There are a number of ways we can reduce, reuse and recycle everyday items to reduce our footprint on the environment. Check out the ideas below:
Things that everyone can do:
- Give away or sell items you no longer need; if you don't need it, someone else might!
- Try using a reusable mug for coffee in the morning instead of a paper cup.
- Use canvas shopping bags instead of plastic grocery bags (Canadians go through 55 million plastic grocery bags a week!) or use plastic grocery bages to stuff boxes for shipping.
- When bringing your lunch to work or school, make use of a reusable lunch bag.
- Instead of individually packaged snacks, buy them in bulk and use a reusable container; you'll save money and significantly reduce the waste you produce.
- When margarine and other plastic containers are empty, use them to freeze soups and sauces.
- If you do any gardening, use paper egg cartons to germinate your seeds. When you are done with it, you can put it in the compost.
- Eat leftovers! An extra baked potato at supper time makes great hash browns for breakfast the next morning.
- Fill empty pop and water bottles with a bit of water and freeze them for a great cold pack.
- Use old, holey t-shirts for cleaning rags.
- Toilet paper rolls can be used to organize your extension cords, or, if you use a wood stove, can be stuffed with old newspaper and used for a fire starter.
- Reuse Sunday Comics for wrapping paper.
- Baby jars are great for organizing things like nails, screws, tacks, spices, or seeds.
- Tires: everybody loves a tire swing.
- If you have a wood-burning fireplace, save your ashes in a tin instead of throwing them away. Cold wood ashes can be mixed in your compost heap to create a valuable soil additive. Ashes can also be used to melt ice and gain traction on walkways and driveways.
- Many articles of clothing, such as jackets, scarves, gloves, and boots, are now made from recycled materials. Most fleece products are made from recycled plastic soda bottles, and certain clothing and shoe manufacturers use recycled cotton scraps and rubber tires to make their products.
- Winter storms often cause power outages. Prevent waste by keeping rechargeable batteries rather than disposable ones stored throughout your house with your flashlights. If you do use disposable batteries, prevent hazardous waste by buying batteries with low mercury content.
- Think green while shopping the winter sales. Bring your own reusable cloth bag for carrying your purchases, and try to buy items with minimal packaging and/or made with recycled content. For example, buy fleece jackets made from recycled soda bottles, sneakers made with recycled rubber soles, or clothes made from recycled cotton scraps.
- This Valentine's Day, show your love for the earth by sending recycled-content greeting cards.
- Consider sending electronic valentines.
- Bake cookies or other goodies for your valentine and package them in reusable and/or recyclable containers as gifts.
- Consider also buying long-lasting silk flowers, potted plants, or live bushes, shrubs, or trees that can be planted in the spring.
- Prevent waste by using a reusable sports bottle instead of disposable plastic bottles. If you are providing drinks for your team, supply them in reusable containers such as thermoses or hard plastic cups.
- Before storing your used sports equipment for the winter, consider donating or selling any equipment you no longer want to a charity or used sporting goods store.
- Donati old soccer balls, footballs, or tennis balls to your local animal shelter to use as chew toys.
- Purchase used sports equipment whenever possible, and look for sporting goods that are made from recycled material. Examples include hiking shoes with recycled rubber soles, basketballs made with recycled rubber, and ski jackets and sleeping bags made from recycled soda bottles.
- For sports you don't regularly participate in, try renting or borrowing equipment rather than buying it. This will save you money and prevent waste!
- Don't buy new boxes. Prior to moving day, start saving boxes for reuse or ask a local business for their leftover shipping boxes.
- If you must purchase new boxes, buy corrugated boxes with the highest recycled content you can find.
- Pack clothing, linens, and other items in suitcases or duffel bags that you already own.
- Recycle your moving boxes when you're finished unpacking.
- Some moving companies will allow you to rent reusable storage crates. These crates have a life expectancy of 10 years and are also recyclable at the end of their useful life.
- Instead of using new sheets of packing paper, use towela or old newspapers to wrap fragile items.
- Consider using environmentally friendly packing materials such as cushioning peanuts made of biodegradable cornstarch, bubble wrap containing postconsumer recycled plastic, or even popcorn. In turn, recycle or reuse these materials after you've unpacked.
