29 Recycling Tips To Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

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Jean Richardson

Jean Richardson is a lover of knowledge, in all forms. He has spent over 15 years as a high school teacher, instructing students in history, geography, mathematics, and more.

If you’re looking to improve your recycling game, then you’ve come to the right place. Below you’ll find an extensive guide on how to recycle at home, at work, at school, and while shopping.

As you’ll see below, you may be surprised at how long products like plastic bottles last in landfills. You’ll also learn answers to your most crucial questions such as “What do I do with old appliances?” or “How do I recycle my old cell phone?” Continue reading for more information!

29 Recycling Tips To Reduce Your Carbon Footprint


1. If You Don’t Have Curbside Pickup, Here’s How You Can Still Recycle

if you happen to live in one of the areas with no curbside pick-up, there’s a good chance that you’ll still be able to recycle. 

Therefore, you are encouraged to search for local recycle centers, where you’ll drop off recyclables into sorted communal bins.

Furthermore, this entire process can be made much easier if you buy bags or containers that will hold recycling items. 

You may also be able to order sorted recycle bins from the local recycling center. 

Keeping items sorted by category will allow you to drive up to the recycling receptacle and dump the items during your next visit.

Reuse Items Before You Recycle

This is how you take your recycling game to the next level, even if you do already recycle items all the time. 

Therefore, before you dump an item into the recycling bin, find a way to reuse it. 

This can include using store-bought food and beverages for a multitude of purposes before eventually recycling them.

  • Use food containers to hold a different item (after a thorough rinsing, of course).
  • If you ever buy plastic water bottles, refill them with tap water or another beverage.
  • Gallon milk jugs have many uses, as you will see later in this article.

Plastic Milk Jugs Have Many Uses

Plastic milk jugs are famous for taking up to 450 years to fully decompose in a landfill, as is the case with many plastic containers. 

Furthermore, because of their durability, plastic milk jugs can be put to a wide range of uses at home before they are ultimately recycled.

  • As A Bird Feeder

Emptied milk jugs can be used as bird feeders if you cut a hole in 2-3 sides of the gallon jug. 

Then you can install wooden dowel rods underneath the holes as perches. Finish off by poking a few small holes in the bottom for rainwater to drain out of.

  • For Planting 

Plastic milk jugs can also be used as starting seed containers if you cut off the bottom 3-4 inches of the container and recycle the rest. You can then fill the container with potting soil.

Many other uses for emptied milk jugs, both indoors and outdoors, are discussed on this page.

2. Recycle Water At Home With A Greywater Irrigation System

As it stands, all the used water in your house goes down the drain and out into a septic/sewer system.

All wastewater then must be treated through an extensive process before it can be recirculated into the environment.

Furthermore, you can recycle water while also cutting down on your water bill by installing a greywater system in your home. 

These are commonly used in relatively dry climates for homeowners to water their gardens. 

Additionally, there are several components of a greywater system that you can read up on here.

3. Learn How To Cook With Leftovers

Learning how to repurpose leftovers will help you step up your recycling game.

Furthermore, according to the USDA, 30-40% of the food supply in the US goes to waste. 

Therefore, one of the leading causes of wastefulness is consumers buying or cooking more food than they need and then throwing out the extras rather than refrigerating them.

So, you are encouraged to plan out your meals for each week, so no food goes to waste.

4. Use Cloth Towels Instead Of Disposable Towels

It is better for cleaning and drying purposes to use cloth towels rather than disposable paper towels that’ll go straight to the trash.

Not only are they better for the environment, but microfiber cloth towels are also more productive at cleaning up dust and debris. 

When it comes to cleaning up greasy pans and dirty countertops, scrub sponges are preferable to paper towels.

They are gentle enough to not scratch anything while also being equipped with scouring pads that can eat away at any mess. 

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Best of all, they are reusable, meaning that you’ll get a lot of use out of them before they need to be thrown away.

5. Place Rain Barrels Under Your Downspouts

On average, 30% of the water used by a home in the US will be spent watering the lawn and garden. 

Therefore, rain barrels present homeowners with a chance to cut back on water usage, not just for their garden but also for use inside the home.

Additionally, you’ll notice that rainwater collection barrels come in a variety of sizes. Here you can see a 50-gallon rain barrel which is fitted with a brass spigot at its bottom.

Furthermore, there are many perks and advantages to rain barrels. Perhaps you live in a region that receives much more rain one season versus the other. 

Rain barrels allow you to save water from a wet time of the year and put it to use during times when rain is scarce.

6. Use Less Water In The Shower & For Laundry

This can be hard to do, but you should strive to use the shower for less than 5 minutes per day to conserve water use. 

You should also wait until your hamper is full before you do laundry, as most washing machines use around 30 gallons per load.

