You’ve probably heard the “reduce, reuse, recycle” mantra about a million times. That’s because it’s been a key pillar of the green living and conservation movements since the first Earth Day in 1970. By now, you might respond with a mental “I know, I know, I know.” But are you doing, doing, doing? You probably recycle your aluminum and paper. Maybe you reuse glass food jars for future food storage. And perhaps you take steps to reduce by being a conscious consumer. Anything and everything you’re doing deserves a pat on the back! But today we’re challenging you to do a little more – and we have plenty of ideas and inspiration to get you going.
Here are three tips from our free “One Small Act” social gaming platform that has hundreds of ways to green your life.
Recycle a pair of old running shoes or sneakers.
If you think your smelly old athletic shoes are good for little more than stinking up a landfill, here’s some news that will send you running for the closet: just like your used bottles, cans, and newspapers, athletic shoe soles can easily be reincarnated as something new after they’ve crossed their last finish line.
Most athletic shoes are made from synthetic rubber and other materials that are perfectly recyclable no matter how dreadful their condition may seem. From running tracks and basketball courts to playgrounds and carpet padding, even the worst offenders can be turned into the very things they once played upon. The midsole foam from 2,500 pairs of sneakers, for example, can be recycled into a tennis court. And it takes up to 75,000 pairs to make a soccer field!
You can’t toss old footwear into your curbside bin along with your usual recyclables because most recycling operations aren’t set up to handle their unique materials.
That said, with more people realizing that shoe recycling is a great way to tread more lightly on the earth, it’s becoming simpler to do. Check out RecycledRunners to see if there are resources near you.
Use a reusable moving box instead of cardboard.
Moving is a drag. It’s also not the eco-friendliest experience. To lower the eco-impact of your move and save some trees—not to mention tape—try renting reusable plastic moving boxes.
Plastic boxes aren’t perfect. They’re heavy—which adds up when you load them into a gas-guzzling truck. They’re made from a nonrenewable resource (though some are recycled plastic) and must be carefully recycled at the end of their useful life. Some companies say their lifespan is 200 uses, others claim 400. But on average they’re a better bet than cardboard boxes, even ones containing recycled content—whether you take them from your local supermarket and liquor store or you buy them new. Recycling cardboard does eventually produce waste. And there’s a considerable amount of shipping involved between recycling plants, cardboard manufacturers, and the stores that sell the boxes.
There are added benefits to reusable bins that cardboard can’t match. First, if it rains, you’re in luck. Plastic bins don’t get soggy. Second, rental periods are usually a few weeks, which means you have a set unpacking date. No more leaving boxes unopened for months post-move! And no more breaking down and recycling empties.
Find a local reusable moving box company. They’re easier to find in cities. Rental fees are similar to buying cardboard boxes, depending on where you live. The system works best if you’re moving close by. It’s trickier if your move is cross-country.
Opt for towels and clothes for packing fragile items, instead of bubble wrap and other disposables.
Challenge a co-worker to a day of going paperless.
Offices are involved in the world’s greatest paper chase, a race our forests end up losing.
The average office employee generates approximately 1.5 pounds (.7 kg) of waste paper every workday for a less-than-grand total of 350 pounds (159 kg) per year. In an office with just 30 people that’s an annual waste stream of five tons. Not all of this waste gets recycled. According to the EPA, about 37 percent of the paper we use is entombed forever in landfills as pure waste.
Some 42 percent of the industrial wood harvest is used to make paper, and the industry itself is the 4th leading manufacturing-related emitter of greenhouse gases in the U.S. If America could cut its office paper use by just 10 percent, we’d prevent 1.6 million tons of those emissions. That’s like taking 280,000 cars off the road!
Challenge a co-worker to a day of going paper free (you have to do it, too)! See if you can make it the whole day. It may require the focus and determination of an Olympic athlete, but you know what they say: practice makes perfect.
Here are some tips to help you in your quest:
- Suggest meeting hosts email agendas and any necessary information to attendees electronically instead of as paperwork.
- Encourage meeting attendees use smart phones, tablets, or laptops instead of paper for note keeping and document sharing.
- Post-meeting, remind hosts that meeting minutes or reports can be sent electronically as well.
- Edit files electronically instead of printing them out.
- Try taking notes digitally instead of in a notebook.
Need more inspiration? Check out all of these awesome ideas from some of our favorite green bloggers:
Learn more and take action on One Small Act – our digital platform where you can earn points for living lighter on the planet and connect with others doing the same!