Happy Earth Day!
I love being in nature as it really soothes my soul. When we were younger, my parents would take our family vacationing in different places in West Virginia. My dad tells the story that when I was a baby I was howling and so he took me outside. As we were walking around and the sun started to rise, I became quiet and fell asleep. I’d like to think I appreciated Mother Earth early on in life, this why celebrating Earth day is extremely important to me.
I was the first professional organizer in the State of North Carolina to specialize in being green/sustainable in residential and business organizing. I also won a national and regional business award due to my efforts. When I started out, I was told there was no way I’d survive being a green pro organizer. Not only did I not go out of business, but I also found success. If you’re a professional organizer, I share this to encourage you to be eco-friendly where you can in your business. Many times pros are worried that sustainable organizing means you have to sacrifice style. Not at all!
Even if you’re not an environmentalist, being green can save you time and money and it can also be fun. Every little step you take makes a difference, so I encourage you to do what feels good to you.
Today we’re going beyond the 3 R’s of Reuse, Reduce, and Recycle and I’m going to share my 7 R’s on how you can be more eco-friendly in life, which is the ultimate way to celebrate earth day. I’m going to encourage you to remember that every little difference adds up and goes a long way. Did you know that by using one reusable bag a year, you reduce single-use plastic bags between 100 to 700 a year? Also, using reusable bags could save the lives of more than a million seabirds and 100,000 marine animals every year!
Julie’s 7 R’s of Eco Organizing
Lets celebrate earth day together by reducing our waste!
If you don’t buy it, it won’t become clutter. It also means less maintenance (dusting, anyone?) and more money in your pocket.
Become aware of your clutter kryptonite, as that’s where you tend to get stuck and accumulate things quickly and easily. I’m not saying don’t have a collection; rather be aware if you have multiple collections and you buy without thinking.
Get in the habit of seeing how you can borrow something instead of buying it or perhaps rent if you need for a short amount. Retrain your brain on sales and bargains—is it something you really need or will use or could it end up in the trash?
Ask yourself what does reduce mean and how you can apply it to your life.
Easy peasy: Use a reusable straw. I can’t tell you how many people ask about my straw when I pull it out. I’m also a fan of using an eco-friendly shopping bag. I use separate ones for groceries. These bags are my favorite, especially as they are Stylish reusable grocery bags. I like that they are extra wide & can be thrown in the laundry, can hold up to 30 pounds, and can attach to my keychain.
Pro Tip: When’s the last time you washed your reusable bags? Gunk can lurk here and it should be part of your routine to throw these in the laundry at least every 3 to 6 months. (Note: I separate my reusable grocery bags from my shopping bags. I can have spills, etc. with groceries and I use my large shopping bags to put things like clothes in them.)
This can also be known as upcycling, but I wanted to keep with the theme of R’s.
Can you get another use before your recycle. For example, would a doctor’s office or senior citizen’s village like your magazines? Can you sell or give away your moving boxes and materials? We will be moving soon and I have had to barely buy any supplies. When we moved two years ago, I sold our boxes and materials and purchased used boxes (in great condition) from a moving supply store.
This is also an area where you can have a lot of fun and get creative. I saw adult socks turned into toddler leggings that were adorable. Pinterest and YouTube have lots of neat people doing interesting things that can get you excited and offer great tips.
Pro Tip: Make it easy! Keep a container by the door to make giving donations easier. When your baskets full, it’s time to donate!
When I first went into business in 2009, I attended several networking events and I was blown away by the amount of free stuff that was handed out. Most of it looked like it would fall apart after five minutes. Many events have freebies that you might not use or need. Be discerning and refuse the freebies as they may cost you down the road and become clutter.
Be aware of single use items (like plastic straws). Ask yourself if you really need the item. Try and avoid disposable things like plastic cups. A good sturdy reusable water bottle is a great option. (Choose a different color for each family member.)
Pay attention to overly packaged or disposable items. Anyone else remember when CD’s first came out and all the wasted packaging for the small CD?
Can you take it a step farther with cleaning products? There are so many harmful cleaners out there. Indoor pollution from cleaners is a concern. White vinegar, lemon, and olive oil are probably products you have around your home that can get the job done and are less expensive than store brought cleaners.
Easy Peasy: Buy a reusable bag and keep in your car so you don’t have to use a paper or plastic bag. Reusable grocery bags are a simple way that you can have a huge impact on the environment.
Pro Tip: Keep at least one of your reusable bags in the front passenger seat pocket to remind you that you have your bags in the car! I do this and keep the rest in the trunk.
This is another great R to have fun and get your creative juices flowing. I did a video when I was first starting out in business called “Drink Wine, Get Organized!” and people always love when I share this tip.
I love to repurpose wine boxes to store my Christmas and holiday ornaments. The boxes are sturdy, uniform in size for easy stacking, and already have separators for easy organizing. If they can protect glass bottles of wine, they can protect what you need to store. (Note: Please store cardboard boxes in a climate controlled environment in your house—not the garage, basement, or attic.)
