April 22, 2011

A Vow To The Mothership. ~ Brittnee Henry

Make a Resolution to Reduce, Reuse, Recycle this Earth Day.

Like most Americans, you probably set a few resolutions on January 1. Perhaps you had goals of exercising more, eating less, flossing daily, paying down that credit card, or kicking the cigarettes; aspirations that no doubt are admirable, popular and add to your general quality of life. But how many of us made a vow to improve the quality of our planet in 2011?

If switching to a green energy supplier or purchasing carbon credits to offset your platinum status with the airline didn’t make your list of goals for 2011, don’t despair! Earth Day, (today!) is the perfect opportunity to make your Earth Year resolution.

Many ecologists and marine biologists are now referring to our precious waters as “The Plastic Ocean.” By reducing our consumption of plastics and increasing our commitment to recycling and reusing, we can make a great difference in the future of our planet.

Make a commitment to take action against your household’s addiction to plastics.

Photo: JaniceBali

Here are some simple ways you can incorporate the three R’s: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle into this New Earth Year.

Drink from a reusable cup or mug

The number of plastic bottles used by the average American each year far outweighs the number that are being recycled. What’s more disheartening is that the United States lags behind Canada, Mexico and others in the overall amount of plastics we recycle.

Toss the plastic water bottle habit straight into the recycle bin for good and purchase a BPA-free reusable bottle. By making this small change, you’ll be doing the Earth a huge favor. While it is unknown exactly how long it takes a plastic bottle to decompose, many experts predict it could be as many as 500+ years, or that perhaps it never truly breaks down but rather just is broken into smaller pieces when tossed to a landfill.

Why trimming plastic out of your life is easier than a resolution to exercise more? It takes only seconds a day to shed hundreds of pounds and thousands of years of plastic from our planet.

Get to know your community’s recycling program

—For some, the whole recycling process is still a bit intimidating. In a nutshell, here’s what you need to know about plastics:

—Does your community have a recycle pick-up day? If not, where is the nearest drive-up recycling center?

—What recyclables are accepted by your community’s program? Most recycle centers accept plastics marked #1-5 and #7. So what do you do with items marked #6? Avoid purchasing them and any others not accepted by your recycling program.

Here is the break-down of which plastics are which, examples of these items, and what their corresponding number tells us about them:

Photo: Earthman45

1. PET or PETE (Polyethylene terephthalate): the most frequently recycled plastics. Examples of containers marked with a “1” are things like plastic peanut butter jars, soft drink bottles, water bottles, plastic wrap, and salad dressing bottles.

2. HDPE (High-density polyethylene): A type of recyclable plastic marked with a “2” includes your plastic juice bottles, milk cartons, and shampoo bottles.

3. PVC (Polyvinyl chloride): Plastics marked with a “3,” are less commonly accepted for recycling so keep your eyes open when purchasing and avoid if possible. Examples include: some liquid detergent containers, clear food packages, and items used by construction zones or for plumbing. Number “3” PVC containers are generally opaque.

4. LDPE (Low density polyethylene): These are marked with a “4,” and are a type of recyclable plastic used in some bread and frozen food bags and garbage can liners. About 75% of LDPE is manufactured to make a light, flexible film used in packaging, and food storage.

5. PP (Polypropylene): These are commonly used in the automobile and building industries and are marked with a “5”. These include items like car battery casings, and plastic drinking straws.

6. PS (Polystyrene): Noted with a “6” these include things like some packing foams, protective packaging for electronic goods and toys. Unfortunately, these items are often unavoidable especially when used as packaging, and very few recycling centers allow for them. So instead, reuse them.  Packing peanuts make a great medium to layer the bottom of a pot for houseplants to aid in drainage or pull them out the next time you are shipping an item. You can also gain some points at the office by  donating them for their use. The planet and your office manager will thank you!

7. Other: Plastics marked with a “7” typically are three to five gallon reusable containers. The word “Other” indicates that the package or container is made from a resin other than 1 through 6 or it is made from more than one resin. But, it is still recyclable.

By simply learning the basics of plastic recycling, (can you count to 7?) you can significantly reduce your family’s contribution to the long-term damage plastics are causing on our planet.

And in most cities, you don’t even have to sort them into individual categories—just know what is accepted and throw it in the bin. Why is getting acquainted with your community recycling program this year is easier than committing to a year-long subscription to a dating website?

The entire process is much more fulfilling, you just may meet a cute guy or gal during your weekly drop-off at the recycling center, and you can learn a whole lot more about someone by checking out their trash than you can by their online profile.

Be a Part of The Masters

If you’ve already got the three “R’s” of plastics and other recyclables down to a science, why not take your commitment to our planet to the next level? Many cities across the country now offer Master Recycler programs much like the Master Gardener certification offered by the American Horticultural Society. Cities such as Portland, Minneapolis, Tulsa and Denver offer dedicated recyclers the opportunity to share their 3R knowledge with their community by serving as advocates and educators. As part of the program, Master Recyclers receive continued education on topics related to recycling, composting, and sustainable living and volunteer their time to speak on these topics at fairs, conventions, to churches and in schools. Consider becoming an advocate for green living in your community. Share your knowledge and dedication to the planet and encourage others to do so.

Everyone can make a difference whether you’re just starting out as a recycler or running your house with a solar panel—make a commitment to do more today. The Mothership will thank you!


Brittnee Henry hails from a fourth generation Iowa farm family. After graduating from the University of Iowa with a double major in Journalism and Psychology, (can’t beat that Midwest work ethic) Brittnee headed south down I-35 to the Lone Star State where she fell head over cowboy boots for Texas Country music and yoga pants. What gets the heart of this farmer’s daughter pumping? Anything Irish, soy candles and natarajasana (dancer’s pose). When she’s not writing, reading, tending to her collection of orchids or loading her Mini Cooper with
recyclables, Brittnee wages war against cancer—raising funds for research and patient programs
at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Got a bit of wit or wisdom to share
with Brittnee? Like what you read? You can contact Brittnee at [email protected].

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