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The Recyclist: 8 teeny-tiny ways
to reduce, reuse and recycle

April 1, 2010 |  8:02 am
Car-cup-holder I really admire the gung-ho green types. The ones who install a solar roof. Or rip up the  lawn and plant cactus. Or refuse to order takeout because of the Styrofoam. And by "admire" I mean, "I admire you but I know I'm never going to do that in a million years."

I'm taking the opposite tack as I try to reduce the amount of waste I produce. I'm going small.

Here are eight really teeny, tiny ways that I've stepped up my green game without spending a dime.

  1. Everyone owns a commuter mug, right? Well, I realized that I actually need to use it. I usually drink coffee at home in the morning. But once or twice a week I find myself pulling into a java joint. Solution: I leave a commuter mug in the car.

  2. Sure, I recycle in the kitchen. But until recently, I largely ignored the rest of the house. Like the bathroom. And the backyard and garage. Now, cardboard toilet paper holders, empty shampoo bottles and laundry detergent containers all go into recycling.

  3. I now reuse my recycling bags. All paper waste -- newspapers, magazines, junk mail -- goes into a brown paper bag. When it's full I dump the contents of the bag into the bin -- and then reuse the bag until the danged handles come off. Non-paper items get rinsed before they go into my bag-lined recycling can. That keeps the liner pretty clean so it gets reused a few times as well. (Eventually, though, it gets yucky and has to go.)

  4. You know all those takeout napkins stuffed into the kitchen junk drawer? I now station them in front of the paper towel holder. Instead of reaching for paper towels for messy jobs, I put those excess napkins to use.

  5. Speaking of napkins: They usually pile up alongside plastic silverware and sticky, unused packets of soy sauce, chili sauce and honey that I know I'm going to throw out but I still keep them because one never can predict a soy sauce emergency.... Ugh. Now, when I order takeout, I ask them to hold the soy/chili/honey.  And, since I don't mind being one of those people, I poke my head in the bag to check. If it's in there, I just take it out and leave it behind. Politely.

  6. I've gussied up my work station. I've got a cloth napkin, coffee mug, drinking glass, and stainless flatware at my desk.

  7. I wish my life were paperless. It is so far from paperless. I'm trying to make up for it by reusing press releases, junk mail, Google maps. They now go back into the printer so I can print on the unused side. Or once I have a small stack I staple them together. Instant notebook.

  8. I forget to bring my cloth bags into the supermarket 97% of the time. So, I have two recovery tactics. First,  I crumple up one or two plastic grocery sacks and shove them in the bottom of my purse. Assuming I do not forget that -- it happens -- I'm good to go for a modest shopping trip.  Second, if I have more buys than bag, I put my groceries into the cart sans bag and then pack them into the cloth bags when I get to my trunk.

But I want to know: What are your tips?

-- Rene Lynch

On Twitter @renelynch

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Photo: Hey, here's an idea for myself: Actually use the commuter mug. Credit: Robin Rauzi

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