Bringing a reusable rather than a disposable
What It Takes: Easy/Medium – Planning Ahead
If you already own the reusable, then bring it along. If you don’t own a reusable version, then you need to consider the number of times you will use the item. Then decide if a reusable makes more sense than using a disposable. In some cases, the disposable may be the most environmentally friendly option from a climate change perspective even if it is less environmentally friendly from a landfill perspective.
When you buy a cup of coffee or a drink, bring your own mug or cup. Some coffee shops offer a 10 cent discount if you bring your own.
When you go out to eat, bring your own container to carry home your leftovers. If you bring a container you can use to reheat the food and/or eat from then it is no more dishwashing or energy usage than if you brought food home in a disposable and transferred it to another dish for reheating and/or eating.
When you go to the store, bring your own bags. If you don’t already own reusable bags, then just reuse the ones you got at the grocery store last time. Production of the plastic bag produces fewer greenhouse gases, uses less water and chemicals compared to paper or cotton.1 Aldi’s has durable reusable plastic bags with handles for 10 cents each.
What You Get: Less trash to dispose of and possible discount for bringing your own.
World Benefit: Reduces greenhouse gas emissions from the production of disposables and reduces trash.
Reduce Unwanted Catalog Junk Mail
What It Takes: Easy – Time to enter catalogs you don’t want.
Make a pile of unwanted catalogs instead of recycling them right away.
When you have enough, use catalogchoice.org to stop catalogs you don’t want from coming to your house. It is pretty straightforward. Just create an account, create profiles for each name, and then enter the information about the catalogs you want to stop. Then recycle the catalogs. Since marketing lists are prepared well in advance it may be 2-3 months before the catalogs actually stop coming.
Repeat this process periodically as new catalogs you don’t want arrive.
What You Get: Fewer catalogs and paper to recycle.
World Benefit: Saves trees, reduces chemical use and emissions from production, delivery, and recycling of unwanted catalogs, and reduces landfill usage.
Buy and Sell or Donate Used Items
What It Takes: Easy/Med – Time and effort to buy, sell, give and take used goods
- Shop at rummage sales, yard sales, etc. The UUCNH rummage sale is just around the corner. You will get great items at great prices and support UUCNH at the same time. Be sure to tell all your friends. It is the perfect opportunity to try this green living idea.
- Shop at consignment and resale shops or online for used goods. Some of the shops are also non-profits that give back to the community, like Wear Woof, and Treasure House Fashions making shopping there even more beneficial.
- When you have an unwanted and usable item, pass it along. Sell it, give it to a friend or donate it to a good cause. Sell things at a consignment shop, yard sale or online. Want to donate it? Get it ready for the UUCNH rummage sale in May. Practice green living and unclutter your home at the same time.
- Here are just a few places to use. Give and Receive on Freecycle For Building Material Reuse – Construction Junction.
- Not the typical item you want to donate? Try Pitt Center for Creative Reuse, Bicycle in need of repair, Pet (fish tank, carriers, etc.), Musical Instruments, Piano
What You Get: You will save money, support good causes, and/or make money.
World Benefit: Reduced Emissions, chemicals, and consumption of resources from producing and transporting a newly made item instead of reusing one.
Be Straw Free
What It Takes: Easy – Habit Change
Milo Cress, who was 9 when he started this project in February 2011, is the primary spokesperson (and primary Instigator, his mother likes to say) of the Be Straw Free project. Over 500 million straws are handed out each day with beverages in the US. That is enough to fill over 127 school busses per day or 46,400 per year.
- Ask for your beverage without a straw when eating out or on the go.
- If you like straws, buy a reusable one. Take it along to the restaurants with your own reusable container for leftovers.
- Invite restaurants to ask before giving out straws with every drink. Most people are happy to drink straight from a glass. Restaurants are more likely to change procedure, if they are asked by customers. Thank those restaurants that already ask. Milo’s how to ask
What You Get: Reduces waste. Reduces cost, if you use it regularly at home.
World Benefit: Reduces greenhouse gas from production and transportation of straws. Reduces landfill usage.
What It Takes: Time and effort to buy recyclable items and recycle them
- Buy items that contain recycled content and/or can be recycled after use.
- Learn and follow the requirements of trash and recycling in your township, borough, etc. Unfortunately, every municipality is different. To help make this easier, we will be adding links to the requirements for many townships to the UUCNH Website Green Sanctuary page.
- Properly recycle Household Hazardous Waste (HHW). When possible buy less toxic products that do not require special handling. Check here to see if your township picks up HHW. If not, look for special collection events.
- Properly recycle electronic products. Electronic products are made from valuable resources which require energy to mine and manufacture. Recycling them conserves resources, avoids air and water pollution, as well as greenhouse gas emissions that are caused by the manufacturing of virgin materials. Recycling one million laptops saves the energy equivalent to the electricity used by more than 3,500 US homes in a year. Recycling one million cell phones recovers 35,000 lbs. of copper, 772 lbs. of silver, 75 lbs. of gold, and 33 lbs. of palladium. Check here to see if your township picks up electronics. If not, look for special collection events
What You Get: A cleaner environment to live in
World Benefit: Reduced landfill usage. Less contamination of soil and water. Less consumption of raw materials. Less greenhouse gas emissions. And, it creates recycling jobs
Two billion pallets are used to transport products every day in this country. These are often discarded, are available free or at low cost, and can be used for any number of creative projects. Safety comes first, of course; if you’re handy and would like to rescue or reclaim some pallets, don’t try to use any that have visible stains, which may come from toxic spills. Once you’ve found a clean pallet, look for an IPPC stamp (International Plant Protection Convention); avoid any that carry the abbreviation MB (Methyl Bromide, a powerful pesticide), even for firewood. Instead, look for the notation DB (“Debarked”), HT (“heat-treated”), and KD, (“kiln-dried” for a pallet that’s likely to be safer. Avoid pallets carrying unfamiliar stamps unless you can find reliable information online about the stamp.
Once you have the pallets you need, your options are practically unlimited. Multiple online sites provide instructions and illustrations for projects. To name only a few attractive ones: laptop riser, coffee table or nightstand, lamp base, gate or fencing, bat box, bike rack, compost bin, outdoor chair or plant stand, and coat rack. For a polished look, pallet creations can be painted, keeping in mind the extra sanding and primer that may be needed to get smooth, even covering on porous surfaces.
By: Jen Fontaine