Take a breather for just a moment. You’re not Al Gore. You’re not invested in fracking. You don’t drive a Chevy that runs on corn husks. You’re an ordinary citizen with some concern for the future. But don’t get pressured by the media. There will always be bold-faced headlines warning about the environment and talking heads to rebuke the shift in our ecology. Let’s focus on your personal ecology instead: saving the planet has a lot to do with making your life cleaner and simpler!
1. Recycle stuff. Green and blue bins are such happy containers! They tell you, “Hi there! Put stuff here!” Technologies are getting better and better at breaking down unwanted materials and remaking them into useable items. But that requires your contributions−starting with a recycling bin. Saving glass, plastics, and paper for your neighborhood recycling program isn’t just an eco-friendly activity, it’s a huge source of production. If you doubt your labors, look at this terrific quote from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency:
In 2011, Americans generated about 250 million tons of trash and recycled and composted almost 87 million tons of this material, equivalent to a 34.7 percent recycling rate. On average, we recycled and composted 1.53 pounds of our individual waste generation of 4.40 pounds per person per day.
How ’bout that? We’re doing something good for a change!
2. Concentrate on compost. If you’ve read my blog, then you’ll know I haven’t stopped yapping about compost. The term biodegradable was sexy back in the 1980s. Today, it’s an imperative function of waste management. Many kinds of kitchen waste and yard waste can be stored under certain conditions to break down on their own. It’s fairly easy to make a compost bin and instructions are available online. Stores also offer hand-cranked compost bins. Off my back porch, I use a converted Rubbermaid bin for banana peels, apple cores, onion skins, peanut shells, and turning vegetables. I also have a little compost container under my sink to transfer food waste. Mix this collection with brown waste (leaves, twigs, grass clippings, weeds) on a regular basis and you’ll produce a nutrient-rich dark soil that is perfect for gardening. Just spend a few minutes on Google and learn more!
3. Find a home for yard waste. You can place clippings and leaves in compost, but a lot of yard waste should be properly disposed of to keep from piling up around the house. Many towns and cities have yard waste disposal programs. In the autumn, brown leaf bags also come in handy after a good afternoon of raking and can be left on the curb for pickup. If you have a fireplace or an outdoors fire pit, save your kindling for fuel and cooking marshmallows! Additionally, some lawn mowers have a mulching feature which takes care of dumping your clippings.
4. Reuse, the clever cousin of Recycle. Occasional articles on places like Buzzfeed have neat ideas for turning discarded items into useful ones. Ever since I bought my first home, I ask, “What would MacGuyver do?” Eager to use his wisdom, I employed half of a juice bottle as a kitty litter scoop. I used wooden shims to fill in the gap between my air conditioner and window. (Plastic bags can be bunched into the gaps on the inside) My wife found some wire hangers to collect our extension cords and hang them from a pipe. And a plastic container once used for dry cat food has now become a waste bin in our car.
5. Come up with the fifth. While it’s rather presumptive, I’m pretty sure that you’re the fifth step to saving the planet. Each momentum in waste prevention, natural preservation, and recycling begins with a simple idea. The more people take steps on their own, the further we proceed. It’s just that easy!
The long weekend is sure to tickle the parts in our brain reserved for hot dogs, fireworks and relaxation. But if you spend only a little time to practice some “homegrown conservation”, imagine what you’ll achieve!