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The List: 6 Unlucky Sustainability Issues (And How To Fix Them)

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A few easy solutions will turn your sustainability bad luck into good luck.

It’s Friday the 13th, so it’s only natural that my mind has turned to superstition. And as much as I enjoy living a more sustainable lifestyle, there are definitely times when bad luck, or maybe just general unpleasantness, comes into play. I’ve rounded up some of my biggest issues and worked out some solutions, because I know I’m not the only one who’s had these misfortunes.

1. My recycling bin stinks! A smelly recycling bin might seem like bad luck, but it’s easily avoided. Give plastic containers and metal cans a good rinse (or a scrubbing if there’s stuck-on food). This is actually beneficial beyond the smell factor of your bin at home — food particles, grease, and moisture can taint an entire batch of recyclables at the Materials Recovery Facility (MRF). One of my friends puts particularly stubborn containers, such as peanut butter jars, in the dishwasher with her dirty dishes.

2. I broke a mirror, and I know it’s not recyclable. Hopefully it won’t bring seven years of bad luck, but a broken mirror definitely is problematic to recycle. It’s not accepted by most recycling facilities that accept glass, because of the coating that makes it reflective. But if you’re loath to put it in the trash, repurpose it! My daughter turned shards of a broken pot into a wind chime; mirror shards would be similarly good for such a project.

3. Energy-efficient light bulbs have an unflattering light. Some compact fluorescent or LED light bulbs can give even the healthiest person the ghastly pallor of a vampire. But not if you choose wisely. Bulbs that are 2700 on the Kelvin scale have a warmer, more natural tone. And with HUE light bulbs, you can even choose a shade of light that’s most appealing to you.

4. I’ve got a black cat, and I feel guilty about all the used litter I’m throwing away. Not only does your black cat have magical powers, but also it’s going through pounds and pounds of litter. And since litter can’t be recycled (yuck!) or composted, there’s only one place for it: The landfill. Your best solution is to find an eco-friendly litter option. Two suggestions: Yesterday’s News, made of recycled paper, and Naturally Fresh, made of walnut shells.

5. I want to save water but hate taking shorter showers! If you’re a fan of a long, steamy shower, then it can seem unlucky indeed to limit yourself to the recommended 5-minute shower to save water. Spring instead for a low-flow showerhead with the WaterSense label; it uses no more than 2 gallons per minute, but will have pressure that’s just as satisfying as old-school, water-guzzling showerheads. High Sierra makes a good-quality option.

6. I opened my umbrella indoors, and now it’s broken. That’s bad luck indeed! While the temptation might be to throw a nonworking umbrella in the trash, a more sustainable solution would be to fix it. And yes, that’s possible, with the right instructions. If your umbrella truly is beyond repair, you can repurpose it (one creative Etsy vendor uses broken umbrellas to make everything from dog coats to beverage coozies), or take it apart and recycle the metal and nylon parts at specialty drop-off recyclers. Scrap metal from an umbrella shouldn’t go in your curbside bin.

Hopefully these tips will help you avert any bad luck you’ve had with your recycling and sustainability efforts!

What bad luck have you had with being eco-responsible? Share your fails in the comments below. Perhaps fellow community members can help you turn your bad luck into good luck!

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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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  • Cheryl S. 2 days ago
    Last summer I forgot to add more stuff to our worm bin for a couple weeks and when I opened the bin lid a mass of fruit flies flew up into my face. Ewww!
  • Karen K. 2 days ago
    May I point out that washing the recycle box now and then, and using baking soda, will help with any smells?
  • Linda W. 2 days ago
    Well, that's good news to cat owners, since it means that consumers are asking for "greener" kitty litter!
    • Karen K. 2 days ago
      My cats won't touch either one--literally! I had a post-operative cat who couldn't use regular litter for a month (a cancer amputation) and the entire crew stood on the sides of the box for their deposits. I was never so happy to get rid of something in my life, since there were--um--accidents, too. All I can say is take the feline's tastes into account, too. This wasn't the first time I've had this problem. I've thought of getting one of the 'washable' types, but that's a lot of money if they won't use it.
  • Glyn L. 5 days ago
    A cat owner I know uses Tidy Cats Breeze as an alternative to sandy litter, it's a very different system than any I've seen before. There's a layer of pellets over a grate with a pad in a drawer underneath. Urine passes down through the grate and soaks into the pad, poop gets covered by the pellets, and cleaning out the box basically consists of sliding out the drawer and changing the pad with minimal poop scooping. The pellets last for ages so you don't need to change out the whole box every week. And if the pellets get out of the box it's way easier to notice and clean them up than discovering the grit of sandy cat little underfoot.
    • Lucy T. 4 days ago
      Sorry, but I don't see how this product is any "greener", because now you're adding another product to the landfill: the disposable pad. And you've still got the pellets to dispose of eventually.
  • Barbara W. 7 days ago
    I had a GOOD Fri the 13th!