by Texas Homesteader ~
I’m sharing with you the simple reasons why I recycle LESS. Yes I love Mother Nature, but I’ve found by recycling less I’m not only saving lots of money, I’m saving the environment too! Intrigued? Read on.
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Learning About Recycling
Y’all know I have an environmental bend. Back in my fledgling environmental days I was pretty darn proud that my recycling bin was full while my landfill-bound trash bin was only half filled. A badge of environmental pride! And recycling is good, don’t get me wrong.
But recycling is still dealing with trash
And I was shocked to find out the recycling that you diligently separate & send off often ends up at the landfill anyway. (gasp!) So these days I’m actually recycling LESS and helping Mother Nature much MORE!
Need For Recycled Material
No, your landfill-bound recycling material isn’t a shady underhanded act.
You see, selling recycled material is a business. If there are no customers buying that recycled material, it’s of no use to the business and must be disposed of somehow.
So if for instance the need for recycled glass to make new glass jars isn’t there, that recycling facility’s glass will go instead to the landfill.
Because of that (and SO many other reasons) I strive to reduce both my trash AND my recycling volume. Here are a few easy ways I’m accomplishing that.
Plastic is the material I avoid most in our household. You know I’ve shunned plastic shopping bags since way before it was the ‘in‘ thing to do.
Back then I always hated how they seemed to accumulate until they were a storage issue. But when they did accumulate, I’d just recycle them!
Then I found out that kind of plastic was pretty difficult to recycle. I found out much of that plastic ends up in the landfill anyway. And more & more recycling facilities don’t even accept that kind of plastic anymore!
So instead of plastic shopping bags I use my Hand-Made Basket for our lighter shopping, and my fabric shopping bags for larger shopping trips.
When plastic bags do come into the house via bread bags or other food, I use them to separate our prepared food for the freezer when doing Cook-Once, Eat-Twice cooking. At least that plastic gets used again to serve another purpose before throwing it away.
And we buy septic-safe toilet paper in large quantities. Yes it’s still wrapped in plastic, but less overall plastic than several smaller packages would be.
I carefully cut the plastic bag so that I can reuse it to line our small waste-basket. So I haven’t purchased trash bags in over 10 years.
Plastic Bottles & Jugs
I still buy our milk in plastic jugs, because living out here our options are pretty limited. But plastic bottles from soft drinks have all but been eliminated.
RancherMan was a cola junkie, but we gradually moved from soft drinks to sun tea. Healthier, lower sugar and no waste.
The brewing jar is a repurposed picante jar that gets used again & again, the tea bag goes into the composter. (see potential caution regarding sun tea at the bottom of this page)
And RancherMan & I love our coffee. but it’s sold in a plastic canister.
I’ve found many ways to repurpose those canisters including a cute bread box, a nifty planter to share plants with friends, and even a chicken feeder for our chickens among other coffee can repurpose ideas.
I’ve attempted to grind our own peanut butter from peanuts but wasn’t pleased with the result. So we still purchase our peanut butter and it typically comes in a plastic jar.
But I repurpose those empty plastic jars to another use, such as freezing cooked beans or homemade broth. RancherMan uses them to hold hardware in his shop.
I even decorated several jars, punched holes in the lids and gave them to our grandbabies when they come to visit to catch ladybugs. It’s their favorite ‘toy’ here on the Homestead! (Oh the wonderful things that can occupy a child’s mind!)
Metal Food Cans
We buy food in cans from time to time because it’s quite the tall order to provide 100% of your food yourself. Those cans are always recycled of course, but I try to provide our veggies straight from the garden when I can.
I grow a large garden each year. That fresh produce is minutes from harvest to table.
Not only is it healthier & low-waste, but growing your own food is like printing your own money!
Excess veggies abundant during the harvest season are preserved for non-gardening months by canning, freezing or dehydrating.
I’ve really enjoyed my *Excalibur dehydrator for preserving fresh produce.
There’s nothing like tasting that delightful flavor of summer as I drop those dehydrated gems into a simmering pot of homemade soup during winter months.
Plus it all takes the place of purchased cans of veggies – less material into our recycling bin!
My composter needs brown material for a properly-balanced compost mix. So I typically use various household papers in my *Tumbling Composter.
I toss in used church programs, cardboard toilet paper rolls, food boxes and even cardboard boxes from our community volunteer involvement.
