Wednesday, November 16, 2011

An Apartment Dweller's Guide to Recycling

I've always been a fan of recycling and consider myself somewhat of a wannabe hippie. The problem with this is that we've always been renters, and the majority of the time our landlords haven't been as keen on spending the extra money for recycling bins. For a while I used that as an excuse to just forget about the whole thing entirely and looked forward to a time when we'd own our own home and could have one of those fancy blue bins of our very own. There were two big problems with living that way: 1) I felt guilty, and 2) my four-year-old-going-on-forty-year-old made me feel even more guilty. My sweet little Taylor would ask me at least once a week why we didn't recycle, and each week I'd have to tiptoe around the issue.

Well not anymore!

I've compiled a list of things that even us apartment dwellers can do to help the earth and appease our wise little preschoolers. Now let me preface this by saying that I am in no way perfect at all of these, and have a vast amount of improving to do. But every little bit counts, right? So, without further ado:

(and everyone else, too!)

1. Choose just one thing to recycle (paper, metal, or plastic) and make a bag or bin for that item next to your regular garbage can. Paper is probably the easiest because you don't have to rinse it off first. At the end of each week take it to your local recycling plant or nearby paper recycling bin. Most elementary schools (at least in my area) have large dumpsters specifically for paper recycling. If you've got the room, have separate bins for all three materials to recycle. Stacking bins with lids will save the most space.

2. Wash any glass jars you'd normally throw out and donate to your local thrift store or list on Freecycle. People are always looking for glass jars for projects. Speaking of projects, take a peek around the internet (Pinterest is a GREAT resource) for things you can reuse that you'd normally throw away. Some fantastic decorating projects I've come across are HERE, HERE, and HERE. The possibilities are endless!

3. Save all that cardboard! Break down cardboard boxes and store them in a bag or box in a closet or under a bed. You never know when you'll need a box or have a project that requires something more heavy duty than card stock. Save those paper towel and toilet paper tubes too; they're always great for craft projects! If your stock of cardboard gets too big than the space you've designated to store it, take a trip to your local recycling plant or ask a nearby business if they'd be willing to recycle your boxes along with the ones they usually pack up behind the store.

4. Save yourself a ton of money and make your own cleaning products. Not only is it cost-effective, but you can reuse the same container again and again rather than wasting all that cardboard and plastic buying new boxes and jugs of cleaner. I've found some great "recipes" for laundry detergent, dishwasher soap, all-purpose cleaner, and even hand soap! Do some snooping around the web and you're sure to find how to make just about any cleaning product you can imagine.

5. NEVER throw out old clothes! You can always donate any clothing items you don't want anymore, or you can have a little fun repurposing your items; I usually do a little of both. I have a bag in my coat closet for any items that need to be donated, and then save a few items for myself to give a little makeover. Again, there are literally thousands of websites and ideas online to give you inspiration. You can learn how to revamp your out-of-style jeans, turn a sweatshirt into a cardigan, and just about everything in between. I posted a little t-shirt makeover a few months ago on my personal blog. It was so much fun and I was inspired to repurpose more items I didn't wear anymore!

I know I said there were five tips, but here's one last one...

6. Don't beat yourself up if you're not perfect! Okay, maybe I'm the only one who does this. But if you happen to be crazy like me, this is probably one of the best tips out of all of them. I find myself getting upset at every little thing I throw in the trash, which is good because it shows that I care about doing my part and all that, but it's bad because the last thing this over-worked, over-tired mommy needs is to keep herself awake at night stressing about garbage. Like I said before, every little bit helps!

Another thing that couldn't hurt is to ask your landlord if they'd be willing to pay for a recycling bin or dumpster. The worst they can say is no! I plan to take the boys around our complex at the beginning of the year to ask my fellow tenants to sign a petition to get a recycling plan in place. There's no reason not to recycle anymore, there just isn't. And if I have to pay an extra $5 on my rent every month to ensure that 150 tenants can recycle then I'll do it!

Do you have any great, easy tips for recycling as a renter? I'd love to hear about them!

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