- Be sure to properly dispose of any non-recyclable items that you won't be taking with you. This includes household cleaners, paints, automotive supplies, and other hazardous items that require special disposal.
- Use recycled latex paint for household projects when it's appropriate.
- Offer to donate items to schools and local charities. Many are interested in notepads, toys, dishes, sweaters and coats, books, pencils, board games, posters, and holiday decorations.
- Have a yard sale to find new homes for clothes, toys, appliances, books, and other items.
- Check with local repair shops to see if they can use your old appliances for spare parts.
- For spring cleaning chores, try to use non-disposable items such as mops and reusable rags or sponges. When using household cleaning products, be sure that you only use the amount you need, and that you read and follow the manufacturer's directions for use and disposal.
- At your next barbeque, set the picnic table with reusable dinnerware.
- Hot summer days require gallons of thirst quenchers. Be sure to recycle the used beverage containers. Consider putting a filter on your water tap and refilling bottles with the filtered water, or instead of buying many small drink bottles, buy drinks or drink mixes in bulk and fill reusable bottles.
- When making reservations at campgrounds, ask about their recycling facilities.
- At the beach, use old buckets and other items in your house to build sand castles.
- Rather than buying small, travel-sized toiletries, fill reusable containers with shampoo, soap, and other necessities.
- Reuse plastic or paper shopping bags to pack items for your trip and recycle them afterwards. Plastic shopping bags are perfect for keeping dirty shoes and wet bathing suits separate from other items in your suitcase, while paper bags are great for packing snacks for the car.
- Book flights with airlines that offer electronic tickets to reduce paper waste.
- Take along plastic bags to collect your used beverage containers for recycling at rest stops.
In the Yard
- Use food scraps, yard trimmings, and other organic waste to create a compost pile. Compost is a rich soil amendment that can help increase water retention, decrease erosion, and replace chemical fertilizers.
- Buy recycled-content gardening equipment and tools, such as garden hoses made from old tires, stepping stones made from old glass bottles, or hand tools made with recycled plastic.
- You can also use plastic lumber made from recycled plastic bottles and bags to make flower beds, trellises, decks, and birdhouses.
- Recycle used oil and tires from lawn and garden equipment.
- Cut the bottoms off plastic milk jugs or use small paper bags to protect young seedlings from frost, wind, heavy rain, and roving animals. Remember to recycle the bags and jugs when the seedlings have grown.
- When you mow, "grasscycle" by leaving grass clippings on your lawn instead of bagging them or use a mulching mower. The clippings will return nutrients to the soil instead of taking up space in landfills.
- Shred untreated wood and leaf wastes into chips and use them as mulch on garden beds to prevent weed growth, retain moisture, regulate soil temperature, and add nutrients back to the soil.
Around the House
- When choosing materials to improve or remodel your home, try to buy recycled products. Using recycled products helps reduce the amount of material going to landfills. Flooring, insulation, plastic lumber, woodwork, shingles, and many garden/lawn products are made from recycled materials.
- Buy carpet made from recycled drink bottles (polyethylene terephthalate fiber). This recycled-content carpet is durable, resists moisture and staining, and requires no additional chemicals for its manufacture.
- Donate reusable old cabinets, doors, plumbing fixtures, and hardware to a local charity or building materials reuse centre.
- Bring your local household hazardous waste to the Community Recycling Centre or your local ENVIRO-DEPOT for safe disposal of harmful waste products and materials, such as empty aerosol paint cans, leftover paint and thinners, used solvents and paint chips, unused garden products like fertilizers and pesticides, and household chemicals.
- When working around the house, use reusable rags and wipes instead of disposable products. Reuse old milk jugs, coffee cans, or other plastic containers to hold paint, cleaners, or other supplies. Be sure to label and date these containers properly, and store them safely away from children and pets.
Back to School
- Choose and use a wide assortment of products made from recycled products, such as pencils made from old blue jeans; binders made from old shipping boxes; and many types of recycled paper products.
- You can also reuse items like refillable pens, rechargeable batteries, and scrap paper for notes. Using recycled-content and reusing supplies prevents waste and saves you money.
- Before starting a new school year, sort through your materials. Many supplies can be reused or recycled. Notebooks, folders, and binders can be reused. Recycle unwanted papers and reuse your old folders and binders. Share your used books with friends, relatives, or younger school children.
