In a recent webinar I attended, the host, Brandon Gidicsin of The Junkluggers, shared some alarming statistics:
- 11 million tons of recyclable items fill our landfills each year.
- Americans only recycle or donate 15 percent of their clothing.
- We spend an estimated $11 billion dollars on packaging each year.
- 40 percent of the heavy metals in US landfills come from discarded electronics.
While these facts are disheartening, there are many ways we can take action to prevent and reverse the damage caused by harmful waste, including how we approach decluttering our homes. Here are some wallet-friendly tips to help save Mother Earth:
Set yourself up for success.
- Establish a base camp: In a convenient location, set up recycle, shred, and trash bins. Family members are more likely to properly dispose of items when it is easy to do so.
Streamline your purchases and stop clutter before it piles up.
- Resist impulse shopping: This includes clothing, décor, candles, etc. What do you really need?
- Avoid buying in bulk: Huge quantities cost money and precious storage space. Unless you’re hosting a party or event, less is more.
- Skip free stuff at events: Just because it’s free, doesn’t mean you need one (or 10).
- Go paperless: When it comes to bills, having them sent to you electronically can save so much paper, help the environment, and prevent clutter in your home.
Take stock, keep what you need and love, and donate the rest.
- Take stock: As you swap out seasonal clothing, sporting equipment, vacation gear, etc., consider what you need. Perhaps your local garden club or lawn service crew would happily accept your extra shovels.
- “Maria Kondo” your items: For each category of stuff – home goods, clothing, household tools, hobby items, etc. – reflect on which items bring you joy. What items do you need to live your life to the fullest? What style of clothing suits your lifestyle best now? Let go of the rest and donate items to allow new people to love and utilize them.
- Share your stash: Don’t save large quantities of things “just in case.” Share your excess office supplies, Tupperware collections, paper bags, twist ties, and other overflow items with a local school, daycare center, or scouting troop.
- Adopt the one in and one out rule: When you bring one item in the home, an equal item must leave the home (sell, donate, recycle, or trash). Sticking to this strategy helps to keep attics, basements, and storage units from filling up, and allows your most meaningful possessions to shine.
Seek and utilize community recycling resources.
- Find local medicine take-back programs: To safely dispose of expired or no longer needed medications, check with your local pharmacy or police station for ongoing drop-off programs.
- Save-the-date: Check your community calendars for hazardous waste, e-waste, and shredding events to safely and securely get rid of obsolete electronics and shredding piles.
- Textile recycling is a thing: Ask your donation center if they accept textiles for recycling. This is a great option for torn clothing, outdated fashion items, charity t-shirts, or stained clothing.
- Cash in on your bottle returns: Recycling bin filling up? Return your bottles and collect deposits. Some local businesses, like grocery stores, offer convenient ways to do this while you’re running other errands.
Some fun resources for donating or recycling specific items:
- For all your Amazon shipping boxes – check out this eco-friendly method to rid your house of unwanted items
- Best Buy can help recycle many electronics
- Shoe recycling (and more): Soles for Souls will take your broken, dirty, single shoe to recycle
- Bra donations galore, thanks to ThirdLove
- And if you have no takers for your vintage wedding dress, here are some options for consideration. Thanks, RecycleNation!
- Piano (and more) donation options
- Crayola Colorcycle program: This crayon recycling program is currently paused due to COVID, but check back for a useful resource in the future.
- FreeCycle: an easy-peasy way to tell your neighbors you have something you no longer want… and they can have it for FREE!
- Also recommended if you’d like a bit more inspiration: The More of Less: Finding the Life You Want Under Everything You Own by Joshua Becker (Amazon)
- And why not simply plant a tree?