The most constant complaint I hear as to why people can not live a greener lifestyle is it is too inconvenient. Or, it is just too hard. Believe it or not, just right outside your door are places which can help you create a greener lifestyle. That’s right. Right in your own neighborhood. In my case, many the places or ideas that I will discuss are no more than 15 minutes away from my house. Let me show how simple greening your life can be with my 15 easy neighborhood tips.
1. When you go to the grocery store, remember to either reuse your plastic bags or take them back. Some stores will even give you a little money off your grocery bill. While you are at it, don’t forget to include your plastic dry cleaner bags! It takes 450 years for a plastic bag to decompose. Personally, I am not an advocate of plastic bags but it may be hard for you to escape grocery shopping without them unless you invest in buying your own reusable bags. (Most grocery stores are selling them or you can buy them on many online sites.)
2. Instead of buying a book or video, check one out at the library. Libraries are a wonderful place to visit and have many programs that you and your children will enjoy.
3. Rent a video at the local video store and support your local community rather than buying one. Less consumption means less use of resources and energy to make those products.
4. Your neighborhood Staples is a wonderful place to explore being green. For $10, you can recycle your used computers, monitors, laptops, and desktop printers, faxes and all–in–ones at any U.S. Staples store. Smaller computer accessories such as keyboards, mice, and speakers are accepted at no charge.
In addition, you can recycle rechargeable batteries, PDAs, pagers, digital cameras, and chargers. Before you go, don’t forget to bring back your empty print cartridges. They will give you $3 in a gift certificate toward new ink for certain ink cartridges. Others, they will just recycle for free.
Need some green supplies? Don’t forget to pick up some recycled content paper and other assorted eco-friendly products.
5. Instead of having your grass clippings hauled away, consider leaving them on your lawn to add nutrients to the soil.
“Clippings left on the lawn recycle nutrients, saving about 25% of your annual fertilizer costs. According to Dr. Norman Hummel, Jr., Turfgrass Specialist at Cornell University, ‘one ton of fresh clippings contain approximately 15 pounds of nitrogen, 2 pounds of phosphorous and 10 pounds of potassium — the three major nutrients — and smaller quantities of the other elements essential for plant life.’” 1
6. Find out what can be recycled in your town, and recycle! So many times I see boxes out on the street for trash day and it just unnerves me. Some towns even have recycling dumps where you can get rid of your recycling before recycling day if you do not like clutter in your garage.
7. What can brown do for you? Most local UPS stores accept bubble wrap, peanuts or other clean packing supplies. Some stores even accept cell phones for recycling. Check what your local store will accept before you run over with your recycling bundle. In addition, if you need to ship something that needs to be returned to you, consider using their Reusable Next Day Air envelope, which by the way is bleach free and 100 percent recycled. Once your recipient receives the package, he or she can resend it in the same envelope.
8. Don’t toss those wire hangers! Give them to a Laundromat or a dry cleaner. Some dry cleaners do not want your hangers but I have always found a Laundromat which does the laundry for people will always accept my hangers with a big thank you.
9. Instead of putting your old furniture and toys on the curb, call a charity like Goodwill or the Salvation Army to see if they will take it. (To find a local Goodwill or Salvation Army, click on the hyper links.) Even put a “it’s free” sign on the furniture; you might be surprised who will pick it up! In my area, people put out all sorts of furniture and other assorted trash. It is like one big garage sale! Better yet put it on Freecycle™. (See my article about Freecycle.)
10. Instead of buying a new piece of equipment or any old item for something you would hardly use, consider asking your neighbor if you can borrow it. I collect leaves in the fall to compost. They decompose quicker if I mulch them into smaller pieces. I am going to borrow a mulching lawn mower from my friend since I only need this item once a year.
Here are some other options if you don’t really have a neighborhood or feel uncomfortable about asking your neighbors. Some libraries and other organizations lend tools. Wikipedia has a list of libraries or tool banks that lend tools in the US. In addition, Neighborrow is a website that contains a centralized database of books, cds, movies, and other items that may be available for you to borrow. Groups can be formed based upon your neighborhood, religious organization, school, office building, or any other group that users may want to create.3
11. Need environmentally friendly packaging? Your local post office is now selling it! According to the USPS, their shipping supplies exceed governmental standards including the EPA’s requirement for recycled content, having just received the “Cradle to Cradle”SM certification at the silver level for their human and environmental health.
“Based on the recycled content of the more than 500 million Express Mail and Priority Mail packages and envelopes the Postal Service provides its customers each year, more than 15,000 metric tons of carbon equivalent emissions (climate change gases) now will be prevented annually. Express Mail and Priority Mail boxes and envelopes also are 100 percent recyclable,” according to the statement prepared by Joanne Veto of the USPS.2
12. Don’t throw away those old torn clothes (especially socks). Use them as rags in lieu of paper towels. Some local Goodwill agencies recycle old clothing scraps into industrial wipes (cleaning cloths) for industrial buyers.
Speaking of Goodwill, some local chapters have created solutions for the electronic waste generated in the United States. According to Suzanha Burmeister, Marketing Director at the Company, over 200,000 computers a year have been donated. There are several centers in the US where trained workers refurbish reusable computers and de-manufacturing nonworking computers into recyclable parts. Check with your local chapter if they offer this service to recycle computers and all other large electronic equipment. There may be a small charge for the recycling of some large electronic equipment.
13. Use the parts of the newspaper that are only printed in black ink for weed control. Just check with your newspaper company if they use soy based inks. I actually laid newspaper in the walking paths around my veggie garden. It suppressed 95% of the weeds! I use about 3 to 4 sheets folded up and overlapped them. I wet them and then put a layer of mulch on top of them. For more information, see Mother Earth’s online article on newspaper mulch. (You will actually see my name in the comments!)
14. Give the gift of sight! Many local chapters of the Lions Clubs International collect eye glasses and hearing aids. Check with your local club to see if they collect eye glasses and hearing aids or send them to a national recycling center near you. Additionally, LensCrafter and the Lions Clubs International have partnered to collect eyeglasses. Check with your local LensCrafter store in the US and Canada if they accept glasses.
“Recycled eyeglasses are primarily distributed on international missions. Here in the U.S. laws vary from state to state on the distribution of used prescription eyeglasses,” according to Michele Blomeke, Assistant Public Relation Manager for the Company. “Hearing aids are distributed in both the United States and internationally.
15. Why buy organic food that is shipped across country when you can buy locally? Find local farms and co-ops through the Community Supported Agriculture. Many of your local farmer markets or local farms may be using organic methods but may not want to pursue an organic certification. See the discussion on the CSA website as to how they track their growers’ various organic statuses. Other international and domestic organic tracking databases can be found on The New Farm website.
Becoming a neighborhood “greeny” doesn’t look so hard now that you are loaded with several tips how to green your life. Making it easy is half the battle! So, what are some of your favorite neighborhood green tips?
1. “Just Mow it: A Guide to Grass Recycling,” Cornell Cooperative Extension, Suffolk County, http://tinyurl.com/yru4xb
2 U.S. Postal Service Announces “Cradle to Cradle”SM Certification,”http://tinyurl.com/3ay5g6
3. Neighborrow.com was added to the article on November 7, 2007 after seeing a tip about them on Ideal Bite.
Photo by Megan under permission of the Creative Commons License 2.0