I was doing some thinking this week about trash. What grade would I give myself regarding how I discard material that might go into a landfill? What grade would you give yourself? Are you one of those people who carefully look at everything discardable and decide if it is safely reusable, compostable, recyclable, recyclable after cleaning, or just ready for the dump? Maybe you’re someone who recycles easily recyclable things, but doesn’t really go the extra step to think about all trash and sort it accordingly.
Does peer pressure affect your throwing-away habits? Would you be more likely to sort your waste if the people around you were doing so?
Do you do a thorough job of sorting your own waste but give others a break? Will you pull out aluminum cans from the garbage can to put them in the recycling container?
I think that the micro-culture in which people live greatly affects their throwing-away habits. I would venture to guess that many people would skip recycling or at least not go out of their way to recycle if the people around them were not doing the same. I think that people come up to a threshold to which they will recycle / compost / reuse in their own homes but those same people might do a better job of it amongst company that was also doing a better job of it.
Overall, I probably give myself a solid B+. I’m not perfect. If there’s a half-can of something gross in the back of my fridge, I might just send it to the landfill rather than cleaning out whatever is growing in it and recycling it. But I do try to think about each thing I’m throwing away. I sort my trash and even have the cans marked at home so my family and guests will follow my lead. I pick violations out of the trash in my home and at work and put them into the recycling bin. I try to courteously encourage others to follow my lead. I compost well at work but not nearly well enough at home. I always look at aluminum foil and try to remember if it’s recyclable or not. (It’s not.) I also try to use reusable containers whenever I can. See? Pretty good, but I certainly have room for improvement.
Would you please think about which grade you would give your own throwing-away habits? You can even pick the scale. Are you doing as good a job as you would like to do? If you make some easy changes in habit or routine, can you influence others around you to follow your lead? Maybe you can even sway your own micro-culture to be better sorters and re-users.
Here are some simple things that you might want to do to improve your grade:
- Put the recycling bin right next to your trash can – no extra effort is needed to recycle vs. throw away.
- Sort your mail right at the recycling bin. You may want to shred mail that contains personal information, but there may be envelopes or inserts in mail that can be recycled.
- Mark your recycling bin right on the top so everyone knows what can go in there (hint: do an internet search of images of a recycling sign and you might find just what you need that you can print out and use).
- Ask to be taken off of catalog mailing lists that you aren’t really going to use.
- Commit to recycling at least those things that are easy to recycle like aluminum cans and plastic bottles when you are away from home. Sometimes that will mean going out of your way to find the recycling or even bringing them home to recycle.
- Bring your own refillable water bottles to Cleveland Metroparks Nature Centers that have water bottle refilling stations. Our local water just happens to be some of the best in the world!
- Your coffee grounds may not even need composted in a special way. Just toss into your garden soil and let Mother Nature do the composting work.
- Bring your lunch to work or school in re-usable containers instead of zip-top bags or disposable containers.
Thank you for thinking about trash with me for a little while. I think we can all work together to keep up the good work and then try to each do a little bit better to make this world a better place.