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July 23, 2017 / thegirlwiththedinotattoo

the other rooms

As I move away from the kitchen, the biggest culprit in creating trash, I found that for most of our other rooms, the living room, bedroom, and office/music/craft room, all I really needed to do was remove the waste bin in order to better divert those items to recycling or compost. Perks of a tiny apartment means it’s just a few more steps away to the kitchen, where paper from the office can be recycled and snacks from the living room (like the kernels in a popcorn bag) can be dumped into the compost. Without having a trash bin within arm’s reach, it makes you think twice about where you’re


I have a collection of my great-grandmother’s handkerchiefs which look dainty next to my rubber ducky in the bathroom

tossing items. Also, since we’ve done away with tissues (except for the box in the closet for guests if they prefer), I’ve made sure to have a handkerchief at my beside and on the towel rack in the bathroom so they’re easily accessible and I’m not tempted to just use toilet paper when I have a sniffle.

Since nearly everything is digital now, we got rid of our printer years ago, and that has helped us to drastically cut back on excessive printing. My husband and I both work office jobs with access to printers, so I’ll print off my Amazon return labels and student loan forms there when necessary. Sometimes we get into a pinch when either of us forgets to print off or bring home from work the needed paperwork, but friends have been willing to let us pop over and use their printer if it’s absolutely necessary, or we just get creative! I like the fact that it really forces us to think about whether something really needs to be printed off, and the answer is usually no. Recently though my husband has been asking for us to reinstate the printer since he needs to print off music for church each weekend, so even if we end up snagging a used one again I’m happy that we were at least able to learn to go without one for so long and really utilize our digital databases like Google Drive, Dropbox, etc.

leftover condiment and pill bottle make great organizers for office odds and ends

When there’s nothing (or very little) being printed in the house, then that means we’ve also cut back on our use of staples, paperclips, and other office supplies which is great. I still keep these items around for stuff like medical or tax information, and also because paperclips are super useful for many other things (like using them to poke open the SD card on my cell phone) and not everything that gets stapled is paperwork. Also old notebooks and notepads get reused until there’s nothing left – I don’t care what logo is on them. I haven’t needed to buy office supplies in several years which makes me very happy.

I also hold onto and reuse padded envelopes and other large mailing bags so that they get at least one more use (and I’ve noticed that some of those plastic mailers now have a second line to peel and seal which makes me so happy!). I just choose the size of envelope that can handle another fold on the open end, slap on the new mailing label, and tape that sucker up. I’ve never had an issue with mailing these so far, but be sure that you remove all previous bar codes (that can get a little tedious, thanks Amazon). While I am trying to scale back my online shopping, sometimes I deem my pile of left-over envelopes too large to hold onto, and when I’ve offered up the extras on any of the recycling or trading groups I’m a part of on Facebook, I’ve had no problem with others wanting to take them all. Side note: find your town’s “Buy Nothing” group on Facebook or join – they’re amazing.
No one likes getting junk mail, but if you’re trying to cut back on waste, you become very acutely aware of how difficult it can be to push back this onslaught of unwanted paper. Most companies are actually very helpful and after one phone call or email or online form completed, I never hear from them again. I make sure to tell the stores that I know how to find them online and prefer to browse there than through the catalog, and many of them are very gracious about it (LL Bean of course!). And then there are those companies that you can call several times, write dozens of emails, get promise after promise that you’ve been removed, and yet you will still get promotional offers that praise how great their products and customer service are!  You’ll know at that point if you ever want to do business with them again (I’m looking at you, Verizon, Comcast, and Capital One!!). When I was first getting started, there were so many companies to contact that I would save one piece of mail from each (recycle the rest) and save them for either a long lunch break at work or stretch of road trip when I’m not driving, and just make all the calls/emails then. Now I get them so rarely that it’s not as daunting to just quick send an email out. Also, just a note that to be removed from all those credit card offers (apparently except for Capital One because they suck) you will need to contact a third party company (the credit companies will give you their information) and you’ll need to mail in a form with your social security number since it’s tied to your credit ratings. I wish I could remember the name of the company that handled that, but please just be sure it’s an actual credit agency and not a scam for your SSN!
If you’re transitioning to more digital and cloud-based information, then you probably also have a plethora of CDs laying around useless (and let’s be honest, you don’t really want to make them into a craft). I found a place that will recycle them, along with several other e-waste type items: They don’t take jewel cases (but those crafts are better then the CDs anyways), but check out their website for information on how to send in your pile of free AOL online hours.

my mess of a desk: gift cards waiting to be sent for recycling and envelops galore. good thing the desk closes up to hide all this.

And finally gift cards – what everyone actually wants for Christmas. If you’re buying them, please do the gift recipient a favor and don’t get ones with glitter on them (in fact, please don’t ever buy anything with glitter on it – those note cards and gift wrap are not recyclable and you can never get rid of the glitter, ever). This will also allow them to be recycled, either by asking at the store whether they will reuse the cards themselves once the balance is used up. If so, let them hold onto the cards. And if not, send them to EarthWorks! Fill out the form to get your local shipping address, and send them your gift cards, old ID badges, store rewards cards, etc.
And speaking of giving gifts, do we really need to always use wrapping paper? I know how special it is to give something with a nice presentation, and at least gift bags can be used many times, but wrapping paper is literally made to be used once and then throw it away (unless you’re that person who is actually able to save the paper nicely, I am not). Often, though, the nice paper bag from the shop you bought the item in looks great with just some plain tissue paper, and when that’s a little wrinkled from reuse it can still carry donations to the thrift store. Even better, I love to give Lush’s knot wraps as gifts since they’re so versatile, and I use them to wrap up the other part of the gift I’m giving. Nice scarves or handkerchiefs would also do well to serve as pretty packaging, or going the route of giving the gift of experiences rather than things (outing to a museum, movie, theme park, forest park, paint night, dancing lessons, karate lessons, music lessons, or repairs on a car – I know, I’m very practical and it speaks to my heart). There are still some family members or situations like bridal showers where I feel like my reusable options either are too casual or won’t be understood, so I end up having a roll of gift wrap on hand for those. Otherwise I like the opportunity to demonstrate an alternative to creating waste while still showing the recipient that I care about them.
When I have the time to think creatively, I can still give nice gifts and be organized, and produce a lot less waste than usual. This isn’t always the case (we’ve all picked up a gift en route to the party and wrote the card before we walked in), but I find that by knowing other options ahead of time it makes those alternative much more accessible.
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