It all turns into black gold for my veggie garden. Who knew this much ‘waste’ paper could benefit the Homestead by providing a healthier & more productive veggie garden?
Reducing Paper In The Mailbox
I hate junkmail from an environmental standpoint as well as a personal one. Why must I deal with mail time & time again that I didn’t request and don’t want? Especially if there’s no way I’ll ever be a customer of theirs?
So I reduce the amount of immediate trash/recycling (ie: Junkmail) coming to our home in the first place. It’s easy!
If we receive junk mail in our mailbox, I google the company along with the words “contact us” and email them.
I politely request to OPT OUT of all mailings from them or their affiliates. (I have a copy/paste verbiage I send to each one and then add the information shown on the label.) 99% of the time it’s a quick response & compliance. Now most days our mailbox is empty!
But for the small amount of mail we do get, envelopes and letters are tossed into my composter. And I use any newspaper we receive to line the compost bucket beneath my sink. It all goes to satisfy the ‘browns’ requirement of my compost.
So there ya have it, the reasons why I recycle less. By reducing what’s being brought into our home in the first place, reusing what does make it inside & utilizing my composter for paper waste along with veggie trimmings there’s much less need for me to recycle in the first place.
Not only is it good for Mother Nature, but often good for our wallets as well. Gotta love it!
Posts About Reducing Plastic
- Reducing Plastic Is Easy
- I Love Mother Nature So I Recycle LESS!
- 7 Ways To Reduce Plastic In The Kitchen
- Ditch The Plastic! Using Glass In The Refrigerator
- Natural Air Freshener In Reusable Glass Jar
- Reducing Plastic In Personal Hygiene: Deodorant
- No More Plastic Razors – How To Use A Safety Razor
- Where Exactly Is ‘Away’?
- Replacing Plastic Wrap With Beeswax Wraps
- Eliminate Plastic Produce Bags
- Growing Your Own Plastic-Free Scrub Sponge
Reducing Household Waste
- Repurposing Empty Coffee Containers
- Denim Repurposed Into Fun Crafts
- 5 Zero-Waste Products We Love
- Easily Reduce Or Eliminate Junkmail
- Making Your Own Pourable Sugar Jar
- Paper Napkins In A Paperless Kitchen
- Repurposing A Parmesan Cheese Lid
- Zero-Waste Shaving
- Natural Cleaning – Homemade Laundry Detergent
…and Many More
All Eco-Friendly Posts
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Potential Sun Tea Concerns
There are some who have commented that brewing sun tea does not allow it to get hot enough to kill the bacteria in water. It’s said that it must be boiled 3-5 minutes in order to be safe, then refrigerated immediately until consumed. So as I typically do, I went to the experts – my extension agent.
According to my extension agent (who is an AWESOME resource) apparently the source of potential problem microbes isn’t the water, it’s the actual tea leaves. She recommends bringing the water to 195 degrees and steeping the tea for 3-5 minutes, then pouring into a pitcher over ice & refrigerating.
Of course you’ll want to use your own judgement about making sun tea. If you have concerns about your individual health, your doctor is always your best source of advice.
For us, sun tea is still king. I continue to make sun tea several times each week, the same as I’ve done for years.
Love the blog. But I would caution against Sun Tea. As a 4-H solar cooking teacher, “Sun Tea” is one thing we discourage. Instead consider building a proper solar oven that will get the water hot enough to kill any microbes that might happen in a Sun Tea jar or just make “refrigerator tea” instead. My favorite easy effective solar oven is made in about 5 minutes with a fish tank, bungee and solar car shade. I also have a portable design with a cooler.
Thank you so much for bringing up this issue Caroline. I checked with my extension agent and she confirmed that there could possibly be problem microbes in the tea leaves themselves. I’ve added that information in a bright color in this post to let our readers know too. Thanks again! ~TxH~
You have given some great tips! I use burlap and canvas bags when I go grocery shopping. I love them!! Have heard about the NY governor trying to make one use plastic bags illegal? Your my favorite homesteading blog! 🙂
Well aren’t you a peach, Cindy? Thanks for your sweet words. I love that more & more municipalities are attempting to ban single-use plastic shopping bags. Some complain that they reuse those plastic bags so banning them will cause them to have to actually buy a plastic product to replace it. But I’m living proof that plastic bags of all sizes can and do come into your home even without those blasted plastic shopping bags. It’s almost certain they’ll still be able to find and reuse a plastic bag if single-use plastic shopping bags are banned. Sometimes folks are resistant to change just because it’s different. But the tide’s turning!
