How to Build Better Recycling Habits

I am a recycling convert. I have a childhood memory of tossing an aluminum can into the trash, and my parents asking me to fish it out and put it into the recycling bin. I wasn’t exactly thrilled to do this. As a 9-year-old, I didn’t quite see the importance of recycling.

But I’ve come around — you won’t catch me tossing cans into the trash. Recycling is now a habit, even a part of my daily life. If you’re looking to improve your recycling habits, here are some things to consider.

Find your ‘why.’

Recycling requires effort. Of course, it’s easier to throw everything into the trash, so finding your personal “why” for recycling can bolster your commitment when lethargy or laziness strike.

Think about starting a new workout routine. Your “why” could be, “I want to be healthier.” Or it could be, “I want to be healthier so I can play tag with my nieces and nephews without feeling like I am going to die.” Both are good reasons, but the second one is more personal, and therefore more motivating.

Your “why” for recycling might be to reduce trash in landfills, fight pollution, protect the environment, leave a better planet, responsible stewardship, care for God’s creation, or another reason. Now, take your why a step further by attaching personal meaning: “I want to recycle to leave a better planet for my family.”

My “why” for recycling got personal after taking a graduate-level theology course. My professor taught us to look at the things of this world through God’s eyes. We pondered, What was God’s intention in creating people, the ocean, food, and even the Mass? This changed my perspective on many things, and recycling was one of them. I now see recycling as part of my role in caring for God’s creation and using the things of this world prudently and responsibly.

Develop a personal recycling system.

I have a recycling container next to my trash can. This serves as both a reminder to recycle and a way to make it happen. Recently, I added a second recycling container to help me separate glass and plastic from paper and cardboard. This little addition to my system has made my recycling more effective because I don’t have to empty the containers as often!

My town provides both recycling bins and pickup service. Perhaps your town allows you to use any container. Maybe you have to find your own recycling provider or drop your recycling at a facility. Do some research and find out what the options are for your area.

Thanks to Amazon Prime, I have several boxes coming my way per month. I decided to start a new habit to ensure these boxes made it into the recycling bin. I break the boxes down right after opening them and leave them at the front door. Then, I drop them into the recycling bin on the way to my car in the morning. This habit makes more space in my recycling bin, and as a bonus, it also prevents my living room from looking like a shipping and packaging facility. Win-win.

What habits and systems can make recycling easier and more effective for you?

Reduce and reuse first. Recycle second.

Recycling is wonderful, but there is something better: sustainability.

I went to grammar school in the 1990s. Bento boxes were out (or didn’t exist) and baggies and brown bags were in. My wonderful mom was ahead of the curve. My school lunch was packed in Tupperware and a reusable lunch box with a healthy snack to boot. Once again, I didn’t appreciate these choices at the moment because they weren’t the norm around the school lunch table. Today, however, I am a proud, card-carrying member of the sustainability movement — with my own cloth napkins, Tupperware, and veggie huggers.

Here are a few tips to make your life more sustainable:

  • Trade out plastic shopping bags for reusable ones. Keep them in your car so you always have them on hand.
  • Save food containers that can be reused. Salsa jars make great soup containers.
  • Use silicone bowl covers instead of Saran wrap.
  • Stock up on quality Tupperware.
  • Give up tinfoil for beeswax paper.
  • Shop in the bulk section of the store for things like coffee, beans, and rice. You can cut out use of plastic packaging if you bring your own containers.
  • Get yourself some fruit and veggie huggers.
  • Carry a water bottle and travel mug for daily use.

To invest in all of this at once would be a big upfront expense, but you can build up your supply slowly. Maybe it’s purchasing one sustainable item a month or asking for some items for birthday and Christmas presents.

Get recycling, friends! It’s worth the effort.

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