In today’s environmentally-conscious society, nearly every family and company is striving to do their part to protect the planet. From LEED-certified buildings and green roof projects to all-natural cleaning agents and water conservation programs, the response to ecological concern has been huge across homes and industries.
Today, we take a look at 8 ways you can make an impact through recycling both at home and at work.
1. Recycle Empty Toiletry Bottles and Toilet Roll Cores
One of the most common solutions in practice, it’s a good idea to recycle any appropriate bottles, bags, or containers when they are empty. To take your efforts up a notch, try to rinse as much product residue as you can before recycling. Although the containers will be washed during the recycling process, pre-rinsing could help make the process more efficient by reducing the amount of washing required. Don’t forget your metal shaving cream can! If it’s marked as recyclable, it can go in the bin, too.1
Another simple bathroom-related solution is to recycle the cardboard cores when the toilet paper rolls are empty. This is an oft-forgotten opportunity, as it’s usually convenient to toss the empty core into a bathroom trash can. Go the extra step by walking the cores to your recycling bin. To make things even more convenient, set up a core-specific recycling bin right next to the bathroom garbage.
2. Recycle the Plastic Shrink Wrap and Cardboard Boxes from New Products
Similar to our first point, removing a new product from its packaging can be a somewhat mindless task that can lead to hastily tossing plastic and cardboard packing materials into the trash. Encourage your family (and/or coworkers) to be mindful and set aside these materials for recycling when unpacking. If you run a business, set up a dedicated recycling bin in the receiving area and/or any other location that sees a lot of unpacking.
3. Go Beyond Just-Recycling: Reduce and Reuse!
We’ve all been taught the three Rs of Earth-friendly action (reduce, reuse, recycle), but with recycling at the forefront, the other two are easily forgotten. In addition to using all of the recycling tips listed here, make an effort to reuse items as much as possible, and reduce the amount of disposable material you use.
Switching to reusable canvas grocery bags is one of the most popular ways to reduce one’s use of disposable products. Another method of re-use that’s gained significant ground in the age of Pinterest is the act of “upcycling”—taking a used product and converting it for another use rather than disposing of it.
For example, an old house shutter can be upcycled into a shabby-chic indoor mail sorter with a fresh coat of paint (just place the envelopes into the slats). Or, stick with an old re-use standby: turn junk mail, old homework, and failed printer pages into scrap paper for notes, drawings, and more.
4. Turn Recyclables into Art Materials
Another method of reusing or upcycling materials is to use recyclable materials as part of art projects. Allow your kids to use plastic bottle caps, empty milk jugs, junk mail, cardboard boxes, and more as supplies for experimenting with mixed-media artwork. If you’re an artist yourself, put your junk to work in the form of glass mosaics, woven plastic bag totes, soda can jewelry, and more.
If you aren’t artistic and don’t know anyone personally who might use your recyclables for such crafts, check with local schools and other organizations to see if they might appreciate the materials. You’d be surprised how much treasure an art teacher can find in a box of trash!
5. Consider Recycling Your Water
No, this doesn’t mean you have to bathe in dirty water or stop flushing the toilet (eew). Water recycling can be achieved by allowing rain or shower wastewater to be used for flushing the toilet. If you’re a gardener, consider investing in a couple of rain barrels to capture rain for watering purposes.
If you use only biodegradable soaps and shampoos, collect your used bath or shower water to water your plants—but pay close attention to the products you use and their potential effects on the environment before taking this route. Additionally, be sure to consult with a plumber before making any major changes to your bathroom drain systems.
Though most offices don’t have shower facilities in their building, reuse of rain and other types of wastewater is still possible. Consider discussing with an eco-focused plumbing company whether there are feasible wastewater collection options for your commercial plumbing system.
6. Start a Compost Heap
Nature’s own recycling system lies in breaking down organic material (like food) and turning it back into its constituent nutrients and minerals. Start a simple compost heap in your backyard, or add a compost bin to your kitchen. If you’ve got a green thumb, compost also serves as a great DIY fertilizer!
7. Audit Your Own Waste Stream
No, not that waste stream. With regard to refuse, a “waste stream” is essentially the garbage that is produced by a group or company. Whether you plan to improve your family’s habits at home or kick-start eco-consciousness in the office, start by noting the kinds of materials that get disposed of (in a work environment, see if you can get people to voluntarily log their trash for a few days).
Once you have a good idea of what’s currently going on, try to identify opportunities to eliminate disposable material from your waste stream, re-use certain types of items, or improve overall recycling habits. Not only will you be reducing, reusing, and recycling, but you’ll be able to measure the change with another audit later on. In any environment, it can be especially powerful to see your impact in the data!
8. Know-How to Properly Recycle Your Old Gadgets
Unfortunately, recycling a laptop, game console, or phone isn’t as simple as just dropping it into the bin. For this reason, it can be tempting to just toss non-functioning electronics into the trash and move on. Don’t give in to the convenience! Identify local electronics drop-off points to make sure that your devices are processed properly and that any hazardous materials in their components are handled safely.3
The Numerous Benefits of Recycling
Aside from the sense of personal responsibility and satisfaction that you can achieve from doing what’s right for the planet, recycling has a variety of benefits in both the home and business arenas. From a big-picture perspective, the primary environmental benefits of recycling are that it reduces the overall size and growth rate of landfills, and it helps to conserve natural resources like timber, water, coal, oil, and gas.2
From an industry standpoint, recycling (as well as the other two “R”s) can also be quite profitable. Installing a water-conserving plumbing system, for example, can directly save the company money on monthly water usage. Plus, most governments have policies that offer cash benefits for recycled materials.
When high-profile companies take part in eco-friendly behaviors, it encourages others to do the same. When companies and individuals participate in the process on a larger scale, recycling can help to boost the overall economy, reduce energy usage, and give companies a greener, more responsible public image.
By improving the ways in which their company interacts with the environment, business owners could see an increase in community engagement as a result of their alignment with customers’ eco-friendly values. Ultimately, more engagement means greater success and profit in the long run.