It’s another Real Things Thursday!
As my goal with these installments is to think about the way we consume rather than to encourage consumerism, I decided that today I’d focus on getting things for free.
We all love freebies, but it is also a great way to minimize our impact on the environment!
Recycling has a long way to go in this country (with around 200 fewer curbside recycling programs today than in 2002, some studies say recycling enthusiasm is waning). Even so, the EPA claims that yard waste disposal has become one of the most successful recycling programs in the US.
The reason these programs work so well is that they create a closed cycle. Dump trucks collect our leaves and prunings which are quickly converted into mulch or compost — products we want to take home again. The government is freed from finding landfill space for material that breaks down naturally in our flower beds and vegetable gardens.
Yeah yeah, it isn’t designer quality and sometimes it contains bits of trash bags or an old flip flop. I happen to like how our county’s free mulch looks but I also think about my role in the system. If you haul your yard waste to the curb, perhaps you should help with its disposal.
Plus, it’s my favorite time of year to get our municipality’s free mulch due to the Grinding of the Greens. Many cities and counties have Christmas tree recycling programs and the resulting mulch is pretty, longer lasting, and it smells fantastic!
In Greenville, SC it’s available for free from Twin Chimneys Landfill as long as you bring your own truck for the loader to dump it in. Most big box hardware stores will rent you a working truck if you need it (explaining the scratched bed to a regular rental car dealer may not be fun).
Search online for “free mulch” along with your city name if you aren’t sure where to go. You can also call your local Cooperative Extension service for advice.
Analysts haven’t found a reliable way to measure the amount of things we throw away, but we do know it’s a lot. I’ve seen statistics estimate that the 63,000 garbage trucks Americans fill each day stacked end-to-end would reach halfway to the moon… or that three months of our aluminum disposal could be used to rebuild the entire US commercial air fleet. My personal favorite is that a year’s worth of our trashed shrink wrap could blanket the state of Texas — now they’re ready to go to a college party!
The EPA says that we only recycle 1.5 of the 4.5 lbs of garbage each American generates daily. Most of us are doing our part separating the glass, paper, and plastic but we also make a big dent when we buy or obtain perfectly good used items that are otherwise destined for the landfill. Thrift stores, pawn shops, flea markets, antique stores, yard sales, newspaper want advertisements, Ebay, and Craigslist are all good places to check.
So is Freecycle. It has 8,280,430 members (and growing) worldwide ready to give you used things or accept items you’re trying to get rid of. I receive email updates from two local Freecycle groups and I see that today people are exchanging a dog crate, women’s clothing, moving boxes, exercise equipment, an accordion filing binder, and a Verizon cell phone. I’ve personally used Freecycle to locate black walnuts and old windows for building a cold frame.
Freecycle guidelines vary from group to group, but in general it is an email list or bulletin board and you post whether you have an “OFFER” or a “WANT” and then name the item you are giving away or looking for. If you’re giving an item away you can choose who you give it to and how you deliver it to them. Try it! And stop throwing your stuff away — you’ll be surprised at “trash” that other people want.
Here’s how to participate:
- Write a similar blog post on sustainable products and post the link in the comments section.
- Post a comment describing a sustainable product you like that includes a link to that item.
- Describe an item you obtained sustainably (including reusing things you already have) that makes you feel proud.
- Leave a regular comment, no pressure!