A Waste Reduction Guide to Making Your Home Environmentally Friendly
We all want to do our part to protect it and make Mesa a better place to live. Many of us take the time to divert household items from the landfill by either participating in Mesa's Blue Barrel curbside recycling collection program or taking materials to one of our area drop-off recycling centers. While these are commendable activities, there is much more that we can do everyday to ensure that we make the most of our natural resources and protect the environment.
We need to pay closer attention to our lifestyles to make sure that we are living in an environmentally friendly manner as much as possible. The purpose of this guide is to provide you with some source reduction, reuse, and recycling ideas to make your home more environmentally friendly.
The kitchen is the most logical place to start since most of our garbage comes from this well-used room in the house. Many of the materials that we can reduce, reuse or recycle are used or generated in the kitchen. In fact, if you look at your kitchen waste carefully, you will notice that most of the materials are actually packaging wastes. Over-packaging results in more waste and higher disposal costs. It is important to pay attention to what you purchase to ensure that you buy products with a minimum of packaging waste. If you do a good job reducing your kitchen waste, you will have already taken a big step towards making your home environmentally friendly. The following are some suggestions for you that will help you to reduce the amount of material you throw away:
- Reduce! When purchasing items, pay attention to the amount of packaging used. Also, consider whether or not the product or its packaging is recyclable in Mesa's recycling program. Another tip is to buy in bulk and avoid products with excess packaging. Single serve packages use more packaging than larger bulk items. However, balance this with making sure that you buy only what you need, especially with perishable products. You can also buy refills. Refill packages reduce waste since they are often made of thinner material than the original container and don't include spouts, pumps or spray tops. Also, these refills usually contain a layer of recycled materials, saving on the use of new or "virgin" materials.
- Reuse! It sounds simple, but many of us overlook the obvious. Why throw something away when you can use it again and again. The kitchen is a haven for reusable items such as aluminum foil, glass, jars, and plastic containers. If you have items to dispose of that you are not going to be reusing yourself, look into other outlets for reusable materials such as the Salvation Army, Good Will and Desert Industries. In this way, someone else can reuse your items rather than throwing them into the trash.
- Recycle! Don't be a part of the problem! Be part of the solution!If you are not already recycling, think about starting. Recycling is easy. Many items such as newspaper, glass, metal cans, and plastics are being collected from homes just like yours. Currently, the City of Mesa's Blue Barrel recycling program accepts the following items:
- Plastic cups and containers #1-#7 (no Styrofoam)
- Glass jars and bottles
- Aluminum cans
- Metal (tin) cans
- Corrugated cardboard
- Milk and juice cartons
- Direct Mail
- Telephone Books
In addition, there are convenient 24-hour drop-off sites available to recycle these items should you not have our barrel service or have an abundance of recyclable material that will not fit into your blue barrel at home.
Your garage probably contains the most potentially hazardous wastes in your home. Paint, oils, pesticides, solvents and cleaners are generally referred to as "Household Hazardous Materials". When used properly these materials pose little threat to the environment. It is when they are disposed of improperly, that these materials can contaminate soil, water, and air. They can also pose a health hazard to humans and pets. It is very important that you make sure you use the product according to label instructions.
The following suggestions will assist you in minimizing the environmental impacts associated with Household Hazardous Materials.
- Don't buy too much! Carefully estimate how much of a material you may need when making purchases. Purchasing only what you need will eliminate having to dispose of excess material. Remember, just because a larger quantity is on sale for a price comparable to a smaller package, it is not a bargain if it creates a disposal problem for you.
- Give it away to others! If you have excess materials, check with friends, family and community organizations to see if they could use the material. This solves your disposal problems and saves others some money. Giving away unwanted paint is a great example. Youth theater groups, churches or other civic organizations may be interested in your old paint.
- Try alternatives! There are many safe, more environmentally friendly alternatives that you can use in place of commercially produced cleaning supplies. You would be surprised at how much baking soda can do! For example, 4 tablespoons of baking soda combined with 1 quart of warm water makes an all-purpose cleaner. Another example is take 2 parts vegetable oil and 1 part lemon juice or 3 cups olive oil and 1 cup vinegar to make furniture polish. Additionally, there are numerous planting techniques to reduce unwanted garden pests.
- Practice proper disposal methods! The City of Mesa offers regularly scheduled household hazardous waste collection events for residents who need to dispose of household hazardous materials. Utilize these events to properly dispose of excess material.
