recycle

The 5 R’s

Back in the day, it was just the 3 R’s: reduce, reuse, recycle.

3 r's

I know this because I did a science project about it in 6th grade and decorated it with puffy paint.

But since then, 2 new R’s have been added to the spectrum: refuse and rot.

There are other R’s that people add such as repair and repurpose, but I kinda lump those under reuse, so I am going to leave those out for now.

The best way to visualize the 5’s is in an inverted pyramid, with our biggest, most common actions on top, leading down to what we should be doing the least at the very bottom.

So at the top of this inverted pyramid, we have our number one way to avoid waste and that is Refuse. Saying no is the number one way to keep stuff out of the landfill. I talked about this recently in my 10 Most Overlooked Ways to Reduce Waste post. Saying no keeps those items from entering our lives in the first place, be they straws, food packaged in plastic, or freebies. Collectively saying no, and therefore decreasing demand, also can spur change.

After we have refused all the bad stuff (excessive packaging, food that’s grown far away, etc.) it is time to focus on what we do have and use, and then Reduce it. Don’t go out to eat for lunch every day or cut back on buying new clothes.

Now we have a curated list of items that we own and use. Sometimes those items will break, need some fixing or their original purpose becomes unnecessary. This is where Reuse (and repair and repurpose) comes it. Turn that old dresser into a jazzed up TV stand. Unleash your inner DIY goddess.

Now we get into the last resort part of the pyramid. If we cannot Refuse, Reduce, or Reduce something, then the next place it should head is into your compost bin to Rot.

Who knew that many years after middle school I actually would be composting!

Pictures

But plastic is not compostable, so any milk jugs and glass bottles (that you have not already refused and reused) should then be Recycled. Notice that recycling is pretty far down the list.

It definitely is not as far as the very last option of the Landfill, the place where your trash goes on to live forever. I love when trash cans are labeled with “landfill.” It helps you think before you toss that your gum wrapper is going to head to a giant hole in the ground and not to this fantasy land of “away.”

 

What is in a landfill?

Not sure this information is accurate anymore…

 

And that’s the 5 R’s (+ Landfill)! Here is an example of one piece, say a magazine, going through each step of the pyramid.

  • Refuse: You are offered a free magazine subscription that you politely decline
  • Reduce: You still love reading physical magazines (and if you do, that is great! You do you!) so you cut back on how many you subscribe to and get the rest online.
  • Reuse: After reading the magazine, you cut out the pages to decoupage a DIY project or use the pages as padding material for your Christmas ornaments.
  • Rot: When your done with your DIY projects, you add it to your compost pile or bucket
  • Recycle: If you don’t have access to composting, you toss the magazine in the recycling bin.
  • Landfill: If you don’t do any of the above things…

 

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No Need for Pretty Wrapping Paper

You won’t find rolls of pretty wrapping paper in this house.

Wrapping paper and gift wrap for me include a pile of the Trib’s comics section.

the funnies

And a bag full of gift bags and tissue paper that was previously given to me.

bag of tissue paper

If I am handing you a present in a gift bag,  there is a 100% chance that it was given to me by someone else.

It is just silly to pay for something that is going to get ripped up and thrown out! Thus why I ranted about it last Christmas too.

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I get it. That cohesive look of presents wrapped in a glossy wrapping is Pinterest worthy.

But what I do not get is why anyone would throw out a perfectly good gift bag. They can be used infinitely until they rip!

I keep every single one I receive. And every one will be used again. And hopefully again (I am looking at you people I am giving gifts to! Do your duty!).

Those Pesky Plastic Bags

I had a friend ask me what I do with plastic bags that I eventually accumulate.

Not just the standard grocery bags, but the plastic packaging, bread bags, dry cleaning bags, or other types of bags that are labeled as plastic #4 and don’t belong in the curbside recycling bin.

These bags should not be tossed in with your regular recycling because they basically mess up all the machinery and cause all sorting to come screeching to a halt as they have to pull bags free from the machines.

plastic bags

As any normal person does, I hoard them under the kitchen sink until I have a full bag. Then I drop them off at my local grocery store, like Mariano’s, Target, Jewel, Walmart, and more. Check here to see what stores have drop-off locations near you.

In reality, we shouldn’t be using these plastic bags in the first place, but sometimes we get them. They get handed to us before we get a chance to even say something, or a friend sends you home with your leftovers wrapped up in a bag.

It happens. It’s okay.

But it is important to note that using plastic bags because you can bring them to the grocery store to be recycled is NOT THE ANSWER.

Instead, bring your own reusable bags to the store. You’ll also save $0.07 on the bag tax (if you live in Chicago, IL).

 

Hole Filled Jeans Become Housing Insulation

Earlier in the year, I tried fixing my favorite pair of jeans by patching them.

jean-patch17

It worked for a couple months. but then this happened

jean rip

These jeans became beyond repair, but I couldn’t bear to just toss them out with the garbage when they were in no shape to be donated.

So I did what any rational person would do.

I hoarded them for several months until I figured out what I could do with them.

Enter Madewell.

Madewell3

They have partnered with Blue Jeans Go Green to execute a pretty neat jean recycling program. Bring in ANY type of jean to one of their stores and they will help turn them into housing insulation.

