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How to Precycle

Recycling's great, but go even greener by precycling as well, and create less waste to recycle in the first place.


  • Step 1: Think ahead Bring reusable sacks and containers to the supermarket to carry your items in the cart, rather than using the clear plastic bags that stores provide. When checking out, place all your purchases into reusable bags.
  • Step 2: Eat, drink, and be practical Take a thermos to the cafe, or fill it at home; pack a lunch in a box or insulated sack instead of a paper or plastic bag; drink tap water instead of bottled; and buy fresh foods rather than prepackaged. Carry cloth handkerchiefs, and ask take-out joints to hold the plastic cutlery, individual condiment servings, and paper napkins.
  • Step 3: Go digital Set up your bills for auto pay. You'll cut out excess mail and avoid late fees. Read online editions of newspapers and magazines, which are often free and feature additional multimedia content. To prevent unwanted catalogs or junk mail, request to be removed from the company's mailing list.
  • TIP: For a $1 fee, the Direct Marketing Association's mail preference service will take you off the mailing lists of many large companies for five years.
  • Step 4: Cut out single-use products Avoid buying single- or limited-use products, such as disposable diapers, cleansing face wipes, and razors.
  • Step 5: Precycle on the job At work, think twice before printing out emails or documents. Double-sided copies also reduce paper consumption. Posting employee manuals and memos online creates less paper waste and makes the documents easier to update.
  • Step 6: Clean more with less Use concentrated dish and laundry detergents, which pack more cleaning power into less packaging.
  • Step 7: Scent your home naturally Fill your home with the natural scent of houseplants or potpourri instead of using store-bought air fresheners, especially ones with disposable cartridges.
  • TIP: You can use white vinegar and baking soda – which come with less packaging than conventional cleaning products – to clean just about anything. Use undiluted white household vinegar or a paste of baking soda mixed with water.
  • Step 8: Don't trash gift wrap Avoid excess garbage when gift-giving by wrapping presents in reusable cloth or cloth bags. Often, the best gifts need no wrapping at all.
  • FACT: It takes nearly 1.5 million barrels of oil to produce the 30 million water bottles Americans use annually.

You Will Need

  • Reusable bags and containers
  • A thermos
  • Cloth towels and napkins
  • A computer with internet access
  • Houseplants or potpourri
  • Cloth wrap and bags
  • Vinegar and baking soda

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