Funny you should mention the plastic bags that beans come in. On our trip up here Kaleigh and I went in a store across from our motel, in Colorado. I was waiting for Colorado because my mom used to bring back anizasi beans for me. Well low and behold there they were packaged in these cute little burlap pound bags. So I bought 4 bags not knowing when I’d be back. One was going to be sent your way for Miss Susie. Well apparently that company sells more then anizasi because I ended up with 3 bags of pinto and 1 anizasi. Needless to say Miss Susie never got one because pintos are everywhere. But I have kept the bags and when I get back to making bags 4 of them will have a little burlap bean bag pocket, just right for a list or wallet or even a phone.
Absolutely, USE WHATCHA GOT. When I read where you said no worms my first thought was “Well for cryin’ out loud don’t they have worms in Texas” then read on to the worms in the garden love the compost and it dawned on me that your compost doesn’t touch the ground except when it gets dumped. My old bins are open on the bottom, hence worms. I always think that I’ll move those babies when we move the compost because the dirt there must be super well fertilized. But that takes planning and like you say, I don’t want to make myself crazy with this. So, don’t let the good things we all do become onerous tasks which spoil the joy.
A question for Angela 3 – What are Lint fire starters?
They’re made with cardboard egg crates, repurposed wax and drier lint. We don’t often have drier lint so I often use tiny scraps of denim from crafts with RancherMan’s jeans. They’re great for campfires but I use them for starting our wood stove. RancherMan loves ’em & has made me promise to never let him run out! LOL Here’s a link to the ones I make –> https://texashomesteader.com/myo-firestarters/
When the Birdman and I lived and worked in Vancouver WA we had very handy and reasonably priced garbage svc. We had to have garbage svc to have recycling. The recycling bin was huge and we only had monthly and even so we were always “scrounging” for “trash” to fill that small bin once a month.
First let me say that I love all you girls’ posts. As the “old hen” of this party I always learn something new. One saying about saving the earth via the three R’s – REDUCE what you buy – use less, REUSE what you buy (it helps in the reduce piece) and of course the last RECYCLE. So, on that note we do all the recycle that we can if we can’t or have already done the other two. We have a (wonderful Vermont soap stone) wood stove and use some of our very little ink and paper newspaper reading matter to start the fire on cold mornings. On the reuse note, I have triple bagged brown paper bags that I had saved from long before the “movement” began. They are now well taped with strapping tape and colorful duck tape, kind of an art effort in the grocery line. I also saved the (I know, I know, I know) – nasty film plastic produce department bags for a long time and rinse them if need be and reuse them many times. Eventually the Birdman who Lives With Me uses the produce bags to bag up drippy meat packages (Him being a nasty carnivore, unlike myself) – how does he even stand to be with me? Then, like the above posters I reuse glass jars for this and that and have a rather large basket of small interesting little jars and their lids and on the verrrry rare occasion I reuse one of them for something or other and usually I just hoard them. My son says that it’s ok because he will just come through with a bulldozer and on the other hand I remind him – DON”T GIVE MOTHER ANYTHING THAT YOU DON’T WANT AFTER SHE GOES TO MEET HER MAKER BECAUSE IT WILL ALL BE HERE FOR YOU TO DEAL WITH!!! So for gifts he gives me only the absolutely most useable items and my brother gives me only pitchy kindling sticks to start my wood stove fires. Your tumbler composter sounds good, but I will continue to make do with those big ugly black things I bought 20 or 25 years ago from the garbage co. for 30 bucks apiece – 3 of them – and when I go out with the pitch fork and move things around and see thousand of red worms squirm around from being annoyed I think – Life is good in the boondocks. I love my worms. So as long as The Birdman Who lives with me can fork it into the pickup and move it down to the garden – life is very good in the boondocks. So to all of you – keep doing whatever you can – large or small to make the world a better place whether with goods or deeds or just love!!!
OMGosh your sons are funny Candace! But ya know, I’m one of those ‘needs incredibly useful gifts’ kinda girls too. I like pretties and I even display a few in our home. But although we’re nowhere near minimalists, we keep pretty clean lines for the most part. So decorative knicknacks are few. But useful pretties like pretty cloth napkins & such are exciting gifts to me. LOL And I know how ya feel about compost. We don’t have worms but they do love me to add compost in my garden. And I love that you’re using those composters you bought so many years ago. “Use Whatcha GOT!!” Life is good indeed!
