I think of myself as a fairly responsible, environmentally conscious person but, the more I think about it, the more I realize I'm really not putting much effort into being green. So, in a New Year's attempt to change a few habits, I decided to revisit the not-so-novel ideas of recycling and conservation.
Plymouth Township revised its recycling guidelines last July and, while I typically set aside my cereal boxes and milk jugs to be repurposed, up until a few days ago, I would not have passed a test on the do's and don'ts of recycling.
Recycling Christmas Trees and Beyond
Getting the Christmas tree out the door is the first step in my informal '2011 Go Green Initiative'. In Plymouth, trees are picked up for recycling during the first two weeks in January so you still have time; just set yours out by the curb on your regularly scheduled pick-up day. But remember to check--and double-check--for any straggler ornaments that might be hiding in the branches.
As a Plymouth Township resident, there is a lengthy list of items I can recycle, besides my Christmas tree. Before this week, I didn't know I could put out empty aerosol hair spray cans and cooking spray cans, as long as the tips and caps are taken off. I can also put out most of my old batteries (AA, AAA, C, D and 9-volt) as long as they are in plastic baggies. Other recyclable items include: junk mail, paper towel tubes, metal cookware and utensils, bread bags, vegetable bags and plastics labeled 1-7. But, there are things that aren't acceptable for curbside recycling, such as pizza boxes, frozen food cartons, aluminum foil and button or lithium batteries. For the most part, the city of Plymouth and Plymouth Township guidelines are the same. To see a fact sheet on Plymouth Township's recycling program, go to: http://tinyurl.com/2dxorfe
For more information on the city's program, visit http://www.ci.plymouth.mi.us/index.aspx?nid=63
A new recycling bin (or a second one) purchased through the city of Plymouth costs $15; bins purchased through the township cost $10. Call before you make the trip to pick one up where you live, though. Plymouth Township Hall was sold out of bins this week.
Water, Water Everywhere
It's easy to take water for granted, to assume there's an unlimited supply and forget to be mindful of everything that goes down the drain.
For my family, that changed in September 2009, when we were back in Georgia. The rains that month brought tremendous flooding to our side of town, just west of Atlanta near the Chattahoochee River. Floodwaters swept across the major roads, washed out many small bridges near our house and temporarily turned our neighborhood into an island. My daughter's school was closed for a week and we were limited to bottled water for at least that long. It was a good reminder that water is a precious resource but I'm still amazed at how easy it is to forget the little things, like turning off the faucet when brushing teeth or doing the dishes. That's the habit I'm working to change.
When thinking about our water, it's also important to know what not to send downstream. The Plymouth Township recycling guide says items such as prescription medicines should not be flushed down the drain. This is because some products cannot be completely filtered back out of the water supply. Instead, save them for a Household Hazardous Waste Collection event. The township will offer one this spring.
Other Simple Starts
This week, I popped into The Green Store, an eco-friendly boutique in town, and asked owner, Dan Hunter, to suggest one or two simple things people can do to be more green-minded in 2011. The first thing he mentioned was recycling batteries. He also talked about using hand towels instead of paper towels. "Since I've been doing it for the last couple years, it's reduced my paper towel consumption by 70%," says Hunter.
Being more environmentally conscious requires consistent effort. And, even if you have to remind yourself and your family to rinse out a plastic container for the recycling bin or to use a hand towel instead of a paper towel, I figure it's worth the bother. After all, it's for our own good.