This change is easy to make, but very impactful. When recycling, make sure you rinse out jars and other recyclable food containers. The rinse does not have to be perfect, but anything with excessive food residue cannot be recycled. Dirty items also risk contaminating other recyclables, so one dirty item has the potential to ruin a recycling bin, forcing it all to go to the landfill. But, as I said, this is an easy fix, so there’s nothing to worry about!

     To clean your recyclables, you can put water in it and swish it around until the majority of the food residue is gone. If it is a sticky residue, such as honey or jam, I like to fill the container with water and let it soak for a bit. 

     That’s it! Rinsing your recyclables is such a simple change, but it is so impactful. By making it a habit, we can greatly increase the percentage of successfully recycled items.

by Mia Foster

batteries lot
Photo by mohamed Abdelgaffar on Pexels.com

(A bundle of multiple colored batteries)

Currently it is considered safe to throw away single-use batteries in all states except California. However, just because it is deemed safe enough by the government does not mean it is the best option. Today I will go over how to recycle different types of batteries and, if you are unable to recycle, how to properly prepare your batteries for the landfill. 

Recycling Alkaline/ Single-Use Batteries

Every single-use battery contains reusable materials, such as zinc, manganese, and steel (Earth911). As in any other form of recycling, by choosing to recycle our batteries we divert them from the landfill, create new products, and prevent excessive mining for new metals because the metals from the recycled materials fill the quota.     

To recycle single-use batteries, find a mail-in or drop off recycling service near you. Call2Recycle is a wonderful resource, and Home Depot has partnered with them. If you live near a Home Depot, you can take your dead batteries to said location and they will recycle them for you. Earth911 also has an extremely helpful Recycling Locator that can help you find recycling facilities near you.

Recycling Rechargeable Batteries

It is required that we recycle reusable batteries when they are at the end of their life because they have toxic chemicals and heavy metals that are not safe for landfills (Home Depot). They are recognized by the EPA as hazardous waste and should be treated as such (Earth 911). These batteries can be recharged and reused hundreds of times but they will eventually die. When they do, follow the same process as with single-use battery recycling; the same facilities often handle both types of batteries. It is important to note that if you have a piece of technology with a rechargeable battery that dies, with the exception of cell phones, it is best to remove the battery from the device prior to recycling.

anonymous person showing recycle symbol on smartphone
Photo by ready made on Pexels.com

(a phone with a recycle sign, which is what you should do with your batteries if possible 😉 )

Throwing Away Single-Use Batteries

If you cannot recycle single-use batteries, you can dispose of them in the garbage (excluding Californians) if you take precautionary measures first. Dead batteries are not entirely dead and they are still a fire hazard. To prevent issues with disposal, tape over the ends of 9-volt batteries and place batteries in a plastic or cardboard box to avoid sparking.

Conclusion

Batteries are very common in our everyday lives and the proper disposal of them is an issue nearly no one understands. My family has jars of dead batteries sitting around waiting for the day when one of us knows what to do with them. I figure there’s no time like the present! Hopefully with this information on battery disposal we can rid ourselves of dead batteries together while being environmentally conscious.

By Mia Foster

     There are many items that have become more ubiquitous, commonly used, or appreciated since the rise of COVID-19. These products are often the first to be swept off the shelves. In the mania of panic-shopping, which is another issue in and of itself, we often forget to think about the ecological impacts of these products and how to use them more sustainably. Good news for you, I’ve gathered some small tidbits on the products made infamous during quarantine and how to use and dispose of them properly!

Toilet Paper

     Hopefully we’ve all been using toilet paper our whole lives, but in the world of coronavirus, its value and cultural significance has skyrocketed.

     Recently, I realized that my family has a tendency to throw empty toilet paper tubes into the garbage. When I thought more about this, I asked myself; do we have to send these to the landfills? Are they recyclable or compostable? 