Yard and Garden
We all enjoy having a beautiful lawn and landscape. But how many of us enjoy the work involved with keeping a lawn looking beautiful? Or the expense associated with it? Consider the following suggestions to keep the yard waste off your curb for collection and therefore lower your yard waste disposal bill.
Xeriscaping makes sense...naturally!
Xeriscaping takes a smart approach to landscaping by promoting good planning, proper soil preparation, efficient irrigation, and the use of well adapted, low water using plants. For homeowners, it means less maintenance, lower water bills -- and a colorful, attractive yard. Saving water, mowing less, and sending less waste to our landfills promotes the overall conservation of our resources. Check with the City's Water Resources Office at (480) 644-3058 for some free advice before planting.
Reduce your turf area!
Many people are rethinking how much lawn they want and need. You might consider reducing the area of lawn you presently have by replacing some areas with water-efficient ground covers or shrubs. Patios, paving stones or other garden structures can also reduce your lawn maintenance area while adding functionality to your landscape.
Mow your lawn more frequently, cutting just the top third of the grass blade. While this seems like more work, it actually saves time because you don't have to bag the grass. Studies have shown that leaving the shorter clippings (which are rich in nutrients) on the lawn and mowing more frequently will result in a healthier, green lawn with less effort! A mulching lawn mower is not necessary but it will help.
Green Waste Barrel
The City of Mesa offers a curbside green waste barrel for a nominal monthly fee in which you can put loose, unbagged green waste; including grass cuttings, leaves, and prunings. This barrel is collected weekly, the same day as your blue recycling barrel, and the material is turned into nutrient rich mulch.
If you have a lot of grass clippings, leaves, and/or garden wastes, but do not want to put those materials out at the curb, consider starting a backyard compost pile. Composting will not only help you manage your waste on-site, it will also generate a soil product that you can use in your garden, flower beds, and around shrubbery and bushes. Compost is great for fighting weeds as well as soil erosion. The City of Mesa offers residents a backyard compost container for a $5 refundable deposit. Call Customer Service for more information.
We have offered some suggestions that you can use at home to reduce, reuse, and recycle your wastes. However, most of those suggestions apply only after you have purchased an item. Much of what you can do to reduce or recycle your waste occurs before, or during, your visits to the store. By making the effort to keep your disposal options in mind when you purchase goods, you can truly make a difference. Listed below are some shopping tips:
- Buy Recycled! Take the time to check and see if the product you are buying contains any post-consumer recycled material. By purchasing products using recycled materials, you help support recycling markets which improve the value of recyclable materials.
- Buy products that are recyclable in Mesa! This will reduce what you have to put in your garbage barrel at home. Be careful though. Just because an item states that it is recyclable does not necessarily mean that it is recyclable in Mesa's program. If given the choice between buying eggs in a Styrofoam carton or in a paperboard carton, consider the recyclability of each type of material and purchase the paperboard carton that is recyclable in Mesa's program.
- Avoid single-use disposable products! Whenever possible, either purchase goods that are durable and can be used for a long period of time or reuse products you may have at home.
- Reuse your grocery bags! If you can bring your own bags from home, do so. If not, take as few bags as you can comfortably handle. Whether you prefer paper bags or plastic bags, be sure to reuse them. Paper bags are great for keeping newspapers neatly stored and make excellent book covers. Plastic bags make good wastebasket liners or lunch bags. You can also inquire at your grocery store if they have a return program for plastic bags.
- Support recycling! Tell your store manager that you prefer buying products that are made with recycled content and/or are recyclable. Ask them to make every effort to seek out and stock these types of products. Store managers welcome this type of input from customers.
The following are additional tips to consider to help further reduce your household's waste:
- Reduce junk mail. The City of Mesa offers information which explains how to reduce unwanted junk mail.
- Avoid using disposable products when appropriate. This includes paper plates, cups, utensils, reusable bags, etc. Give it away, don't throw it away!
- Give away or donate items that you do not want anymore but are still usable. Contact your local Salvation Army, Goodwill, or Desert Industries for information on how these products can be reused.
Note: Portions of this guide were adapted from West Cook County Solid Waste Agency publication of the same title. Information was developed by the Des Moines Metro Area Solid Waste Agency; Illinois EPA and ENR; Missouri Household Hazardous Waste Project; and the City of Fort Worth, Texas.