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Earth Week Day 4: Recycling

Maddie and Cora’s adorable antics
will be back next week, but it’s Earth Week all week here at
1M2A! And don’t forget- 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 Monday’s blog for more

So far we’ve talked about ways to reduce the amount of waste
we produce, as well as ways to reuse what we’ve already got.
So if we’re doing this right, your trash pile is already
considerably smaller. But when things finally come to the end of
their useful life, we have to look at how to dispose of them
responsibly. Which means it’s time to talk about our
recycling options!

New York has made recycling mandatory, so
when we left the city I was sure I’d find it harder to
recycle in Texas. I’ve discovered this is not the case
– that while recycling is optional, more items are recycled
here than in New York. So I’ve already seen our trash load
diminish as we can recycle more kinds of plastic and glass. But as
I hit the ground running in our new home, my first recycling
challenge became quickly apparent – all our moving debris.

First, the obvious and easy ones – the boxes. Everybody
recycles boxes
, so there’s no excuse on this one.
Preferable to recycling, though, is to get some more use out of
them, so look around for people who might want all that packing
material you’ve just paid for. We lucked out – not only
was a neighbor moving and so took many of our boxes, but a stranger
from several streets over approached me, asking for more boxes
after seeing our moving van. Even so, we took several car loads of
broken-down boxes to the recycling station, since we had way more
than our recycling can would hold. If you’ve just moved in,
consider posting on target="_blank">Craig’s List or href="http://www.freecycle.org" target="_blank">Freecycle
to get rid of your boxes– you’re sure to have takers.
And if you’re getting ready to move, post a
“wanted” ad in the same places. Ditto for the mountains
of bubble wrap and packing peanuts.

Because recycling packaging is definitely not easy. I’ve been
searching for a long time to have something rewarding to suggest to
you all, and I haven’t really found it. Obviously, you can
recycle the paper you use to wrap dishes, but for the bubble wrap
and packing peanuts, my best suggestion is to call your UPS
; pretty much every shipping store will accept donations
of these items, you just need to call and make sure they’re
not overloaded.

If you really want to recycle your packing material, you’re
out of luck on the bubble wrap (as far as I know) but I’ve
got a couple solutions for you with the Styrofoam. Styrofoam (or
Expanded Polystyrene Foam, as it’s properly known) is largely
air, and takes up a huge amount of landfill space – think of
all the packing foam that goes around your television sets and
stereos. I’ve read about a new product being developed out of
orange oil (of all things) that will “melt” the foam
down to a fraction of the size (and try it – rub an orange on
some and you’ll see it pucker up), but it’s not yet
available. Since EPS is Plastic #6 (you know all those different
numbers on the bottom of your Tupperware?) most people don’t
recycle it, but there are some EPS collection sites across the
specifically for this problem – click href="http://www.epspackaging.org/info.html"
to read more and find one near(ish)
you. If there’s not one near you, consider shipping it to the
collection center – hey, at least the stuff’s
lightweight. For packing peanuts, again, call a shipping store to

And while we’re on the subject of packing materials,
I’ve seen it suggested that you use shredded paper as filler
for boxes. My advice – don’t do it: the shredded paper
is a mess to unpack through, and shredded paper is definitely not
the lightest thing you could pack with. My one exception: save
your used Christmas wrapping paper and shred it to ship your
Christmas gifts next year
. Much cooler looking than packing

The number one rule about recycling: make it easy, or you
won’t do it
. Go to most houses, and you’ll see a
big shiny trash can in the kitchen for trash, and perhaps a
disposable grocery bag hanging on the doorknob for recyclables.
That puny little bag will get half full before people stop putting
things in it, not wanting to be the person who fills it up and has
to take it out. I’ve got three separate trash areas in my
kitchen alone: a large trash can, another can just as large marked
“recyclables only”, and a wire basket in the breakfast
room by Brian’s chair for the newspaper after he’s
finished reading it over waffles. Also plan out the easiest way to
recycle your personal office things: do you sort mail when you walk
in the door? Have a small shredder for junk mail and a small box
for all the catalogs and mailers that escaped your “stop the
junk mail” campaign. If you carry it all in one heap to your
desk, then simply having a separate can for paper trash will be
fine. The point is, whatever works easiest is what is best.

Think outside the recycling box. Did you know that many
cities recycle plastic pill bottles? Or plastic under-bed boxes?
Turn everything over – if there’s a number, check it
against what your city recycles and get it in the pile! Appliances,
box springs, batteries – these all take up space or cause
harmful chemicals to leak into the land, and most cities have steps
in place to deal with them, recycling what parts they can and
safely disposing of what they can’t. Or how about those jewel
boxes from all your cds and dvds? Try calling your local library; I
asked my librarian today and she said they accept those
periodically as donations to replace ones that have been cracked
and broken. In addition, I found one company that actually recycles
them – but you have to pay the shipping to get them there:

Plastic Recycling Incorporated

2015 South Pennsylvania

Indianapolis, IN 46225.


For all other odd or quirky things that you’d like
desperately to recycle, give href="http://www.recyclethis.co.uk/" target="_blank">this
a try – I actually wasted quite a bit of fun
time meandering through their entries and suggestions.

Try buying things made from recycled materials as well: you
can find href="http://www.kingarthurflour.com/shop/detail.jsp?id=8874REG"
target="_blank">recycled aluminum foil
quite easily (and
recycle it again, naturally!) And a really great online shop is
it’s all handmade items by a variety of vendors. You can
search by keywords and easily find everything made from recycled
parts (they’ve got very cool earrings from bottle glass, or
necklaces from old skateboards). As if you need an excuse to shop .
. .

And finally on the recycling front, try to be responsible in how
you dispose of trash
. Home improvement stores sell large brown
paper bags for lawn clippings that decompose in the compost heap;
much better than filling a big ditch with sweaty plastic bags full
of cut grass. And for that matter, you can buy href="http://www.greenfeet.com/search.asp?from=&FrmSearchWords=&SearchWord=biobag"
target="_blank">biodegradable plastic bags
made from
cornstarch that will break down completely in a landfill. Or you
can buy plastic bags made from recycled plastic (Seventh Generation
makes one) that cuts down on the production-end waste.

So there you’ve got it – recycling in a (reusable) nut
shell. Tomorrow, we’ll cover tips on how to Raise the next
generation to be responsible stewards, as well as raising them in a
healthier, greener home environment.


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