Reduce, Reuse, Recycle ♻️
We’ve heard this mantra for years, but it’s always a good reminder that recycling is one of the largest and easiest arenas where we can make a conscious effort to do our part. Plastic pollution is a widespread issue that stems from small decisions we make each day. Single-use items like plastic bottles, silverware, bags, straws, packaging, and diapers all end up in the same place – one of the 3,091 landfills in the United States.
It’s approximated that off all plastic waste generated between 1950 and 2015, only 12% has been incinerated, 9% has been recycled. Somewhere around 60% of all plastics created are now sitting in landfills. And when one million plastic bottles are purchased by Americans every minute but only 23% of them are recycled, it’s easy to see how the problem can quickly compound unless we make an effort to reduce our single-use plastic consumption.
The easiest way to recycle is with weekly residential recycling pickup. However, some more remote areas may not offer these types of curbside services, and it may require you to visit a recycling center. You can quickly find the closest recycling center that will accept the items you’re looking to recycle.
Questions on how to recycle certain items? Check out these guidelines on common household items.
If you have the option of receiving your receipt via email, commonly called a digital or e-receipt, do it! By having your receipt emailed to you instead of printing it, you’re helping to reduce the waste associated with creating the receipt (trees, oil, and water) and also reduces the amount of paper that ends up in landfills or on the side of the road. And it will help keep your purse or office stack of receipts to a minimum, which is an added bonus!
Plastic, Paper, or Reusable Bags?
While high-density polyethylene (HDPE) plastic bags commonly used at retail stores are the most inexpensive option to create, it depends on what you do with it when you get home that matters the most. Reusing plastic bags does help reduce the carbon footprint, but at a minimal level. Throwing it away after first use is the same as repurposing the bag a second time. How? While many have started reusing plastic bags as lunch sacks, small trash can liners, or a bag for disposing of animal waste, these plastic bags still end up in the same place at the end of the day – the landfill.
Since many recycling services don’t accept plastic bags, it’s harder to recycle plastic bags than the other bagging options. The good news? Many large retailers have started collecting used plastic bags in the store, and you can easily find the closest recycling center to you.
Paper bags are harder to obtain at a grocery store, and often times you have to ask for paper instead of plastic. Because paper bags cost more to create relative to plastic bags, they have to be reused at least four times to offset their impact to the environment as compared to plastic bags, according to a study conducted by the UK Environment Agency. Paper bags have many uses and can easily be recycled or composted, but we have to keep in mind the process of making the paper bags and the tree farming involved.
The last five years have seen an increase in stores offering reusable shopping bags as a “green” alternative to plastic bags. Overall, these bags are made of materials that are more expensive to manufacture than paper or plastic. The same UK Environment Agency study found that in order to make the reusable bag a truly environmentally friendly option, polypropylene plastic totes would require 26 uses and cotton tote bags would require 327 uses. While many have a collection of tote bags to use at the grocery store or elsewhere, how many times do we forget these bags in the car or at home? And what are the chances that your bag will last for 327 uses?
While we can’t tell you what the best option is for you – we want to provide you with some basic information to help you make an informed decision.
Use LED Light Bulbs 💡
Light-emitting diode (LED) light bulbs have become a popular energy-efficient alternative to traditional light bulbs for several reasons.
These LED bulbs use 85% less electricity than incandescent bulbs, which helps to keep your electricity bill down and more money in your pocket. The lifespan of LED bulbs is much longer, meaning you don’t have to keep replacing bulbs after 1,000 hours of use, which is the average burn time for traditional bulbs. Because LED bulbs light in a specific direction the light doesn’t have to be reflected or diffused inside the bulb as it does with incandescent bulbs, these bulbs have a brighter output to light the room. LED lights are also significantly cooler while in use than the traditional bulbs that release about 90% of their energy as heat.
If you’re not convinced yet, this list of things you didn’t know about LED should help.
Ditch the Paper Towels
One simple way to set your kitchen on the path to sustainability (or at least make a small step towards it) is to replace your paper towels with reusable cloth ones. If you’re anything like us, we use both paper towels and paper napkins at home, doubling the impact to the environment and the amount of money spent each trip to the store. In order to save some money and help our planet, we suggest swapping out your paper products for reusable ones.
The most popular alternatives to paper towels and napkins include microfiber, cotton, beeswax, linen — and this collection of fun and functional options should get you started.
Cleaning with a rag just somehow gets the job done better than with a paper towel. When the paper towel crumbles into little bits or rips off on a sharp edge, we toss them to the side and get a new one. But a good cleaning rag can last you years! Newspaper is also a great cleaning material for windows or absorbing smaller spills.
Some of you may be thinking that by using reusable napkins and towels will lead to more laundry and energy usage. But the truth is that if you run a full load of napkins, rags, and towels together, it’s not creating that much more laundry. Especially if you throw them in with bathroom towels that you are already washing. And here’s our shameless plug to help out Mother Earth by using natural cleaning products and laundry detergent.
Plant a Tree on Earth Day, Arbor Day, or Any Day! 🌳
While trees aren’t something that most of us immediately think of when we think of helping to make our world a better place to live, the following facts about trees might change your mind!
- Did you know that in Chicago alone, trees remove more than 18,000 tons of air pollution each year?
- A single tree can provide 24 hours worth of oxygen for up to four people.
- Trees help reduce surface temperatures, which benefit plants, animals, and humans.
- Trees increase property values. The value of having trees along the street is the same as adding 129 square feet of space to a home.
At Readers.com, we celebrate Earth by serving as a free sapling distribution point for our community on Arbor Day. All saplings are native to our home state of Indiana, and anyone can stop by pick the tree of their choice. We encourage you to do the same this spring and add a new tree to our planet!
Tip: Be sure you plant the best kind of tree in the right place in your yard by following these simple steps.
At Readers.com, we applaud those of you who have taken steps, no matter how small, to help our planet. Whether you’re actively recycling, using environmentally-friendly cleaners, reusing plastic bags, composting, or taking more drastic steps, every conscious decision is important. One of our collections of reading glasses, The Environmentalist, houses three styles of reading glasses that feature recycled wood or bamboo temples. So if you’re interested in readers that leave less of a footprint, check them out.