Here are some other good practices for conserving water use at home:

  • Don’t leave the faucet running while you’re brushing your teeth.
  • Look at purchasing a high-efficiency washing machine.
  • Don’t flush the toilet unless it’s necessary. Each flush costs 5-7 gallons of water.

7. Never Throw Out Cardboard

In today’s world of online shopping, cardboard starts to pile up quickly and If you don’t have any curbside pickup for recycling, it’s tempting to simply throw the cardboard into the trash. 

Furthermore, cardboard doesn’t take long to decompose, but it does produce a significant amount of methane in landfills, which contributes to global warming.

So, you are encouraged to flatten your cardboard boxes and place them in a recycling bin. 

Even if you don’t have curbside pickup, you should be able to find a local recycling center that will take your cardboard and dispose of it properly for you.

Additionally, cardboard can also be composted since it decomposes relatively quickly. 

In fact, the presence of plain cardboard items in a compost pile acts to speed up the decomposition process. 

This is because it increases the carbon-nitrogen ratio to a rate that is desired for timely compositing.

8. Extend The Life Of Your Electronics

Electronic waste is a rapidly growing problem worldwide, with 53.6 million metric tons generated in 2019 alone.

From 2014 to 2019, the amount of e-waste being produced rose by 21%. You can help slow this trend by ensuring that your electronic devices last the full extent of their anticipated lifetime.

Here’s how you can maximize the life expectancy of your electronics:

  • Purchase a case for your cell phone.
  • Regularly clean your electronics following manufacturer instructions.
  • Avoid overcharging your batteries.

Also, avoid installing software that could potentially hamper your device’s performance. 

How To Recycle Old Electronics

You should be able to take your old electronics to either a drop-off center or a nonprofit that takes donations. 

Furthermore, look for e-waste recycling centers or cell phone stores, which are most likely to be collection points for such devices.

Also, local municipalities often facilitate e-waste recycling by operating their drop-off points or having a door-side collection program. 

Additionally, some towns and cities may even offer participants a rebate for turning their old electronics in, as is the case with this town that pays out $10 per item. 

You are certainly encouraged to consult with your local government to see if they offer a similar program.

9. For Gardeners: Compost Piles Act As A Natural Fertilizer

If you have a garden, you’ll realize how much of a difference compost can make when it comes to plant growth. 

Furthermore, compost piles are an excellent way to both reduce food waste and improve your garden in one go.

Additionally, starting a compost pile of organic materials will help you keep this waste out of landfills while also reducing the use of harsh chemicals. 

A quality compost pile should have a healthy balance of browns and greens.

  • Browns: dead leaves, branches, and twigs
  • Greens: grass clippings, vegetable waste, fruit scraps, and coffee grounds
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The quality of the compost varies depending on which materials are included and how much time is given for the compost to mature. 

Therefore, there are a variety of factors involved, which you can learn more about here.

10. Reusable Grocery Bags Reduce Plastic Waste

Many stores have caught onto this and are now either encouraging or requiring shoppers to bring reusable bags instead of using plastic grocery bags. 

Additionally, you can see how these reusable grocery bags are sturdier and more durable than the plastic ones you see at stores. 

11. Choose To Have Receipts Emailed To You

The ink used to print out receipts can potentially be hazardous to health and damaging to the environment, according to research cited in Consumer Reports. 

Besides this, it is wasteful due to the amount of paper that must be used for everyone to receive physical copies of their receipts.

Therefore, you can step up your recycling game by requesting to have your receipts emailed to you whenever prompted. 

This way, you’ll reduce the amount of BPA potentially being released into the environment while also taking part in an ambitious effort to cut back on the amount of paper we use every day.

12. Where You Can Recycle Plastic Bags

Many have caught onto the wastefulness of plastic shopping bags, leading to outright bans in some jurisdictions. 

Furthermore, these items cannot be disposed of in-home recycle bins, but there are drop-off locations you can visit to ensure that your plastic bags do not contribute to waste.

For example, many major retailers have plastic bag recycling bins conveniently located at their stores. 

Therefore, you are encouraged to seek these out the next time you go out to run errands. 

13. Buy Recycled Materials When You Can

The next time you shop, look for items that are made from recycled materials. 

Fortunately, the recycled product industry has grown rapidly in recent years, thanks to both consumer demand and reduced costs.

Therefore, search packaging for the “made with recycled-content” label. 

This shows that the product is made from commonly recycled materials such as paper products, plastic, and construction materials. 

This resource from the state of Maine paints a picture of all the products that can be made from recycled materials. 

However, examples that you may find surprising include egg cartons from old newspapers and the paper backing on roof shingles coming from cereal boxes and other paperboard items.

Things You Didn't Know You Could Recycle

14. Old Shoes Can Be Repurposed As Playgrounds

Estimates show that Americans needlessly throw away 300 million pairs of shoes every year, taking 30-40 years to decompose at a landfill.

