Easy steps to reduce, reuse and recycle common household garbage



Global warming and extreme climate change are having a huge impact on the condition of our world, and if we don’t do something soon, our grandchildren and great grandchildren may not have a world to call home. Individually, my family may not have a major effect on global warming, but we can change our lifestyle habits and do our part. If every family would take recycling and conservation seriously, then maybe together we can make a difference. We could even save some money in the process.

fuss-junk-mail1Newspapers and Junk Mail

I have always been a big re-user of newspapers and junk mail because both are biodegradable. I use newspapers to start the foundation of new beds in my gardens. When I decide on the location of a new bed, the first thing I do is clear the area, then lay down thick wads of wet newspaper to cover the ground. After sprinkling a small layer of garden soil over the newspaper, I start layering the bed with leaf mulch, grass clippings and other yard waste.

These garden beds are best when allowed to “rest” through a few seasons before planting, but they can be planted immediately, depending on how much organic material you have on hand. Because I have one acre to care for, I have pounds and pounds of yard waste to supply new beds. The newspaper barrier breaks down in the soil almost immediately and provides a moist dark environment to attract earthworms.

With the introduction of a paper shredder to our home office, junk mail is now a pleasure to deal with. I have always composted my junk mail, but because much of the paper is colored or thicker than normal newspaper print, it takes much longer to break down. Now, whenever we bring junk mail into the house, we automatically shred it. This eliminates the chance of identity theft, plus the shredded junk mail decomposes much faster because of the smaller size.

Last fall, I dug several large holes throughout my gardens in anticipation of planting new trees this spring. All fall and winter I have been filling these holes up with shredded junk mail and kitchen scraps. I keep the holes covered with a layer of leaves, and every few weeks I stomp down the holes and stir them up with my garden claw; this allows air to circulate, which improves the decomposition. When it comes time to plant my trees, I will have holes full of nice, rich compost. There is nothing better for a new tree than loads of organic matter.

fuss-jarsCans and Jars

When we used to buy them, aluminum cans were always a recyclable item in our home, typically sold by the pound to the scrap center. Food cans are not something I have been in the habit of recycling. It’s so convenient to just throw them in the trash. But my youngest daughter has made me see the error of my ways. We now religiously wash out cans before throwing them into the recycling bag. I have also used soup cans to sprout herbs and veggies in my kitchen windows.

Glass jars are an item that we reuse more than we recycle, because there are so many uses for old glass jars. They can be used for all types of storage, from the kitchen to the garage. Baby food jars are great for small nuts and bolts, pickle jars are good for storing leftovers, and commercial size jars can hold sugar, flour or tea. During the holiday season, I make fireside coffee, hot cocoa or spice tea mixes, as well as soup and cookie mixes, to give to family and friends. Collecting jars throughout the year is a must in order to have enough containers for my gift giving.


Our major recycling problem is plastic bottles—water, soda and milk. We seem to be drowning in plastic. Of course, the obvious solution is to buy fewer plastic items, and we’re trying to do that to the extent possible.

As for reusing, those two-liter bottles make great mini-greenhouses for spring transplants; cat litter buckets are the perfect size for yard projects; and milk jugs can be turned into bird feeders.

I still have relapses, but my daughter is trying to keep me straight. As a matter of fact, she has taken on the responsibility of the plastic bottles and soup cans.

You’re probably thinking, Life is busy enough without adding trips to the recycling center. But 15 minutes every other week is not too much to ask in the war to save our planet. Once you start doing it regulary, going to the recycling center will become routine. Start small. Save newspapers or compost kitchen waste—just get started. Future generations are counting on us.

Bobbi Dawn Rightmyer is a lifelong resident of historic Harrodsburg, Kentucky, where she lives with her husband and three grown daughters. She has been writing since the age of 11 and has been published in various publications since 1996.

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