Thursday, May 22, 2008

Saving Money By Recycling

I've said it before: I have a particularly eco-minded landlord. Though, I've always been keen on recycling and have been since I had my first apartment (by myself) in 1990.

But do you realize how much you save by recycling? In Seattle, at least, we don't have to pay for recycling services. In fact, if it's discovered that you're putting recyclable items in your trash, the trash collectors will either not take the "trash" and/or you will be fined.

In my house, there is my landlord, the lady across the hall, and also a lady in the mother-in-law basement apartment, in addition to me. Between the four of us, we regularly fill up the jumbo, on wheels recycling bin (sometimes we have more than fits into it). But the real interesting thing is that our trash container is the smallest one available -- it's a 12 gallon "micro can." It's really a pretty small container...for four people! What's even more interesting to me, is that there are weeks when it's barely half full.

Now, I've written about my consumerism, so it's not like I'm an ascetic (ha!). In fact, I tend to accumulate more plastic bags (I know, I know...but I don't drive and I don't always plan when I'll pick up groceries or whatnot) than I generate trash. I recycle vastly more than I throw in the trash bin.

Aside from saving money by recycling, we can all benefit by reusing. I've recently signed up to freecycle, and I've been amazed at some of the things listed (e.g. someone a couple nights ago offered three working Apple laptops). I've seen people ask for bikes, and receive them with 24 hours. I've seen a sewing machine on offer. I've seen all sorts of clothes (men's, women's, children's, baby); a garden hose; a lot of plants; knives; a George Forman grill.

I've also been thinking a lot about simply reusing more basic things. While I make a killer tomato pasta sauce (when I have the time), I always buy pre-made Alfredo. That's a few jars per month. Yes, they get recycled, but how much better would it be if I could find someone making their own pasta sauce, or jam, or whatever, and give them the jars? How much better would it be if I got off my bottom and took the leftovers of my magazine addiction to the hospital that is less than two blocks from my house? It would be lots better -- but doing the right thing takes effort.

Lately, it's feeling like I'm becoming some kind of hybrid eco-warrior/consumer, which feels like a contradiction. Or maybe I'm just being a more conscious consumer. I've never really generated a huge amount of trash, and I've been recycling for a couple decades. Yet I've known people and lived in houses with fewer people that have generated more raw trash. I don't know that I particularly look for products that have packaging or materials that can be easily recycled, but I think I do. Heck, I live in the Northwest where not recycling is about on par with being a Nazi (I'm not kidding) -- aside from the fact it's now against the law to not recycle in Seattle.

So, regardless of why it's done (to save the environment or simply to save money), recycling and reusing makes a lot of sense. In a culture where we're pushed to buy and consume, it's smart to pass along things that we no longer want/need, and to make sure detritus is properly handled.

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