Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

The reminder is everywhere: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. We would all like to do our part, but it’s not always easy. It’s hard to completely cut back on trash. Things wear out. People move. You find yourself with a dumpster full of worn-out treasures even after you have picked through poor old Uncle Ned’s estate for things to sell, donate, or recycle.

Even if you have the best of intentions, many of the suggestions swirling around the internet simply don’t apply to busy people who live in a city. It’s as though they are meant for people on a different planet. So what can a conscientious city dweller do to follow the “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” mantra?

Recycle

In Denver, if you want to recycle, your options may be limited. Denver has scheduled recycling pick-ups only for single-family homes and buildings with fewer than seven family units. If you live in one of the many downtown Denver complexes, there will be no purple containers outside your building.

High-rise dwellers do have the option of scheduling an appointment to take their recycling items to the local facility. In the meantime, storing items in an already-crowded apartment until you have enough to make the trip worthwhile can make the whole exercise more hassle than it’s worth.

Reuse

It’s great to be able to make something new out of an item that has outlasted its original purpose. Of course someone who knows her way around a hammer and saw can make a chair out of an old table, but what if you don’t have a workshop? How do you re-purpose old clothes when you don’t know which end of the needle is up? Where do you store dozens of glass jars filled with bulk grains in a tiny apartment? How do you compost your leftovers when your gardening space is limited to one failing African Violet?

For many city dwellers, reusing generally ends up meaning donating old clothes and other items so that others may get some use out of them. Re-purposing used items for your own benefit seems almost impossible. Wouldn’t it be nice if sometimes doing the right thing was convenient—and fun?

Reduce

If you want to reduce your carbon footprint, it might be time to think outside the box—or apartment. The aim of most reducing, reusing and recycling ideas is to do more with less. One idea that actually ends up giving more to those who participate is the community garden.

Community gardens are the positive side of a smaller carbon footprint for city dwellers. There aren’t tremendous fuel or other costs when the food you eat hasn’t been trucked halfway around the world. There’s no packaging involved in a tomato you just plucked from the vine. Take a basket with you when your plants are ready to pluck, and there’ll be no need for “paper or plastic”.

Farm-to-Table

Community gardens are big right now, and growing in popularity. The Denver area alone is home to more than 170 community gardens. Gardeners in Denver are growing everything from peppers and tomatoes to kale and broccoli and making the farm-to-table movement their own.

Community gardens are a great way to connect with your neighbors as you provide for your family, and they are a wonderful way to spend time with your kids. You might be surprised: picky kids have even been known to eat the vegetables that they have had a hand in growing. Get your kids to try enough of fruits and sweet vegetables like carrots, and they may eventually be up for spinach.

Even if you’ve never put trowel to soil before, there are plenty of ways to learn as you grow. It’s hard to match the satisfaction that comes from preparing meals from food that you’ve had a hand in creating. There’s just nothing like the flavor of that first juicy strawberry picked warm and fresh and immediately popped into your mouth.

Doing what we can to lessen waste doesn’t always mean scrimping, saving, or sacrificing. Doing the right thing can be a positive experience. Sometimes lessening our carbon footprint can simply be enjoyable—and tasty.