Once you discover the joys of recycling it’s natural to want to share it with everyone you know. We reached out to fellow recycling enthusiasts to find out what initially drew them to recycling, and what methods they use to help encourage others in their lives to embrace the practice of recycling, too. Keep reading to find out what they had to say.
Small Changes Make a Big Difference
I have been recycling paper, plastic, and aluminum for over 20 years now. I have lived in three countries, and in each one, I have tried to understand their rules of recycling to help the city. When I was a child, I watched this short film by Jorge Furtado called The Isle of Flowers. It tracks the path of a tomato, from the grower to the child who collects it as food from a dump.
It has made a great impression on me to see the amount of trash we could generate in just one house and how much space we need (and will need) for these landfills. Cities are offering incentives to turn recycling into a habit, such as discounts on taxes.
I come from the fashion industry and knowing the impact it has on the environment I have become an ambassador to clothing recycling as well. Stores and brands are giving cashback to customers that return their old pieces to them.
At home, I try to lead by example. My son always comes with me to throw [away] the recycling waste, and to him, it feels like a fun game to find the correct container for each material. With simple concepts, he knows these materials could have a second life and that the earth doesn’t have unlimited resources.
At the office where I work there were no special bins for recycling. I have bought some bags and talked to coworkers. As it is a small facility, I was able to be in charge of taking out the trash to the containers. Everyone has a bottle to reduce the use of one-use cups. Now I know that even when I am not there, they continue with the practice.
With friends, I always try to share the benefits they could gain, like earning cashback from H&M or Nike, or reducing their taxes on water bills every time they use the special Green Point card (in the city of Barcelona).
Become Known Among Friends as a Recycling Enthusiast
Two things inspired me to be better at recycling. The first was seeing enormous heaps of garbage. All that waste is not going anywhere and will only continue to pile up if we don’t divert it away from landfills.
The second was my boyfriend. He is very good at recycling (although ten years later I have surpassed him as the recycling enthusiast in our relationship). He was fanatical about not contaminating waste streams, so he would remove staples from magazines, plastic windows from envelopes, and sticky tape from wrapping paper before recycling them.
To this point, I think the people we can influence to improve their recycling habits are those we are closest to, whether that is family, friends, or colleagues.
The best way to encourage others to recycle properly is to lead by example. You can do this by having your recycling containers visible in your home, or by making a show of taking your waste home from an outing to recycle it properly.
One reason people often don’t recycle their waste is that they’re either unaware an item can be recycled or confused about how to recycle it. So finding opportunities to educate people is helpful, too. Having established myself as a recycling enthusiast, my family will now always ask me about anything they are unsure of instead of defaulting to throwing it in the trash.
Recycling also needs to be made easy. Workplaces can play a huge role in this by offering to be a collection point for odd things like batteries, pens, or coffee capsules.
Data and Pictures Make an Impact
When I had my second child, I stumbled upon the idea of cloth diapers. While I loved the cute prints, the thought of washing intimidated me. I looked up the concept online, and the search returned pictures of landfills and all the junk accumulated. This was a moment of realization for me. I then came across the concept of zero-waste living.
Out of curiosity, I started paying attention to our dustbin and the amount of waste we generated each day. I was flabbergasted. We were far from sustainable living and generated huge amounts of waste each day. I read up a lot and realized that I am one of the reasons for climate change, poor quality of food, and degrading marine life.
I thus started my journey of reducing, reusing, and recycling. To encourage other people to begin their recycling journey, I show them similar data and pictures. I let them know that we may not realize the impact, but it is huge. I have had a few converts and a few others are still in the realization phase.
Lead by Example
A school teacher once chided me for using half a sheet of paper instead of a whole one. To my young mind, it begged the question, “Why use a whole piece of paper for one sentence as a placeholder? What a waste!”
For me, recycling is addictive, and I am fortunate that I live in an area that still offers recycling services for various materials from paper to plastic. Because I have a hard time throwing out a recyclable item, I often find myself squirreling it away until I find the appropriate recycling receptacle.
Convincing roommates and co-workers alike to recycle is an uphill battle. I have learned, however, shaming others into recycling does not work. In the end, I strive to lead by example and with encouragement. I believe that every little step makes a difference, and every positive action is cumulative with the hope that it’ll snowball into a tipping point. Together, we can make a difference.
Make Recycling a Company-Wide Goal
I used to work for a company that was not very eco-friendly in its day-to-day operations. They may not have been emitting a ton of carbon into the atmosphere like large company factories do, but they printed a ton of paper, never reused anything, and never recycled.
When I started my own company, one of my goals was to focus on being eco-friendly in all that we do. Recycling is one of those day-to-day things that we can do, and it can make a great impact even though it’s really not all that difficult to do.
I encourage my employees to commit to recycling as well, both at work and in their personal lives, and my team has become focused on efforts like those.