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So far, they have collected over 1 million pieces of denim and saved over 600 tons from going into the landfill.

Right now, Madewell is running The Denim Forever Tour, hosting pop-up recycling stations at locations all around the country.  So check out if they will be anywhere near you between now and October.

Below is what my hole-y jeans will become! Insulation to warm people’s houses.

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Just for dropping off your jeans, Madewell will provide a $20 coupon towards a new pair of their jeans.

Check out this cool video about the program.

 

How To: Stop Junk Mail

Getting stuff in the mail is awesome.

Getting unwanted stuff in the mail is not.

 

We all have experienced it. You open the mailbox and find something addressed to you or the current resident (whom you have never heard of) and have no idea why you are getting this piece of mail. You don’t even know what this company is that’s sending you catalogs.

Besides just tossing it in the recycling bin, there are a number of ways you can keep yourself from getting junk mail in the first place.

The biggest thing you can do is avoid giving out your address, but sometimes junk mail will find you anyway.

Below are some resources you can use to be removed from all sorts of mailing lists.

 

paper karma

Here are some of my requests I submitted to PaperKarma. Who are you King Ranch Saddle Shop?!

 

Another way to combat the onslaught of unwanted mail is to find the sender’s phone number, any number you can find, and call them to remove yourself from the mailing list.

Be warned that it takes over a month sometimes to be officially removed from mailing lists. A lot of the time, a catalog or a mailing is already in production and printed with your name on it before you make the call.

On another note, as much as I love giving money to a good cause such as a charity or non-profit, be careful. Sometimes when you donate, your mailing information can get shared with (or sold to) other organizations. For example, post-election, K donated to an environmental organization and now we get TONS of calendars, address labels (SO MANY), notepads, and more.

If you are looking for more, check out my friend Celia over at Litterless who also wrote a great post on getting rid of junk mail.

Take Those Wire Hangers Back

Does your closet ever look like this after a while?

 

dry cleaner hangers

Or more realistically, does it look like this?

 

dry cleaner hangers1

Anyway, I pretty much don’t get any of my clothes dry cleaned, but K gets a lot of his shirts pressed, so we end up with a mess of wire hangers every couple months.

These hangers cannot be recycled, and if you can’t think of anything else to do with them, they can get quite annoying.

Did you know you can just take them back to the dry cleaners?

I have brought a bag to the closest dry cleaner (one that K does not even use) a number of times and have never had a problem. They always accept them!

You can avoid the wire hanger overflow by following a number of steps:

  • Don’t purchase “Dry Clean Only” clothes
  • Refuse the hangers from the dry cleaner
  • If you do take them, reuse them!
  • If you cannot, bring them back!

 

 

Meal-Kit Market Means More Waste

Since I prefer the gift of experiences, K and I were gifted the chance to try out Blue Apron.

Although I like the idea of having all of the cooking ingredients measured and ready for me, I was skeptical of the amount of packaging waste something like this would produce.

Our box arrived on Friday.

blue-apron1

 

We shall see about that..

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Waste was obviously my biggest concern, so I laid out everything we received in the box. There are even little packets of flour, sugar, butter, etc. in the paper bags. I thought that was unnecessary.

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Blue Apron’s vision is to build a better food system by doing the following:

  1. Developing better standards to grow higher quality ingredients.
  2. Supporting regenerative farming practices to replenish our land.
  3. Eliminating the middleman to deliver fresher food.
  4. Reducing food waste to create better value.

While I applaud the attempt at reducing food waste, there is still excessive packaging waste. Like what am I supposed to do with those 2 giant ice packs? They don’t even fit in our freezer.

From a tastiness standpoint, our meals we made were fine. That’s really all I have to say about them, but I definitely do not think it was worth it.

Have you ever used anything like Blue Apron and discovered all the waste it provides?

I think I would rather just shop at the farmers market.

One Less Straw This October

Do we really need to use straws? What is wrong with just drinking from the glass?

Every day in the U.S. 500,000,000 plastic straws are used and then tossed in the trash, or in some cases, on the beach.

You can assist the OneLessStraw pledge campaign by signing a pledge as an individual, business, or school, to say no to plastic straws for the entire month of October.

one-less-straw-logo

My mom has always been a smoothie drinker and would use plastic straws to drink them. That was until I got her metal reusable smoothie straws for Mother’s Day this year! (You really have to watch out for me and gift giving now, you may just end up with a bamboo toothbrush!)

There are plenty of places where you can find reusable straws. Life Without Plastic is one example, or you can check out OneLessStraw’s resource guide if you really cannot live without a straw.

I saw the below video a number of months ago and it completely changed how I look at straws. It is graphic and disturbing, but maybe we need that for us to understand that these straws just don’t go away when we toss them into the garbage can.

 

 

 

No Lid, No Straw, Please

starbucksThe other day I ended up having to work from Starbucks, which is cool and all, but I do not like coffee.

Since I was spending 2+ hours parked at their table using their wifi, I obviously had to purchase something.

It was a bit of a surprise event to be working at Starbucks, so I did not come prepared with my own beverage container. 😦

 

Although that was a bummer, I did, for the first time ever, remember to ask for my iced tea without a lid and a straw. I felt pretty proud of that! So next time I will hopefully bring my own cup, and if I don’t, I will remember that simple request!