With all the focus being on global warming lately, one subject that is almost being overlooked completely is the stress on American landfills. I once read that Americans produce 220 million tons of garbage each year and, even though I don’t know how accurate that number is, I can see it being pretty close to that when I see my neighbors’ garbage bins filled to the rim each week.
In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if we find ourselves running out of places to put our garbage before global warming does us in. Since finding more places to put our garbage would only be a temporary solution, reducing our waste is the way to go. And, it’s not as hard as it sounds.
Recycle. Ok, this is almost a no-brainer. But, many areas still don’t have mandatory recycling. And, even though my area does, I notice a lot of people still don’t sort out their aluminum cans and plastic bottles from the rest of the garbage. Recycling serves two purposes. First, it reduces the amount of garbage that needs to be buried in landfills. Secondly, it reduces our need for new sources of plastic, paper, etc. and lessens the strain on the environment.
If your city doesn’t have curb-side pick up, look to see if you have a local recycling center. There’s a slight financial gain to doing this since most recycling centers will pay you for aluminum cans and some other recyclable items. I make about $15 a month from my cans.
Also, don’t forget plastic grocery bags can be recycled too. Many stores have drop off bins for them.
Make more home-cooked meals. Obviously, if you are constantly bringing home food from McDonalds or some other restaurant, the food wrappers are going to create garbage. But, when I refer to home-cooked meals, I’m also referring to actually making the food; not relying on pre-packaged frozen dinners that may have boxes that can be recycled but usually have some sort of liner or plastic tray inside that can’t be.
You’re probably still going to produce some waste doing this since individual ingredients also have packaging. But, unlike TV dinners and McDonalds, you can reduce some of the waste by making enough to last a couple of meals rather than just one.
Check with area farmers about your paper waste. It’s probably not as common as it should be, but many farmers are choosing to use shredded paper for bedding their animals rather than the traditional straw (which can get expensive depending on the season). Some may even pay for it; though I personally would just give it to them considering they have enough expenses to deal with.
Grow a garden. Like I said before, individual ingredients usually have packaging that needs to be disposed of. But, if you grow the food yourself, you don’t have any packaging to worry about. Don’t have the space for one? Consider a small boxed garden in your window.
Just because you don’t eat it doesn’t mean you have to waste food. Part of our problem with garbage is the fact we waste more food than some countries produce. Whether it’s the leftover Chinese take out in the fridge or that loaf of bread that got stale before you had a chance to eat it, the food usually ends up in the garbage. And, it doesn’t have to.
If you have a garden, create a compost pile for it. I usually don’t recommend using meat or anything that might attract wild animals. But many other foods, especially fruits and vegetables, decompose pretty quickly and, if you take a few minutes each week to mix the compost a bit, it’ll keep the smell down.
Also, don’t forget any back yard animals you might have. Apples and oranges that might be getting a little too soft for your tastes make great bird feeders. Just spread some peanut butter on them and add bird seed. This also works well with grease. Find a container, drained the grease into it and then put it in your fridge. When it fills, add some bird seed and you have a suet feeder for either birds or squirrels.
My family has a traditional movie night each week and the leftover popcorn goes out for the squirrels. Stale bread is taken to the park down the street and fed to the ducks swimming in the pond there. I think I save myself one garbage bag each week by doing this.
The environment is everyone’s responsibility. These simple steps can help you do your part without much work.