- Waste from packaging accounts for more than 30 percent of all the waste generated each year. Use school supplies wrapped with minimal packaging; use compact or concentrated products; or buy products that come in bulk sizes.
- Save packaging, colored paper, egg cartons and other items for arts and crafts projects. Look for other ways you can reduce the amount of packaging you throw away!
- Many schools reuse text books to save money and reduce waste. Covering your textbooks with cut-up grocery or shopping bags or newspaper comics helps reduce waste and keeps your books in good condition. Be creative—use markers or colored pencils to give your covers unique and fun designs.
- Paper grocery bags are also great for wrapping packages.
- Use and maintain durable products. Sturdy backpacks and notebooks can be reused for many years, which helps reduce the amount of broken items tossed away each year.
- Put long-lasting, high-quality tires on your car and bicycle. Be sure to keep your tires properly inflated.
- If you bring your lunch to school, package it in reusable containers instead of disposable ones, and carry them in a reusable plastic or cloth bag, or lunch box. Bring drinks in a thermos instead of disposable bottles or cartons.
- If you buy lunch, take and use only what you need: One napkin, one ketchup packet, one salt packet, one pepper packet, one set of flatware. And, remember to recycle your cans and bottles.
- Pass it on. Share the message with your friends and schoolmates. Waste less by reducing, reusing, and recycling. Volunteer for, or start , an environmental club or recycling project in your school.
- Save money and buy a used part from an auto recycler, save money and reduce waste!
- Maybe not for everybody, but try reusable diapers, you will reduce landfill waste and save lots of money! Choose to reuse washcloths rather than use disposable wipes for diaper changes.
- Exchange baby clothes, shoes and toys with friends as little ones grow.
- Grass clippings and shredded (or unshredded) leaves make excellent mulch. Pile shredded leaves deep around your shrubbery, as well as in and around any plants you want to overwinter in pots.
- If you host a Thanksgiving party, set the table with cloth napkins and reusable dishes, glasses, and silverware. Consider renting more formal tableware that you might not use very often. Also save and reuse party hats, decorations, and favors.
- After holiday festivities, put leftovers in recyclable containers, and share them with family, friends, or others. Donate whole, untouched leftovers from parties to a local food bank or homeless shelter.
- Show your guests where to put recyclables such as aluminum, glass, and plastic beverage containers.
- Wash and reuse empty glass and plastic jars, milk jugs, coffee cans, dairy tubs, and other similar containers that would otherwise get thrown away. These containers can be used to store leftovers as well as buttons, nails, or other loose items.
- November is an excellent time of year to conduct neighborhood food or clothing drives to help those in need.
- Canadians use approximately 55 million plastic bags every week. Reduce the number of bags thrown out by bringing reusable cloth bags for holiday gift shopping.
- Wrap gifts in recycled or reused wrapping paper or funny papers. Also remember to save or recycle used wrapping paper. Give gifts that don't require much packaging, such as concert tickets or gift certificates.
- Send recycled-content greeting cards to reduce the amount of virgin paper used during the holidays. Remember to recycle any paper cards you receive. You can also try sending electronic greeting cards to reduce paper waste.
- About 40 percent of all battery sales occur during the holiday season. Buy rechargeable batteries to accompany your electronic gifts, and consider giving a battery charger as well. Rechargeable batteries reduce the amount of potentially harmful materials thrown away, and can save money in the long run.
- To help prevent waste from cutting down and disposing of live trees, you can buy a potted tree and plant it after the holidays.
- Have a create-your-own-decorations party! Invite family and friends to create and use holiday decorations such as ornaments made from old greeting cards or cookie dough, garlands made from strung popcorn or cranberries, wreaths made from artificial greens and flowers, and potpourri made from kitchen spices such as cinnamon and cloves.
- Consider the durability of a product before you buy it as a gift. Cheaper, less durable items often wear out quickly, creating waste and costing you money.
- When buying gifts, check product labels to determine an item's recyclability and whether it is made from recycled materials. Buying recycled encourages manufacturers to make more recycled-content products available.
- Use your own camera instead of a disposable one to reduce waste while capturing holiday memories. Consider buying a digital camera so that you don't have to use film and only print the pictures you want to keep.