The ecological conversation is changing from “Save the Planet” to “Sustainability and Continued Abundance”. The modern “tree huggers” are business owners, scientific problem solvers and humans from all walks of life, from all parts of the world, with an interest and appreciation of our finite resources. Here are some ideas to help you baseline your habits, next steps to take and some great product ideas.
First things first: Survey your waste
1. Look in your Trash Can
What types of things are going into your trash? Could you keep it from becoming trash in the first place? Recycle it? Compost it? Donate it? Post under FreeCycle on Craigslist? Put it on the street with a sign that says FREE STUFF? Stuff disappears from my curb like magic. It takes little effort and it is worth it for those that can find a use for your unwanted things.
2. Look in your Recycle Bin
Good for you! You have a recycle bin and you use it! Recyclables turn into revenue for your local area and reduce pressure on landfills. But there is a decreasing need for recyclables. So, what are the types of things that always end up in there? Did you have to accept that vessel, plastic or paper bag, or receipt? Can you reuse that box and packing material? Refuse, Reduce and Reuse before and in addition to Recycling.
Next: Handle Trash
Our plentiful food is a luxury, not the enemy of our weight loss efforts. Consider changing your food conversation to treat it with gratitude. That way you will enjoy and take care of what you purchase. Most food is equally delicious after freezing, even after cooking. Divide food into usable portions, put in airtight containers or plastic bags and mark the date you froze it.
4. Really icky stuff
EEWW! Some stuff you just have to throw away. Try to keep it to a minimum by at least composting and being mindful. Don't tell anybody, but we put food scraps out at the edge of our yard for our "pet" raccoons and foxes. Saves them digging it out of the trash, but make sure you are not attracting unwanted critters. DO make sure you put old prescriptions and medicines in the trash mixed with used cat litter, dirt or coffee grounds, NOT down the toilet. That keeps them from getting so quickly into waterways and water supplies. Or check your local area for safe disposal at drug stores or police stations. There is also a National Prescription Drug Take Back Day every April. To find a location accepting them, go to takebackday.dea.gov. (Did you hear recently that alligators in the south have become addicted by opioids getting into waterways? If you flush something down, it is filtered and then could be dispensed into whatever water source is closest.)
5. Cans, Paper and Glass
Many areas recycle all kinds of paper, cans and glass and plastic containers (See the Trashy Business tab about plastic.) Some do not require you to rinse them first. Just empty any remnants in the trash and recycle the container. In my area, glass is only recycled for the purpose of crushing it for use as a daily top layer to reduce the smell at the landfill. I know, it would be nice if glass could be reused for more glass products. In some places it is not. But do the best you can with other items. Take metal to the landfill for sorting. Clean plastic bags can go back to the grocery store drop off. Electronics, to Best Buy. Batteries, to MOMs Markets. For other things, call your County or City and find the office that handles Recycling. It is different everywhere, but you only need to follow what happens in your area. They love to help!
6. STOP the Paper!!
Is your recycle bin full of paper bills, paper bags, documents from your printer, information you pick up from others? That paper comes from trees – the lungs of our planet and habitat for our critters.
Learn to say “I don’t need that”.
STOP getting paper bills. Sign up for eBilling. (See more detail below)
STOP allowing cashiers to put your wine bottles in paper bags and wrap purchased household items in paper. They are just fine in your own reusable bag or simply placed in your car as is.
STOP printing out unneeded copies. Save them electronically and file them logically.
STOP accepting brochures and printed information from others, just because they want to hand them to you. Say, No thank you, and take a picture with your smart phone if you want the information.
STOP buying cutsie little note pads. If you have junk paper that is blank on one side, cut it into pieces for your grocery lists, reminders and to-do lists.
Use eBilling and stop at least some of the paper in your mailbox.
My elderly mother was getting 10 pages of paper every time she went to the doctor as an Explanation of Benefits from Medicare and her insurance company. Four of those pages were in every language imaginable. I took a little time to have those statements sent to my email account (because her tablet did not have the correct software) and set up a folder to keep them electronically. They will probably never be needed but they are there if an issue comes up. Make sure the bills are always paid on time (you can have only the bills themselves delivered through the mail if needed) and make sure any reimbursement checks are cashed in a timely manner.
If you have a good credit score, your mailbox may be stuffed with credit card offers. If you have debt, everyone has a deal for you. Your credit information is shared without your consent so they can send you pre-screened offers. But you can stop those mailings by going to www.optoutprescreen.com. You can also call TransUnion at 1-888-567-8688 to opt out.
I have tried to eliminate all paper bills by going to the “Go paperless” web address from billing agencies. If you have them paid with a credit card, that will earn reward points for airline miles, hotel stays, free gift cards, or other benefits that your credit card company offers. I can’t get my power company to take a credit card, but they will automatically deduct the bill from my checking account. If your bills fluctuate, make sure the checking account has a line of credit for times when there may be insufficient funds . You can always pay this off immediately to avoid interest.
