Green Spring Cleaning

Today is a special day! Two posts for the price of one. Sorry if you missed us yesterday! Megan is currently on a trip without internet so this post will replace the one that would have gone up yesterday.

Spring break is right around the corner for students at University of Virginia and many other colleges and universities are on break around this time of year. Some students go on beach vacations, some service projects, and others go home. Those that do go home probably don’t want to even touch their homework over spring break. Well, a good alternative is that old phrase your parents used to tell you when you all those years ago: “Clean your room.” Hit the jump to find out how you can make your spring cleaning a green process!

The flow of garbage once it reaches the Pacific Ocean. Currents ultimately bring the waste to a huge conglomerate of trash, known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Image from http://www.metrohippie.com/

I recently read an article called “The Next Industrial Revolution” by Paul Hawken, Armory B Lovins, and L. Hunter Lovins for my Global Sustainability class. It discussed how because the products we buy don’t cover from development to disposal in the price, we accumulate waste. So. Much. Waste. Who hasn’t seen images of landfills or the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (see above image)? One way of preventing waste is to break the cycle of consumption (i.e. buying items at a price that does not reflect the energy and resources used from start to finish as well as waste disposal) by adding a fourth “R” to the three R’s. Referencing one of my favorite books, Generation Green by Tosh and Linda Sivertsen, they propose that the idea of refusing to buy something will help us consume and waste less. For instance, ever hear of the advice to save money on clothes when you go to the store? Ask yourself how often you would wear that item of clothing, whether or not the price is worth it, etc. I’m not big on buying clothes myself, but this mentality can be applied to anything and everything we purchase.

Okay, so you’re thinking, “Well, I’ve already bought this stuff and it’s sitting in my room. That’s not exactly refusing, right?” True, you may already have hundreds of outfits or obscene amounts of knick-knacks lying around, but refusing to buy more “junk” will help you maintain a clean room all year long. That being said, this post will focus on items you want to get rid of but don’t have to end up in a landfill.

Here are a few items around my room that I plan to tackle in my spring cleaning this year:

Books. Lots and lots of books. Image from http://www.newyorker.com/
  • Books. I’m such a bookworm and I’m always eager to get my hands on the latest book one of my favorite authors has released. However, in recent years, I’ve opted for checking materials out of the library over going to the bookstore. While my bookshelf isn’t quite to the point where it’s stuffed to the brim, there are definitely some books I can donate tomy nearby elementary school, charity, library, etc. Some questions when picking out books to donate are: Have I read this recently? Will I read it soon? Did I like this book? Once you’ve donated your selection, you can always reserve a copy from your local library.  Good Reads is a website that allows you to keep track of which books you’ve read, so you can always list books you’ve donated in case you’re missing them
Old towels just not cutting it for you? Image from http://www.susandimickele.com/
  • Towels: It may be time to get rid of some of those old towels. There are plenty of towels around my house that aren’t in use except for drying my dog after walking in the rain, but even he has a surplus of towels that his fur never touches. Instead of throwing away your towels, try donating them to a local animal shelter. Many do blanket and towel drives because they don’t have enough to keep their animals warm.
Too many clothes? Try this idea! Image from Buzzfeed.com
  • Clothes: As I mentioned, I don’t buy clothes for myself often but despite that, I still have plenty of t-shirts in my closet that I don’t wear. I came across the above image in a recent BuzzFeed article which actually inspired me to write this post. Try picking out clothes you haven’t worn recently (or in my case, didn’t even take to college) and donate them to charities or a thrift store. If you feel really adventurous, try to revamp some of your clothes. There are many ideas online of turning one piece of clothing into another, like this dress-to-skirt!
That junk in the junk drawer needs to go. Image from http://bradg.net/
  • Your junk drawer (or anywhere there is junk accumulating): I’m pretty sure I have pencils from 5th grade lying around, missing the pencil tip, eraser, or both. There’s probably old key rings in a box I thought I’d use but never got around to. Oh, and that PEZ dispenser from Easter 2004? Yeah, rotting away in my room. It’s time to get rid of the small things but before throwing everything in the trash, can it be recycled? Check what type of plastics you have and whether or not they can be recycled. My community center back home does a kid’s sale each year where kids take their unused, unwanted “stuff” to sale to someone who may want it. Another person’s trash is another person’s treasure.
So much paper. So much to be recycled. Image from http://www.lonestar.edu/
  • All those old papers: I’m going to admit it right now. I’m a culprit of keeping old school notes for years with the mentality, “Oh, I’ll need to reference this information again” or “I can give these notes to my younger neighbor who enters high school in 6 years.” Well, it’s time to get rid of all that paper. Odds are that if it’s been collecting dust, you’ve had no need to reference it (sorry, geometry) and by the time your younger neighbor is in high school, the curriculum may have changed. Go ahead and recycle all of that paper, including notebooks. For spiral bounds, I use wire cutters to remove the binding so the notebook paper can be recycled properly.  Also, those old binders can be recycled or given away (if in good condition). Many binders have cardboard underneath the plastic. Just take the time to properly sort the recyclables out.
E-waste — and lots of it. Image from http://scvnews.com/
  • E-Waste: Alex already wrote a brilliant post about cell phone e-waste so I wanted to generalize beyond cell phones. E-waste includes CDs, floppy discs (I know my house definitely has some still), TVs, computers, and so on and so forth. Many parts from these items may be harvested and reused but as Alex pointed out, many people make the mistake of simply throwing the entire product away. Find an e-waste processing center near you once you’ve amassed all of the old CDs and whatnot. At the University of Virginia, there are little e-waste disposal centers in Newcomb Hall and OHill dining. I’m definitely planning to bring some of my old CDs for recycling after spring break!
    A guide on what to recycle. Image from http://utilities.fm.virginia.edu/

    Thanks for sticking with me for so long. I hope everyone has a wonderful spring break! If you think I missed any aspects of cleaning, comment below and maybe I can incorporate your idea into a part II!

Cover image from http://simplysquaredaway.com/

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