Friday, January 3, 2014

2014 and Lookin' Green(er)

New Year resolutions often leave us reflecting and making new goals (ie: lose 15 pounds, save more, spend less). Real execution of our resolutions often takes self discipline and dedication and some resolutions are a lot easier to keep then others.All of your personal goals (for family & future) will mean nothing without a healthy, thriving planet (we only have one). Now is the time to make a few (start small) commitments to living a greener, healthier lifestyle. I have a few suggestions of where to start or maybe a few areas to branch into if you have already started (yay you).

1. Say so long to the disposable lifestyle. If you use it once and throw it away.. try eliminating it from your day to day routine. Items like paper towels, plastic snack and sandwich bags,plastic shopping bags, toilet paper (a joke,unfortunately at this time I have no suggestions for eliminating TP). If you are certain that you will recycle the items and you know that where you take recyclables is a reputable facility where it will truly be made into a new item(s) then I don't think eliminating them is necessary. If items you are using (especially just once) cannot or are not being recycled why not look for an alternative. Again, start small; in our house paper towels are a problem area, and I haven't found a "real" working solution so I have tackled the easier ones for our family and eliminated those first.

2. Teach the green lifestyle. I have gotten a reputation for being a bit "crunchy", I'm okay with that and you should be too. I want to be able to tell my children that I was part of the solution for healing our planet (not the problem). Teach your children what recycling is and why it's important. Allow them to participate in the process by throwing items in the correct bins, gathering them for transport, etc. Most importantly share why you've chosen to recycle, reduce, and reuse. They don't have to be that annoying kid that stands on the soapbox and preaches BUT they should have knowledge about the choices that their family makes and be able to answer why if/when they're asked. When sharing your home with guests label your recycling to encourage them to participate as well as eliminating the need for you to pick through your garbage salvaging recyclables after your guest have left.

3. Be informed/ask questions. So if your family (or staff) has really put an effort into getting all recyclable items from your home(or business)into the recycling bin it would certainly be frustrating to find out that they aren't really being recycled. Be sure that you are informed about what your local collection center takes (I've written about this before but at times even fully recyclable items taken to a facility that can't handle them will be discarded in a landfill). Ask questions about how they handle the items, where they end up, what their residual is (this means the amount of recyclable material that is brought into the facility that ends up in the landfill). All recycling facilities will have a residual rate because some items are contaminated at the time they are thrown into the bin and other items will become contaminated during transport. Residual rates will vary greatly by facility based on how they receive the material (dual or single stream), the material sources (some residents/facilities do significantly better at placing the correct items in their bins), the sorting technology they utilize, the goals of the facility (are they a quick sort just trying to remove what ever recyclables possible or are they focused on recycling and attempting to only remove contamination?), as well as weather (rainy wet conditions especially with single stream material will negatively affect the residual rate). Facilities that have the right outlook will be eager to share their results/impact.

4. Provide quality raw material. Just having a recycling bin and getting items in it may be a great first step for your family (and a great journey starts with the first step) BUT be sure that the items that you are throwing in will be a good raw material. The entire goal of recycling is to create something new from the old items. If the material placed in the bin are contaminated with food / liquid residue or garbage their is a great chance that it will either contaminate other recyclables or will at a minimum be thrown out itself.

5. Buy recycled or environmentally friendly options. There are so many options available for items that are made from a recycled content. Do a little research when you are in the market for an item and see if there is an option that is made from recycled items. Post consumer recycled items means that it was made from items that had been collected from the consumer. Post industrial recycled items means that it was generally made from scraps inside the manufacturing facility. The process of reusing post consumer material is much more in depth then post industrial reuse; but both are much preferred to a manufacturing facility using virgin material.

6. Upcycle (Reduce/Reuse).  Sometimes we just need a change of scene, the same old decorations are feeling old and we want to freshen our look up a bit. The amount of ways that you can upcycle items are absolutely amazing;  simple items can be turned in to great new decorating pieces in your home. It's a double win because not only do you not need to buy anything new (score for spend less save more resolutions) you also are saving raw materials. I'd suggest doing web searches on a site like pinterest (Can we suggest ours : Upcycling doesn't stop with home decor, there are so many options in a variety of "departments".

7. Admire the natural beauty around us and encourage others to keep it that way (especially our little ones). We started a #thisisworthsaving pinterest board which highlights the beauty in nature. Because we are surrounded by it daily and often absorbed in our own "stuff" we tend to overlook what is right in front of us. An important part of preserving our planet is recognizing the beauty around us and the need to keep it that way. It's so important that our children in particular are made to stop and take it all in, to notice the beauty that has been provided to all of us.

Again, I am not suggesting that you try all seven right off the bat but if you are the overachiever type go right ahead. The key is to try one and when you've got that one perfected move on to another. We are all at different paces and it's taken a while for us to become the way we are, it's going to take even longer for us to relearn. Again, begin with the ones that are easiest for your family and get those checked off first. Thanks for making 2014 lookin' (even more) green. **Remember I'm always looking for reader suggestions, tell us what changes you've made and share ideas that could be helpful to others**

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