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5 Ways to Maximize Fun and Minimize Waste with Your Friends

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Enjoy the company of friends while being sustainable — it’s the ultimate in multitasking!

Recently a comment from a Recyclebank member struck a chord with me. On my post about green goals for the new year, member Elizah L. wrote, “One of my top green goals is swapping … items that I no longer need or want with friends, in the guise of social/party-esque get togethers. If you make things seem fun, people are far more likely to jump on the green train!”

As someone who is always looking for an excuse for get-togethers with friends, I loved this idea! Plus, as a time-starved mom, I love to multitask, and the concept of enjoying time with friends while also doing my part to reduce, reuse, and recycle… Well, that’s just irresistible!

As a result, I came up with these ideas for how I could involve friends and neighbors in my environmental efforts. Please make them your own, and watch your social time get a little more productive!

1. Organize a swap. One gal’s trash is another’s treasure, which is why planning a swap is genius. Whether you’re trading handbags you’ve gotten bored with, outgrown kids’ clothes, books you’ve read, or make-up that wasn’t quite the right shade, it’s like a shopping spree with your friends, all without spending a cent. And you’ll get rid of all that stuff you’ve been meaning to get rid of, without having to carry it all to Goodwill or, worse, throw it in the trash.

2. Host a cooking party. Maybe you’ve heard of the concept of freezer meals, where you spend an afternoon prepping and packaging the ingredients for a bunch of different meals so that on a busy weeknight, all you need to do is cook it up. It’s a great idea, but it’s even better if you get a few friends together, multiply the ingredients, and buy everything in bulk to reduce food and packaging waste. Many of the freezer meal methods I’ve seen recommend using plastic freezer bags, but when I have my party, I’m going to use glass storage containers and erasable food labels instead. The Kitchn has a useful guide to planning a freezer meal party. If freezer meals sound too complicated, try having a soup party — soup recipes are easily multiplied and they freeze well. By cooking with a few other friends, you’ll really cut down on food waste, which means no more half-used bunches of herbs wilting in the fridge!

3. Take a walk. I meet with friends occasionally for walks around the neighborhood after dropping the kids off at school. This in itself is already a win-win situation — we’re socializing and getting exercise. But to take it to the next level, I’m going to channel Recyclebank member Boyce Griffith and start bringing a couple plastic bags with me. That way we can pick up some of the trash that we usually come across on our walks — so not only will we socialize and get exercise (besides walking, bending down to pick up candy wrappers and empty soda bottles must be good for our abs, right?), but we’ll also clean up the neighborhood.

4. Start a tools club. If there’s one thing that Facebook is good for, it’s crowd sourcing. My neighborhood has its own group, and there are constantly posts for people wanting to borrow a chainsaw or an electric drill or a ladder. I’d love to make this a more organized entity by creating a master list of different tools that my friends and neighbors own, that they wouldn’t mind lending out. It’s much more sustainable to share these types of tools than for us to each separately own them, especially the ones that are only used occasionally. This type of informal sharing club would work equally well for specialized kitchen appliances and tools — after all, how often do you need a food dehydrator or a stovetop smoker?

5. Form a walking (or biking) “school bus”. On Walk to School Day, one of the parents at my kids’ school organized a walking school bus. We gathered in one part of our neighborhood to walk to the school, stopping at one point to “pick up” another group of students at a designated spot. It was lots of fun for the kids and parents to walk together, and it was certainly nice to have dozens of fewer vehicles on the street that morning. By organizing a group of kids to walk or bike to school, perhaps with parents taking turns escorting them, you’ll be able to reduce the vehicle pollution in the neighborhood, and the kids will get the joint benefits of socializing and exercising so that they arrive at school ready to focus on their work. Combine this with #3 above, and you’ll also reduce waste.



What are some ways that you combine socializing with your sustainability efforts? Share your ideas in the comments below.

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About the Author
Jessica Harlan
Jessica Harlan
I love finding new ways to green my family's life as painlessly as possible, and sharing those ideas with folks who want to do the same. more
  • tommy b. 10 days ago
  • Eva E. 10 days ago
    I have met a lot of neighbors and friends through my local Buy Nothing. Almost all of my kid's clothing has been gifted to us through there and we pass it on once they outgrow it. Same with about half of our furniture. Too much dinner, not enough flour, shared seeds & gardening supplies, shared produce, etc. I recently just borrowed an ice chest for a trip rather than buy one for the one time we needed it
  • Randy F. 10 days ago
    I don't compost and don't have livestock to give fruit and veggy scraps to ~ would love if my community had a table scrap recycling program like I read about. I feel guilty landfilling so much nutrient rich scraps. If friends can't use it then it could be left curbside for regular collections for someone that does.
    ∆ Come And Get It! ∆
    • Randy F. 10 days ago
      T.M.I. - F.Y.I.

      I don't officially "Compost" but I do toss some things into the vegetation / woods / Death Patch (aka micro garden) including coffee grounds, egg shells, and spent flowers etc. . . . but nothing heroic or laborious with shovels.
  • NAncy Lee B. 1 month ago
    We (friends)have organized swaps using public access spaces with permission and I suggest if you do get lots of helpers and a team to lead. Men and children also embrace this so don't forget to include them and check for local charities to donate any unclaimed items after.
  • tommy b. 1 month ago
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