Sunday, August 17, 2008

Have we forgotten the first R?

Reduce, reuse, recycle. I heard this so much growing up. Now it's all about the latter two - and "reduce" seems to be forgotten.

This week, we took our recycling to the curb, and once again the containers threatened to overflow out out of the green box. And each week I briefly wonder whether I should call waste management and beg for an extra container. After all, I'm resorting to traveling elsewhere to drop off my papers. We have too much stuff, even with making about half of our baby's food, those little jars still add up.

The reality is if we just shift our consumption a bit, we might have less to worry about.

Many containers can be bought in bulk, meaning less plastic or cardboard waste overall. Those okastic containers for butter or other things can find a second, temporary life as food storage (before my husband tires of the overflow in the cabinet.)

The key though is reducing what we do bring in. Less prepackaged foods and more produce and home cooking. Cut out the daily newspaper (not sure how we acquired it anywau), and let magazines expire. Buying secondhand kids clothes that are only worn for a few months, anyway. Hiding the paper towels and reaching for cloth kitchen towels and rags.

Eco'burban recently wrote:

...we realized we were recycling too much. Why have a bin full of empty glass
iced tea bottles, plastic milk jugs and aluminum cans when you could make your
own tea or lemonade and have your milk delivered to your doorstep in returnable
glass bottles?

So...are you recycling too much?


Jena said...

I can relate to this for sure! Heaven forbid I forget when it is recycling day (every other week). Our basement is overflowing with stuff by the time the next pickup day comes around. We are trying to cut back. For example, we have been buying applesauce regularly but we would save the jars to use in the kitchen. Now I'm making homemade applesauce so we won't be bringing all those jars in. :)

JessTrev said...

Hear, hear - this is totally why I forced myself to confront my seltzer addiction about a year ago. Sigh. It's cut way down on the recycling madness though... now to start home brewing some beer! ;)

annie said...

I hear you! I've been working on this quite a bit lately- already making our own iced tea, making as much as possible from scratch, but I can't seem to wean DBF off of paper towels! Any suggestions?

Robbie said...

Annie, I hear you about the paper towels. It's so easy to fall back on them!

Here are a few things that have worked for us:

We use cloth napkins at the kitchen table.

We have a stash of rags (old t-shirts, etc.) that are used for quick wipe-ups of spills and cleaning. They go straight to the washing machine.

When doing windows/mirrors, you can use newspaper instead of paper towels. It sounds crazy, but you get far less streaking.

My husband has earmarked a few old kitchen towels for "seasoning" cast iron and the grill before each use. They are a hideous blackened color (stained, but clean) and reduce our dependence on paper towels.

Do we still use them? Sure, but we're going through far less.

Donna said...

I've had a good time browsing through your blog. You've got lots of good ideas! And yes, we recycle too much, too. I'm glad it gets recycled instead of to a landfill, but there's waaay too much going into the recycle bin!

Joyce said...

I think getting rid of junk mail was really helpful to us. We recycle it as office paper or magazines, but by getting off lists and letting magazine subscriptions lapse we are putting a lot less out at the curb.
The other big thing was drink containers. Really, just drink water or iced tea, and forget the the pop, juice and beer, and you would be amazed at what that does for your recycling output! Homemade yogurt, which is easy to make, also cut back on all the little plastic containers. Those three easy things made a big difference.

Robbie said...

Donna, thank you for your comment! I'm glad you enjoy the site.

Joyce, I never thought about making yogurt before. Is it difficult? I can just see the mess with two little ones running around...

Joyce said...

Actually very easy! I don't have a machine or anything; I just preheat my oven and put the mixture in the oven in a covered glass dish, and then turn the oven off. By evening, I have yogurt! Then we just mix in applesauce or mashed fruit to taste in each serving we scoop out-great way to get rid of over-ripe bananas.

Robbie said...

What kind of mixture? Can you post some links?

annie said...

We've made a little progress on the paper towel front. We have been using cloth napkins for quite some time, but couldn't get around the paper towel issue. The rags are out and as much as they gross out DBF, it is what it is. I also used to use them to drain things like bacon, and wondered what I could do instead, so I put a wire cooling rack over a plate and when the bacon needed to be drained I just put it on the rack and let it drip onto the plate. We're currently out of paper towels and I'm going to see how long we can go without caving and buying some.