Therefore, if you have any old sneakers lying around, you’ll be happy to know that you can help contribute to a new playground or running track. 

As the rubber in the sole of the shoes is useful for a variety of second-life purposes.

You can also donate your old shoes to several nonprofits in your area that provide the needy with articles of clothing. 

15. Old Jeans Can Be Turned Into Fiber Insulation

Everybody has old jeans lying around that they probably don’t know what to do with, and that they don’t feel right throwing in the trash. 

The good news is that there are many ways that these old jeans can be repurposed.

One convenient opportunity is to drop them off at charity clothing pickups, where they can help the needy find clothing. 

However, if they are old and raggedy, they can be dropped off in a receptacle and then be sent off to a factory to be turned into natural fiber insulation.

16. Old Crayons Can Be Melted & Formed Into New Crayons

Once crayons become old and stubby, they no longer seem useful, and your initial reaction may be to simply throw them out into the trash. 

However old crayons, no matter their size and shape, can easily be melted down and ultimately formed into new crayons.

The National Crayon Recycling Program asks participants to mail their crayons inside a box to the address listed on the website. 

The organization also asks participants to donate old crayons to inner-city art programs, low-income daycare centers, and other such organizations so they can be recycled and reused.

17. Many Construction Materials Can Be Recycled

The next time you have a home renovation, you are encouraged to take advantage of the recycling opportunities for construction materials, which can be repurposed for many uses. 

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As the amount of construction and demolition materials more than doubles the amount of general municipal waste.

  • Roof Shingles Can Be Turned Into Roads

If these end up in a landfill, it can take up to 300 years for them to fully decompose. This is significant since the US produces an estimated 11 million tons of roofing shingle waste per year. 

However, recycled roof shingles can be used to make asphalt for new roadways. 

Therefore, contact a local waste management company before your next roofing project to learn how to properly dispose of them.

  • A Second Life For Floor Tiles

If you’ve been thinking about getting new floor tiles, you are encouraged to recycle the originals. 

Furthermore, there are a variety of solutions when it comes to giving old floor tiles a second life. 

One of the most convenient methods is to contact a local recycling center. 

As old floor tiles may be broken up and mixed to create garden ornaments or plant pots at the factory. 

Additionally, if the tiles are in decent shape, you may be able to donate them to a local humanitarian organization.

18. Properly Dispose Of Used Appliances 

Refrigerators, freezers, and air conditioners all contain chlorofluorocarbons, which must be recycled appropriately under federal regulation. 

So, to dispose of this you can start by contacting your local transfer station. 

Also, consider asking your utility company if they offer any rebates for used appliances. 

As they may even haul away an old fridge or freezer for you. 

Additionally, as long as an appliance is in decent shape, you may be able to donate it to a local secondhand store or nonprofit organization. 

19. Use Reusable Lunch Bags Instead Of Paper Bags

An excellent way to cut down on needless waste is to not throw out any more of those brown lunch sacks.

Rather than throwing these in the trash can, you should add them to the collection of other paper recyclables.

Better yet, you should use microwavable plastic food containers to hold your food items and a reusable lunch bag.

This is because plastic containers can last as long as 5-10 years.

Therefore, if you bring lunch to work every day, it’s not inconceivable that you could cut back on 1,000 or more paper lunch sacks. 

20. Don’t Use Disposable Cups For Coffee

Plastic-lined coffee cups can take 30 years to decompose at a landfill, while plastic straws can last up to 200 years.

Additionally, the vast majority of Styrofoam cups are not recycled, with an estimated 25 billion Styrofoam cups thrown out each year in America.

However, this problem can be combated with stainless steel mugs and metal straws

Besides being much better for the environment, stainless steel alternatives are also much better thermal conductors than Styrofoam or plastic.

21. Organize Your Work Supplies

Additionally, you can cut down your company’s need to purchase duplicate products by keeping your office supplies tidy and organized. 

Here are some ways that you can keep everything organized:

  • Cabinets and shelving units should be labeled so that you know where each item can be found in an instant.
  • Papers and envelopes of varying sizes should be organized in ranked order of size.
  • Smaller items like writing utensils and staplers should be placed in plastic containers.

Another good workplace habit is to develop a working inventory of all the electronics in your office and when they were purchased. 

Therefore, items that are old and outdated can be sent off for recycling, while newer items may prevent duplicate purchases from occurring. 

Conclusion

The most crucial recycling tips revolve around what to do with items that are particularly detrimental to the environment, such as used appliances, electronics, and plastic bottles (which can take a long time to decompose at landfills). 

In the sections above is a guide on how to recycle these items and much more. Even avid recycling participants may not be aware of the usefulness of used shoes, old blue jeans, or crayons that have seemingly reached the end of their lifetime. 

Author

  • Jean Richardson is a lover of knowledge, in all forms. He has spent over 15 years as a high school teacher, instructing students in history, geography, mathematics, and more.

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