Each year, nearly 300 million tons of waste end up in U.S. landfills. While recycling programs and greater awareness of reducing waste and re-using items have emerged, there is still more that can be done to minimize the waste stream. And whether you’re interested in volunteering to promote recycling and other waste-reduction initiatives in your community or have skills that can help used items find new life, you can be part of the solution.
Around the country, local organizations are repurposing used items into something new. Volunteer to help. Laptop Upcycle in Montclair, New Jersey refurbishes laptops to ensure that children have the technology they need for learning. Upcycle Parts Shop in Cleveland is a nonprofit that sells second-hand art supplies at a discount. Cracked Pots in Portland, Oregon salvages materials from landfills that could potentially be used to make art and sells them in-store and online. Each of these organizations relies on volunteers to operate, and some have adopted remote volunteer options, too. Use your search engine to find local upcycling groups or ideas near you.
As more companies make sustainability a priority, some have made it easy to recycle and repurpose waste from the products they manufacture or sell. For example, Lego Replay takes back old Legos for refurbishing and donates them to children in need. At select stores, Nike will take back your worn-out Nike shoes and repurpose the materials through their Reuse-a-Shoe program. Drop off your old Levi’s jeans at any Levi’s store or outlet and the company will recycle them. And Staples offers free reusable battery and electronics recycling and will even give you in-store rewards for recycling ink cartridges. Check the sustainability sections of the brands you purchase or stores at which you shop to find out if they have similar programs.
Are you good at arts and crafts and able to make beautiful things? Or maybe you have a knack for refinishing or repainting furniture so it looks as good as new? Put your skills to work for area nonprofits. Refinish worn-out furniture and donate it to organizations that help people find and furnish housing. Or donate the art or items you create to a local nonprofit’s thrift shop to sell or to a cause’s auction to help them raise funds. Find a home for the items you upcycle
Promote recycling in your community by organizing a recycling event or adding a recycling awareness component to an existing event. Create the Good® has a do-it-yourself guide that offers additional ideas for helping community members “go green.” Some recycling centers also recruit volunteers to help them with their efforts, so contact your local reclamation center to find out if they offer programs or opportunities. They may even have programs designed for students that you could help bring to your local school district.
Help raise awareness about the importance of waste reduction, recycling, and upcycling by sharing information from local waste reduction nonprofits. Post information from organizations you work with or follow to social media to get more people informed about the importance of reducing waste for the health of the planet.