Time to roll up the sleeves and dig in to a New Year's resolution. What shall it be? Decluttering? Zero-waste living? Plastic free living? Even we admit that sometimes the notion of decluttering the house sounds more enticing than reducing exposure to harmful chemicals. What if you didn’t have to choose? What if embracing one led to actions that include the other?
When we reduce the number of “things” in our life and dispose of them with care we are making steps towards nontoxic living.
Simplify: Reducing the 'things' in our live increases joy and peace. Less spending. Less clutter. Sounds lovely, right?
Mindfully: Many view nontoxic living as being choosy about what we put in and on our bodies but it's also being mindful about what we send back to the Earth, whether it be through the landfill, water or the air.
Don’t decide between these weighty must-do's on the to-do list. Choose to simplify mindfully. The key to removing unwanted things from your house is to be conscious of how you dispose of items so that you honor the planet.
Give It Away (or Donate It)
Is your closet full of clothes you no longer wear (or ugh, fit into?) Toys your child hasn’t played with in years? Kitchen gadgets and household knickknacks gathering dust? Consider landfills as the last resort. Each year, the United States generates more than 220 million tons of garbage (that’s more than four pounds per person, per day!). Approximately 55% of this waste ends up in landfills. Landfills are the second largest source of human related methane emissions in the United States. Methane is one of those greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming, so it’s important to keep as much of it out of the atmosphere as possible.
Instead of dumping items, find them a new home as someone has a use or a need for your items.:
- Give them to a friend or donate them to your favorite charity store - many offer services to pick up right from your home!
- Tap into one of the many one of the many online tools such as Craigslist, Freecycle or Buy Nothing
- Use your Savvy Chapters as your go to! Host a swap - clothing, toys, books, clothes, or all of the above. Your Savvy Chapter can even create a 'Free Items' thread on their Chapter Hompage
But What About Those Ripped Sheets? Stained Clothing? Old T-Shirts and Single Socks?
The average US citizen throws away 70 pounds of clothing and other textiles annually. It doesn’t have to go to the landfill; even the stained, tattered and ripped can still be recycled.
- Many Goodwill locations will accept damaged textiles (like clothing, sheets and towels) and recycle them. They also take other unwanted items, like those mysterious power cables that seem to multiply in drawers and single shoes. No Goodwill near you?
- Many towns and cities will recycle textiles, whether at curbside or at a drop off location. Find out what your town accepts.
Recycle Those Old Electronics, Ink Cartridges and Batteries: E-Waste Is A BIG Problem
More unwanted possessions to be saved from polluting our precious natural resources. Some major retailers, including Best Buy and Staples will take these items off of your hands. Best Buy has a very comprehensive recycling program that includes; computers, cell phones, small appliances and DVDS, among other things. Best Buy will also take ink and toner cartridges, as will Staples. Home Depot will recycle your batteries, cell phones, and around the holidays often has trade-in events for those strings of holiday lights that no longer work.
Tame the Plastic Bag Animal
Plastic grocery bags taking over a cupboard because you don’t want to throw them away but you collect them faster than you can reuse them? Of course bringing reusable bags to the store is a better solution, but we understand that even when you do, plastic bags can still accumulate around the home. A few facts from Conserving Now:
- The average family accumulates 60 plastic bags in only four trips to the grocery store.
- A person uses a plastic carrier bag on average for only 12 minutes. That comes out to over one million per minute. Billions end up as litter each year.
- Plastic bags are among the 12 items of debris most often found in coastal cleanups, according to the nonprofit Center for Marine Conservation.
What does make its way into the house should be recycled. Bring them back to the grocery store. Most stores have a collection point for recycling unwanted plastic bags.
Dispose of Medications Responsibly
Flushing medications isn't the first line of action. Don’t let expired medications or those you no longer need make their way into our water. Set up a box - safely out of reach of others - to collect medications until you can find the most mindful way to dispose of them. Many towns offer periodic drug take back programs. Call yours to find out when the next one is, or search for a local collection facility.
Think About Food Waste
We all throw out tons of food scraps. In the U.S, the average family of four wastes food that is valued at $1,350 to $2,275 per year. It’s literally like throwing money away. Think about composting. It's not as scary as it sounds - family friendly, and can be done anywhere from small apartments to backyards. The hardest part is just starting. If the savings aren’t convincing, think about our impact. ( As Savvy Member recommends interactive fun book to engage the family when starting to compost. )
Keep It Going: Collect - Fill - Recycle
Now that you’re well on your way to a waste free and clutter free (bonus!) home, here’s a way to make maintaining your efforts easier. Most towns have curbside recycling for things like paper, cardboard, and plastic. But what about those things we can’t kick to the curb each week? Find a small area, maybe in a garage or basement if you have one, and set up containers to collect things like textiles, batteries and small electronics.
When the container gets full or you know you’re going to be near a collection point, empty it and pat yourself on the back for a job well done.
While it is filling, mull over the big question: How can I reduce any of these items in the first place?
Nontoxic and decluttering aren’t opposing lifestyles. They actually work hand in hand. Start small and keep going. Each little change is one step further towards your goal!
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