Springtime is my favorite season. We thaw from the bitter cold, shed our winter coats and spend more time outdoors and in the sunshine. Nature awakens from its dormancy and begins blooming again.
As we welcome spring and celebrate Earth Day on April 22, it’s a great time to focus on recycling, saving energy and water and other ways we can support the Earth and the resources we all share.
The most important recycling tip that I can offer is to make sure you are adhering to local recycling rules. These vary from place to place, as every processing facility is different. Mixed paper products, flattened cardboard and empty, rinsed metal cans are typically acceptable everywhere. Some facilities might prefer #1 or #2 plastics; others accept additional varieties. A recycling symbol on an item does not necessarily mean it is recyclable; it is solely a tool that identifies the type of plastic something is made from.
To avoid contamination and support recycling in your area, resist the temptation to “wish-cycle,” or place items in your recycling bin that you hope are recyclable, but you aren’t sure. Remember, when in doubt, leave it out! This will significantly help the recyclability of your local recycling stream and ensure materials are not diverted to a landfill due to high rates of contamination. That is exactly what we want to avoid when we recycle.
Here are a few other green tips we can practice this Earth Day and every day:
- In spring and summer months, set your ceiling fans to turn in the counterclockwise direction allowing for a cool breeze, rather than lowering your thermostat. Remember: Ceiling fans cool people, not rooms. Turn them off when you leave the room.
- Open your windows on pleasant spring days to let natural light and air flow into your home.
- Refrain from opening the oven while cooking, and turn it off during the last few minutes; your food will continue to cook, and you will use less energy!
- Reduce your consumption in terms of energy, water and even spending by rethinking your purchases. Do you really need that something new, or can you reuse what you have? Think about the lifecycle of a product – what is it made of or packaged in? Can it be recycled when you are finished with it?
- Keep a pitcher next to your kitchen sink or a bucket next to your shower. Fill them while you wait for water to warm up, and use the collected water for your garden or houseplants!
- Incorporate native plants into your landscape. Natives require much less water and support healthy ecosystems for bees, butterflies, birds and other wildlife that in return support us!
Casey Shepard is an environmental engineer for Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation and is a Sustainability Excellence Associate. As president of the Cooperative Green Team, she is passionate about recycling and saving energy.