After doing the ecological footprint exercise, I started to closely examine the amount of personal waste I leave behind. I experimented with the amount of disposables which I recycled and I saw that with a change to 100% recycling I could significantly decrease my footprint. This difference made me reexamine how seriously I prioritize recycling in my own life.
Do not get me wrong – I recycle. But if I am being completely honest, I throw away a plastic when there is no recycling bin in sight. I was also always told that recyclables needed to be completely clean before being thrown in the bin, so in moments of laziness I toss the dirty material into the garbage. I have always felt guilt over my lackluster recycling habits and wanted to change, but never really have. So when it came time for the next blog post, I knew it was time to make a positive change for the sake of our Earth.
As my roommates began making lent resolutions, I decided I would make a resolution to properly dispose of every item I left behind. This meant I needed to do some digging and find out exactly what could and could not be recycled. I found this information easily on the Charleston county website. A lot of the items I thought belonged in the trash, were indeed recyclable. I found Earth911, a database which locates recycling locations for the trickier materials like cell phones, computers, etc., to be another really helpful resource for my new resolution. The last myth I wanted to bust was just how clean my items needed to be before being recycled. While you should rinse out and wash your plastics, etc. some remnants are easily washed away in the power washing process at recycling plants. So if your jar has some grime left over, no problem!
Now it was time to take action in my own apartment. Our tiny recycling bin is always overflowing, which leads all of us to throw recyclable items in the trash. I took on the duty of regularly emptying out our recycling bin to avoid this issue and I also added another bin to our pantry to create extra space. Without the hassle of emptying the small bin as frequently, I found that my roommates also improved their recycling habits.
When I started this resolution I thought that it was going to be such a hassle, and probably something I would not stick with us much as I had wanted. However, I found the opposite to be true. All I had to do was consciously think before throwing something away – just take one second to consider the remainder of the material’s life. Sometimes it means holding onto a peanut butter jar for an extra day before getting the time to rinse it out or taking a few extra steps from my room the recycling bin but all of these shifts were surprisingly easy.
This personal change made me consider which bin to put the garbage in, but also reduced the amount of stuff which I threw away. Once I thought about where my items were going, I had time to imagine new solutions like a sauce jar as a vase for my lavender, a large plastic bottle that could definitely be reused for yoga class, and my surplus of clothes that could be donated and enjoyed by another person. This tiny change had so many unanticipated benefits and overall has made me a bit more of a thoughtful person, someone that I can feel proud of. I definitely plan to stick to this change and encourage others to try it for a week and see how easy it is. Even those of us who recycle fall short sometimes and that is okay, but now it is more important than ever to make every small change we can.