This New Year's, resolve to waste less and recycle more
Photos via Unsplash and Pexels
As 2022 wraps up and as you look into the next year, we hope you are motivated to identify and implement some new ways to be more sustainable. We’ll use the 7 R’s for a more sustainable 2023.
Rethink how you celebrate. During holidays, birthdays and vacations, Americans buy more and waste more. Easy swaps, like ditching plastic wrapping paper and storing holiday decorations properly, can go a long way for lessening your holiday footprint. Find ways to live more sustainably in the 2023 holiday season here.
Rethink how you grocery shop. Shop collaboratively (which is more fun, anyway) and be realistic about the quantities of food you should buy to cut down on food waste. Using a shared grocery list can mitigate accidentally buying too much.
Rethink modern agriculture practices. Monocultures (cultivating a single crop in a given area) and aiming for the largest yield possible aren’t sustainable practices. It’s not an efficient use of resources or labor. Instead, support Community Support Agriculture programs with tailored quantity strategies or try growing food yourself with a windowsill garden.
Rethink your food storage setup. The simple act of reorganizing your pantry, fridge and fruit bowl can have great benefits. Some fruits and veggies shouldn’t be stored together because they cause each other to ripen too quickly, which leads to more food waste.
Rethink your perceptions about ugly produce. A staggering amount of produce goes to waste because retailers and consumers have very strict standards for how food ought to look. However, misshapen produce has the same nutrients and tastes the same.
Rethink your relationship with food labels. Don’t be spooked by “best by” dates: They’re suggestions instead of firm rules. Rely on your senses of sight, smell, and taste to determine if something’s gone bad. Otherwise, you run the risk of throwing out something that’s still perfectly good.
Rethink how you recycle. Avoid wish-cycling (a.k.a. aspirational recycling) by staying informed about what’s recyclable in your area. If you follow Recycle417 on social media, you’re on the right track! Don’t just toss something into the recycling bin and cross your fingers that it actually gets recycled. And remember: If you’re not sure if something is recyclable, ask!
Refuse freebies. Think about it: Do you ever actually use the can koozies, pens and bookmarks that are handed out at festivals and other events? Instead of taking home paper brochures or flyers, take a picture on your phone’s camera. Instead of taking a business card, just bookmark the website on your phone’s browser.
Refuse to damage our ecosystems with unused medications. Do not flush pills or other pharmaceuticals down the drain. Instead, take advantage of one of Missouri’s more than 600 safe drug drop-off locations.
Refuse to take up unnecessary landfill space with electronics. Components of microwaves, smart phones, TVs and other electronics can be valuable for recyclers when recovered properly. Plus, metals and computer parts in many of these products can pose a threat to the environment if they’re tossed in a landfill.
Refuse single use grocery bags. If your shopping trip is light, simply carry your purchases when possible. I find half the time that I don’t even need a bag! For bigger shopping trips, opt for a reusable bag that you already own.
Refuse receipts. Most banks keep digital records for their patrons to access online, so physical receipts are rarely necessary. Plus, receipt paper is actually a blend of paper and plastic, so it can’t be recycled. Get into the habit of choosing no receipt, or opt for a digital receipt sent to your email inbox.
Refuse extra packaging. Try bringing your own containers to local bulk stores. Our favorites are Mama Jean’s Natural Market, The Soap Refill Station and Chabom Teas & Spices. Additionally, some online retailers offer the option to consolidate your orders into fewer boxes if you’re willing to wait a couple extra days.
Refuse to buy more than you need. This could mean avoiding the clearance sections at the mall, not going to the grocery store when you’re hungry (or hangry!) or uninstalling online retailer apps that entice you with coupons.
Repurpose empty containers for food storage. Every time you empty a jar of pickles or a sauce bottle, ask yourself: Can I find another use for this? Your favorite Chinese take-out restaurants probably package to-go orders in reusable containers, too, which are great for produce storage or leftovers.
Repurpose vegetable scraps for stocks. Onion skins, celery tops and other leftovers freeze well as you gather enough for a stock pot.
Repurpose household items in general. The possibilities are endless, but the point is to get into the habit of pausing and reconsidering before you go to throw something away. Chances are there’s another way to use it, even if it’s broken.
Favor reusables in your lunchbox or on picnics. Reusables are durable and cost-effective. Commit to using cloth napkins, ceramic plates or metal flatware.
Reuse products by shopping secondhand. Brick-and-mortar locations and online resale sites alike can help you save money and the planet. You’d be surprised with what you can buy secondhand, often in great condition. After all, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.
Reduce unwanted gifting by being intentional. Gift experiences instead of physical gifts. We are also big fans of wish lists to eliminate confusion and guesswork. Gifting can still be special when you’re prioritizing sustainability.
Reduce your footprint by shopping local at a farmer’s market or art popup. When you shop local, money stays in the local economy and materials travel fewer miles to make it to you.
Reduce your energy bill by unplugging household appliances when not in use. Make it a habit to turn down the thermostat when nobody’s home, too.
Reduce food waste with culinary experimentation. Our friends at Springfield Community Gardens do this better than anyone else we know. They freeze-dry, dehydrate and can foods in their test kitchen at the Midtown Gardens. Take a page out of SCG’s book by exploring new ways to use foods, whether that means freezing ripe bananas to save for smoothies, pressure-cooking veggie scraps for broths, or air-frying your restaurant leftovers to revive them.
Recruit others to recycle, but encourage kindly. We have an entire blogpost on how to convince loved ones to recycle!
Recycle right by using the City’s Waste Wizard, a free, searchable database for your recycling questions.
Recycle glass by dropping it off at Lone Pine or Franklin Avenue Recycling Centers in Springfield. Some people assume if their curbside recycling service doesn’t accept glass, then it’s not recyclable in Springfield at all. That’s not true! Find out more about this valuable commodity in our glass blogpost.
“Recycle” food waste and yard waste by composting. We recommend turning to Springfield Compost Collective for resources. Do not throw food waste into the trash. Composting benefits people, gardens, and the planet. It reduces greenhouse gas emissions and captures carbon in soil. It keeps our landfills open longer.
Recycle holiday decor by dropping it off at the YRC. Organic trees, garlands, wreaths and other live holiday décor doesn’t belong in the landfill.
Recycle plastic properly by rinsing and drying food containers.
Recycle by starting small. You don’t have to be an instant expert on plastic, metal and paper products to make a difference with recycling. Starting with just one material, like an empty soda can from lunch, is a laudable first step. And remember to ask questions.
Got your own sustainable resolutions that aren’t listed here? Tell us about them here by messaging us on Facebook and Instagram or by shooting us an email.
About the Author
Diana Dudenhoeffer is a multimedia journalist from Springfield, Missouri. She studied journalism, sustainability and documentary storytelling at Missouri State University. She is the current media intern at OHRD, writing blogposts like this one.