It’s a shocking fact that we never hear about on the nightly news: every single day, each of us contributes more than four pounds of trash to our local landfill. After our garbage is collected from our homes, it travels to landfills to be smashed into gigantic cubes. All of our organic waste mixes with glass, plastic, and paper to make a toxic mulch, and despite scientists’ best efforts, no comprehensive plan has ever been made to meaningfully reduce our landfills. Why are we making so much garbage, and what can we do about it?
One very simple thing that you can do to reduce your contributions of landfills is to make a compost pile in your backyard. Basically, you want to remove your organic waste from your trash and layer it with leaves and other backyard debris. Over a period of time, the heat from the waste breakdown acts as a catalyst to convert your banana peels and broccoli into rich soil. If you decide to start a compost pile, you’re automatically removing about one-third of your trash per week from circulation. If you live in an area of the country where you get charged for trash by how many bags you put out, composting can be a real lifesaver.
Composting is one way to make a dent in your landfill contribution, and recycling your clothing is another. There is really no reason to throw out any clothing unless it’s stained or completely falling apart at the seams. Remember, your trash is someone’s treasure. Every year, millions of Americans make Red Cross donations and save billions of tons of textiles from languishing in landfills across the country. If you want to recycle your gently used clothing, find a clothing donation center. Red Cross donations of clothing and other household goods are tax-deductible: ask your local thrift store about Red Cross donations.
Another way to help reduce the amount of waste in America’s landfills is to shift your written correspondence to email. About 25% of our landfill waste is made up of paper: paper towels and especially office paper. Most businesses are in the process of converting to paperless offices and are strong on recycling, but the average office worker still burns through more than 10,000 pieces of paper every year. Multiply that figure by 25 million small businesses and you can start to see the scale of the problem that we are committed to solving.
Also, make sure that you contact local clothing donation centers about recycling your furniture. Don’t clog the landfills: help a college student get started in their first apartment. Often, Red Cross donations centers can schedule pickups for large items. In general, donating used clothing and furniture is vastly preferable to throwing them away. There are many households — of all income levels — that prefer to buy recycled clothing and furniture. It’s more economical and can be fun for the entire family. If you’re starting a new job and moving to a new apartment, go to a used clothing donations store and ask them if they have any items in the rear of the store that are for sale.
Are you looking to start a business? Start by purchasing gently used furniture and refinish it, then sell it online. All it takes is a new coat of paint or varnish and you’ve got a piece of furniture that looks brand new. Red Cross clothes donations and other charitable organizations are committed to reducing the amount of trash that goes to landfills every year, so let’s help them along. Until scientists can solve the problem of what to do with textile and paper waste, we can all pitch in to help reduce our contribution to the trash bin. It’s fun to buy recycled furniture and you can feel the satisfaction that comes from helping the environment.