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Earth Week Day 3: Reuse

Maddie and Cora’s adorable antics
will be back next week, but it’s Earth Week all week here at
1M2A! And as a reminder, send me an email
(Jennifer@1mother2another.com) if you’re interested in
entering to win a free copy of the new Healthy Child, Healthy
World: Creating A Cleaner, Greener, Safer Home. And to win a cool
t-shirt from Mamaisms, send or post your best tip for living a more
eco-friendly lifestyle (see yesterday’s blog for more

Today we’re talking about how we can reuse what we’ve
already got, rather than buying new and throwing the old into the
landfill. Obviously we’d like to reduce the amount of junk
that’s out there (see yesterday’s blog), burning less
resources to create less consumables. But once you’ve got
something, here are some ideas for ways to make your things stretch
a bit further – and help stretch our resources at the same
time. And no, this isn’t an article about making picture
frames out of cd cases. Sorry – that’s just not me.

Let’s just jump right in there with
the one thing we all know we should be doing – bring your
own bags to the grocery store
. Those flimsy plastic bags are
technically recyclable in most places, but the city won’t
allow you to put them in because they clog up the automatic
recycling machine. So we clog up our landfills instead! Listen, I
sometimes forget to bring bags as well, which is why I try to leave
them in my car trunk all the time so I’ll have them when I
need them. Put all those giveaway totes you’ve gotten from
the bank and the gym and so on to good use. Need a cash incentive?
Many places will give you five cents a bag off your bill. And for
those New Yorkers who don’t have a car trunk and can’t
just carry around a stash of bags for stopping at the bodega on the
way home, I feel your pain. Check out these href="http://www.lowimpactliving.com/products/Housewares/Shopping-Bags/439"
target="_blank">Olive Smart Bags
– the set of six
bags is small enough to fit in a cupholder, which means you can
stick it in your backpack, stroller, whatever, to have on hand.
Machine washable, too.

How important is it to stop using those plastic bags? Ikea charges
you five cents a bag if you DON’T bring your own. Whole Foods
just stopped using them. Wal-Mart’s not far behind. And how
is this for shaming us onto the bandwagon – CHINA just banned
the use of disposable plastic bags. For the WHOLE COUNTRY.
That’s right, China; not exactly known for their
environmental initiatives. So let’s get going!

While we’re talking about disposable bags, let’s
rethink how you tote around snacks. I know, those disposable
Ziplocs are handy. Believe me, I know. They take up so little
space! They’re so cheap! Listen, I still use mine – I
just use them over and over and over, until they’re holey and
sad looking. Ziplocs seem indispensable when you’ve got kids,
just try to be more judicious and use them less. When you can, go
for Tupperware – there are so many small ones out there to
choose from, including a huge range from the href="http://www.containerstore.com/browse/index.jhtml?CATID=74063&howMany=999&viewAll=true"
target="_blank">Container Store
. You can find href="http://www.containerstore.com/browse/Product.jhtml?CATID=74066&PRODID=69704"
target="_blank">sandwich-shaped Tupperware
, to save space
in your lunch sack, keep your sandwich from getting smushed, and
avoid another Ziploc all at the same time.

And speaking of lunches, go one step further in the reusable lunch
items category with the target="_blank">Wrap N’Mat: wrap it up and it
protects your sandwich like a baggie; unwrap it and it becomes a
placemat to eat on! Washable and durable, and a great alternative
to those baggies.

And I know I mentioned this yesterday under “reduce”,
but try to (gasp!) wean off the juice boxes a bit. Buy some
reusable bottles or straw cups, fill them as full as you want (no
one said you have to fill it all the way up to the 10 ounce mark if
your child is used to a 6 ounce juice box) and bring them home when
you’re done. Less waste, less cash spent on those tiny boxes
– now you can buy the gallon-sized at Costco! I know
they’re great in “emergencies”, but keep the
single-serves on hand just for that - emergencies.

Here’s something my husband discovered a few years ago:
newspaper makes the best window-cleaning towel ever. For
whatever reason, newspaper works way better than paper towels,
leaving less streaks and lint on the window. So now you’ve
got a way to reuse all those circulars left on your door or lawn
every weekend. And don’t worry – you can still recycle
the newsprint after you use the window cleaner on it. I checked,
and it gets processed out much like the glue does on magazine

One of the biggest “little” expenses of any family
household can be batteries, and they’re a pain to try to
recycle. So invest twenty bucks in a battery charger, and use
reusable batteries
. We found both our chargers at Costco -
we’ve got two chargers, so we can charge triple and double
A’s and have them on hand. Plug them into a power strip to
save on that “idle” power drain, of course! And make a
note which toys the rechargeables go into, so you don’t
accidentally give your rechargeables away when you pass a toy on to
someone else.

Because that’s one of the best ways for you to
“reuse” things and keep them from the trash dump
pass your things on. href="http://www.craigslist.com" target="_blank">Craig’s
is awesome: a free online classifieds for cities all
across the country, you can search a category (like
“children’s” or “sporting goods”) or
an item (like “wagon”!) Be patient for a couple weeks,
if necessary, and you’ll find exactly what you’re
looking for, and for a really cheap price. It’s the best
place to get a little cash for your old things – no item is
too weird to post on, and chances are someone will buy it. This is
a no-hassle way to pass your baby clothes and toys on to another
person who will put them to good use. I’ve got a list of
household items we’re looking for – Pilates equipment,
another play piece for our back yard, that sort of thing –
and I check Craig’s List every day. Think of it as a cheap
eBay, without the shipping charges.

If you’ve no interest in trying to get cash for your
funked-out couch but can’t bear to put it in the dump, try
target="_blank">Freecycle. You’ll find a freecycle
group in your area and be on your way! Everything posted is FREE,
and you have to do the same – you can’t charge for what
you post. But it’s a great way to keep useful things from
getting tossed.

The coolest way I’ve found to reuse books (because I
can’t even think about throwing them away, and Goodwill is
fine but I want my books to find a home that really wants them!) is
Gather a stack of books you’re willing to part with, enter
them into the website, and you’ll have a stack of
“credits” to your name. Then when you find a book you
want, simply let the member know and you’ll get the book in
the mail in a few days. When someone wants your book, you’ll
drop it in the mail and be done. Yes, you have to pay postage, but
1) the Post Office offers book rate which is cheaper; and 2) you
can actually mail the book “naked”, with a large
postage label taped over the pages to keep it from opening. 2Swap
tells you how.

Otherwise, take your books and cds to your favorite used
for a little cash. Sure, you can recycle them, but
let someone else read them instead!! Please!!

So there you go – some suggestions to get you started reusing
your household goods, and refraining from tossing them in the
trashcan just yet. If you’ve got other suggestions, please
post below or drop me an email. And tomorrow, we’ll talk
about Recycling, as well as Raising up the next generation of
environmental stewards!


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