Throw-aways that won’t go away

We live in a throw-away society where just about everything -- form contact lenses to income -- have been termed disposable at one time or another.

Avoiding single-use, throw-away products as much as possible is a good strategy for reducing waste. This fact sheet discusses some disposable items that are a particular nuisance in the waste stream and some easy alternatives.

Light makes right

Every year Americans buy more that a billion incandescent light bulbs. That three acres of bulbs of bulbs a day!

The energy implications are significant -- lighting accounts for one-fifth of all the electricity consumed, says the World Resources Institute. But there’s another rub: Light bulbs can’t be recycled like most glass, and end up taking up space in landfills.

There are several solutions that, when used in combination, can help you reduce the number of light bulbs you throw away.

Replace some bulbs with compact fluorescents

They use less energy and last much longer. A 60-watt incandescent bulb lasts about 750 hours, compared to 7,500 to 10,000 hours for a compact fluorescent generating the same amount of light

Check bulb measurements against your light fixtures before buying. Compact fluorescents are especially great for garages, basements, outdoor fixtures and other places where lights are left on at least two hours a day.

Hardware stores are starting to carry them, and some electric utilities have purchase or rental programs.

Use one large incandescent bulb in place of two small ones in a multi-bulb fixture.

In light fixtures that use several bulbs, use one less bulb.

Keep a burned out bulb in the empty socket for safety’s sake

In multi-bulb fixtures where bulbs show, use lower-wattage bulbs.

Try more efficient incandescents, like krypton-filled, tungsten-halogen or infrared-reflective coated.

Home Improvement

In colonial times, people were thrifty because materials were scarce. Nails, especially, were so precious that before settlers moved west, they burned down their houses to reclaim the nails.

Not so today. If you’ve ever built a new home, you probably were astonished at the waste. Scads of leftover nails, shingles, bricks, dry wall and wood scraps are either sent to landfills, burned by builders or buried in the lot where they were being used.

Even more materials get scrapped through repair and improvement projects on existing homes. It’s a terrible waste. But if it’s your home, you can have an impact:

Pick out and keep items you thing you can use

Bricks make great edging for flower beds. Leftover shingles might roof a storage shed or doghouse. Scrap lumber can be used in any number of woodworking projects. Sort screws, bolts and nuts by size and save for a future project.

New carpet scraps and unworn portions of old carpet make great mats at entrances, in garages and in basements. Save linoleum and wood flooring scraps for patching in case of damage.

Call a salvage operation

Look in your telephone directory yellow pages under "Salvage Materials," "Used Lumber," "Building Materials" and "Restoration."

Some old windows can be salvaged and reused. Even if an aluminum window can’t be reused as is, the frame is valuable as scrap aluminum. Many old, solid-wood doors are valuable.

Metal doorknobs, hinges, copper or brass plumbing and electrical fixtures are considered prize salvage.

For more information on reusing building materials, ask for the fact sheet "Reuse can reduce industry waste," or contact:

Rehab Resource Inc.
253 W. Merrill St.
Indianapolis IN 46225
Phone: 317-637-3701

Some nurseries grind up scrap wood for mulch or composting base.

Ask relatives, friends and neighbors if there’s anything they want.

Have a garage sale

At the end of the day, put any unsold items on the curb with a "free" sign attached.

SOURCE: The Earth Works Group. 50 Simple Things You Can Do to Save the Earth. Berkeley, Earth Works Press, 1989