Making the shift toward a leaner, greener lifestyle doesn’t have to be painful. But, it does require some effort. Luckily, most of us “ain’t skeered” of a little effort, especially when the returns are so promising.
I think the biggest question we face is: Where to start? That first step is often the most challenging. Keep reading for some tips and resources, using the 4 Rs, that can help clear your path.
There’s more to ‘reducing’ than just setting aside some of your trash for the recycling bin. Think about it: We’re a culture that values stuff and we tend to have too much of it.
Most of us have over-stuffed closets, junk drawers, and other assorted clutter to contend with. Studies, like this one, show this correlates directly to increased stress levels by contributing to what’s known as “mental clutter”.
The good news is those closets and drawers can be cleared out or re-organized over the course of a weekend. Too many clothes? Give them away or have a yard/online sale. Junk drawer blues? Toss or recycle what’s actually trash and re-organize the rest.
Once you’ve taken on the mess and reigned victorious, take a moment to re-assess. Inventory what’s left and come up with a plan to keep the stuff you accumulate to a minimum. Ask yourself what you really need and why. You may find you can get by with much less. You may even be happier for it.
Before you throw something away, ask yourself if there may be another life for it. Some examples?
- Those jeans with the ripped crotch seam won’t be a useful giveaway, but it might make good material for a sweet new decorative pillow
- Old t-shirts make perfect cleaning rags, fabric for stuffed children’s toys or even DIY shopping bags
- A ratty-looking, yet still sturdy, set of wooden boxes can be cleaned up and re-purposed into a cool new coffee table or shelf
- Your vegetable-based trash can be composted into a healthy bio-organism to feed your plants
You could even sell your re-done creations for extra cash. You’d be surprised to learn how many people make their living this way.
Not creative? A crafty friend may welcome the opportunity to take the items off your hands for their own endeavors.
If you’re not already familiar with what’s available locally, it pays to do a bit of research so you know your options. A couple of key points to consider:
Find out who’s responsible for its delivery to the recycling facility.
Some areas, often larger cities, offer recycling as part of the regular trash pick-up service. They may even provide the bins for you, saving some money.
If your area doesn’t offer pick-up, find out if there’s a recycling dumpster near you. For example, we live in a rural area and have one in a nearby village, at the fire department. It’s worth the occasional trip to the R-dumpster to keep the landfills from filling up faster.
Keep in mind that some facilities only take certain items.
For example, they may accept your juice or milk jugs, but not the plastic bag from your cereal box or disposable water bottles. Find out what’s acceptable and keep a list handy near your recycle bins as a reminder. The time it could save during hectic evenings is priceless.
This step is often clumped with “reducing” or “reusing”, as the items are typically reusable and reduce your carbon footprint, but it can easily stand on its own. Let’s bring it back into the fold, shall we?
These days, there’s a push to rid ourselves of the type of items that contribute to landfill overflow and even declining health. The biggest of these is plastic. Luckily, there are now many alternatives available and prices continue to become more affordable.
Kitchenware – From stainless steel to wood to ceramic, any of your plastic kitchen items can be replaced with something made for improved longevity and eco-footprint. Among these are:
At my house, we use stainless steel water bottles instead of the throwaway plastic ones. As a side note, we also use a fluoride-removing filter on our cold water tap for our drinking/cooking/pet water. Any extra time taken in heating it up, when needed hot, is worth it to me.
Toys – Ever wonder what chemicals make their way into a child’s mouth when they chew on a plastic toy? It’s not pretty. There are healthier alternatives out there and kids find them just as fun to play with. These include:
- Wood (LifeWithoutPlastic – link in sidebar – sells wooden legos, for example)
- Plant-based plastic, like these Easter eggs
Furniture & Bedding – The chemical exposure in our living and bed rooms is staggering. The healthier versions are more expensive, but worth it in my opinion. For example, your bamboo bedding may have run you $100 more than a standard set. But the anti-microbial, anti-bacterial and allergy-reducing qualities of those bamboo fibers can save you more than that in health costs over a period of time.
Especially if you suffer from indoor allergies.
If shelling out for new couches, carpets, and beds is cost-prohibitive for you – believe me, we aren’t there yet either! – start by focusing on the things you can do. Organic cotton or bamboo covers/upholstery for your mattresses and sofas. Saving up to replace carpets with organic versions or hardwood (or bamboo or cork!). Purchasing pillows or pillow covers of bamboo, buckwheat, etc. A little change here and there can add up to a huge difference over time.
These are only a few of the ways you can make better use of your home resources and live a greener life. How many more can you come up with?