We are in a green revolution. Our advancements in technology along with the obvious truth that the way our world is functioning is destroying our environment have put us in a whirlwind of green, organic and all natural everything. There have been some incredible things that have come from this mental shift, but the reality is, we’re still not getting the point.
I am starting to realize that the message that’s getting across in this green revolution isn’t to care more for our environment, but to purchase green products as opposed to the alternative. The point should not be to buy more! Unfortunately the information that reaches us the easiest and the fastest is created by large companies whose main priority is greater profit. Green products are not going to be what get us out of this polluted hole we’re in. We are smarter, more creative people than that! It is going to take action beyond our credit cards for change to be made.
Stop thinking green and start thinking simple. The message that we should be getting from this period of melting glaciers and rising sea levels, is that we already have too much! We’re already at max capacity with stuff overflowing from our homes and cars into storage units and crowded basements. We shouldn’t be buying more, we should be buying less. Even more so we should be giving away what we don’t need and reusing what we already have. The phrase reduce, reuse, recycle is in this order for a reason.
First, purge your life of all the stuff you don’t need. If you haven’t used it in three months, you don’t need it. Donate your things within in your community to second hand stores, clothing banks, Goodwill or the Salvation Army. There are also dozens of organizations online that will come pick up your donations if you’re unable to drop them off. A quick Google search can empty your cluttered basement.
Secondly, reuse. This is my favorite one. When you start to think, “what can I reuse?” your creative side will run wild. Some of my top reusable masterpieces:
- Create a bookshelf out of old dresser drawers. Stack them on top of each other in any way you like; make it as big or as small as will fit your space. We found our dresser drawers at a local recycled building material store for $5 a drawer. The bookshelf not only adds character to our apartment, but it was drastically cheaper than buying a new one.
- Reuse empty milk jugs, big coffee cans or protein powder tubs as ice blocks for your cooler. Fill them with water, put in the freezer, then place them at the bottom of your cooler for your next camping trip. They will keep things cold for days without making a watery mess and soaking all your food.
- Reuse the inner plastic lining of cracker and cereal boxes for dumping your cat litter. Or if you have a dog use them for picking up poop during your morning walks.
- Rinse out glass food jars (pasta sauce, jam, peanut butter) and reuse for future food storage, to organize your nails, nuts and bolts, to make homemade butter, to organize your bathroom supplies, to hold your loose change, etc. The possibilities with empty jars are endless…
- Reuse empty wine bottles for vases, scented oil diffusers, dry goods storage (beans, pasta, small candy), a water pitcher, etc.
There are an unending number of things you can reuse. Since I love this topic so much, I am going to be starting a section purely devoted to how to reuse in your daily life. It will be fantastic and your home and garden will explode with character.
Finally, after we’ve donated and reused everything we could, we recycle. Depending on where you live, I recommend looking up your city or county’s regulations for recycling. Find out what you can recycle and how you can recycle it. You’ll most likely find out that there are some things they won’t accept, but don’t give up there! Look around to your local grocery stores and ask about what kinds of things they can recycle for you. In Seattle, Whole Foods collects dead batteries, styrofoam, #5 plastics, wine corks and light bulbs. We have a local electronics recycling facility that accepts old laptops, cell phones and desktop computers. The point is, look around your area and see what it is available to you. Do your best to recycle as much as you can and throw away as little as possible. Through these efforts we have reduced our waste down to one bag a month! Trust me, it’s possible.
I’m a realistic person. I understand that we aren’t used to thinking reduce, reuse, recycle at all times. I am not saying you should never buy anything new ever again, I’m simply saying when the time comes, ask yourself if it’s a necessity. Even further, ask yourself if what you’re buying can be reused or recycled once it has done its job. Look for the environmental option in this scenario and take responsibility for how it is used and disposed of.
A weird goal I have in life is to either pass on, or pass away with a lot the same stuff I have right now. The bulk jars in my kitchen will hold the flour and sugar that I’ll use to make cookies for my grandchildren. The dresser drawer bookshelf in my living room will hold books and pictures in every house I live in from now on. The nightstands made from old window shutters and cabinet doors by my bedside may change colors and rooms, but will never be replaced. These are the beginnings of a sustainable, simple lifestyle. It begins with less.