You can help protect natural resources
Well-managed recycling systems that focus on profitable resources like glass, paper and metals have had the most success. (Photo: Digital Vision)
Recycle what you can
Although Americans don't recycle as much as they could, recycling is considered a success given that it keeps about a third of the solid trash we generate out of landfills. And it's good for the environment. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says recycling one ton of aluminum cans conserves more than 1,665 gallons of gasoline.
Some types of materials, especially mixed plastics, are not easy for communities to recycle. But focusing on profitable resources like glass, paper and metals works.
Sara Brown of Presidio Graduate School reports that "Recycling pick-up services are not cheap, and it is viewed as a redundant service; extra trucks mean extra cost. On top of that, single stream recycling requires investment in technology to sort the loads efficiently."
But it can be done, she says. San Francisco is now up to over 77 percent and is aiming for zero waste by 2020. Brown says that curbside fees are charged on a "pay as you throw" basis for trash, while recycling and compost are free.
A November 2011 report entitled "More Jobs, Less Pollution" says that diverting 75 percent of our waste coast-to-coast by 2030 could result in 1.5 million new jobs as well as significant pollution reduction and savings in water and other resources.
A greener laundry room
One way to green your laundry room is to start is with detergent. Environmental writer Sarah van Schagen tested and reviewed six leading eco-friendly detergents for Grist Magazine. To qualify, each needed to be "free and clear" of dyes and perfumes and also "concentrated" to save water, packaging and extra carbon emissions from transport. The contestants included detergents from Earth Friendly Products, Biokleen, Mountain Green, Planet, Seventh Generation, and All. Each did a respectable job getting clothes clean and smelling fresh. Seventh Generation Free & Clear was the overall winner for its combination of eco-friendly ingredients, good stain fighting, pleasant scent and low price.
And if you don't like what could be in those fabric softeners, try using vinegar. Add ¾ cup of vinegar to your final rinse cycle and your clothes will come out soft.
Also, swapping out an old water-hogging, energy-gulping washing machine for a new model that meets federal Energy Star standards will save lots of electricity and water. Energy Star-certified washing machines use about 20 percent less energy and 35 percent less water than regular washers, and also have greater capacity so it takes fewer loads to clean the same amount of laundry. Likewise, replacing an older clothes dryer with a newer Energy Star model will help reduce your household's electricity consumption. Or, ditch the dryer altogether and hang your clothes to dry outside.
Resources: Biokleen, www.biokleenhome.com; Earth Friendly Products ECOS, www.ecos.com; Mountain Green, www.mountaingreen.biz; Planet Inc., www.planetinc.com; Seventh Generation, www.seventhgeneration.com; All Laundry, www.all-laundry.com; Grist Magazine, www.grist.org; Planet Green, planetgreen.discovery.com; Energy Star, www.energystar.gov.