A blog about the restoration, remodel and renovation of a 1929 Chicago-style brick bungalow

Recycling and Reducing around the House

Like Humphrey House and the other residents of Oak Park, we are also fortunate here in Morton Grove to have a recycling program that accepts virtually everything without our having to sort it all: office papers, newspapers, cardboard, chipboard, virtually all plastics including grocery bags, styrofoam containers, glass, cans (including the lid) —— even aluminum foil if it’s not covered with food. Our huge 65-gallon recycling bin (provided by Groot, our waste management company) is overflowing every week whereas our garbage bin usually has no more than one bag full of waste. And the majority of that seems to be cat poop.

But it saddens me to see how many households don’t bother to recycle —— including many who share our alley. It’s as easy to recycle here as it is to throw out your garbage, so to me, there’s just no excuse.

In addition to recycling the obvious things and composting, there are a number of other things we do to reduce waste or be more eco-friendly:

  • Instead of throwing out window envelopes, we tear out the cellophane pane, which is not recyclable. It takes about two seconds to tear it out and recycle the rest of the envelope.
  • Use cloth napkins
  • Use microfiber cloths for cleaning
  • Wash and reuse plastic food storage bags
  • Use green cleaning and laundry products, like those made by Ecover, Seventh Generation and Method, for example
  • Buy from the bulk grocery bin to avoid packaging and save money

I’ve been finding other ways to recycle or reduce too:

  • Buying an antique dining table instead of buying new
  • Driving over to the village’s Public Works department and hauling home free mulch
  • Using newspaper as a weed barrier when we start to plant our garden (more on that when we actually start planting)

But there are definitely things I need to work on, especially:

  • Remembering to bring reusable bags to the grocery store every single time I go. We try to keep them in the car, but we sometimes forget. To help with that, I ordered ChicoBags, which fold down to cell-phone size and can fit in my purse or pocket
  • Unplugging electronics when not in use
  • Switching to a non-clay based cat litter, like Swheat Scoop or World’s Best Cat Litter

These are just some of the things I thought of off the top of my head, and they are by no means the only things we do. I’d love to hear about some of things you do to reduce and reuse —— I’m always open to more ideas and suggestions!


  1. Jennifer on April 2, 2008 at 9:55 am

    What about composting? 🙂 That’s the big one I am working on this summer. I have my little old plastic ice bucket (with a cover) under the sink to catch food scraps, then haul them outside every couple of days.

    We are planning on using the free mulch from teh city, too! I’m so excited… can’t wait to go and pick some up! I want to “lasagna” garden a few beds… you put down a layer of compost/uncomposted wet matter, then a thick layer of newspaper, then a nice layer of wood mulch and let it sit for 4 to 6 months, watered occasionally… instant garden soil. You can do it right where you want it, and it looks nice while it “turns” because of the mulch!

    Your list is really good.. I have most of the same ways to save energy/resources.. .and the same problems, too (though mine is dog poop bags instead of kitty litter).

  2. Kristy on April 2, 2008 at 1:43 pm

    I live in St. Louis, Missouri and in the next few weeks I’ll be receiving a huge recycling roller-dumpster too. While I’ve been hauling all of my recyclables to the recycling center-this will make it so easy. The other thing I participate in is something called PurePower, through my electric company. Basically I pay a few extra dollars a month and that money goes towards buying renewable energy. It is all equated to whatever my electric bill is…usually this added cost is $5-8 a month; but I feel that I’m making a difference.

  3. denise on April 3, 2008 at 9:29 am

    Jennifer: composting is definitely a high priority. We had it at our old house and I really miss it. We just haven’t had time to build a bin. I like the lasagna compost idea — hadn’t heard of that one! And now would probably be a good time to start something like that so you can still plant this year.

    Kristy: I’m glad your recycling is about to get easier—it makes a huge difference! I don’t know if we have something like PurePower here, but we have NatureFirst, which I’ll be signing up for — it allows the electric company to cycle your AC on and off during peak times, and you get a discount on your bill every month.

  4. Josh on April 3, 2008 at 10:01 am

    I’m also a big fan of composting. Building a bin is a great project, but if you can’t fit it in, many of the plastic bins are made from recycled materials and aren’t very expensive.

    Like Kristy, I also participate in a renewable energy program with our electricity company– 100% of our electricity is wind sourced. It’s a great option if your utilities provide it.

    Thanks for the tip about the chicobags, too.

  5. denise on April 4, 2008 at 1:36 pm

    Hi Josh—I just received the ChicoBags, and while a little smaller than I expected (but bigger than your typical plastic grocery bag), they are very compact and will definitely come in handy for lots of things.
    It doesn’t look like we have a renewable energy program like yours, although we have a couple other options. And I would consider the plastic compost bin, but I’m determined to get our act in gear over the next couple of weeks!

  6. HumphreyHouse on April 23, 2008 at 12:36 am

    Glad to hear I’m not the only green geeks to swell with pride when a recycling container is fuller than a regular trash container. 🙂

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