What Does It Mean to “Go Green”?
by Nicole Richards


Think fast: is Styrofoam recyclable? Can you recycle an aluminum can half full of soup? If you didn’t already know, the answer to both questions is no. Styrofoam cannot be reduced to its basic parts, and thus most recyclers do not accept it. As for the aluminum can, all contents should be removed from it before it is put in your recycling bin. I have come to realize that while I am aware it is important to recycle, when it comes down to how I can do my part, I don’t exactly know what to do.

Everyone, it seems, is “going green”. Even reality television shows such as “Project Runway” and “Top Design” include challenges in which participants must use “green” materials in their designs. It’s easy to get caught up in the idea of recycling and never realize the facts. Not that this speaks for everyone, but do we really know how to recycle?

As I pondered this question, I realized that while I knew the basics, I also knew there had to be more ways to contribute. I set out to find some clear-cut rules so that I could know exactly what I can and can’t recycle. I found LessIsMore.org, a website devoted to waste reduction programs in Santa Barbara County. It is a user-friendly site that makes it easy for people to learn how to do their part to make sure excess waste is not put in landfills.

The website organizes a list of realistic suggestions under the well-known slogan “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”.

To reduce the amount of waste we generate, LessIsMore.org suggests only purchasing items with limited packaging materials and choosing bulk items for foods that will not spoil. This saves packaging.

Next is reusing. This means choosing items that can be used many times, such as canvas shopping bags and refillable water bottles. For one-time use items, take only what you need. That means not grabbing 50 napkins and 10 packets of ketchup when one or two would suffice.

Finally, recycling. The website suggests buying items in packaging you know you can recycle, purchasing items made from recycled material, and removing your name from mailing lists to eliminate junk mail.

Although these suggestions may seem monotonous, I feel they serve as good reminders about the importance of sustainability. Because “going green” is such a widely used phrase, it can lose its meaning as time goes on. The truth is, people don’t recycle because they are lazy. Recycling takes effort, and since we cannot immediately see the benefits of recycling, we lack inspiration. It is important that we remind ourselves recycling is not a one-time effort, but something we should practice daily.

Recycling starts with choosing to participate. This does not mean talking about how important it is to recycle; this means recycling and making proactive choices. The good news is it doesn’t take much to do your part. You can start small: stop buying plastic water bottles and invest in a reusable bottle. Buy a recycling can for your apartment (and use it!).  Visit Lessismore.org. Print out the websites poster detailing specific ways to be more “green”.  It’s not that hard. Just make an effort.Â