste at work
- One of the top sources of waste is paper — print double-sided where you can.
- Set your office copy machine to print double-sided as the default.
- Buy refurbished toner cartridges which are just as effective as a new toner cartridges.
- Pack a no-waste lunch for work.
Use a reusable insulated bag or lunch box instead of a brown paper bag, to hold your child’s lunch every day. A reusable ice pack can be used to keep perishable food items cold.
Use reusable plastic containers that can be washed and used over and over instead of using disposable plastic sandwich bags for sandwiches and snacks.
Use a thermos or reusable jug instead of a bottle of soda or a juice box.
Use metal silverware or wash plastic utensils and reuse them instead of plastic utensils that are used once and thrown away.
Buy in bulk and pack individual servings in reusable containers.
Use cloth napkins that can be washed and reused instead of using paper napkins or paper towels.
Source: Building a Zero Waste Lunch by Terry Kuta, State of Maryland, Department of the Environment
For more ways you can reduce waste at work, check out waste reduction in the office.
Reducing waste at home
- Set up a composting bin at home for yard waste. The Roseville Utility Exploration Center offers "how-to" classes on how to start your own green waste composting bin in your backyard.
Also, the City of Roseville provides free compost bins to its residents (broken refuse bins reborn into compost bins), call 774-5780 for more information on the free compost bins.
- Or you can set up a worm composting bin to compost fruit and vegetable scraps from the kitchen. More information on setting up your own worm bin can be found here.
Both methods yield compost for your garden and are cheap to do.
- Get off junk mail lists. It takes 20 minutes to get rid of junk mail for two to five years. The Direct Marketing Association maintains a free, easy to use one-stop website that allows you to op-out of mail lists you no longer whish to be on. You are required to register to take advantage of this service. Click here to begin.
By putting these reduce strategies into practice you can:
Reduce the amount of waste going to landfills.
Conserve energy and other natural resources.
Create less pollution.
Reuse - Time to rethink "just toss it."
Making smart decisions affect you and your family. Reusing items that are perfectly fine instead of buying new is better for the environment and easy on the pocketbook. Reusing reduces the amount of garbage in our landfills. ReCREATE collects clean usable waste / manufacturer byproducts and uses it for environmental lessons, art education and creative expression.
Here are some tips to incorporate the concept of "reuse" into your life:
Garage sales and thrift stores are treasure troves
Make a visit to your local thrift stores, you’d be surprised the treasures you can find at a price that can’t be beat. Besides, making your purchase at a thrift store often goes to help people in your community.
Garage sales are also great places to find gently used items for bargain basement prices.
Reusable water bottles
Don’t grab that bottled water, purchase a reusable water bottle and fill at your tap at home; you will save money and the environment. Many bottled water products are simply tap water in wasteful one-use packaging. In most cases, the quality of bottled water is no better and you pay a whole lot more.
Paper or plastic? Neither.
Bring some reusable shopping bags with you when you shop or better yet keep some in your car. Plastic bags often end up as litter in your community and can harm wildlife. Paper bags use a diminishing resource — trees. There is a wide variety of cheap and stylish reusable shopping bags now available at places you shop.
Local non-profit reuse stores
Habitat for Humanity's ReStore in Roseville is a discount building materials outlet. All store inventory is donated by area businesses and homeowners, and includes appliances, doors and windows, lighting fixtures, hardware and tools, flooring, furniture and more.
Click here for more information.
Click here for more information.
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I want to learn more about........
How I can get rid of junk mail.
Packing a zero waste lunch for school or home.
Locating reusable shopping bags.
Composting green waste at home.
Composting vegetable and fruit kitchen waste at home.
Learning how to reduce waste when I shop.
Donating items that are perfectly reusable but that I no longer need.