How well are you following the 3Rs: Reducing, Reuse, and Recycle? In 2019 the United States’ recycling rate was 35%, according to Resource-Recycling. However, the figure is relatively low, considering it’s been a half-century since a University of Southern California (USC) student named Gary Anderson invented the famous recycling symbol of three circular arrows.
We often think of the process of recycling as collecting aluminum cans, glass bottles, and plastic jugs in blue recycling bins. That’s just a start! If you want to achieve a smaller carbon footprint, then you’ll have to make bigger changes at home, work, or school. I’d like to share some super-easy yet effective ways to integrate more recycling into your day-to-day life.
Tip #1: Make your household/business bills paperless
Studies show that an average of 7 billion trees is cut down every year in the United States alone. Many of the trees end up as paper products like bank statements and Internet/utility bills. Today several companies offer customers the option to go paperless, which makes it easier to go green.
You’ll have a few different options. You can either check your email account or view billing documents online. Taking either of these steps can provide several eco-friendly benefits.
You’ll conserve natural resources like trees and water while cutting pollution. For example, studies show that producing one ton of paper creates CO2 missions over 1.5 tons.
Tip #2: Convert your home into a mini recycling center
According to the teachings of an innovative bachelor’s degree in product design, the discipline of design can be defined as ‘pervasive intelligence’ that invites us to find new meanings and new solutions. Now, this might sound like a mission impossible, but it’s actually easier than it sounds. If you’re already collecting some recyclables in bins, then you’re already on the right track. It’s just a matter of expanding what you collect, which will require some more containers.
There are several types of materials you can collect and possibly drop off at one recycling center, including:
- Paper (plain/glossy)
- Cardboard boxes
- Aluminum cans
- Glass bottles
- Plastic containers
If you have to separate materials, then consider a kitchen recycling center. This allows you to store multiple types of clean and dry recyclable materials.
Tip #3: Encourage litterless lunches at home and work
Studies show that 62% of Americans eat lunch at least six days per week. This makes recycling and reusing a practical option after learning the latest recycling statistics.
You can start with a reusable lunch bag. While paper bags are biodegradable and better than plastic bags, you can “save a tree” by using the same lunch bag over and over. In fact, plastic bags are even worse since they’re made from fossil fuels.
If you own or manage a business, you can even launch a green initiative to encourage your employees to eat litter-less lunches. This includes ditching baggies for sandwich bags, chips, and cookies. It’s a practical step to help your company become net-zero carbon emissions.
Tip #4: Buy recycled products to save raw materials
This is easily one of the most effective ways you can follow the 3Rs. Besides buying recycled products, the original materials were reused, and you’re reducing the number of virgin materials used to manufacture products. The end result is you can ditch waste and the need to extract more raw materials from the planet.
Here’s an alternative. You can research how much-recycled material is contained in products when shopping. Before you start your search, research the difference between recycled and recyclable. In short, the difference is whether the product was made from recycled material versus if it can be recycled.
Tip #5: Recycle as much water as possible
This is a valuable natural resource that’s often overlooked when following the 3Rs at home. One of the most effective methods is to adjust your home plumbing so wastewater from showers, bathtubs, and rainwater collected outdoors can flush your toilet. A minimalist option is big buckets for both steps.
Does your home have a garden? If so, you can also water it with bathwater or dishwashing water. The caveat here is you can only take these steps if you’re using biodegradable soap.
Here are some other sources for recycling water:
- Overflowing flower pots when watering plants
- Water from washing fruits/veggies and cooking
- Create a rain garden from pipes, roofs, and driveways
- Reuse unused drinking water
- A bucket that collects excess shower water
Tip #6: Compost household waste when it’s possible
Composting is easy and provides many benefits. You can compost many kinds of household waste, including:
- Coffee grounds
- Fruit seeds
- Fruit skins
- Leftover leafy greens
- Vegetable peels
You can also compost paper products, including paper towels, napkins (unbleached), and newspapers. You’ll need a composting kit, but this is a small investment that prevents the waste from ending up in landfills.
Even when you can’t compost some items at home, you can donate them for community composting.
Tip #7: Use reusable grocery bags for groceries (and other stuff)
The son of the inventor of the plastic bag recently claimed his father’s invention was intended to save the planet. The irony is today the flimsy containers have become such an ecological problem that it’s triggered plastic bag bans.
An alternative is reusable grocery bags. Besides buying them, create a reminder to bring them to the store by writing “bags” at the top of your shopping list. This can help to eliminate the need for single-use bags when going to the supermarket.
Some supermarkets even offer a small refund if you bring the “eco-bags” with you. So you save money while saving the planet.
Tip #8: Use reusable materials for cleaning
If you want to live a sustainable lifestyle, one of the easiest options is to ditch paper towels when cleaning. Here’s why. Producing one ton of paper towels requires 17 trees and 20,000 gallons of polluted water. Besides that, paper towels are really expensive.
Here are litter-free options:
- Fabric scraps
- Small rags
- Wash towels
You can use these items to clean dishes or mop up spills. In fact, you can even find reusable natural products to make the process even greener. These items can also be effective and quickly absorb liquid spills, for example.
Regardless of the size of your household or business, you can take steps to make recycling part of your daily life. You can set up a recycling center at home and create a recycling program at work, for example. People often think their single household or company can’t make a big difference by recycling more and creating a smaller carbon footprint. In truth, The United Nations projects planet Earth has less than a decade to prevent permanent damage from climate change. “Think globally, act locally.”
Lillian Connors is a Senior Content Developer at ACT-ENVIRO, with years of experience in developing content. Throughout her career, she always looked for ways to contribute to the environment in recycling efforts, while providing valuable information with her written articles. She’s deeply into green practices, cherishing the notion that sustainability not only makes us far less dependent on others regarding how we live and do business but also contributes to our planet being a better place to live on. When she is not trying to improve the things around her (and herself, for that matter), she likes to lose herself in a good book and sip on an occasional appletini.