     According to Kathryn Kellogg, author of 101 Ways to go Zero Waste, toilet paper tubes (or cores or whatever you choose to call them) are recyclable, and some brands are even compostable. It is worth the extra effort to take the empty core to your recycling bin. If this is too much effort or you feel you will forget, you can put a small recycle bin in your bathroom. If you are feeling crafty, toilet paper tubes have also been the inspiration for many craft and organizing projects on Pinterest.

Masks

     During COVID-19 and after, masks are likely to become much more commonly worn than before. Instead of purchasing single-use masks, consider taking the time to make your own reusable cloth masks. To make this upgrade from single-use to reusable even more eco-friendly, consider making the masks out of old clothes that can’t be worn, curtains, or other sources of fabric that would otherwise be thrown away. The CDC has created guidelines for how to make your own masks, with both sewing and non-sewing options. Here is the link to their tutorials:

Soap

     Fun fact: liquid soaps have a 25% higher carbon footprint than bar soaps (Cleancult). A simple way to stay clean and sustainable is to opt for bar soap in your home. If you really want to stick to liquid soap, consider buying refillable soap. The companies will sell refill jugs and you can refill your own dispenser, lessening the amount of plastic packaging you consume and the cost of soap (buying bulk refills is often cheaper than buying the equivalent in individual dispensers). 

     

To conclude, while it might be easy to overlook sustainability during this global health crisis, it is incredibly important that we continue to do what we can to live more sustainable lifestyles. While these changes I’ve mentioned are small, many small changes add up. By being intentional about our consumption and disposal of products, we are personally taking steps towards a more sustainable world.

By Mia Foster

A rubber band on a glass to mark whose glass it is.

     The concept of a wine-marker is quite logical; as all glasses look the same, a person puts an attachment on their glass so they know which one is theirs when they put it down. I have taken to applying this principle to water glasses. In my family and many other families, all our water glasses look the same. This leads to an excessive number of glasses in the dishwasher since no one remembers which belonged to them, so they grab a new glass from the cabinet instead of continuing to use the same one. Some may also grab a random used glass, not knowing who drank from it previously, and use that. In a global pandemic, that is incredibly unsafe. By simply making your glass identifiable, you can reduce the number of dishes you have to wash and the spread of germs within your family. I guess you could say it’s killing two birds with one stone (my mom would say petting two bunnies with one hand because the other saying makes her sad). 

Marking your glass is extremely simple- grab a rubber band and place it around your glass. It is of no cost to you! I will use my glass for a week or so before washing it- you can choose how long you go, but since it’s just water, you can reuse it for at least a few days. This is a very simple way to reduce your dishwasher use, saving water, electricity, and time!

By Mia Foster

 As we are constantly inundated with news about imminent climate change, Greenhouse Gas emissions, and waste, it is often easy to feel hopeless in aiding the fight against climate change. While it can feel like we are the victims of the corruption of corporations and government inaction on the climate crisis, we each have the opportunity everyday to reclaim the story and put forward our own efforts towards leading more sustainable lives and lessening our impact on the environment. 

     The purpose of this thread is not to convince you of the reality of climate change. If you do not believe in it, I suggest doing an independent study. Make sure to consume information on the issue from many different sources so you may form your own opinion after getting a comprehensive overview of the science and arguments made by all. Reading the opinions of those you don’t agree with can never harm you! There will be a list of links at the bottom to begin your reading.

     Sustainability Saturdays is a weekly publication that will include small tips on how to make your everyday life more sustainable along with the occasional recommendation of books or studies to read. Who knows, I might even do a weekly challenge every once in a while! By making small changes in your lifestyle, your impact on the environment can significantly decrease over time. To chip away at climate change, we must collectively change our way of living; but collectivism must start with the individual. Join me as I learn new ways to make my life more sustainable! 

Climate Change Information Station:

Climate Change: How Do We Know?

The UN on Climate Change

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

EPA: Climate Action Benefits Report

By the Numbers: How the U.S. Economy Can Benefit from Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Sustainability Sector Provides 4.5 Million Jobs in US