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One Can A Month Challenge: Let's kick it off!

Enviromomchallenge Welcome to the EnviroMom One Can A Month Challenge! Woo hoo! Are you ready?

Okay. First off, take a deep breath. We're all in this together. Your mission, should you choose to accept, is to find ways to REDUCE / REUSE / RECYCLE your household waste in order to shrink the contents of your curbside garbage can. We're going to offer lots of suggestions. You'll have lots of questions. Readers will chime in with ideas. It's all good.

Now, class, we're going to have a brief overview of the very important trifecta of REDUCE / REUSE / RECYCLE. (The use of all caps is to illustrate the importance of these action verbs. If we could arrange it so that trumpets would sound off every time you read these words, we would. Alas, caps it is.)

In the REDUCE / REUSE / RECYCLE hierarchy, REDUCE always comes first because it is the most important. If you reduce the amount of items you consume (or purchase), then you will generate less waste. This is good for the environment because it helps decrease the demand for manufactured items that might be unnecessary. If less stuff is manufactured, less industrial waste from factories will be generated and fewer emissions released from transporting the goods to their final destination.

REUSE comes in second place because it prolongs the life of stuff that has already been manufactured, whether you reuse it yourself or pass it along to someone else for reuse (and even stuff that is designed for one-time use can often be creatively reused). The more you can reuse items, the less they will be trashed or recycled. Recycling? That's a problem, you ask? Well, yes and no. The recycling process requires lots of energy: from the trucks that transport the recyclables, to the sorting machines, to the factories and mills that process the recycling waste. So RECYCLE is always last because REDUCE and REUSE are less energy-intensive. Don't get us wrong. Recycling is still important because it gives new life to old stuff by capturing the energy already put into a product. Rather than chopping down lots of trees or mining for aluminum (using raw materials), it's better to recycle paper, metal, plastic and glass into new products so that we use less energy, fewer natural resources and do less damage to the environment.

In both my and Renee's home, we have several recycling cans scattered throughout the house. We think it's really important that a recycling can is in a convenient location for every room in your house and that each child understands what it's for. Figure out where the cans should go and talk to your children (and husband) about what goes into them. Everything that can be recycled, either curbside or at a recycling depot, goes into our recycling cans, which are later sorted into bins in the main household recycling center.

A note on recycling: Every town has different recycling opportunities, and it's impossible for Renee and I to know what is available in your area. It's important for you to do the legwork and find out whether you can recycle different types of plastic and other materials in your area. Earth911.org is a great resource. When we list RECYCLING options for each room, we're using Portland as our model. We can recycle just about everything in Portland, but we know that many other areas cannot (and knowing that recycling markets exist here in green Portland gives other cities a benchmark to strive for). But everyone is capable of REDUCING and REUSING, so you should still be able to make a big dent in your garbage can!


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