Category Archives: Environmental Tips

What should I put in the recycling bin?

To raise the rate of what gets recycled at curbside, be careful not to contaminate the recyclables in your collection bin.

Here’s what most recycling companies will take for sure: newspapers, paper, magazines and cardboard; glass bottles and jars; plastic containers, such as from soft drinks, milk, ice-cream, margarine and yogurt; aluminum, such as soft drink cans and foil trays; and steel cans. Rinse all containers or wipe them out doing your best to make sure they are free of food.

What can be recycled or reused and but NOT into your curbside recycling bin: plastic bags; plastic wrap; shredded paper (this can go in your garden organics bin); clothes; electronics – anything that plugs in and uses energy, car parts and appliances, paint. Although these things can be recycled, they must go to a recycling center or collection drive for specific sorting and handling.

Toys, clothing, bedding, furniture and other usable stuff can be donated for another use. Don’t throw that stuff in any bin. Check out the McHenry County Green Guide and the Environmental Defenders of McHenry County for more help.

Some Other Ways to Cut Down on Plastic

Use matches for campfires, candles, etc. over disposable plastic lighters which sit in landfills for years or get eaten by birds and animals leading to their death.

Buy boxes, not bottles of laundry detergent or other cleaners.  Cardboard can be more easily recycled and made into more products than plastic.

Reuse glass and plastic containers. Instead of throwing them away or recycling food containers, reuse them for food storage,packed lunches and restaurant leftovers.

Lastly, don’t buy juice in a plastic bottle. Instead, make your own or simply eat fresh fruit. Not only does this cut down on plastic waste, but it’s also better for you because you’ll be getting more vitamins and antioxidants and less high fructose corn syrup.

For a healthier you and a healthier earth, reduce your plastic use.

Why is reducing the amount of waste we generate an important value to build?

Check out these numbers:

Americans use 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour, most of which are thrown away!

Plastic bags and other plastic garbage thrown into the ocean kill as many as 1 million sea creatures every year.

A modern glass bottle takes 4 thousand years or more to decompose.

About one-third of an average landfill is made up of packaging material.

We toss out two billion plastic razors, a million and a half tons of paper towels, and 12 billion disposable diapers annually.

The U.S. is the #1 trash-producing country in the world at 1,609 pounds per person per year. This means that 5% of the world’s people generate 40% of the world’s waste.

Something to think about from the Environmental Defenders of McHenry County.

Incandescent Bulbs: Use or Lose Them

If you have a bunch of incandescent bulbs you think you should use up before replacing them with LED, think again.  Those old bulbs are not worth the electricity they’ll use, so dump ’em. Unlike compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs, they don’t contain hazardous materials. The bulb materials are so low in value that recycling doesn’t help.

One 60-watt incandescent bulb, in a typical 1,000-hour life span, would be responsible for emitting more than 40 pounds of carbon dioxide. And one would emit as much as 90 pounds in places that rely more heavily on coal to generate electricity.   An LED producing about the same amount of light emits only a fourth as much CO2 and would be responsible for about just 10 pounds.

Cost-wise, incandescents burn out before you turn ’em on.

BYOB – Bring Your Own Bag

Need reasons to choose your own reusable bag?

On average, ONE supermarket goes through 60,500,000 paper bags per year!

The U.S. cuts down 14 million trees a year to supply the raw material to make paper shopping bags.

It takes 13% more energy to make a single paper bag than to make two plastic bags.

Paper bag production involves the use of chemicals and high temperatures, and it releases toxins into the atmosphere at nearly the same rate as plastic bag production.

Paper bags weigh almost ten times as much as plastic ones, meaning that more fuel is required to ship them to stores.

Despite being highly recyclable, only 20% of paper bags end up being recycled, while the rest share a fate with their plastic brethren.

Finally, the average reusable bag has a lifespan equal to that of more than 700 disposable  bags.  One person using reusable bags over their lifetime would remove more than 22,000 plastic bags from the environment.  Isn’t that an even better incentive?

