Getting organized can both increase productivity and create a calming environment. When we live with less and have systems for our stuff, complete with labels, everyday tasks become easier and more efficient. Plus, an organized space just feels soothing, something we can all benefit from after spending more time at home.
However, cleanup can do more harm than good for the environment if not done carefully. Recyclable items often end up in landfills and plastic containers contribute to ever-increasing global warming. The good news is that now more than ever it is possible to organize environmentally friendly while reducing waste at the same time.
If sustainable home furnishings are important to you, take comfort in the knowledge that it is relatively easy to achieve. With a little forethought, you can easily organize your home while also doing your part to preserve the environment.
1. Declutter intentionally.
The first step in the organizational process is letting go of the things you no longer need or want. Items such as clothing, small kitchen appliances, books or even furniture can be donated if they are still in good condition. However, find out which items your local charities or donation centers can accept before you drop them off or schedule a pickup. An alternative option is to give things away to relatives, friends or neighbors, or plan a garage sale to give back to your community.
2. Research your recycling options.
Some of your items cannot be donated, but can be recycled instead of thrown away. Visit Earth911 to learn how to properly recycle everything from light bulbs to old cleaning products. The site also lets you know exactly where to put the items locally.
3. Choose sustainable organizational products.
When it comes to buying bins and baskets to organize the things you want to keep, look for ones made from recycled or renewable materials. More and more companies are choosing to make products with elements such as bamboo, cotton and water hyacinth.
“A key feature of sustainable products is that they are built to last,” says Kerry Keihn of Earth Equity Advisors. “That benefits the environment by reducing waste and materials needed to produce replaceable products, but it also makes things more efficient for consumers.”
Durable storage products are often of higher quality and more durable than those made of thin plastic. Therefore, they do not need to be replaced as often, saving you time, money and waste in the long run.
However, you want to make sure the supplies are certified. “Just because a certification uses the word ‘green’ or ‘sustainable’ doesn’t necessarily mean the product or company is as eco-friendly as you’d hope. Examine the certification to make sure the product aligns with your values Keihn says.
4. Reuse items you own.
Instead of buying new containers to sort your closets, drawers, or desk, reuse items you already have. Shoe and jewelry boxes provide sturdy storage in chests of drawers, and glass jars can hold pens, dry supplies, or makeup brushes. Get creative and think out-of-the-box for genius storage solutions that don’t require a trip to the store or a drain on your budget.
5. Be intentional when shopping.
Once you’ve cleaned up, you’ll have a clear idea of what you actually want to get. Impulse purchases not only create clutter, but can also harm the environment. Just think of the excess packaging that comes with products you buy, especially those ordered online.
If you’re shopping in bulk, consider decanting items so you know exactly what you’ve got at all times. Not only does this make it incredibly easy to find things when you need them, but it also prevents you from over-buying and wasting goods that can expire over time, such as food and medicine. Consider using airtight glass jars with bamboo lids to store oats, pasta, or rice in the pantry, and mark the best-before date or cooking instructions with a dry-erase marker. This allows you to clearly see how much you have before blindly buying more.
6. Go paperless.
Plastic is not the only material to look out for when it comes to environmental concerns. Paper can create clutter in your home and contribute to deforestation. While recycling helps save trees, energy, and water, taking in less of it overall is an even better option. There are several options for removing yourself from unwanted mailing lists and many companies offer paperless billing and correspondence. Consider setting up an email account specifically for receipts to keep them organized during tax time and avoid paper jams on the counter or in your purse.