When it comes to being greener, sometimes it takes a village: My village. I’ve come to learn just where I can find something to borrow so I don’t have to buy it; how to recycle various odds and ends, and all the many ways I can reuse and repurpose items — which is almost always the most sustainable way available.
Whether you’ve lived in your community a lifetime, or if you’re new to the nabe, it’s worth it to spend some time exploring the ways that your local businesses, municipal offices, and other organizations can help you reduce your footprint.
While the services, programs, and amenities will differ from town to town, these are some of the more common offerings you might find in your community that will help you with your sustainable-living efforts.
1. A recycling drop-off center
Not every type of recyclable is accepted in curbside pickup, but many cities have public or private recycling centers that accept more than just the mainstream items. A dedicated recycling center also ensures that your waste is actually making it to a recycling facility.
My neighborhood center, a nonprofit appropriately called Center for Hard-to-Recycle Materials, accepts pretty much every type of plastic and paper, plus colored and clear glass, tires, toxic chemicals, electronics, mattresses, and even plastic straws. Some supermarkets or big-box stores have recycling dumpsters near them, or you can also look for local salvage yards that might accept odd recyclables like electronics or scrap metal.
Try searching for a recycling center near you on the Waste Management website.
2. The public library
I’ve cancelled most of my magazine subscriptions in an effort to cut down on my household paper waste, but I still love flipping through the pages of a glossy magazine. For this, I head to my local library every few weeks, where I can hunker down in an armchair with a stack of magazines and newspapers. It’s nice to know that hundreds of people are all reading the very same copy, truly maximizing its use!
3. Neighborhood message boards
Nextdoor and Facebook message groups are more than just a place to gripe about construction traffic or shame dog walkers who don’t pick up after their pets. Not a day goes by when a neighbor in my groups doesn’t ask for some obscure item: From an astronaut costume for a kid’s school play, to a specialized power tool, to a pair of crutches for a sprained ankle. Usually within hours, the message poster has what she needs, and didn’t have to purchase a brand-new item that she’d use temporarily and then pitch. The fancy name for that is collective consumption! I also have joined a few local buy-sell groups and even one that’s all about giving items away. One person’s trash truly can be another’s treasure, and if it finds new life in another household, than it stays out of the landfill.
4. The coffee shop
Avid gardeners likely already know that coffee grounds can act as a natural fertilizer for soil, improving drainage, attracting earthworms, and, possibly, repelling slugs and even cats. If you garden, check with your local coffee shop to see if they’d be willing to save their spent grounds for you and other local gardeners, instead of throwing them in the trash.
5. Thrift Store
Not only is a thrift store a good place to donate clothing and household goods you no longer need, but if you haven’t actually shopped at a thrift store, give it a try! I love it for kids’ play clothes and jeans that are already faded in just the right spots. And it’s so much greener to keep usable clothes in circulation rather than needlessly buying brand-new ones.
6. Local farmers or chicken coops
If you have neighbors with chickens, or local farmers raising pigs, goats or chickens, they might be able to use your food scraps. Vegetable farms might also accept organic waste for their compost pile if you don’t plan to compost it yourself.
7. Hardware store
Many hardware stores, from big-box chains to local shops and Ace Hardware franchises, collect specific items for recycling that aren’t accepted curbside, like compact fluorescent light bulbs or batteries. They’re also a great resource for DIY projects that can improve your home’s energy efficiency.
These are just a few of the many resources you might have within your community to help you reduce your carbon footprint. A little bit of research, or simply asking friends and neighbors, will likely find even more options for you to be greener without leaving your locality.