While much of the largest reduction in waste can come from reduced amounts of packaging, there are still other things we can do as consumers that will help that along. Several different organizations have lists of steps to take, most of which overlap with one another, so we’re going to try to summarize a few of those here.

I would first support the Extended Producer Responsibility law now being debated in Maine’s legislature. That will directly reward producers for being more careful in their packaging practices by making them pay the costs of recycling their packaging materials.

The next thing to do is look for ways to get what we need with less packaging around it. That means finding vendors who pack better, or finding local sources for what we need. That way, we can take the products home in our own reusable bags, or even with no bags or boxes around them at all. That’s especially true when we can buy in bulk.

“Buying in bulk” does not mean buying in large quantities. It means buying things that are displayed loosely, like the bin of vegetables at any farmer’s market, rather than carrots wrapped in plastic at a farm in South America then shipped for several days to our local grocery store. As a bonus, your vegetables will be fresher as well.

One suggestion I like is to stop some of the junk mail, of which we all get much too much. There is a wonderful website at ecocycle.org/junkmail that tells you how to go about telling various organizations to stop sending you stuff. They have a lot of other great information there as well!

Saving electricity is also always a good way to save. Just not leaving those little transformers plugged into the wall when they are not charging anything is helpful (they pull a small continuous amount of electricity anyway), or turning off lights that are not being used. The caution there is that CFL bulbs will fail more quickly if they are frequently turned on and off. The U.S. Department of Energy says that you can generally extend the operating life of CFLs more by switching them on and off less frequently, and the total savings is greater than the cost of leaving them on a bit longer.

In the yard, the best thing we can do is mow over leaves and grass, and leave it all right there. We have no better fertilizer for grass than grass itself! Where we need to consider things more carefully is in the height at which we cut the grass. Higher grass is better for the lawn because it keeps the roots cooler, which discourages weeds. Shorter grass is better for discouraging ticks. Most of what I’ve read suggests a length of about 3 inches is probably the best compromise there.

The Recycle Bin is a weekly column on what to recycle, what not to recycle, and why, in Brunswick. The public is encouraged to submit questions by email to [email protected]. Harry Hopcroft is a member of the Brunswick Recycling and Sustainability Committee.

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: