Recycling has become more widespread than ever in the past few decades, but there is always room for improvement. Landfills continue to fill up, but the good news is that small changes in our everyday habits can make a huge difference and help reduce the amount of waste we produce.
We know that materials like paper, glass, and aluminum cans are recyclable, yet many of us can do more to help reduce landfill waste. Many municipalities across the United States have recycling initiatives in place, but some people aren’t using these curbside recycling programs to their full extent, simply because they aren’t aware of the range of items that are accepted. Many municipalities post recycling program guidelines and lists of recyclable items on their websites. Check it out—it may surprise you. Your recycling program may accept a common item that you thought you had to throw away.
Be sure to keep reusable shopping bags in your car or on your person. This way, you can avoid the millions of unnecessary plastic and paper bags that are thrown into landfills every year. If you do choose to use plastic bags, reuse them at home or recycle them. When shopping, aim to purchase items in minimal or recyclable packaging. Most products will have recycling information listed on the bottom of the package, making it easily identifiable.
Reduce Food Waste
The EPA estimates that 95% of wasted food ends up in landfills. You may be inclined to discard remaining food after a meal, but it’s important to think about where this food will eventually end up. To avoid wasting food, try not to serve yourself more than you can reasonably eat; instead, go back for seconds (or thirds) if you find yourself still hungry. Another great way to avoid wasting food is to freeze produce and meats before they expire.
You can also use food scraps to start a compost pile, which is a mixture of biodegradable, organic material that can be used as plant fertilizer. Composting is a great way to use food that you were otherwise going to throw away. However, you should only compost fruits and vegetables, coffee grounds and filters, and tea leaves and tea bags in your backyard pile, along with grass and yard clippings. You can also toss in plain bread, rice, oats, beans, eggshells, and nuts. Do not put meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, sauces, or oily, greasy foods into a backyard compost pile, because these items will not decompose quickly and may attract pests.
Invest in a Water Filtration System
We all know that water is the healthiest drink to consume, but those plastic water bottles are not so great for the environment. Instead of buying bottled water, invest in a water filtration system. Regardless of your budget, there are many different options to filter water so you can avoid buying multiple plastic bottles. There are faucet-mounted water filtration units, which can be placed on any faucet in your home.
People who live a more active lifestyle can consider purchasing a reusable water bottle that includes a filtering device so that standard tap water can be filtered on the go. If you have the means and the desire, you can also purchase a whole-home filtration system that ensures all the water you use for cooking, bathing, and other household tasks is purified from the start.
Encourage Others to Recycle
Whether you live with roommates or have a family of your own that includes children, one of the best ways to encourage recycling is to make it easy to do. Start by getting bins or boxes to put all your recyclable materials into. With these receptacles in a convenient place, it will be easier for everyone to separate recyclable items, and they will be more likely to participate. For younger children, try to explain the benefits of recycling and demonstrate how recycling helps your community, as well as the entire planet. When kids understand why it’s important to recycle, they are often more eager to participate.
Not only is it important to make an effort to recycle household items, it’s also a good idea to be mindful of recycling possibilities when getting rid of clothes, furniture, toys, dishes, and other possessions. When cleaning out your closet or planning a move, try to donate as many of your items as you possibly can to avoid throwing them out altogether—or sell them online or at a second-hand shop to make some extra cash. Recycling goes far beyond just paper, plastics, and glass bottles. Practically anything can be given a new home or reused in some way.
While there are many ways to encourage recycling, these simple suggestions can help you get started, or encourage you to continue with your current efforts. Reducing landfill waste is more important than ever before, as populations are increasing, thereby producing more waste, and space for landfills is finite. If we can each make an effort to start at home and do our part, we can all help solve the problem.