Earth Day was founded April 22, 1970 to bring awareness to environmental issues. Since then, environmental awareness has exploded. In some ways we have become more connected to the earth and have easily incorporated sustainability ideas into our daily lives. Many people have replaced incandescent light bulbs with LED or Compact Fluorescent ones. In some communities curbside recycling pickup is standard. And more and more packaging is made from recycled or recyclable materials.
But sometimes environmentalism and organization collide.
In other ways, we have become more disconnected from the earth and our choices. Fewer people garden and purchase their foods from local farmers. Disposable is paramount with 100 calorie snack packs, zip lock bags on school supply lists and inexpensive low quality toy rewards at every children’s function. A culture of more and more is filling our homes and landfills.
For some resolving these discrepancies can be frustrating but manageable. For others, these environmental conundrums collide and explode in their homes or lives. How can you resolve the issues?
First of all, start with the source. Reduce. Looking for ways to reduce can be the most profound impact you can make on the environment and your living space. What can you reduce?
- Your purchases – look to purchase high quality recycled and reusable items
- Your mail – Remove yourself from mailing lists and receive bills digitally
- You energy use – with low energy use applications, LED light bulbs, cold water cycle on your washing machine, and adjusted settings on your heating and air conditioning systems.
- Your meat and dairy intake – The industrialized meat and dairy industries are tough on the environmental. Try one meat/dairy free day a week.
- Disposables – When possible, replace paper items with corresponding reusable items such as cloth napkins, rags, grocery totes.
Without reducing the flow and use of our resources the other R’s of the Environment: Reuse and Recycle, become substantially less effective. They are not meaningless though.
Once you have reduced the flow then look to reuse the things that you already have. For instance, reuse peanut butter jars to save soup in the freezer for an easy lunch. Here are a few other ideas:
- Old towels to make rags
- Egg cartons to make fire starters or seed starters
- Large nut tubs for small toy storage
In all honesty this list could go on and on. There are lots of ways to be resourceful with what you already have. For more ideas go to Pinterest.com and search for ‘Reuse’ and the item you have on hand such as ‘toilet paper rolls’.
Reusing has a dark side though. When you hold on to items because you can see another purpose in them to the point where your space becomes cluttered with your projects then you have taken ‘Reuse’ to the extreme. Once this happens, the stuff has become clutter and is not helpful to you or the environment. It is time to let it go. You can toss it, recycle it or donate it. Whatever you way you decide to part with it, is OK. But it is very important to let it go. For more on the costs of clutter, click here.
Recycling is also valiant if you have the option and you were just planning to throw an item away. If you can divert that item from the landfill by recycling then that is wonderful and I would encourage it. But like, Reusing, Recycling can have a dark side. When we hold on to items looking for the perfect way to dispose of them. The way with the least environmental risk then we can end up cluttering our homes and our lives.
For many, curbside recycling is available for paper, plastic, metal and glass. If this is not available in your community, do not hold on to the items in your own home. Come to terms with letting them go to the landfill then start making phone calls. It is through community action and voices that you are able to bring recycling options to your area. Find some friends, ask them to call, too, and get your city, county and state on board with easily accessed recycling.
When we allow perfectionism and responsibility to impede letting go of clutter we are not helping the environment or ourselves. Remember, first reduce the flow, next reuse what you can, finally recycle what remains and if you cannot, then throw it away and get your community on board with your environmental initiatives.