Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

It make a whole lot of sense. And limiting what we send to the landfill saves money!

Photo credit: edkohler via / CC BY

This Saturday April 22nd is Earth Day – the 48th celebration since 1970. I don’t consider myself a tree hugger but, I am greatly distressed by how much stuff we as Americans throw out every year. Believe it not, we discard 1600 pounds of trash per person per year!

The Frugal and Wise would do well to chant the mantra: “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”


  • Limit your purchases – buy only what you need or will use. Avoid impulse buys. For major purchases, wait a day or two before buying. Sleep on it.
  • Return purchased items that are not needed or used – how often do we buy things that never get used? Return them and get a refund! Be aware that some retailers place time limits on accepting returns.
  • However, when you are in the midst of a home project, it may make sense to overbuy materials, rather than make countless trips to the hardware or home improvement store. But be sure to keep receipts and return the unused materials when your project is completed.
  • Cancel newspaper and magazine subscriptions that rarely get read
  • Avoid spoiled food – ponder this statistic: 40% of all food in in the US goes to waste! That’s around 240 pounds per person annually. Don’t overbuy foodstuffs that end up rotting in the ‘fridge. Many items can be frozen if they are not to be consumed right away. And serve smaller portions!
  • Get a Doggie Bag when eating out – restaurant portions tend to be huge. Eat what you want and get the rest packed to go. You’ll have something to look forward to for lunch the next day.


  • Plastic bags from stores – reused them as trash can liners. Depending upon their size, plastic trash bags cost 5 – 20 cents each, or more. The plastic bags from the grocery store, department store or Bed, Bath and Beyond are free! (And what else would you do with them?)
  • Take-out and doggie bag containers from restaurants – many to-go restaurant containers are quite substantial. The container that held your Hot’n Sour soup could well be pressed into service storing leftovers.
  • Used Paper from the Office – bring home one-sided printouts and reports from the office. Print on the other side at home. A ream (500 sheets) of 8 ½ x 11 paper retails for around $7.50 or 1 ½ cents per sheet. Just be sure you don’t bring home anything of a confidential nature. And that you know how to load the paper in your home printer (generally, printed side up)
  • Turn food scraps into pet treats – our dog loves: broccoli stems, carrot tops, asparagus stalks and sweet potato skins. We’ve stopped buying him doggie treats from the pet store.
  • Make cleaning rags out of worn-out T-shirts – why buy packets of cleaning or dusting rags?


  • Sell unneeded items on Ebay or Craigslist – this would be for items valuable enough to warrant spending the time and effort to sell. For Ebay, be aware of the fees for listing, payment processing and shipping.
  • Donate – put together a collection of clothing and household goods for Goodwill, the Salvation Army or Purple Heart. Declutter and get a tax deduction!
  • “Rescue” trash picks and donate – see something perfectly fine out at the curb but you don’t need it? Rescue it and put it into your Goodwill collection to up your tax deduction.
  • Compost grass clippings and leaves – don’t throw them out. Both are great sources of nitrogen to fertilize your lawn. They can be finely chopped with a mulching lawn mower or composted. Why throw away perfectly good (and all-natural) fertilizer?
  • Same for coffee grounds and egg shells – coffee grounds are a source of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. They can enhance composting (This assumes that you brew coffee at home rather than buying a four-dollar latte on the way to work.) Egg shells are a source of calcium needed for flower and vegetable gardens.
  • Appliances and electronics – Best Buy and Staples accept a variety of electronic items for free recycling and Best Buy recycles appliances as well. Best Buy will also recycle unwanted TV’s and computer monitors for $25. Check with your electric utility about deals to recycle your old refrigerator. PECO in the Philadelphia area will haul away your old freezer or ‘fridge for free and pay you $50!
  • Recycle hazardous materials and motor oil – never throw out hazardous chemicals. Many communities offer collections stations. Some filling stations or garages will accept used motor oil.
  • Put stuff out at the curb – got stuff not good enough to sell or donate but too good to throw out? Put it out at the curb for ‘recycling’ by fellow trash pickers.

I hope you find these suggestions helpful for reducing expenses, consumption and clutter. Please share your ideas for reducing, reusing and recycling.  Cheers, Paul

Photo credit: Michel Filion via / CC BY-NC-SA

© 2017 Paul J Reimold

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