When I started my communications internship at the West Michigan Environmental Action Council in January, I wanted to learn how I could live in a more sustainable way. I don’t live in an area where recycling is free or even accessible without taking the time to find a private company that offers it. I rarely even see a recycling bin in my neighborhood. And so I began to wonder, how could some of that trash be used in another way?
To someone who hasn’t learned as much about recycling as I have from WMEAC, disposing of a yogurt container is nothing more than throwing it away when it should really consist of rinsing, separating, and recycling. In 2012, each American generated an average of almost 5 pounds of trash each day, and recycled less than 2 pounds of that. This means that a family of four would generate 7,300 pounds of refuse over the course of one year.
So how can this be changed? Here are a few ways that I believe can help reduce carbon footprints in neighborhoods across West Michigan. It’s easy to turn the phrase ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ into a personalized mantra for yourself.
Gather your friends and neighbors once a month to make recycling trips. Set aside anything from newspapers to aluminum cans in your garage or kitchen. The list of items that can be recycled is extensive but easy to follow. It is available on the City of Grand Rapids’ website here. You can locate the recycling center closest to you here.
Websites such as Pinterest offer hundreds of ways to reuse general household items. For instance, plastic bottles offer dozens of creative opportunities that are great not only for the environment to reuse, but can be a lot of fun for kids to explore their crafty side. Check out WMEAC’s Pinterest here to get the creative juices flowing.
Composting is a great way to reduce food waste and improve your gardens soil quality. Don’t have a garden? Use the compost to fertilize your yard instead of buying harsh pesticides and chemical fertilizers. It is very easy to start a compost pile and spring is the best time of year for it! Learn more here.
There are an endless number of tips and tricks that help reduce the amount of trash in landfills. What kind of ways have you made a part of your life to benefit the environment?