After growing up in Denver and Portland, recycling used to be an ingrained part of my daily routine. Finished with the paper? Take it to the paper bin. New shoes? Break down the shoebox, and put it in the cardboard bin.
After moving away, though, my routine has changed. Now, living in an apartment building that doesn’t recycle, I’m finding it a whole lot harder to be earth-conscious. If you’re trying to find ways to be a little more sustainable, take a look at these suggestions for how to recycle when your apartment building doesn’t:
Set Up Your Own Recycling System
The most thorough way to begin recycling everything you can is to set up your own recycling system. This can be a drawn-out process, so take a look at these steps to get started:
First, go online to find the recycling center nearest to you. The website Earth911 has an easy search feature where you can find the recycling centers that are closest to your apartment building. Once you’ve found a recycling center, ask them for information on which items they will accept.
Set up a recycling system in your home. For people with a good amount of storage space in their apartment, this can be as easy as putting a couple of bins in the front closet. But if you have a small apartment, there are ways you can store recyclables as well. I consolidated some of my kitchen items to make an extra couple of drawers available, where I put papers, cans and bottles. I separate the items into reusable, linen grocery store bags so I can simply lift them out of the drawers when I’m ready to go.
The next step is one that stumps a lot of people—you have to find a way to get your recyclables to the recycling center. If you don’t have a car, you can either take a cab or rent a Zipcar for an hour or two. Some people even set up carpool schedules with other renters in their building or complex and take turns bringing everyone’s recyclables over!
Save Your Cans
Several states have grocery stores with aluminum can buy-back recycling systems set up, which makes recycling them a cinch. The machines generally only accept aluminum soda cans (so no soup or vegetable cans!), and they pay from 5 to 10 cents a can.
If your city or state doesn’t have these, there are more than 10,000 locations in the country that will buy your aluminum, so do a quick search online.
Reduce and Reuse
Taking your paper, cans and bottles to a recycling center isn’t the only way to be a little more eco-friendly in your daily life. The mantra goes, “Reduce, reuse, recycle,” so consider the first two words, too.
To reduce, try cutting down on your consumption. Carry around a reusable Nalgene instead of buying bottled water everyday, bring your own travel mug to Starbucks and don’t print a lot of paper unless you absolutely have to. There are apps for almost everything, so use them for grocery lists and calendars instead of using paper, and go online to opt-out of receiving all the junk mail you throw into the trash right away.
To reuse, get creative. Think of ways you can constantly reuse recyclables, like repurposing glass jars as storage containers and turning old T-shirts into rags. Also, if there are any preschools or daycare centers around, see if they’re looking for arts and crafts items, like old boxes or egg cartons instead of throwing those away.
It might sound a little out of the ordinary, but recycling water is very important and can be pretty easy. I remember a few years growing up when Denver was in a very bad drought, which meant that the city put water usage limitations on its residents.
My parents got creative and started reusing water in some cool ways. For instance, they’d use the water they cooked pasta in to water the garden, or when ice in the cooler melted into water, they’d put it in the dog’s water bowl.
In general, humans waste a lot of valuable water doing day-to-day activities like brushing teeth and washing dishes, so try to reduce the amount of water you’re using by keeping the faucet off until you need it, and try to think of creative ways to recycle water instead of just dumping it down the drain.
Buy Recycled Materials
Recycling yourself is the first step, but buying recycled materials keeps the process going. Supporting brands that use recycled materials will keep them in business and, in turn, promote more recycling.
If you’re looking to begin recycling, it’s absolutely possible, even if your apartment building doesn’t have a recycling system in place. These ideas are a great way to get started, but if you feel like other residents of your building are just as into being sustainable, ask your apartment’s management if they would consider setting something up. You never know unless you ask!
Do you have eco-friendly tips? Share them with us in the comments!