So much of the “green” movement, it seems to me, began when I was a kid and people started using that catchy slogan – “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.” (It should be noted that while this phrase was catchy, it was not as catchy as “conjunction junction – what’s your function?” – An important recognition for an English professor.)

It seems, though, that most of us have glommed – at least until recently – only onto the recycle portion of things. We seem to be able to remember to throw our plastic in a different container or put the paper in the shredding pile rather than in the trashcan with the pizza crust. In San Francisco, I used to recycle much more of my trash than I did just throw things away to head to the dump. In fact, according to the San Francisco City website, the city recycles more than 69% of it’s garbage – holy moly!!! Compare that to the national average of 32.1%, and you can see how far SF is ahead of the game.

Thus, when I moved back to the East Coast, I had been acclimated to this recycling climate (and to the fact that I could get organic milk even at the corner market – this was a hard transition for me). Imagine my horror when I watched wise, kind people simply throw the green bean can in the garbage with the coffee grounds. Then, imagine my further horror when I realized there was no curbside recycling program here in my town and that I would have to drive across state lines, like I was delivering something more shady, to PA or DE to drop off my recycling. Something was amiss.

Fortunately, in the last three years, my town has started a curbside recycling program, and each week, I see a few more people taking advantage of it. But I still see lots of cans in plastic on garbage day, and I definitely don’t see most houses leaving out recycling for that Monday morning pick-up. It kind of makes me sad, but I realize that this is a process of education and it takes time.

So in honor of my dream of having people recycle everything they can (in addition to reducing their consumption and reusing materials before even recycling them – I am learning the other two parts of that slogan), I thought I would post links to three really innovative ways to “reduce, reuse, and recycle.”

1. Freecycle. This is a great network of folks who list materials they have to give away – furniture, toys, books – I even once managed to freecycle 25 wire clothes hangers. You simply post what you’re giving away or what you’re looking for and people respond to you. Be forewarned – this stuff moves fast, so it’s best to sign up to receive postings as soon as they come online (although I’d recommend filtering the messages into another folder in your inbox since there can be hundreds on a good day) and act fast if you want something. Most of the time the person “getting” something comes to the “giver’s” house. It’s safe and a very effective way to get rid of miscellaneous stuff.

2. Recycled Gifts. Several times in the last few weeks I have seen jewelry and housewares made from recycled materials. Take, for instance, [wired]; this company takes retired industrial materials and turns them into funky pieces of art. Or look at these gift ideas from Ten Thousand Villages; I love the recycled paper hot mat:
Recycled Paper Hot Mat from Ten Thousand Villages. If you’re just willing to look a bit harder, you can find all kinds of reused and recycled gifts that are unique and “green.”

3. Yard Sales. Okay, so this isn’t all that “new,” but it is a way to “recycle” your old items and “reduce” your consumption of new materials. For example, I need more plates. I keep throwing these dinner parties where 10-12 friends come over, bring food to share, and then have to eat off my dessert plates. This is not acceptable. So instead of buying new plates, I’m on a mission to make a unique and innovative collection of “one off” plates that I pick up at yard sales. No need to have the new stuff or all the packaging that comes with it – I can get great stuff for a great price and help someone reduce their clutter. Or I can have a yard sale myself. In a couple of weeks, my church is hosting a community day, and we’re having yard sale tables and craft fair tables alongside a free car wash and kids’ games. Individual people will make a little cash, folks will get to know the church, and we’ll provide some fun for the community. Good stuff all around. For tips on great yard sales, visit the Yard Sale Queen.

What wise ideas do you have for reducing, reusing, and recycling? Anything particularly innovative? Please share.