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Is Your Family Doing All It Can To Reduce The Amount Of Trash It Creates?
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by Cate Dobbins

Have you ever really thought about how much unnecessary and avoidable refuse you may be generating? Here are a few of our favorite easily implemented ideas.

Is Your Family Doing All It Can To Reduce The Amount Of Trash It Creates?

By Cate Dobbins, contributing writer and Environmental Club Parent Advisor For Loretto Elementary & Mandarin Middle School
Have you ever really thought about how much unnecessary and avoidable refuse you may be generating?  My children and I have frequent conversations to try and find ways to continue to lower the amount of trash we generate. We have worked very hard to reduce the amount of trash we produce on a weekly basis to an amount that only fills one thirteen-gallon (the bag that fits into a tall kitchen size trash can) ½ to ¾ full!
Here are a few of our favorite easily implemented ideas:
At home:
• First and foremost, properly recycle everything that the COJ picks up curbside, as well as properly disposing of electronic and other hazardous items, such as batteries and light bulbs. 
• Take #6 plastics such as egg cartons, foam fruit or vegetable trays and cold drink cups to the special recycling bin at Publix.
• Do not buy paper towels.  Any spill can be wiped up with a sponge- even a dropped egg can be sprinkled with salt to make wiping up with a sponge easier. Just make sure to wash the sponge everyday and place the wet sponge in the microwave for two minutes on high to curtail bacterial growth.
• Use cloth napkins rather than paper.
• Pack the meals you take from home in insulated bags rather than paper bags, and take the food items in reusable plastic containers rather than using plastic wrap. (We think Takeaway containers are the best- much more flexible and durable than Gladware or Ziploc.)
• At holiday times give earth friendly homemade gifts such as baked goods. (We have found our lucky recipients even appreciate the chance to return their containers to us to be refilled the next year  with our award winning eggnog or cookies.)
• Don’t buy juices- it is much healthier to eat whole fruit and vegetables. Don’t waste your money on sodas, sports drinks or fake fruit drinks laden with high fructose corn syrup, preservatives, or teeth ravaging acidity (most sport drinks are, on average, eleven times more damaging to tooth enamel than soda).  Instead, try brewing gallons of unsweetened green tea to drink iced.  (Our current favorite is iced Celestial Seasons Lemon Zinger green tea- it is inexpensive, delicious, and full of vital antioxidents.)
• Present gifts in reusable gift bags, or in a reusable wrap such as an occasion  themed towel or kitchen towel.   Children love to have their presents wrapped in  pages from the newspaper comic section, and then recycle the paper after the gift is opened. 
• Do not allow a catch bag to be used when your grass is mowed so the clippings become (free!) organic fertilizer for your lawn. 
• Mulch your fruit and vegetable peelings and either use it yourself- or give it to a neighbor who gardens. It will also reduce the overall volume of refuse in landfills, as well as the fuel needed to truck the mulchable garbage to the landfill, while returning valuable nutrients/fertilizer to the earth.
• Take reusable canvas bags when shopping.  (We make our own to use or give as gifts. Go to www.morsbags.com for an easy to use pattern- even younger kids can help make them!)
• Choose items with as little unnecessary packaging as possible.  Also choose items that are packaged in recyclable material such as corrugated cardboard, rather than smooth cardboard, which cannot be recycled. (I was recently very surprised to notice dental floss now was available in a “pillow pouch” made of #1 plastic).
• Place your produce directly into your shopping cart. No one should wastefully place each type of produce in its own plastic bag.  And you are adding insult to injury when you store the items in the bags in your refrigerator as they encourage condensation, which makes them spoil faster. All our local grocery stores offer small shopping baskets with handles, so simply place that basket inside your shopping cart to protect and contain the produce.
• Keep a cooler in your trunk for frozen items rather than using store plastic bags.  Bonus- with the heat down here most of the year- your frozen items will be much less defrosted by the time you arrive home!
Dining out:
• If you ever consume anything from a container or plate anywhere that is recyclable and there are not recycling receptacles available, take it home with you and recycle it properly. Ask that you not be given straws and lids as they are almost never recyclable (although some lids are composed of  #1 plastic) - nearly anyone over the age of two or so can be careful enough to drink out of a cup without the aid of a lid and a straw! 
• Take your own refillable water bottle everywhere you go as it is infinitely better for the environment, your body and your budget.  Bring your own hot mugs for drinking hot beverages, and plastic cups to use at a casual/self serve restaurant rather than using a disposable cup. 
• Take plastic silverware with you, or bring home what you have used when eating out to use again. 
• Bring your own reusable plastic containers to pack your leftovers in when dining out.
Please join our group at www.MandarinEnviromentalClubs@yahoogroups.com to check out our database filled with more ideas on how to reduce, reuse and recycle, and help us by posting some of your own!



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