Recently, I was rescuing recyclables from being thrown in with the garbage.
My boyfriend laughed and reminded me that my one house couldn’t exactly save the world. My response, as I carefully removed the recyclable items to the correct container, was, “But what if it could?”
What if my one house—or yours—could save the world?
Every week, I put out my two recycling containers, which are both filled to the brim, mostly with packaging from purchased items. And every week, I notice that my neighbors’ containers are empty or only filled with a few items. Perhaps an aluminum can or a cardboard box or two. So I was curious about what the impact could be if a single household acted like it alone could save the world. What kind of difference could this actually make?
We all know that there have been recent budget cuts to the EPA and the rollback of policies that protected the environment. For climate change deniers, this isn’t an issue. They’re too busy looking at coal miner jobs and talking about how good this will be for the economy. For the rest of us who are aware of the science surrounding climate change and the impact on clean air, water, and sustainable energy, these are scary times.
And here are the real facts about jobs:
Apparently, coal mines provide fewer jobs than the Arby’s corporation. Many of the jobs the new administration assumed it was bringing back are no longer in existence. In fact, machination alone is slowly replacing coal workers.
But did you know that recycling provides jobs?
Recycle Across America cites these interesting statistics:
>> “When U.S. recycling levels reach 75% it will be the environmental and CO2 equivalent of removing 55 million cars from U.S. roads each year.”
>> “When U.S. recycling levels reach 75% it will generate 1.5 million new jobs in the U.S. (net).”
>> “Manufacturers truly want these materials back to reuse in their manufacturing, but they aren’t able to reuse the materials if people don’t recycle right.”
>> “Recycling is a $200 billion industry in the U.S.”
>> “Recycling generates 7-10 more jobs than landfills and waste to energy plants.”
Many of us don’t realize exactly how many things can be recycled, or how to re-purpose many of the items we throw out as waste. So what if we each decided to act like our one home could save the world? What if we looked at our actions as though they made a difference?
Because the truth is that they do.
We’ve gotten so used to complacency, to assuming that a single person or a single household cannot make a difference. We have allowed ourselves to become defeated by the thought, and many of us stop trying.
So, in hope of turning the tide against an administration that is hell-bent on destroying our environmental strides, I offer this list of ways to reduce, reuse, recycle, upcycle, and generally change the world.
1. Recycling. Educating ourselves is key. What can be recycled and what requires special recycling? Most food packaging can be recycled. We can recycle glass, plastic, aluminum, cardboard, and paper. Electronic items and batteries require special recycling.
2. We can pick up litter in our neighborhoods and in the places where we walk or hike.
3. Composting. Much of our food waste can be composted. According to Recycle Across America, some food waste can even be sold to local farmers. If one doesn’t have the time or space for a large compost, there’s a way to keep composting simple. Banana peels, apple cores, and coffee grounds are simple things we can add to our gardens for composting and they can be stored in a mason jar until we’re ready to use them.
4. Reducing waste. We can make an effort to decrease the waste we contribute to landfills. Eat leftovers. Buy products with environmentally friendly and recyclable packaging. A big part of reducing waste is to stop using Styrofoam. It’s especially harmful to the environment, and many other packaging options exist.
5. Use energy star appliances in our homes. We can also install solar panels or use other forms of clean energy.
6. Use fuel-efficient or electric vehicles when it comes time to get a new (or used) vehicle.
7. We can use our water responsibly to conserve our resources.
8. We can be informed consumers and buy from environmentally responsible companies.
9. We can make sure to cut up plastic six-pack holders in order to avoid endangering wildlife.
10. We can plant bee-friendly wildflowers on our properties to help provide an additional source of pollination. We can go a step further and offer a water feature like a bird bath to help birds and bees.
11. We can rake leaves instead of using environmentally harmful leaf blowers.
12. We can stop using pesticides on our lawns and businesses, including weed killer.
13. We can avoid using pesticides in our homes and instead utilize natural remedies for pests.
14. We can walk or bike to close locations.
15. We can donate gently used items from our homes.
16. We can be responsible pet owners and spay or neuter our pets.
17. We can use water filters rather than buying disposable water bottles.
18. We can upcycle broken or old items rather than simply throwing them out. Pinterest offers a variety of ideas for ways to creatively upcycle items.
19. We can become educated voters so that we elect representatives who share our ideals.
20. We can use cloth diapers with babies.
21. We can plant gardens to grow our own food. We can make sure to avoid the use of pesticides in them, and to use untreated wood for our container gardens to avoid chemical contaminations. We can make sure to use non-GMO seeds for planting.
22. We can treat Earth as if it’s the only one we have (because it is).
23. We can spread kindness each day.
24. We can speak out against bullying and discrimination, including microaggressions.
25. We can educate others about how they, too, can join us in saving the world, simply by sharing this article or starting a conversation about the impact of a single household.
We’ve surrendered so much of our personal power, and sometimes we can feel disempowered by all of these legislative changes. But we still have the power—even just a single household—to change the world, to take the first step in being a part of the solution. We can be the change we want to see, and we can start today. Maybe we can’t tackle this whole list at once, but each of us can still make an effort for many. Believe me, if we did even half of these suggestions, the benefit to the world would be undeniable.
Author: Crystal Jackson
Image: Antti T. Nissinen/Flickr
Editor: Catherine Monkman