Countdown to Earth Day Tip #6 — ReThink your Consumption!

Countdown to Earth Day Tip #6 — ReThink your Consumption!

  • There’s no need to wait until Earth Day on April 22 to start celebrating our planet and becoming more engaged in taking care of its precious resources. This article is part of a series of tips on how to “go green” in Kane County — 15 in all, one for every business day before Earth Day. Use them to tap into your inner eco-mindfulness and let your green spirit shine brighter than ever!
  • Editor’s Note: This article was written by Kane County Recycling Coordinator Jennifer Jarland. You can reach her at 630-208-3841 or

Tip #6: ReThink Your Consumption

Everyone knows the three R’s, right? Reduce, ReUse, Recycle! I always like to point out that there is a fourth R, and it is the most important one — ReThink!

Rethinking our purchases and our consumer habits is paramount in the mission to reduce waste. It is hard to do in a world where much of what we buy is presented in non-recyclable packaging. So really taking time to think about what your options are and selecting products with less packaging, with recyclable packaging, and produce with no packaging is key.

Did you know that the average American creates 4.5 pounds of landfill trash every day? That is 135 pounds a month. Now multiply that by 300 million people – yikes!

How Can We Re-Think in Kane County?

In Kane County, in 2016 we created about 1,800 pounds of landfill trash per household, and every household produced a total of nearly 2,900 pounds each if you count recycling and yardwaste. That’s nearly a ton and a half!

We are recycling (and composting yard waste) about 37 percent of our total waste stream. That’s not bad, but it could be better!

How much waste do you create in a day, in a month, in a year? And where could you reduce that amount? How could you change your purchasing habits, your consumer choices to lessen your trash footprint? These are the questions I asked myself more than 10 years ago.

When I was in university in Boulder, CO, in 2006, I did a Zero Waste Project to see how low I could go. Over 30 days, my husband and I (and my mom who was visiting for two weeks of that month), created just 4 pounds of trash. That is 2.5 people over 30 days, and we ended up with less trash than the daily average of one American!

In the end, all of the trash from the whole month fit into a Tostitos bag.

How is that possible, you ask?

Most importantly, we had to ReThink everything we bought, and look for alternatives that had less or no packaging. We bought our grains, nuts, dried fruits and cereals in bulk, olive oil in bulk, soap in bulk, using our own containers.

We used reusable cloth grocery bags and net vegetable bags. And we changed our habits. I bought only one bag of tortilla chips that month, and no potato chips! It seemed like a sacrifice at the time but notably better for our health!

Composting Food Scraps

We also recycled everything possible and composted all of our food scraps. See my last article on backyard composting.

It can be done! Every piece of trash that you avoid making is a meaningful effort, and does make a difference. Thank you for all that you already do and may you be inspired to take it to the next level!

More recycling information can be found at

Questions? Contact Kane County Recycling Coordinator Jennifer Jarland at 630-208-3841,

Read the Countdown to Earth Day Series!