Getting Green: 7 Items That Do Not Have to Hit the Landfill

I hate to throw things away.  

I'm not a hoarder and I love an uncluttered house.  However, it takes a lot for me to actually put something in the trash.  Maybe I'm just a Mother Earth sap, but every time I throw something into the trash, I picture it sitting in a nasty landfill for the next 9 million years [depending on the material, this might be a slight exaggeration].  

In my quest to avoid the trash can, I've accumulated a number of sources for repurposing, reusing, giving away, etc.  When I find a path for a type of object that bypasses the landfill, I set up a plan within the household for collecting that item.  

For example, pretty much every grocery store in our area recycles plastic bags and wrappings.  Since we have to bring reusable bags to the store anyway [we always did before, but within the past few years, many Bay Area cities have banned plastic bags.  It's an ordinance that's actually not a big deal to do and has an astoundingly positive effect on the local environment], I hang one from the latest trip on the back of the front door to collect all the plastic between grocery trips.  When it's time to go to the store, I grab the bag from the door and deposit the plastic in the recycling bin at the grocery store.  

This is what I mean by having a plan in place.  So easy, you don't have to think about it.  Even Vivi knows where to put plastic bags and wrappings.  

I feel the need to stress here that I am no environmental saint.  We quit using cloth diapers when Vivi was around 11 months and have been using disposables ever since.  Due to convenience, we order a lot of household goods online through Amazon Prime and Google Express.  This means extra travel to our house for delivery trucks and more packaging to dispose of.  We also have a Keurig addiction in this family - and trust me, I am not accommodating enough in the morning pre-coffee to disassemble the K-cups down to the one plastic piece that can be recycled.  They hit the trash.

I do feel though, when it comes to the environment, every family has something they can do.  Something that fits into their routine.  Something that feels like it would not be a big sacrifice to do.  

And when a family identifies that one thing they can do as environmental stewards, they usually identify three more.  

It's not difficult to be green because its not an all or nothing lifestyle.  Hello, there are how many shades of green in a box of Crayolas?

And here is the great news - you don't have to think about ways to be green.  I'm crazy and I think about things like that a lot.  

I've already done the figuring out part so you don't have to!

7 Items to Recycle + Where/How

1. Giftcards, old drivers licenses, credit cards, hotel keys, etc.

Check your wallet - how many of these cards do you have that you no longer need?  Used up gift cards, that old drivers license you kept because you thought you looked skinny [am I the only one who does this?], the hotel key you accidentally stole from that trip to Vegas.  

Instead of throwing these away, send them to a company that can make something with, say, PVC plastic.  Earthworks System's program allows you to send the cards to them where they will recycle them into sheets of PVC plastic for new cards.  Better for the environment and it supports American manufacturing.  

A win, win.

2.  Cell phones

Do we all know how horribly bad it is to chunk one of these in the trash?  I'm sure we probably do.  So don't throw it away - put it to good use!  These are my two favorite programs of all the programs on this list, because they not only recycle but also help out those in need/those who deserve it.  

Verizon Wireless participates in a program with Hopeline to refurbish your old phone into a literal life-saver for a woman, child or man in a domestic violence situation.  Each phone is loaded with 3,000 anytime minutes and texting capabilities - a gift that could save a life.  Drop off your phones and accessories at any Verizon location or mail them directly to Hopeline.  They take phones in any condition.  If it cannot be refurbished, they responsibly recycle it.

Cell Phones for Soldiers allows you to mail-in or drop-off your gently-used phones, batteries and accessories at locations all over the US.  With each donated cell phone valuing at only $5, they can provide a soldier with 120 minutes of free talk time with their families.  This nonprofit was started by a sister/brother team at the ripe old ages of 12 and 13.  What??  God only knows what I was up to at 13.  Definitely not starting an incredible nonprofit.

3. Batteries

Just like cell phones, batteries should not be disposed of in the trash.  Batteries have chemicals inside their casings that leach into the ground and into groundwater.  Not good.  

Lucky for us here in the Bay Area, our city recycling takes batteries in the form of a small ziplock baggie on top of the recycling can, however; I know this isn't the case in most places.  If you find yourself outside of the Bay Area, Battery Solutions offers an at-home recycling kit for all dry cell batteries and rechargeables called the iRecycle Kit 5.  It does cost money [$34.95 to be exact], but this kit is large enough to collect your household batteries for up to a year.  A small price to pay for clean water.  

4. Wine Corks

Ok, I get it - this is a first-world problem.  So many corks from all your amazing Napa wines and you just don't want to throw them away.  Luckily, you have a few options.  

Take your natural corks to Whole Foods and drop them in one of their Cork Reharvest bins.  The program contributes to the recycling of corks to reduce the demand on cork plantations and conserve the fragile balance in the Mediterranean forests.  If you're in California or near another wine-growing region, check to see if your local wineries accept corks.  Many wineries participate in cork recycling programs as well [Wente Vineyards does in Livermore].  

In true Everyday Enthusiastic fashion, how about we reuse those corks to bring in a little creativity?  Cork bulletin boards, cork bath mats, cork stamps, or even cork pads on chair feet to protect floors or stabilize a wobbly table.  The possibilities could go on forever.

5. Stained, Torn, Icky Clothes or Rags

We all know that donating gently-worn clothes to Goodwill is the best thing to do.  But what about that shirt with the hole in it?  Or those stained pants?  Or that sock that lost its match?  Start a Goodwill rag collection bin.  I use a shopping bag in the corner of our closet.  All textiles in any condition are accepted.  Goodwill sorts and sends your rags to textile companies that shred the textiles to make new fabrics, and even sends them to nonprofits that distribute the clothes to third world countries where the need for clothes is high.  

Just think, a baby in Uganda may be wrapped in that old torn t-shirt of yours.  Isn't that a warming thought?

6. Old Unwearable Shoes

Nike's Reuse a Shoe program is ready to shred your shoes.  The textile, the rubber - all of it can be reused for new shoes.  Just like the bag in the closet for the icky clothes, I keep a second bag for worn shoes.  

Anyone who has ever owned a pair of Toms needs this [forgive me Toms - I love you, but you know your shoes fall to pieces and stink after 6 months].  

Just take the shoes to any Nike location.

7. CD's

We said goodbye to these a long time ago in our household, but that doesn't mean there aren't plenty of these still lurking god-knows-where in the house and in our cars.  The program by the CD Recycling Center of America makes it easy and simple to mail in your old CD's.  They even recycle the plastic cases and paper inserts.  Also, many Best Buy locations take old CD's as well as many other electronic-related waste.  Check here for a detailed description of what is offered in your area.  

Do you recycle something in your household that was not mentioned in this list?  I would LOVE to hear how you and your family recycle, reuse and repurpose.  Share with me below!

This post appeared first on Everyday Enthusiastic.  All ideas in this post are of my own opinions including any mention of companies and/or affiliate sites.  No sponsorships were involved in the creation of this post.  Photographs taken by Meredith Wheeler using a DSLR Canon Rebel T3 and edited using Photoshop CC.