I reuse the plastic bags that we get, either to wrap food for the freezer, line wastebaskets, etc. I recently learned about using the bags to weave or crochet sleeping mats for the homeless, and I am looking into the methods to do this, since I enjoy crocheting with a large hook. I rinse out and save any cans that veggies or dog food come in, and I am able to sell them as scrap metal. I reuse glass jars for storage and glass bottles to hold my fruit liqueurs I make for Christmas gifts. Plastic jars and other containers are labeled to store nails, screws, wires, nuts, etc. Newspaper instead of paper towels for washing windows and draining fried food (my grandmother did this). We now get our coffee in paper packaging online, but the plastic cannisters we used to get are still used for feeding horses, storing sugar, flour, etc.
Never thought about reducing what goes in the recycle bin as long as I look on everything I buy CAN go in that bin. As you know we will be out of the city soon and need to begin to think more like this. Question, do you ever burn? If so what type of things and if no why?
I do make sure we try to buy no Styrofoam such as egg containers. I love the cardboard ones to make my lint fire starters, my tractor-man loves these.
Thanks for sharing
There are many who have a burn barrel Angela, but we don’t use one here. Although I see value in dealing with your own trash right on your own property, burning can (in my opinion) throw particulates into the air, which I avoid when I can. All paper products end up being processed through my tumbling composter or, as is the case with our range-cube bags, used beneath my mulched walkways in my veggie garden to eliminate weeds. My main drive is to eliminate waste even coming into the house in the first place when possible and reuse or repurpose as often as it can, although for me it’s still all about balance – what works for us might not work for others and vice versa. For instance, we don’t have bulk food options out here so although we can and do stop at bulk-food places when we’re out & about running errands, we won’t make a special trip for this for financial as well as environmental reasons. So a bag of beans is purchased more often than a bulk quantity of dried beans. But even then, I make sure to use the blasted plastic that does make it into our home as many times as possible before throwing it away.
Western Washington state has been ahead of the recycling game for quite a while. In the 80s and 90s stores were giving a ten cent credit per bag, and the state was threatening to charge the same. I was going to schools and starting worm boxes. My town had mandatory recycling and when you signed up for trash pick up you got one or two recycling bins. And they had huge dumpster like bins with a lid and holes on the sides for newspaper recycling. When I moved South in 2006 nothing was even close to that. I kind of got out of the habit. I tried starting a worm box both in Georgia and Texas, but it was too hot, so I set them free. Then in Texas I couldn’t have a compost pile because of the chickens (worms never stood a chance). Eleven years later and I come back to a city where cloth bags are mandatory or you pay 15 cents for thick reusable (Aldi style) plastic bags, or you can carry it out in your hands. I usually carry it in my hands because it’s usually I go in thinking I’m going to get one or two things then see sale items.
so I just carry them out and put them in the bags that are in my car.Didn’t take long to get back into the swing of things.
Some places have tried to eliminate single-us plastic shopping bags & have been met with such an outcry from customers that they had to back off the ban. (smh) If the movement’s gonna be successful, people have to buy into it! It’s not hard, but oftentimes folks are just resistant to change. The same-ole-same-ole is more comfortable than thinking outside the box sometimes. But as it becomes more & more mainstream I’m confident that people will gain acceptance in such an easy change.
Great tips! I need to do another opt out session. I had years ago, seems like I need to again. I use can lids as bird deflectors in the garden. I also use peanut butter jars in the garden, I put them on a tall stick and drap deer netting over them to keep birds and squirrels off the strawberries. Empty TP rolls are stuffed with dryer lint (when we use the dryer) to make fire starters. Since I do ALL the shopping plastic shopping bags rarely come into our house. Happy Earth Day!
Sounds like you’ve got lots of repurposing tricks Judith. Love it! I’ve found that when opting out, for me it works best to make it an ongoing endeavor. If we get junk mail RancherMan will set it next to my computer. I’ll search to see if I’ve already contacted them & if so I’ll ask why I’m still getting junk mail (which usually takes care of it). If not I’ll search for their ‘contact us’ information & copy/paste my opt out format and send to them, making sure I have a copy myself. If they don’t respond I’ll send a 2nd request in about a week or so. This takes just minutes & our junk mail volume stays small that way.