Over the past several years, I've adopted one new green habit each Earth Day. With the 40th anniversary of Earth Day in a month, I'd like to share some of the things that have helped me reduce my family's impact on the Earth, improve our health, and save money. Hopefully you'll find one that you can add to your family's routine.

Recycling is a daily habit that can make a big difference in the amount of waste that goes in landfills around the country. It's estimated that the average person generates 3-4 pounds of trash each day. If we gathered all of America's trash for a year in one place, it would be a pile 40 stories tall and over 1000 acres square. Glad that's not in my backyard! According to the EPA, about 30% of each person's trash is recyclable - that could knock about a dozen stories off our giant trash pile each year!

The easiest way to recycle is to join your community's recycling program. Many communities have recycling pick-up just like trash pick-up. Just call your trash collection company, or city hall, to join their program. You'll want to ask which items can be recycled in your area, then be sure to sort your recyclables to match (you'll have to check the number in the center of the triangle on your plastics). Sorting may be a hassle at first, but it won't take long for you to remember the things you use regularly. Just keep a separate trash can in your kitchen for recyclables.

Recycling could save you money. Most trash collectors charge for the size garbage can you use. If you start recycling, you'll throw less waste in the trash. You may even be able to downsize the garbage can you use, and lessen your monthly payment for trash collection. If you don't fill your garbage can each week, check with your trash collection company and see what they can offer you.

If your community doesn't offer a recycling program, you have a couple of options. You could drop off your recyclables at the nearest recycling center. That seems pretty impractical to me, not sure I'd be really excited about loading trash in my car and going out of my way to deliver it. But if the recycling center is convenient, it might be a great solution for you. Another option would be to start a grass roots campaign to begin a recycling program in your community. Contact someone on your city council and ask for their advice and help.
For whatever reason, recycling just may not be your thing. That's fine. Let me suggest you rethink your shopping routine and habits to reduce the waste you generate. Instead of buying a box of single-serve snacks, reduce the package waste by purchasing the larger bag. If you still want smaller servings of that snack, buy some of the little reusable Ziploc containers to divide your snack. You can also use those containers instead of baggies when you're packing a snack for the kids in the car. Instead of buying plastic bottles of juice, buy biodegradable cans of concentrated juice and mix them in reusable pitchers at home. Don't buy anything with an outer package, like yogurt with a lid over the foil seal. Instead of using paper towels to dry spills or clean your windows, buy some bar towels that can be washed and reused. In most cases, these choices will not only save trash in the landfill, but will save you money, too.
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