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Recycling Is Free, Green, And Sexy; So Why Don’t You Do It?

Editor’s Note: To avoid any confusion, Amber is not a new writer…it’s just the real name of the contributor formerly known as “Carrie from Carrie on the Cheap”. New name, same great writing. If you get a chance, check out Amber’s renamed blog Blonde and Balanced for more tips on saving money and living well.

These days, it’s trendy to be green for good reason. Take one look at the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and it’ll probably change your views on recycling and using products like plastic forever.

For a long time, I didn’t recycle. My city doesn’t offer recycling pickup on trash days, so I didn’t think I even had an option to recycle. But, after I did more research, I realized that anyone, anywhere can recycle – it just might take some extra effort if a service isn’t conveniently offered by your city.

If you’ve resisted or ignored the movement towards greener living, it’s never too late to start doing a better job. Here’s how:


Recycling is the easiest way to start going green. Every day we all use an assortment of products that can probably be recycled. Most of us don’t even realize how many things can really be recycled until we get into the recycling habit.

Step 1… First, you’ll want to check out where you can take your recyclables. If your city already offers the service during trash-pick up, you’re ready to go – just start setting out your recyclable products on trash day! If not, search the web for different drop-off locations in your area. Recycling has become so popular that it’s hard not to find a recycling center if you live in or a near a metropolitan area. Check out Websites like Earth 911 to find locations nearest to your zip code that are sorted by type of product.

Step 2… Now that you know where to recycle, you’ll want to start getting organized. You’ll need a container for all the products you plan to recycle. Start your recycling journey off on the right foot by using containers you already have – reusable cloth totes, unused boxes, old laundry baskets, etc. Designate each container for the product you’ll be recycling. Below are some of the most common, and easiest, products to recycle:

  • Plastic
  • Paper
  • Glass
  • Aluminum
  • Cardboard

Step 3… Start recycling! Once you start thinking about recycling, it’s amazing how many household products you’ll notice that you can recycle. Look for the recycling logo on plastic products to see if they are recyclable. Here are some of the many products you can recycle instead of throw away!

  • Bath/Kitchen containers (shampoo/conditioner, body wash, face wash, contact lens solution, hand soap, lotion, hair product, cleaner, dishwasher soap, etc. containers)
  • Food/Drink containers (yogurt, milk, deli meat, produce, sports drink, soft drink, butter, condiment , cooking oil, spice, etc. containers)
  • Cardboard food boxes (snack, cracker, cookies, cereal, snack bar, oatmeal, etc. boxes)
  • Paper (junk mail, shredded paper, magazines, newspapers, etc.)
  • Glass (drink bottles, wine bottles, food bottles, etc.)
  • Miscellaneous Plastic (contact lens cases, to-go coffee cup lids, grocery bags, various plastic bags, laundry soap containers, etc.)

The coolest thing about recycling is just how much you can recycle. Once you get into the habit of tossing things in the recycling bins instead of the trash, you will be amazed at how many products you recycle and how much less you’ll have to take the trash out.


The second step in recycling is to reduce what you use.

I remember I was a little disgusted by how much plastic I used when I started recycling. My recycling container was often overflowing with empty plastic products. As consumers, we don’t have much control over how manufacturers package our product, but we do have control over how we use those products.

Since I started recycling, I’ve become much less wasteful. Instead of letting half a gallon of milk go bad, I’ll finish the gallon before it goes bad so I don’t have to go out and purchase another, thereby using only half the amount of plastic. Buying in bulk isn’t for everyone, but I have started going in that direction for many of my often-used household staples. For example, instead of buying several small containers of shampoo, I’ve started buying in bulk which ends up using that much less plastic in the long haul.

Reducing what you use is a personal thing and differs from person to person. One person might find it easy to reduce a lot, while another might find it much harder. So, only you can find your balance when it comes to reducing.


Finally, the third step in recycling is reusing.

Like reducing what you use, the reuse step is a personal matter and varies among people. I know some very ambitious recyclers who reuse the same sandwich baggie every day for their sack lunch. Others may just use those cloth grocery sacks for grocery shopping instead of packing their groceries in the store-provided plastic bags. It’s completely up to you how much you start to reuse, but any little bit that is reused is last much less of an effect on our environment.

The Best Part

Recycling is not only free, but it’s a good deed that makes you feel a part of something big. Every small thing that you do to go green – whether it’s recycle, reduce or reuse – is helping our country and the environment in a big way.

Do you recycle? What are some of your tips for recycling?

Published or updated on August 25, 2010

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About Amber Gilstrap

Amber is a twenty-something CPA from Kansas City, Missouri who loves writing, working out, and---of course---finding fresh ideas for saving money. Follow her on twitter @amberinks.


We invite readers to respond with questions or comments. Comments may be held for moderation and will be published according to our comment policy. Comments are the opinions of their authors; they do not represent the views or opinions of Money Under 30.

  1. oatmeal says:

    It is not sexy. If you value your time and space for extra bins, it is not free. In many areas it is not even all that green. If it were truly those three things, you would not be writing an article trying to convince people. Sure, folks should recycle, but there are tradeoffs with everything.

  2. Going green and helping the environment is just one benefit of recycling. As Amber mentioned, you can definitely reduce your amount of waste and reduce the amount of money you spend on food, containers, etc. just by reusing and not letting things go bad. If you develop a serious recycling plan and stick to it, you will have a much easier time living within your means. Make sure your checking and savings accounts are right for you and then stick to the financial plans that you develop.

  3. Adam Porter says:

    New identity and a fresh new article. Good deal!

    I’ve been recycling for years and am actually interested in composting, too, just to reduce waste. I have a lot of food scraps with all of the vegetables I cut up for various things.

    Great info for those just getting into recycling! There’s no reason NOT to, anymore.

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