Stop recycling and start DIYing with this simple project. Don’t be afraid to be honest with yourself about what you can start making and stop buying from the store. You stop purchasing packaged materials = you stop recycling because there’s no need!
This material is based off information in our book, The Do It Yourself Homestead. To grab your own copy, please visit our shop.
First things first: This is NOT meant to be an indictment of what you are currently doing as regards recycling, upcycling, the environment or the DIY lifestyle! You are enough, you’re a great person, and you are clearly a conscientious steward of the earth because you’re reading this article and are concerned about its subject matter.
This article is only meant to inspire you to take your DIY/stewardship efforts to the next level IF YOU ARE READY! If not, stow these ideas away in your brain, and try the following exercise when you feel more up to it. No pressure, no fuss. Namaste.
How To Stop Recycling
There are really only three options if you want to stop recycling – throw items you no longer need in the trash, learn to upcycle or re-use your waste, or replace store-bought items with homemade.
As a homesteader, I abhor the idea of waste so throwing away everything I don’t “need” is not something I consider a wise way to honor my stewardships in the earth.
So, if I’m not going to throw away my waste, what are my options?
In permaculture we learn that the goal of a DIY lifestyle is to “close the loop”. Every system creates waste, but in a closed loop system you take what would otherwise be thrown away and give it new life by finding a use for it. (To learn more about closing the loop, look for the link in the list at the bottom of the article.)
One of my favorite permaculture principles is that the problem is the solution! If waste is the problem, then it is also the answer – somehow. We just have to learn how to look at it the right way.
Learn to Upcycle
Upcycling is taking an object you would otherwise dispose of and put it to use instead. Here are a few examples:
- Taking an old piece of wood and turning it into a decorative porch sign.
- Donating gently used clothing and items to charity.
- Turning citrus peels into a cleaning solution.
- Using veggie scraps to make natural dyes.
- Composing kitchen waste on its own or with composting worms.
There are so many more ideas out there! In fact, we have articles linked at the end of the post on all of these ideas, so be sure to look for those.
We’ve also written an entire article on some basic upcycles you can try today with items most likely already in your home.
—>>>To read the article 5 Upcycled Items for Your Home Click Here<<<—
You’re going to be participating in a little project/challenge as part of experiencing this article. You ready?
Dump the Recycling Bin – First Steps
Get some gloves, if you’d like them, and a big tarp or box.
- Dump out your recycling bin out on your lawn atop a large tarp or into a big box.
- Sort through the items and make a list of them in your homestead journal, along with some detailed notes.
- What is it you’re consistently buying and, consequently, which containers are you always recycling?
Of what material are the containers made? My guess is plastic—am I right? Plastic and paper are common materials to consistently find in your recycling bin.
- Start asking yourself some tough questions like, “What can I learn to make myself so that I don’t have these plastic containers in my bin?”
One of the things I learned to make right quick after this exercise was yogurt. Yogurt is super simple to make at home and doesn’t require a plastic container to produce.
Paper is easy to repurpose if you have a fire place or an outdoor fire pit because it can be saved to start fires. I keep all my cardboard to put down in the garden to repress weeds, covering it with a nice layer of wood chips or compost.
If you don’t recycle yet, duplicate this process with your trash bag. Gross, I know, but you’ll survive. If you start vermicomposting or get a small flock of backyard chickens, they can take care of the food scraps you’re no doubt mucking through for this exercise.
Set a Goal for a DIY – Next Steps
Pick one of the package remnants from your bin for a product that you’d like to learn to make yourself. What is it?
Bread, yogurt, honey, crackers, potatoes, underwear?
You read the last one correctly. Clothes have their own kind of packaging, too!
What will it be? What do you use the most often? That might be a good way to decide where to begin.
Let’s say you pick bread – here’s what you do:
- Look up a recipe online or in your favorite cookbook.
- Make a list of ingredients and make sure you have them all.
- You’ll also need certain equipment, like bread pans (if you choose to use them), an oven and mixing bowl.
- Try that recipe three times.
- If you don’t like it or can’t get the hang of it, try another recipe for bread. Try that recipe three times.
- If you must keep buying bread in between attempts, go buy it.
If you get sick or go on vacation, buy your bread from the store and don’t worry about it. Keep going with your baking experiments until you’ve perfected your method and found the recipe you love. Look what you did! You learned to make bread—that’s the most amazing and wonderful thing!
Now, go pick the next plastic-packaged item on your list. Rinse, lather, repeat…
Don’t Get Overwhelmed
The first time I overturned my recycling bin onto a big table in my backyard and started looking through it to figure out what was in there, I nearly gave myself a migraine. I’m big on doing things myself and working hard; it’s just part of my nature.
But as I sat there staring at the mound of mostly plastic in front of me, I realized that the bulk of these materials represented items that I could, technically, learn to make myself. The truth is, the only solution to not having anything in my recycling is to learn to completely produce everything I need on my homestead. Alas, I was failing at that—woe is me!
- As I sat there looking at the butcher paper that had surrounded my plastic-wrapped, grass fed beef I saw that, while I could recycle this clean paper (though not the plastic), it represented the need I had to produce all my own meat.
- Then, I saw the olive oil container and noted that I hadn’t done that research I’d meant to do on growing black oiled sunflower seeds and getting an oil press to produce my own oil.
- Next to that lay a cardboard egg carton and with dismay I remembered that I hadn’t figured out how I was going to build back up my chicken egg-laying flock this year.
- On top of that was the raw milk gallon jug I was having to purchase this year because my milk goats had been relocated for our impending move and I was without backyard dairy.
I was faced with a pile of discarded packaging that all screamed the same thing at me,
“You’re not doing enough! You’re not truly self-sufficient!”
It took me a minute to chill out.
- After a deep breath and a reminder to myself that this was supposed to be a learning exercise, I started to make some notes about what I could start doing today to diminish this pile of recycling.
- Then, I wrote down a few long-term goals and gave myself a time line to come up with a viable plan for each one if I had one.
None of us can realistically make the jump from a typical, modern lifestyle into a completely self-sufficient one overnight. In fact, 100% self-sufficiency is not a very realistic goal for most of us, though you can get close with a lot of hard work.
Instead of expecting ourselves to jump right into not purchasing anything from a store, maybe we could just start with eliminating plastic-wrapped products as much as we’re able to this year.
Let’s figure out what we’re buying that has plastic packaging and determine if we can purchase something in a paper package instead, or, if we can learn to make the product ourselves.
Just see. Give it a whirl. What have you got to lose except some yogurt containers and a headache?
Here’s a list of links to other articles that might help with some of your DIY goals. You may not be ready for all of them, so take them one at a time. Yay for you for learning new things!
If you have some DIY tips to share yourself, please share them in the comment section below so others can benefit from your experience.