Some of my favorites I’ve seen repurposed:
- Bulletin Board or rake to hang jewelry.
- Recycled wood shutters to hold messages, keys, and invitations for a command center.
- Earrings, craft supplies, jewelry or office supplies in ice cube trays.
- A Vintage letter press for mementos.
- Luggage tags as labels for baskets.
- An old TV turned into an aquarium.
- Thread & buttons in a photo album binder.
Easy Peasy: Use your clear plastic bedding (comforters, quilts, pillowcases) or shower containers (liners, curtain) to store items. You can use a Sharpie to label and see what’s inside. I keep my computer cords in a small one.
Pro Tip: Use a clear plastic container to keep an emergency bag in the car. When I lived in Los Angeles, we never knew when an earthquake was going to strike. I thought when I moved to North Carolina, I wouldn’t have a concern. We’ve had hurricanes and tornados and now that I have cats, I want peace of mind with a stash if we have to leave our home.
The first thing I’m going to say is buy quality.
One of the reason’s I appreciate meori bags is they are built well. I had reusable bags made for my business that were of poor quality. They fell apart easily so I ended up tearing them up and using them for cleaning rags in the garage.
If you buy something of quality, it will tend to last longer. My husband likes Craftsman tools because they are so well made. He looks for them instead of the cheaper brands because he’s had stuff go kaput quickly.
Ask yourself if you can get it repaired. Don’t automatically assume you need to go out and buy a new one and just chuck it in the garbage. If you can’t fix it, or find someone who can, give it away or sell it.
Check out cool programs like Patagonia’s who will take back your clothes once they’ve reached the end of the line and they will be repaired, recycled, and repurposed into a new garment.
Easy Peasy: If you can’t repair something, put it on Craig’s List or Freecycle for free. Trust me, there are people out there that can repair things and will use the item or resell.
Pro Tip: See if there’s a local trade, high school or apprenticeship program that is training people how to repair items or if you have a local salvage shop where you can bring items that need to be repaired.
First, know the laws in your town. If you can recycle it, then you should. Most towns recycle the basics such as cardboard, paper, and glass. Set yourself up for success by having a box you can easily throw recyclables into and then dump in your recycling bin. Think of breaking down your boxes as a good cardio exercise!
When out shopping, purchase items that you know come in a container that can be easily recycled, such as glass jars. Look at the bottom of containers and become aware of what numbered plastic can be easily recycled. Avoid what can’t easily be recycled. If you stop buying, businesses will change containers to what you will buy. Buy items made from recycled products as well to keep more out of the landfill.
If you are up for, learn about composting and recycle your food via nature.
Pro Tip: Look for products made from recycled materials such as Rothy’s shoes.
My final R is about retraining your brain. When buying gifts, rethink what you’re buying. Is it another thing that will need dusting?
- experiences (a weekend get-a-way, a day at the zoo, a cooking class);
- consumables (homemade jam, a meal service, an eco-friendly laundry kit);
- memberships (gym, Costco, professional); and
- services (decluttering, photography, organizing).
Pay attention to what you use, take, buy, and give. What are your shopping and use habits? Do you need or use what you’re buying or are you constantly donating or clearing clutter?
If you take an item, are you going to use it or will you end up throwing it out? Do you really need to buy it or can you rent and borrow instead? When you give something is it made from recyclable materials or cheap plastic?
View sustainability as a way of living. Everyone benefits when you go green!
Easy Peasy: Make gift giving easy and tell people that you’d like an experience, membership, consumable, or service. I give people a few options so that I’m surprised and they can have some fun picking out a gift.
Pro Tip: Regift those items you don’t like or use. Make sure you wrote down who gave it to you and for what occasion so you don’t regift in the same circle or holiday. Create a special area so you make sure you don’t have a Seinfeld moment. If the item is new and unopened, consider donating it to a cause you love. Many non-profits have auctions these days and you can make regifting a win for something you care deeply about.
Which one of Julie’s 7 R’s of Eco Organizing can you do today?
Remember, each step you can do to be more green is a win. Set yourself up for success and learn how to make it easy to be eco-friendly and make a difference in the world.
I hope you get some time to go out and be in nature today in honor of Earth Day 2021.
Julie Coraccio is a professional declutterer, award-winning eco-friendly, life & end of life organizer, author, and certified life coach. Since 2009, she has helped thousands organize and declutter life in all areas as Chief Possibility Officer with Reawaken Your Brilliance. Julie also hosts the popular podcast Clear Your Clutter Inside & Out and the group coaching Patreon channel Declutter Your Life with Julie Coraccio.
Conclusion – Celebrating Earth Day
I hope these tips helped you become more aware of all the ways you can become more eco friendly. By celebrating earth day together and working together we can reduce waste all over the world.
Which of the R’s are your favorite?