Cooking Light editors are counting down to Earth Day with simple and effective ways they’ve eliminated waste and cut back on resource usage. In this series, each editor will talk about One Green Thing they’ve done in their own home, office, or general life to hopefully make our planet just a little bit healthier.

The planet healthy habits I practice now are usually the same ones my parents practiced when I was growing up— it would feel strange not to buy the bio-friendly cleaner over the flashy brand name; it would feel strange not to hand the cashier an assortment of tote bags before even unloading the grocery cart.

One habit I stick to, despite the inconvenience, is recycling. My building doesn’t actually have a recycling program. I keep a laundry basket tucked out of the way for hoarding recyclables until the pile is sufficient, then sort and drive over to my neighborhood recycling plant (just about 10 minutes from where I live). It’s not as simple as taking a bin to the curb, but I can’t seem to throw away what I know would just sit in a landfill. Plus, I get a lot of satisfaction from dropping off my haul.

A few recycling tips to remember:

  • Don’t sort your items. Sorting used to be necessary until recently, but most plants have machines that sort recyclables appropriately (and usually better than you or I). You will need to sort if delivering to your local plant. The folks there will help you.
  • Make sure items can be recycled. This seems obvious, but isn’t. In general, aluminum cans, paper, glass, and plastics can be recycled; Styrofoam, aluminum foil, plastic bags, and light bulbs cannot be recycled. Check this complete list or your city's recycling guidelines.
  • Rinse off recyclables. They don’t need to be sparkling clean, but items with food or other waste still on them are immediately ruled out as recyclables, and are just gross.
  • Break it down. Break down boxes and crush or flatten cans or containers to conserve space in your bin so you’ll be less likely to toss what won’t fit before recycling day.
  • Check to see if your plant recycles glass. Unfortunately, glass recycling is becoming rare. The plant will throw away what it can’t process, so leave it out beforehand.