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Women's Health Blog

Toxic Thursdays: Reduce, Re-Use, & Recycle

The simple act of throwing items away – decluttering – can help you clear out the trash in your mind as well. Some say that throwing away items that don’t bring you joy can actually improve your overall view of life.

I say – if it is broken, unused, or not healthy, toss it out.

Cleaning out the bathroom cupboards is actually something that brings me joy in many ways. Often I find random toys or trinkets long ago forgotten by the children that can now be safely heralded into their next life.

Cleaning out a closet is the same. Those old clothes will certainly not be missed – hence why they haven’t been worn in months.

As the weather warms, it is the perfect time to start cleaning out the old, decluttering, and making room for a mindful future.

However, when we are talking about disposal, how can we do it with the environment in mind?

Let’s start from the beginning of the lifecycle of items in our homes.

  1. You are at the store and an item is just crying out to be purchased. Whether it is for you or for your children, try to turn this moment into a moment of mindfulness. Will this item bring joy? Perhaps yes, but where will this item be in three months? Will it be out by the curb?

Often, many of the impulse items we buy are loaded with plastic materials. Plastic is forever. Well, it is at least going to exist for a prolonged time. Landfills are bulging with the amount of plastic in them. Our oceans are teeming with millions of plastic items, which are interfering with the life cycle of ocean creatures. Consider this when purchasing. And, if you still want to purchase the item, try to have a plan for what you will do with it when you are done enjoying it.

Obviously, the easiest way to avoid clutter is to not allow your home to become cluttered in the first place.

  1. After a few months of joy, your child’s toy is no longer used. Or, it is broken. That item you purchased just a month ago is not bringing you joy anymore, or you have decided to try something new. These used but not overly used items could easily end up in your trash can and then in a landfill. It is so easy to just toss it away and not consider where it will end up. So, what can we do instead?

One of the best suggestions is to try to donate it. Gently used children’s items are often sought by church and thrift organizations. They help connect poor children with these items, and in many cases other parents may find joy in the item at a lower cost.

For personal hygiene items, these can often be donated to shelters or other organizations that provide for homeless or low-income people. Adult clothing is also regularly sought by these organizations. Specifically there are Dress for Success closets that help provide professional work attire for men and women to help them better their careers.

If the toy is broken, there may not be many ways to find it a new life. However, you may be able to fix it, or give it to a handy neighbor who might want to tinker with it. These toys can also become learning lessons for your kids – teach them how to repair it or use it for a science project. In some cases, plastic toys might be able to be recycled by your trash company. Talk to your provider to determine what the rules are for plastic.

Consider what items you regularly throw away and do some research to find out if there is a way these items can have a second life after they leave your home. Talk to your kids and family about donating to local groups. It may also help to have a dedicated donations box available so family members can drop items in. When it fills up, you know it is time for a donation trip.

  1. Americans throw away an incredible amount of food each year. Some estimate that each person throws away more than a pound of food daily. That’s a lot of food. Instead of tossing food into your regular trash, why not create a compost pile in your yard? This can keep food waste out of landfills, reduce your overall trash, and give those food scraps a new life. To find out how to start composting, go to: There are many articles out there on composting – this is just one that is pretty simple to understand and will help get you started. Composting is also great for your yard because as the compost pile grows, underneath it you are growing rich soil that you can use in your gardens. Make sure to take note of items that should not be composted.

Another point in the war to not throw away food is to plan your meals. I have done it – we probably all have: We find ourselves in the grocery store, just an hour before dinner needs to be on the table. We are tired, we are hungry, and we need to be fast. The race through the store starts and the next thing we know we are checking out with a full grocery cart and no plan as to how we are going to turn these items into meals. Meal-planning is a great way to reduce food waste because if each item in the cart correlates to a specific meal, then there is less chance it will be tossed away.

As a farm girl, I must make a note about chickens here. Hardly any food in my home goes to waste because if we don’t eat it, the chickens will. Having a small brood of hens (and yes, a group of female chickens is called a brood) is a great way to make sure those food scraps are being put to good use.

  1. My final point. Stop using those plastic bags at the grocery store. And, at all stores. Plastic shopping bags are one of the biggest environmental offenders. They are easily caught by the wind and very often end up in our lakes, rivers, tributaries, and in our oceans. Just do not use them. This is the single biggest change you can make for our environment. And, it won’t cost you anything! We all have tons of reusable bags at home. It doesn’t have to be a bag created solely for grocery shopping. It can be a canvas bag that you no longer use for the beach. It can be that beach bag. Or, you can spend a couple bucks and get some nice reusable shopping bags. Keep them in the car and take them into the store each time you shop. I have been known to just refuse bags in many cases if I don’t have a reusable bag. I also generally have a large purse, so that too can be a bag for items that are smaller and won’t leak – like your pharmacy items or housewares even.

Think about this as you prepare to say yes to plastic bags at the grocery store:

“According to the US EPA, Americans use more than 380 billion plastic bags and wraps each year. It takes 12 million barrels of oil to produce this many bags. Worldwide, as many as one trillion plastic bags are used each year. This equates to 100 million barrels of oil!” (Source:

This plastic is killing marine life. It is strangling our rivers and it is certainly polluting the landscape. It is not unusual to be driving through the country and see a plastic bag blowing through a farm field like some sort of new age tumbleweed. Not cool.

If you want to get your kids involved, join a trash pick-up team. Many groups have adopted area roadways and spend time out there each year picking up trash. If you want to go more small scale, spend time picking up trash on the beach or along a wetland.

This spring as you start to remove some clutter from your home, make a plan to keep the environment in mind, reduce pollution, and reduce trash in our landfills and in our oceans.

What are some ways you reduce, reuse, or recycle in your home? Share with us in the comments!


*You may have noticed the blog name has changed - we have updated this regular blog to be called Be Real. On the Be Real blog you can expect healthy living topics from the front lines of parenting and family life! Enjoy!

Rachel Mavity

Rachel Mavity

Rachel Mavity is the Digital Communications Coordinator with Beebe Healthcare's Marketing and Communications Department. On Toxic Thursdays, she writes about saving the earth and ways to reduce our footprint. She also now blogs over at Be Real on this site.