I know that my blog is primarily about food allergies but I think everything that we do effects how we grow, how we become healthier and how our children will be as they grow. So when it was mentioned to me that I should write a blog on how I began my recylcing craze, I hesitated because to me, it seemed off-topic but then I realized, no it's really not.
Our town has always had separate recycling bins. It was one container for bottles and cans and the other for paper and cardboard. Not a big deal, we did that. Then, this April we received a notice stating that we would be getting a huge flip-top bin for all of the recycling. No need to sort, just make sure it's inside the bin. The handy dandy truck with the little arm will come to your home and neatly pick it up without ever having to touch it. Although I never gave it much thought anyway, this seemed to turn on some kind of light switch inside of my head.
Since the beginning of the year, I have been on a personal quest to be a "greener" family. My first mission was to stop buying plastic bags. We used them up, purchased reusable containers for lunch bags and reusable shopping bags. The only time that I realized I even needed one was when we had a visiting child over who requested taking some pretzel sticks home. I reached for the drawer that formerly held my baggies and as I opened it, I realized we had none. Think, think..... I offered to send him home with a paper coffee filter with the pretzels inside that he could then recycle when he was done with it. He was happy with that. Paper coffee filters can be found at any dollar store 300 for $1. Just an FYI.
My next hurdle was to eliminate paper towels and napkins. I realized how many paper napkins we were going through each day and it made me feel like such a horrible person each time I reached for one. I have a drawer full of cloth napkins that were used once a year. None of them were expensive so they now get used daily and washed. And when I say washed, that means when they need it. This could be after a meal or after several meals, depending on how messy we are. Fold it, refold it, use the top and bottom and then wash it. By February, we were paper-free as far as the kitchen was concerned.
I know you are most likely saying "How do you do that? How do you not use paper products?" I can honestly tell you that once you don't have them in your house and you use towels, cloth napkins, etc. that you don't feel much differently. It's just the occasional "Oh, I need-....I don't have those anymore." The other thing that I can tell you is that I would have never pictured myself being so obsessive over recycling 20 years ago. I am that person that I used to stare at and just say to myself "What is wrong with her? Why does she eat that kind of food? Why doesn't she just buy paper towels?" I am that person that I made fun of but I am very proud to be that person.
My strongest motivation was the test that I gave to myself. It was actually started by our neighbor across the street, Henry (yes, Lara, your Henry!). He's a sweet little guy that is very passionate about making sure all of the yard waste goes into the yard waste bin and that our recylcing is out on the curb, spaced with the required amount of space in between the cans. It was him, this young boy who is 6? that made me say I can do this because if Henry can, so can I! I gave myself the test of seeing what would happen in just 1 week. What happened was like a light bulb glaring in my face.
The trick- easy, ready? Recycle everything. That's it. Yes, you read that right, you don't have to scroll back up with your mouse to reread something that you might have missed. Recycle everything. Explain? OK. If you pay close attention to what you throw away every day, you will catch yourself throwing away items that should be recycled. I am a bit neurotic but now that we are in the groove, the family is on board and it's not obsessive to us anymore, just normal.
Plastics- what we have done for the time being until I can find a better suited plastics can is that we use a plastic bag from the food store that I used to throw out. I hang it on a nearby door handle in the kitchen and I fill it with any plastic items that are not a container. When it's full, I tie it closed and bring it to my local grocery store that has a bin outside to recycle plastic and paper. What do I put into it? Plastic bags, store-bought resealable plastic bag's with the zipper top cut off, used plastic wrap, the plastic straw holders from juice boxes, plastic wrap from my meats (rinsed), chip bags, empty plastic bags that held mixes (cake, cookies, etc), the newspaper bag....basically anything that resembles a plastic bag.
The rest- again, look at everything that you are about to throw away. My husband still thinks I am insane but he has now come to terms with my newest addiction so he goes with the flow. I am talking about things like the empty oatmeal package with the top you have ripped off, homework papers that you don't need to keep, the paper bag from the drugstore, the junk mail that you get each day, the crumpled up wrapping paper from a gift, empty toilet paper rolls, the small pieces of box that are ripped off when you try to open up a package, grocery store receipts, rinsed off bottoms of the meat packages, the foil from the top of the applesauce container and the applesauce container, that small piece of note paper that you wrote one thing on and then crumpled up. Do you get my drift?
There are documents that I do shred and bag but as per our town's recycling guide, shredding can be bagged and placed into the recylcing bins. I shred any junk mail that has a credit card offer with my family's name on it, statements, receipts with our personal information on it, prescription copies or anything else that may tempt someone to use our identity. Still, bagged and recycled.
Still have other stuff? The rest I usually stop and consider what might be suitable to send to Goodwill or to donate. Used books, clothing, used kitchen items that are slightly used but still functional, old pillows and blankets, shoes that were worn three times before someone grew (again). Goodwill, Craigslist, local needy families, neighbors that have children that are agreeable to second-hand items. Many, many people usually just want to get rid of and clean out but if that's the case, donate it or offer it on Craigslist for free. I bet you will be surprised what quickly disappears from your front yard without you having to do anything but type.
My only downfall? I have not gotten a composting bin. This bugs me. I have gotten our garbage down to 1/2 of a bag of garbage per week. Yes- 1/2 of a bag. And I know if I had some type of composting bin, all we would need would be a small, office-sized waste paper basket. I too realize that I can only do what I am able to do right now. I too have limitations and I have to peel off my blinders and take baby steps. I am comfortable with this because I know, in the end, I will be happy with the person that I am and how I got there. I know not everyone can do that and I am ok with that too. My question is, are YOU ok with that?