Between excessive packaging of our online shopping purchases, the plastic-garbage patch in the Pacific Ocean, or the constant conundrum of whether to use paper or plastic shopping bags, folks across the world are feeling the call to do something but often feel overwhelmed on where to start or doubt whether or not their singular effort(s) will translate into big results.
The good news is YOU CAN and WILL MAKE A DIFFERENCE – it’s just figuring out where to start and remembering to take little bites in order accomplish your sustainability or zero-waste goals in the New Year!
This is a toughie, even for the “greenest” of people but is one of the most important actions you could take when wanting to make a difference.
Reducing in your life could look like:
- Reducing your water consumption
- Reducing your food waste
- Reducing your air pollution
- Reducing your energy use
- Reducing your amount of packaging waste
All of the goods, items, and things we use or consume require natural resources from Earth (oil, sand, trees/wood, water, metals or minerals, and more) to be made from, for energy used during manufacturing and shipping, to be packaged, to be refrigerated, to be maintained, etc. . And if we’re not using some items at all or even just using less of them, we’re not harvesting all those natural resources that we only have a finite amount of, saving them for future generations.
Often used interchangeably with Recycling, Reuse is the second-best option we can do in terms of our resources or “waste” as it focuses on getting as much use out of an item before it’s recycled, composted, or trashed.
Reusing in your life could look like:
- Donating your gently used clothing to a second-hand shop
- Switching your single-use items for a reusable option (Ex: reusuable shopping bag now that plastic bags are not recyclable at our facility and most other recycling facilities)
- Giving new life to old household items
- Reinventing those leftovers in your fridge
- Allowing unwanted things or items that are no longer needed to have a second chance with a new owner via platforms like FreeCycle or Buy Nothing GR
While this might seem like an old sustainability trend or maybe a habit that you already have firmly established, Kent County still has so much room to grow when it comes to recycling! Did you know that only 1 in 4 households in Kent County recycles currently?
Recycling in your life could look like:
- Starting curbside recycling services by asking your waste hauler (or other area waste haulers) what recycling services they provide
- Finding out where a Recycling Drop-Off is located in case waste haulers do not provide recycling services in your area
- Recycling as many of the correct items in your curbside recycling bin as you can
- Encouraging your neighbors, friends, and family to start recycling wherever they are
- Asking your Property Manager about Kent County’s Recycling Grant for your apartment, condo, or multi-family living complex
- Not wishcycling! Find out where to recycle electronics, batteries, scrap metal odds and ends, as well as other unique items that do not belong in your recycling bin
Rot or Compost
As equally important as Recycling, Composting can prevent any leftover organic materials (anything that comes from a plant or animal) from entering the landfill and creating excess methane, a toxic pollutant we don’t want in our atmosphere.
Rotting or Composting in your life could look like:
- Creating a compost pile in your backyard
- Completing the “loop” by using the rich soil created through the composting process, to grow new fruits, veggies, and other plants
- Signing up for a curbside or drop-off compost service at your home, apartment, workplace, school, or business
- Composting unexpected items like pet hair, coffee grounds, or greasy pizza boxes
Feeling inspired to make a difference?
So are we! With all the ways to become sustainable and limit your waste mentioned above, what would even be left in our garbage bins?! That’s why as we’re heading in to the new decade, we are committed to our goal of diverting 90% of waste away from the landfill by 2030 through all the actions above and beyond…but we need everyone’s help!
Here are three tips to power you on your journey to sustainability:
**TIP**: Start with one new sustainable habit at a time until you feel confident with taking on another. It’s easy to feel overwhelm when doing too much at one time, especially when everything is new. Focus on starting and becoming comfortable with one new habit at a time and then slowly add another, and another…you’ll be green before you know it!
**TIP**: It takes a while for a new habit to form so keep it up – celebrate when you remember to do your green habit and reflect/act on why you weren’t successful during the times you forgot. For example, if (one of) your New Year’s intention(s) is to bring reusable bags when out shopping but you seem to always forget it at home, try placing the bag in a different place like your car backseat where you’ll see it before going to the store or writing a reminder on your grocery list to bring your reusable bag to the store.
**TIP**: Encourage a friend to commit to a green habit with you! With friend that’s in on the sustainable goal with you, you can hold each other accountable, encourage one another, and brainstorm new ideas on how increase your impact.