Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

On a daily basis, we try to be good role models for our kids and teach them how to reduce, reuse, and recycle.  If you are looking for some ways that you can become more green, here are some suggestions for you to get started in your home.


There are lots of ways you can reduce your impact on the environment.  Minimize the number of disposable items you use:  diapers, baby wipes, napkins, paper towels, paper plates, plastic ware, plastic wrap, plastic baggies, etc.

Use cloth diapers. I spent a few hundred dollars on cloth diapers when Jadon was born.  I have used them continually (on three kids) for the past 5 years, and will use them yet again when our fourth child is born.  Yes, I do use disposables when other people are taking care of Lucas, but the thousands, yes thousands, of dollars I will have saved by not regularly buying disposables for four children and drying them many times on the clothes rack has greatly decreased our children’s impact on their environment!

Dry your clothes outside instead of in the dryer. I often dry clothes on our drying rack rather than in the dryer since we don’t have a good place to put a clothesline.  The nice thing about the drying rack is that I can still use it inside to dry my clothes even in the middle of winter in Michigan when it’s only 10 degrees!

Stop using those awful disposable water bottles! These days, reusable bottles are available pretty much everywhere.  Buy a stainless steel one!  Undoubtedly you’ve heard how bad plastic water bottles are for the environment.  Plastic water bottles require millions of gallons of oil per year to produce, and 80% of water  bottles, while recyclable, end up getting thrown out.  Never mind that plastic is porous and some of the chemicals can leach out into the liquid it contains!  And where do you think those chemicals will go?  That’s right…into your body!

Cut back on using disposable batteries and buy rechargeable ones.I hate pretty much all toys that use batteries anyway, but now I have a good excuse not to buy them!  All they do is make annoying noises and “teach” things that my kids never seem to learn.  I mean, really, do I honestly think a wagon with farm animals that you can push down on and say words in French will make my kids bilingual?  Do I even think they will learn that one word that the toy says?  Que non!  (That’s ”no way” in French, which I did NOT learn from a toy.)

When you do use batteries, they should be disposed of properly, which means finding out how to recycle them in your community and not throwing them out in your trash.  Besides, who’s not up for saving some money by buying rechargeable batteries?

When you pack your kids’ school lunches, put food in reusable containers rather than baggies. The containers won’t be big enough to make an impact in your dishwasher (chances are you’ll be running it anyway) and they’ll keep food from getting squashed in your child’s lunch when 20 other lunchboxes are piled on top of it!  Oh, and by the way, you’ll prevent hundreds of plastic baggies from going to the landfill.

And for Pete’s sake, stop using plastic grocery bagsIn the past 15-20 years, I’ve accumulated at least 20  canvas shopping bags of every material, size, and color.  In Colorado in the late ’90s, the cashiers at the grocery stores always commented on how great it was that I was using them.  When we moved to Michigan in 2005 and I took them to Wal-Mart for the first time, I just got a rude glare of impatience from the cashier.  Luckily now bringing your own bags is all the rage!

Refuse the offer of a bag when you really don’t need it. Why do I need a plastic bag to put my kids’ shoes in when they’re already in boxes and I’m only walking 20 feet to the car?  Oh, that’s right, I don’t!  Like anything else, it’s just a matter of getting in the habit!


Reuse gift-wrapping supplies, including bows, ribbon, gift bags, tissue paper and wrapping paper. I am not one of those people who stands over the gift recipient with my hand open waiting to take the wrapping paper that I expect he/she will take off without ripping or wrinkling it.  However, I am sure to take whatever paper IS reusable and fold it up neatly for another time.  At Christmas, we have one garbage bag for garbage, one (or two) for recyclable paper/packaging, and one smaller bag for bows/ribbons.  Our kids will soon begin to notice that Santa Claus and his elves reycycle at the North Pole!

Reuse disposable plastic ware. I often send Jadon to school with yogurt and a plastic spoon.  He knows to bring the spoon home so that I can wash it and reuse it the next time.  It’s now April and he’s still using the same spoon he used back in September.  If the spoon does get thrown out accidentally, it’s no big deal because it’s disposable, right?  You never know…he reported to me that he had inadvertently thrown out his lunchbox one day; his friends called it to his attention.  Luckily the lunchroom attendant saved the day by fishing it out of the trash and wiping it off for him!

Reuse paper bags. On the rare occasion that I do forget my reusable shopping bags, I always ask for paper.  Those bags then get used for various things:  holding returnable pop cans/bottles, lining the recycling basket in the kitchen, wrapping up previously labeled boxes to send in the mail, sorting baby clothes, etc.


As a general rule, hopefully you are recycling or composting more volume than you are throwing into your garbage.

Set up a recycling station at home. Most of your recyclable materials are most likely coming from your kitchen, so setting up some type of recycling station there probably makes the most sense.  We have one cupboard that has a pull-out platform designated for trash and recycling.  There is room for two baskets.  With the recycling right by the trash, it’s easy to remember to throw something in the proper basket and to inform guests where to put things.  Guess who’s trained to take out the recycling on a daily basis?  You got it…Jadon!

We have three big curbside bins in the garage.  One of Jadon’s chores is to take out the recycling daily so it doesn’t overflow in the kitchen.  We always drag two of the bins to the curb on garbage/recycling day.  The third bin has recyclable items that we have to take somewhere because they aren’t picked up at home:  Styrofoam, plastic bags (yes, we somehow end up with them from time to time), and batteries.

Many people are lucky enough to live in an area where they receive curbside recycling pickup.  This is a basic list of what most people can probably recycle at home:  metal cans, pop cans (that’s soda for those of you who don’t live in Michigan), clear glass, plastic containers (#1 PETE and #2 HDPE), newspaper, junk mail, envelopes with windows, magazines, cardboard (box board and corrugated), and phone books.  This list is certainly not comprehensive for many areas but it’s a basic one.  If you’re lucky, like we are, you can recycle virtually everything, including yogurt containers (yes, Jadon knows to bring home empty yogurt containers for Mommy to recycle).  So be sure to check with your local government and get a list of what’s recyclable in your area.

If you can’t get much in the way of curbside service, there may be a location somewhere in your town where you can drop off items to recycle.  Several organizations around our town have Paper Retriever recycling bins large enough to hold 2 tons of paper where people can drop off most types of paper if they can’t recycle them at home.  Your area may have a service similar to this.

Like anything else, it’s just a matter of getting in the habit of reducing, reusing, and recycling.  Before you know it, you’ll have your kids mimicking you (in a positive way)!  Wouldn’t that be great?