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The List: 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.

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  • Rene L. 1 day ago
    going for walks instead of driving around
  • erica m. 1 month ago
    Church rummage sale season starts soon. They accept donations.
  • Erika O. 1 month ago
    I started 2 years ago here in Houston, Texas with my almost 10 years old golden retriever. I take him for long walks to an amazing park, I used to find a lot of trash and get so mad, but one day meanwhile I was on the phone with my best friend I started cursing those trashy people, when he told me to do something about it, not only complain about it. SO since that day WE started to pick up trash , we not only pick it up, we recycle whatever is possible, and we share everything on Instagram, trying to educate people and encourage them to stop littering and start recycling.
    follow us at @dogsdontlitter.
  • julie w. 2 months ago
    We have a local facebook page that lists items for trade
  • Joalice M. 2 months ago
    Also bringing no longer needed items to your Senior Center is a good way to declutter and reuse items.
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