Whether or not you believe in climate change or global warming, there is no denying that the human species generates mega-tons of waste and pollutants, and that the planet is suffering the consequences.
Here are ten ideas for how we can all take small steps to reduce waste.
Reduce consumption. As a child of Depression-era parents, I grew up under the mandate to use it up or repurpose it. Clothes and shoes were used and handed down until they started to fall apart (and even then, old shoes were kept for running out into the garden on a wet morning, or clothes went into the rag-bag for use in mending or as dust rags). Glass jars were washed out and re-used for making jam or canning vegetables. Food was cooked, and you ate until the leftovers were gone, or made new dishes from the leftovers, and soup stock from the bones and leftover bits of vegetables. Buy only what you need and use as much of it as possible.
Steer away from plastics. Wherever possible, stop buying products packaged in disposable plastic. Buy a clear container for hand soap and re-use it by refilling it from a plastic pouch, instead of tossing a plastic container every time one goes empty. Invest in a water filter pitcher for the office fridge, and gift refillable thermos bottles to employees, encouraging them to pack their own water or refill from the office pitcher. Fewer plastic water bottles equals a big reduction in waste.
Recycle packaging. At least for the moment, many residential communities have commingled plastic/glass/tin/aluminum recycling programs. Many also collect paper (newsprint, office and glossy, and maybe cardboard). PLEASE… rinse out containers. Contamination sends many recycled plastics and food containers to landfills. (Example: Greasy pizza boxes go in the trash, not the recycle bin.)
Reduce energy use. Switch light fixtures to long-lasting LEDs. I did this at home and was amazed at how seldom I need to change light bulbs. New innovations yield a range of lighting colors and brightness. You’ll also enjoy savings on the electric bill. You can do this at home and in the office. Also, maintain your furnace and air conditioning units, and consider investing in programmable thermostats. Check appliances in your office and consider buying more energy-efficient models. Check with your local public utility for rebate offers on old appliances. Finally, consider solar roof shingles or panels. Put power back into the grid instead of sucking it out.
Reuse it. If it still works, but you’re upgrading, look for outlets that accept aging computer hardware; electronics are a growing concern for waste disposal and recycling, because of the many toxic materials included in technology products. Usable furniture, textiles, clothing, etc., are welcome at Salvation Army, Goodwill, consignment shops and other outlets.
Repurpose. Not everything needs to be tossed in the trash. Look for area artists or crafts people who need materials for projects, or who re-purpose clothing, furnishings and household implements. One person’s trash is another person’s treasure…
Be conscious of food waste. We toss a shocking amount of food because we fail to use it fully. Watch portion sizes, plan to use leftovers, and share extras. Compost what you don’t use, or try using all of your groceries through soups, broths and other recipes. If you have a summer garden, share your output with co-workers, or donate to local food banks.
Buy local. Especially during the summer growing season, take advantage of roadside produce stands and farmers’ markets. The shorter the distance produce travels from farm to table, the less energy is spent to move it to the end user. (Bonus: fewer people and less dirty equipment touches the food, reducing possible bacterial contamination.) And, you support your local workers and economy.
B.Y.O.B. – Bags, Not Bottles. Get in the habit of carrying shopping bags in your car for grocery or other shopping excursions. When possible, take the receipt and skip the bag altogether. Ask for paper grocery bags – they’re good for collecting paper and cardboard for recycling, and can be recycled. Look for bags you can launder or wipe with anti-bacterial cleaners.
Invest in “green” projects. Participate in local green-your-neighborhood efforts, from neighborhood clean-ups to planting new green spaces. Gather a group from the agency, and invite clients to participate. Seek ways to join clients’ green efforts, too. Be a force for a better future for the planet.
Becoming better caretakers of Mother Earth is a human action long overdue. This Earth Day (April 22), re-commit to being greener, more responsible businesses and citizens.
“…But green's the color of Spring.
And green can be cool and friendly-like.
And green can be big like the ocean, or important like a mountain, or tall like a tree…
it’s beautiful, and I think it’s what I want to be.” *
* “It’s Not Easy Being Green,” lyrics and music by Joe Raposo and Jon Stone, 1970, © Jonico Music Inc.