The news this summer has been filled with signs of climate change: fires out west, flooding in St. Louis and Kentucky, heat waves across the US and Europe. One contribution to climate change is the production of the stuff that we purchase. Recycling can help with this — materials already taken from the earth can be remade into new containers. But that still requires energy for the manufacturing, and not all of our stuff can be recycled.
Instead, reuse! Numbers 1 and 2 plastics can be recycled, but many water bottles still end up as trash (they are light weight and can easily blow out of recycling bins) or in the oceans. (When you recycle your plastic bottles, *do* leave the lids on — otherwise they tend to fall through the processing machinery and are lost from recycling.) Instead of using single use plastics, take your own water bottles and grocery bags. Just say no to straws, or take your own reusable metal one. Plastic straws, as with bottle lids, are small and tend to fall through the machinery and not get recycled. If you forget your bottle and do need to purchase water, refill that bottle, rather than purchasing multiple bottles.
Disposable coffee cups, although often made of paper, typically have a plastic lining that is not recyclable. And when the plastic is attached to the paper, it is not cost effective to separate the materials. Take your own coffee mug with you.
Paper, especially cardboard boxes, is recyclable. Alternatively, shredded paper can be added to compost (shred your old receipts, then compost them, and no one will be able to find your credit card number on them). In addition, cardboard or newspaper are superb weed suppressants. Flatten them out, cover the ground where you wish to plant, cover that cardboard or newspaper with dirt, compost and/or mulch. Now you’re on your way to nourishing your soil, reaping the benefits of no-till, and recycling your cardboard or newspaper even as you’re creating a planting bed.
Animal shelters will take old sheets and towels for bedding. You can donate your flower vases to florists to use again. Donate old clothing and other items to thrift stores like Goodwill and Trinity. Shop there, too — vintage clothing; items to make Halloween costumes from; reusable cups, plates and silverware for parties.
Are you a yogurt eater? Yogurt usually comes in plastic #5, which is difficult to recycle. Instead, make your own! Amazon sells yogurt makers for under $30, or a slightly fancier one for about $50 (both styles come with 7-8 reusable glass jars). Yogurt at the local stores costs about 70 cents per serving. In just over a month of daily yogurts, the cheaper yogurt maker would be paid for, or under three months for the fancier version. Suggested yogurt recipe: three cans coconut milk (cans are readily recyclable), heat to 185 degrees F, add 1.5 tablespoons Tapioca granules, let cool to 110 degrees F stirring occasionally, mix in one packet yogurt starter (available in many health food stores or Amazon), incubate for 15 hours overnight. Blend in your favorite fruits, food flavorings, and/or spices (e.g., cumin, mango powder and mint, Japanese pickled ginger) just before eating. This recipe makes seven servings. (The cardboard from the yogurt maker, Tapioca, and yogurt starter are all recyclable, or compostable — you could grow your own berries or herbs in the compost that you make from your old cardboard boxes, then add them to your homemade yogurt).
For further reading on recycling, check out “Can I Recycle This? A Guide to Better Recycling and How to Reduce Single-Use Plastics,” by Jennie Romer. (And the Crawfordsville District Public Library has it, so you don’t even have to kill extra trees to read it.)
None of us are perfect, but we can try to be part of the solution, rather than part of the problem.
The League of Women Voters, a non-partisan, multi-issue organization encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase public understanding of major policy issues and influences public policy through education and advocacy. All men and women are invited to join the LWV where hands-on work to safeguard democracy leads to civic improvement. For information, visit the website www.lwvmontcoin.org or the League of Women Voters of Montgomery County, IN Facebook page.
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