Guide to Becoming a Tree Hugger
Recycling Basics: What Can Be Recycled
- Cardboard boxes
- Juice containers
- Paper towels
- Phone books
- Pizza boxes
- Cardboard milk
- Coupon sheets
- Toilet paper and paper towel rolls
- Printing and notebook paper
- Shredded paper
- Milk jugs
- Plastic laundry detergent bottles
- Aluminum cans
- Clean aluminum foil
- Steel cans: soup cans, vegetable cans, coffee containers
- Clear, brown, and green glass
How to Recycle The Less-Common Items that Your Local Program May Not Accept
Certain materials require special recycling processes. They should not be poured down the drain or put out with the normal trash. Check your local calendar for special recycling events that pick up these types of materials or a listing of places that accept them.
Plastic BagsPlastic grocery and produce bags should not be placed in your recycling bins. They can stall an entire recycling plant. They should instead be taken to local grocery stores that collect old plastic bags. From there they are typically turned into plastic lumber.
Household BatteriesBatteries used in common household items contain mercury and other toxins that should not be thrown away in the trash. Find out how your local community handles recycling batteries or purchase a battery recycling kit online.
PaintMunicipalities often have special pick up times or locations for paint and paint cans. They should not be thrown out in the trash.
Pesticides and other chemicalsDo not pour these things down the drain. Find out how your municipality disposes of these materials.
Car BatteriesAutomotive stores and repair shops often accept used car batteries. These batteries can be taken apart and recycled. The plastic can go toward creating new batteries. The sulfuric acid can be used in new batteries, converted to fertilizers and dyes, and can even be processed and purified into clean water.
OilUsed motor oil can be used to produce new motor oil. Do not dump used motor oil down the drain as it can contaminate our water supply. Recycling it can also reduce the amount that is needed from foreign entities. Most auto service and supply stores accept motor oil for recycling.
Light BulbsCompact fluorescent bulbs contain mercury and should not be thrown in the normal trash or recycling. Contact your local waste program to determine how to safely dispose of these light bulbs.
TiresMany auto repair shops, retailers, and community programs accept tires for recycling.
Electronics should never be tossed in with regular trash or recycling. Contact your municipality to determine how to properly recycle the following e-waste products:
- Computers (the glass, plastic, and metal materials that make up a computer can almost all be completely recycled)
- Peripherals (keyboards, mice, speakers, printers, cables, floppy discs, scanners, external hard drives)
- Televisions (certain television retailers offer recycling programs)
- Fax machines
- Landline phones
Other materials that require special programs for safe disposal:
- Smoke and fire alarms
Decoding Which Plastics Can and Cannot be Recycled
(Polyethylene Terephthalate)This is the most common plastic used for consumer products including plastic beverage bottles. PET plastic can go into your recycling bin.
(High-Density Polyethylene)HDPE is a harder plastic that makes up things like milk jugs, detergent bottles, and some toys. This type of plastic is commonly recyclable.
V or PVC
(Vinyl or Polyvinyl Chloride)PVC is a soft plastic that is used in many kid and pet toys, shower curtains, outdoor furniture, plastic pipes, plumbing parts, and teething rings. It is considered to contain many toxins and is not recyclable, but the plastic can be repurposed.
(Low-Density Polyethylene)This type of plastic is used to make plastic wrap, some bottles, plastic bags, dry cleaning bags, bubble wrap, newspaper sleeves, bread bags, and produce bags. LDPE is not often recycled through normal systems, but that is changing, as more and more programs are being developed to recycle this material.
(Polypropylene)Polypropylene is a tougher plastic that is often used to make buckets, the inside of cereal boxes, plastic bottle lids, chip bags, and straws. Some municipalities accept this type of plastic through normal routes, but many still do not. Check in with your community’s offerings.
(Polystyrene)This is found in Styrofoam cups and containers, egg cartons, plastic utensils, foam chips, and packaging materials. It is not a widely accepted material for recycling programs. You may be able to find special services offering PS recycling, but it is unlikely that you can throw it into your community recycling bin.
(Mixed plastics)These often include materials such as polycarbonates that are formed using BPA (Bisphenol A). Plastics in this category consist of baby bottles, sippy cups, thicker water bottles, and some food containers. These items are not for reuse or recycling, unless it is through special programs.