7. Eliminate Restaurant Boxes for Leftovers
Did you bring home a doggie bag? Good. You paid for the meal, so eat it later. But the average American brings home 26 tall trash bags/year of single-use disposables from restaurant food. Do you take reusable bags to the grocery? Along the same thought, take a reusable container in a reusable bag to your favorite restaurant. If you want some made specifically for this purpose, I happen to have them! They are called TakeMeOuts. They also have a gift card pouch so you can gift a combo. Reusable bag with container, plus a restaurant gift card. Shopping for special occasions - Done!
Say “No thank you” to “a box” and be sure to use your TakeMeOut every time you go out to eat. You can add your own favorite containers to the one provided. Keep one in every car so it will always be handy. Forget to take it in with you? You can retrieve it from the car while you wait for your meal to be served. And say, “No thanks” to plastic straws. You can buy a stainless one if needed and keep it in your TakeMeOut. 3-pack Starter kits are now available back on the Home page. (Straws are available in many stores)
8. Green Drinks
No, it is not a smoothie made with kale. Feel like you want to do more and think you are the only one? You will be amazed at the amount of actual progress and new products out there. Check out this web site to see if there is a “Green Drinks” in your area. They are international, but locally held happy hours where you can connect with like-minded folks. They are everywhere! Go to www.greendrinks.org to find one near you. They are very fun and you will make new friends.
9. Use Non-toxic Household Cleaning, Bath and Beauty Products
When my husband was diagnosed with liver cancer, I switched every cleaning, bath and beauty product I used to non-toxic, environmentally safe ones. This keeps dangerous toxins away from us, and out of the drain (which also keeps them out of our waterways).
I shop from the only online wholesale wellness shopping club. They are distributed and manufactured in the USA. They are free of quaternary disinfectants, ammonia, chlorine bleach, formaldehyde, phthalates and parabens. This company reveals an independent study that found using standard, national brand cleaning products, even once a week, is as bad as smoking a pack of cigarettes every day for 20 years. If not this brand, then at least use something natural or non-toxic. For more info on my favorite products, go to www.melaleuca.com/claireallard
10. Love Your Trees, Plant Native Trees and Leave Natural Areas
Encourage your local government and neighborhoods to preserve and protect local forests and big granddaddy trees. We will never regrow these large trees to their current stature in our lifetime.
If you are lucky enough to own large trees, take care of them, don't fear them. Tree fear is rampant lately. They are not all going to fall on your house! Consult a local arborist if you have questions about the health of a tree. Trees can survive by feeding near their outer perimeter, even if it may be suspected that there is some hollowness. Professionals can treat huge trees with fertilizers, and apply nutrients to boost their immunity to disease. And for goodness sake, do not expect a tree removal company to give you any advice other than to remove a tree. People go to college to understand trees.
Trees cool the house (even small ones can make an impact quickly), clean the air of pollutant gases and provide habitat for little critters. For native trees, visit
www.arborday.org for free saplings specifically for your area.
And while you are at it, even a small yard can save a space for a natural area. Chemically treated lawns are going out of fashion and making way for some random messiness. Leave a large fallen branch at the edge of a wild garden to grow lichens and moss. Let leaves remain in places to rot. Allow native seeds to sprout at will to provide pollen for bees, food for butterflies, habitat for much needed bugs. Eliminate your outside pesticide sprays and use only targeted inside treatments by a professional. Maybe you will see more pollinators and fireflies this summer!
11. Still sitting in rush hour traffic?
Being in the bumper-to-bumper not only wastes your time, but it also wastes your money on gas and tolls, tests your patience and spews pollution into the air. Things may change after the nationwide shutdown, or not. The common excuse to have everyone drive to work everyday, just to sit at the phone and computer all day is the claim that the work is sensitive or classified. Every single worker on the road works on sensitive and/or classified material all day, everyday? I am not buying it! The productivity shown during COVID-19 may be the proof in the pudding. Negotiate with your management to work at least one or two days from home.
12. Please don’t only think that “they” should do something!
It is not solely a government function to manage waste. You are hereby granted permission to be fully responsible for your own waste. Consider all the single use disposables you bring home every week and try to reduce them. All you can do is your best. But do your best! And hooray for you!
Lastly, don’t be disappointed if you do not see your pet peeve and solution here. If you have a great idea, please, please, pleeeeeease share it! Join our Facebook page and tell the world! Facebook.com/TakeMeOuts
Thank you for your caring,
Claire and mvhw Corp
Products and Practices for a Prettier Planet!
email@example.com (808) 382-0255