beige gold

photo by karolina grabowska

Ordering a lot of packages these days? Do you open them up and then cast an annoyed look at the shipping box? Corrugated cardboard is the most recycled paper product, with a 95% recovery rate. It also has the highest value, earning it the nickname “beige gold,” because its long paper fibers make it durable. Over half of collected cardboard is used to make new cardboard boxes (to send you more packages), but it’s also used for things like cereal and shoe boxes. Recycling one ton of virgin cardboard saves 17 trees and valuable landfill space.

because they’re special

What do these have in common: TVs, computers, CDs, DVDs, light bulbs, paints, used motor oil, batteries, tires, and large plastic items?  At some point in time, you’re going to want to get rid of them. And depending on where you live (or how far you’re willing to drive), you can recycle these items at special facilities. Our local dump- I mean, our waste and recycling facility- takes all of these. Search online for a place near you!

wash less

photo by andy fitzsimon

My family thinks it’s easier to toss clothes in the hamper than put them away. Sometimes, if their clothes pass the sniff test, I’ll fold them and give them back unwashed, but shhh. Certain clothes, like shirts and jeans, can be worn multiple times before washing. You can also spot clean and air them out instead of throwing them in the machine. Because the best way to save water and electricity, as well as your clothes, is not to do laundry in the first place. However, if you sweat a lot or get stinky, please wash your clothes, preferably in an energy-efficient washing machine. You know who you are. (We all do.) 

quali-tee?

photo by haryo setyadi

Dying and cutting patterns for clothes. Shipping them around the world. Throwing away unused and out of style clothing. The environmental impact of the fashion industry is considerable. The latest styles might keep you looking current, but some items are timeless- jeans, black pants, jackets, a classic bag, or a white tee that matches everything.

Look for quality clothes that you’ll keep for more than a season and that won’t fall apart. And as my mom always says, if you don’t feel great in it, don’t buy it!

well plated

photo by markus winkler

Disposable plates mean you don’t spend the evening washing up. But how often do you use them? Try reusable plates sometimes. If faced with washing dishes, some in my family will eat straight out of the pot. Luckily, that’s not the only option. If you must use disposables, buy paper instead of plastic or styrofoam plates, which don’t biodegrade. Also try switching paper napkins out for cloth on occasion. We use ours a couple of times before washing them…unless it’s spaghetti night. Or barbeque. Or…well, you get it!

the mysterious freezer box

DYK- although frozen food boxes are paper products, most of them can’t be recycled? These boxes (aka wet-strength paperboard) are just like recyclable boxes- with one difference. The paper is layered with polyethylene (LDPE) plastic to keep the box from getting soggy and to prevent freezer burn. Soda & beer cartons are made of it too.

It’s difficult to separate the plastic from the paperboard and some municipalities can’t accept it as recycling. And because of the plastic, it can’t be composted either. So check the box for a recycling symbol and your local requirements, but otherwise, frozen food boxes go in the trash.

cleaner than you found it

DYK that water and wind can carry trash hundreds of miles? Plastic bags and other garbage can easily travel along streams, rivers, and other waterways to their ultimate resting place in the oceans. So take your waste when you leave recreational areas. Go one step greener by leaving nature cleaner than you found it. Those of us who come after you give you a big thank you in advance- and we’ll try to do the same thing!

go for the aluminium (in honor of the Olympics)

If you recycle nothing else, go for aluminum instead of the gold. Aluminum is one of the Olympians of metals: strong, lightweight, non-corrosive, non-magnetic, and much more. It’s also one of the highest-value materials to recycle. It’s fast to reprocess, so a can could leave your recycling bin and be back on the shelves in 2 months.

Recycling one ton of aluminum cans saves the equivalent of 1,024 gallons of gasoline. Beverage cans and foil are the same material, so recycle both of them (clean them first). Aluminum trays and pans are NOT recyclable, but are reusable. And if the foil is combined with plastic- think drink boxes, yogurt lids, or candy wrappers- they can’t be recycled either. Yet.

What’s the last aluminum can you recycled? Mine was an amber ale…

prevent summer gain

photo by maria orlova

Have you ever stood in a window to feel the warm sun coming in? Most of that sunlight becomes heat (technically called “heat gain.”). The average American pays around $300 a year to keep their home cool (unless you live in the South!). We cut down on costs (and heat) the easy way- by closing our blinds and curtains on the sunny side of the house. Want to go big? Plant a deciduous tree outside. It will shade your house in the summer and let the sun shine in during the winter!

skip (by) the dryer

DYK that your clothes dryer can make up over 10 percent of your household energy use? Try drying your clothes on a rack or line. You’ll see less wear and tear on your clothes. Less shrinkage and longer clothing life. No static cling. No dryer sheets. And you’ll use less energy. A retractable clothesline in the back yard is great for quickly drying bed linens and towels (and that fresh smell…). For those with less space, try a fold-out rack. I tuck them between my washer & dryer when they’re not in use.