Benefits of Recycling
- Cuts down on the amount of waste that goes into landfills
- Saves energy by reducing the amount of materials going into incinerators and landfills
- Taps into a domestic source of materials instead of having to import new ones
- Conserves valuable resources, because it reduces the need to use up more natural resources to create new products
- Creates jobs in the recycling industry and in the manufacturing of new materials
- Reduces the amount of chemicals that are released into the atmosphere, because it avoids the extracting and refining of raw materials and reduces incineration
- Prevents the destruction of wildlife habitats and disturbances to ecosystems by cutting down on logging and mining
200,000homes for a year.
Things That Cannot be Recycled
Here are some items that cannot be recycled:
- Pyrex dishes
- Ceramic dishware and ovenware
- The caps and lids that often come with glass containers
- Glass that is covered in food or dirt (some recycling programs have exceptions for this)
Reducing Water Usage
How to Conserve Water at Home:
- Designate one glass or refillable water bottle for your drinking water each day.
- Rinse fruits and vegetables in a pan instead of under them running water.
- Double check your faucets for drips. Even the smallest drips can add up to many gallons of water wasted each day. This is not only costly to the environment, but it also adds up on your water bill.
- Newer dishwashers are now more water-and energy-efficient than washing dishes by hand.
- Avoid rinsing dishes before putting them into the dishwasher as much as possible.
- Only use the dishwasher when you have a full load.
- Consider composting instead of tossing food down the drain.
- Instead of throwing loose or unwanted ice cubes into the sink, toss them into a house plant.
- Avoid flushing the toilet as much as possible. Do not toss cigarettes or tissues in there for disposal. Every flush uses five to eight gallons of water.
- Place a full, sealed water bottle or a brick into your toilet tank so that your toilet does not use as much water with each flush.
- Check your toilet for leaks by putting food coloring in the tank. If the colored water appears in the bowl without flushing then you have a leak.
- Purchase a water-saving toilet.
- Make sure the cycle type you select matches the size of your load of laundry. For example, if you have a small load, make sure you choose a smaller water level.
- Avoid utilizing the Permanent Press cycle. It adds an extra five gallons of water for extra rinsing.
- Reuse towels over multiple uses. This also goes for when you are staying at a hotel.
- Tighten any indoor or outdoor pipes that are leaking.
- Use your water meter to check for leaks. Check the water meter before and after a set period of time when no water is being used to make sure that the meter reads the same number.
- Water the lawn and plants earlier in the day to avoid evaporation, which causes a lot of water loss during the heat of the day.
Drive Your Car Less
Tips for Cutting Down Driving Time
- If you do not need to go far, plan ahead and walk or ride a bike there. Not only does this remove your car from the road and cut down on your gas usage, it also gets you some exercise in for the day.
- Use bike-share programs.
- Combine your errands into as few outings as possible. For example, do your grocery run on your way home from work or when you are nearby doing another errand.
- Avoid rush hour traffic by getting into work earlier and leaving earlier or leaving on the later side. This will cut down on the amount of time wasted sitting in traffic while your car is idling.
- Use public transportation.
- Work from home whenever possible.
- Select the carpool option when using rideshare services when you have a little extra time.
- Consider carpooling with a friend to work or to a group activity.
Tips for Reducing Emissions When Driving
- Do not constantly pound on the gas pedal and the brake. This lowers your gas mileage significantly. Try to drive as efficiently as possible.
- Turn off your car when parked or waiting in your car. If your car is off for one minute rather than idling during that time, you save fuel.
Bring your car in for regular check-ups.
Choose a More Fuel-Efficient Car
Purchasing a greener vehicle can reduce your greenhouse gas emissions and save you money. Switching from a car that gets 25 miles per gallon to a car that gets 50 miles per gallon could save you over $1,000 each year and you will only have to fill up your car half as many times.
There are many types of fuel-efficient cars available today. Here are some greener alternatives to look out for:
Flexible Fuel Vehicle (FFV)These vehicles use gasoline or E85, which is a mix of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline.
Electric Vehicle (EV)EVs are completely electric vehicles that you can charge at home or at one of the several thousand charging stations located across the U.S.
Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV)This type of green vehicle uses both electricity and gasoline. Typically, once you run out of charge the gasoline will kick in as a backup until you can get to another charging station.
Compressed Natural Gas Vehicle (CNG)CNG vehicles are powered by natural gas, which can be pumped into a car at special leak-free connection pumps.
Fuel Cell Vehicle (FCV)These vehicles are powered by pressurized hydrogen, which powers a fuel cell that then generates electricity to keep the car moving.