I love taking our kids to the playground, walking the trails of a state park, and visiting the beach on a hot summer day. I love the beauty of this world - giant trees providing shade or changing colors, trails weaving through forests, and the fresh air outside my doorstep. I feel a peace come over me when I get outside and take in the beauty around me.

This love for nature leads me to want to live differently, to handle trash and recycling consciously. I don’t want to add to the landfills. I want to preserve what we have. When I see trash floating around at the beach or park I feel sad. When I see a garbage can overflowing I think - we can do better than this! And when I hear about plastics in our oceans I want to cry.

I want to help take care of our environment. And one way I can do this is by recycling as much as I can. The recycling pick up in our town takes cardboard, paper, food boxes, mail, beverage cans, food cans, glass bottles, glass and plastic jars, jugs, and plastic bottles & caps. We fill our recycling with these items, but I find that we have a lot of other items in our home that can’t be placed in our recycling bin - worn out flip flops, old bicycle helmets, dried up markers, small plastic toys, old paint brushes, and a lot of non-recyclable plastic packaging.

This was completely disheartening to me. In response, I told myself to avoid most of these items. If I didn’t have them coming into our home, I wouldn’t have to eventually throw them in the trash. Unfortunately, this is REALLY hard to do. My kids come home from a birthday party with small trinket toys in a favor bag. I need a paint brush to paint our walls. We need bicycle helmets for safety. And sometimes buying convenience foods makes my life less stressful. In order to truly avoid all these items, I would have to cook from scratch all the time, not allow my kids to accept gifts, and extremely limit the art supplies in my home that inspire creativity. This wasn’t going to work, but I was serious about doing what I could and finding another way to reduce our trash!

I was able to make a few changes that work for my family. I buy foods like rice, oatmeal, chocolate covered pretzels, and syrup in the bulk section of my grocery story with my personal glass jars. This greatly reduces trash (and some recycling). When I can, I’ll spend the extra money to purchase a clothing item from Patagonia because I can send those clothes back to be recycled when they wear out. These changes have helped, but I still wanted to find a solution to those flip flops, markers, plastic toys, and non-recyclable plastics?

After reading a few books and blogs, I found the answer. There is a company that will take all these items (and more) and make sure they are recycled responsibly. I couldn’t contain my excitement when I discovered this. I wanted to leap right in and send them all my stuff, but then I saw the price tag. It’s not free. It’s not even affordable. It’s expensive. I debated for a long time whether it was worth our money.

Do we want to spend our money on recycling trash? I mean, that money could go towards our financial freedom goals! Then one day I looked at my cash back from my credit card. I had enough to purchase an All-In-One Zero Waste Box. I would be able to recycle just about anything besides organics, sharps, or hazardous waste. I figured this was a good way to try it out for free (or felt like free). I filled that box up in less than a week with random plastic trash from all over our home!

Two Terracycle boxes in our pantry - an all-in-one box and a laminated paper packaging box

I was so happy to have all those items being diverted from the landfills, parks, and oceans. I felt I was using my financial resources within my values and to help keep this world beautiful. I followed up that free investment with intentional spending on other zero waste boxes from TerraCycle. We currently have two different boxes in our kitchen collecting trash to be recycled!

While this may not be the best financial investment according to some, it’s an investment in our planet. An investment that leads to an awesome return on investment - a beautiful world that we can all enjoy!