The Power is in the Purchase

Recycling is important, but to make real and significant impacts on our environment, we need to reduce our waste.  And, of course, the power is in the purchase.

At first, maybe you thought buying things in plastic was a good thing because it could be recycled.  But in actuality plastic is being collected for recycling, but what is being recycled is very very low.  There just isn’t a big market for recycled plastic.

So instead, when you can, choose products that don’t include plastic, have lesser amounts, and better yet, none at all.  Chose products made from natural materials like wood, metal, paper, cotton.  For bottled drinks, refuse plastic and consider aluminum which can be recycled over and over again.  There is a good market for recycled aluminum.  Need more?  Recycling one aluminum can saves enough energy to run a TV for three hours.

It’s BYOBag month in McHenry County! Tip #1

BYOB – Bring Your Own Bag

Need reasons why it’s important to choose reusable bags?  Plastic bags and other plastic garbage thrown into the ocean kill as many as 1,000,000 sea creatures every year. The cost to recycle plastic bags outweighs their value, so most recycling facilities will not take them. Instead of being recycled, they are thrown out with the rest of the trash.  Plastic bags make up more than 10% of washed-up debris that pollutes the U.S. coastline. Discarded plastic bags have turned up as far north as the Arctic Circle and as far south as the Falkland Islands.   Finally, the average reusable bag has a lifespan equal to that of more than 700 disposable plastic bags.  One person using reusable bags over their lifetime would remove more than 22,000 plastic bags from the environment.  Isn’t that an even better incentive?

No to Driving, Yes to Biking and Walking

You may not be able to reduce global warming, end pollution and save endangered species single-handed, but by choosing to live an earth-friendly lifestyle you can do a lot every day to help achieve those goals.

The single most import thing you can do to for the environment is to leave your car at home.  Every time you do you reduce air pollution, lower greenhouse gas emissions, improve your health and save money.  Walk or ride a bicycle for short trips, or take public transportation for longer ones. Research has shown that people who use public transportation are healthier than those who do not, and families that use public transportation can save enough money annually to cover their food costs for the year.

When you do drive, take the few minutes needed to make sure your engine is well maintained and your tires properly inflated.  Every little bit helps.

BYOB Month in Our County

It’s official.  August is  BYOB – Bring Your Own Bag – month in our county.  Join in, and start bringing your own bags whenever you shop anywhere;  the grocery store, pharmacy, for clothing, hardware, whatever, and get into the habit of carrying reusable shopping bags, both big and small. 

Challenge yourself to reduce the use of plastic bags by declining them when shopping, and then watch them disappear in your home. 

This is the time to start, as McHenry County has declared August BYOB Month in partnership with the Environmental Defenders to raise awareness and educate the public about the benefits of shopping with reusable bags.  Maybe this month will be the time you will make a lifelong change.  Think how many bags you will keep out of the waste stream if you start today at one store.  Do I see a trend coming?


Recycling as a Second Thought

Yes, you read that correctly.  But think about it, it makes sense to reduce waste in the first place so there is not a need for recycling.  So the critical first step of waste prevention is to promote a greater awareness of the importance of the “Reduce” part of the Reduce-Reuse-Recycle mantra. 

Begin by simplifying your life.  Only keep belongings that you use/enjoy on a regular basis. 

Reduce your purchases. Think before you buy any product.   Do you really need it? How did the production of this product impact the environment and what further impacts will there be with the disposal of the product (and associated packaging materials)?  

For one day, afternoon or hour a week, don’t buy anything, don’t use machines, don’t switch on anything electric, don’t cook, don’t answer your phone and, in general, don’t use any resources. 

Wherever possible, replace disposable products with reusable ones (i.e., razor, food storage, batteries, ink cartridges (buy refill ink), coffee filters, furnace or air conditioner filters, etc.)  

Buy used products whenever possible and consider donating good usable items that you find unnecessary. 

And finally refuse single use products like straws, shopping bags, beverage cups, take out containers. 

Create earth-healthy habits and share your practices with others to offer encouragement.  And then in the end, if you must, please recycle.