Going Green: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle [30 Tips]

Part 1 in an 8-Part Exclusive WebEcoist Series on How to Go Green

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As noted in the introductory article to this series, life is a learning experiment. “Going green” provides endless opportunity for exploration, education and fun. From clever household hacks to awesome tech tips, this series aims to provide practical, politics-free, simple steps for living a more sustainable lifestyle.

The first step: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

The original slogan for the modern treehugger still applies. Amazing technological developments are exciting, but it’s the day-to-day actions, and the habits you cultivate, that matter most. When you change your thinking, you change your life. Adapting to a greener lifestyle is worth it for all kinds of reasons and it’s not all about the planet. Green habits often save you money and improve your health and life, as well.

How to change your thinking? Simply start practicing some mindful observance of your routines, purchases, and other aspects of your lifestyle. It’s a good idea to keep a “lifestyle journal” for a week where you note the following major areas where it’s easy to go greener:

- Amount and type of meals eaten out of the home

- Grocery shopping habits (what, how much, where)

- Commute

- Type of vehicle you drive

- Size of family

- Home carbon footprint (use a calculator)

- Travel (type, how often, how far)

- Where you buy your clothes, electronics, and furniture

- What kinds of cleaning products and personal care products you use

- Any existing environmentally-aware habits: biking, recycling, using energy-efficient lights, a canvas grocery sack, carbon offsets when you fly, and so forth.

Once you have a better determination of your lifestyle, it is easy to begin “tweaking” every day actions. And that starts with being aware of how much and what you consume – and what you do with things after you’re done using them. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle is a very easy method for integrating actions and awareness. Some starting tips:

Simple Tips to Reduce

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1. Did you know 1/3 of food goes to waste? (Some say half!) The first thing you can do is reduce your food waste. Keep better track of grocery shopping – here’s another place where a journal will help.

2. Buy higher-quality clothing in seasonal cycles rather than trendy, cheap clothing several times a month. Example: buy one good coat this year; a good wallet next year. Aim for purchases that may be a bit more up front but will end up saving you cash in the long run because they will last you a lifetime.

3. Most entrees at restaurants are big enough for two. Save money and prevent food waste by splitting meals (warning: do this with close pals only or you may get accused of being cheap!). Brown bag your lunches, too.

4. Force yourself to always wait one day on non-essential purchases in order to avoid impulse buys.

5. Order online or direct from companies rather than driving to a store. This helps reduce fuel and energy waste at many points along the production-consumption chain.

6. Look for ways to go digital to reduce waste: books, magazines, music, and movies.

7. Keep your car longer. Instead of a 2-year lease, finance a car with a 5-year loan and keep it for 10.

8. Reserve one day for your shopping and errands instead of making multiple trips all the time.

9. Carpool as often as you can or ask your boss if you can telecommute.

10. Become a zealot about turning things off: the water, the lights, the electronics.

Simple Tips to Reuse

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1. Buy vintage everything. From electronics to furniture to fashion, vintage is the most eco-friendly choice you can make.

2. For vintage furniture and electronics, try Craigslist, Amazon and eBay. You’ll save the earth’s resources…and your own.

3. Check out garage sales and estate sales, too.

4. Try community barter trading sites like Freecycle and Ecoflip.

5. Wash and save glass jars for handy use as storage, vases, and food leftover containers.

6. Use cloth napkins and towels instead of disposable ones.

7. Use old t-shirts for yardwork and vehicle cleaning tasks. Try to find a use for everything you’d normally throw away. You can get pretty creative! There are dozens of things you can reuse.

8. Reuse paper. Printer misprints make great to-do-list scratch paper.

9. Shoe boxes and yogurt containers can be turned into herb planters, file storage and more.

10. Check out this helpful list for more ways to reuse household items.

Simple Tips to Recycle

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1. Recycle all glass, metal, paper, and plastic.

2. Compost everything – a lot more than food can go into the compost bucket. By recycling the basics and composting, you will drastically reduce your waste.

3. “Recycle” things you don’t want anymore by donating them – old toys, clothes, furniture, decor, games, movies, books, and tools.

4. Recycle paint, motor oil and other toxic household cleaning supplies.

5. Recycle batteries.

6. Recycle every type of plastic.

7. Recycle your electronics for cash.

8. Recycle your computer.

9. Recycle your cell phone.

10. You can even recycle your car.

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