We only have one earth, and it’s on each one of us to nurture it, treasure it and protect it for future generations. We’ve all been taught to recycle and reuse, but this April, let’s think more creatively and pragmatically.
Let’s pledge to buy less stuff, rethink fast fashion purchases, reduce use of single use plastics and even consider planting a tree or a pollinator garden.
Check out this list of ten actions that we’re considering taking that can help make our world a better place. We hope you’ll find at least one on there that sparks your interest!
Recycle Old Toys.
Many of us donate old toys once our kids have outgrown them, but what about toys that are broken beyond repair or can’t be donated? Rather than tossing them into the garbage where the nonbiodegradable components will sit for years, consider recycling them.
Mattel allows you to download a free shipping label to send back toys that they will then repurpose for new toys through the Mattel Playback program.
Recycle old crayons and markers
Old and broken crayons might be a mess to deal with, but if you toss them out, they can sit in a landfill indefinitely because the paraffin material they are made of simply won’t degrade. But organizations like Crazy Crayons and the National Crayon Recycle Program work together to collect old crayons and turn them into new ones that kids can use. You can also ship your old crayons to The Crayon Initiative, which will melt them and turn them into new ones for kids in hospitals. Crayola’s ColorCycle program that collects old markers to reuse is on pause right now because of the pandemic but keep an eye on their website to see when it opens back up.
Shop a Refillable Store.
According to the Environment Protection Association, packing and containers make up more than a quarter of municipal solid wastes. Think of a simple two-pack of a cleaning spray that might come boxed and wrapped in plastic.
Consider a shopping lifestyle change and start visiting a refillable store to stock up on these essentials. At Lufka Refillables in South Tampa, Seminole Heights and Wesley Chapel, you can bring your container (or buy cute ones from the store) to fill up on everything from facial products to home cleaners and sprays. You can read our feature on Lufka with the store owner here.
Plant a tree.
While this can be a big-impact, long-term solution, it’s important to do your homework first. Visit a local nursery or speak to a horticulturist to learn about native options that can thrive in our gardening zone without excessive watering. You don’t want to bring in an invasive species.
Also keep in mind that there are rules and laws that govern what you can plant in public areas. Check out the City of Tampa’s Community Tree Program through which you can request a free tree for city land, greenways or street rights of way. If you live outside city limits, contact Hillsborough County to see if your community qualifies for a tree grant.
We live in one of the most beautiful places in the country, surrounded by gorgeous waterways and natural wooded areas. Let’s work together to keep it that way! Local organizations such as Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful and the Tampa Bay Watch Discovery Center have regular cleanups and other volunteer activities scheduled for which people of a wide range of ages can sign up.
Doing this as a family (or youth or school group) can teach kids how to be active stewards or their environment from a young age.
Compost! Take a composting class or learn from locals.
One of the most valuable forms of natural, organic, recyclable fertilizer is our food waste and yard scraps. Through the City of Tampa’s Backyard Composting Program, you can get a free bin and learn how to compost at home.
We also love the Subpod below-ground composting system. It’s easy to set up and maintain and uses composting worms to breakdown your compost, so it’s fun for kids to participate.
Organizations like Suncoast Compost will pick up your scraps and drop off compost at a location for you twice a year. Turn composting into a family learning project—kids might get a kick out of the role played by worms in vermicomposting – or sign up for a class about microirrigation and rain collection with a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) Extension class.
Learn the rules of recycling.
You might think you’re helping the environment by putting as much as possible in your big blue can, but not everything is useful. Some things can in fact, cause harm, like plastic bags and cords that can snag the processing machines. Check out exactly what you can and cannot recycle (Spaghetti sauce jars? Yes, but cleaned and with lids removed) at the City of Tampa’s Solid Waste and Environmental Program Management website.
The website for Tampa Bay Recycles brings together information from Tampa, St. Petersburg, Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.
Recycle almost anything with TerraCycle
We all know we can recycle paper, cans and bottles, but what about makeup containers? Toothpaste tubes? How about bread bags? If you have something that you can’t recycle with your local municipality, check with TerraCycle!
This organization teams up with numerous manufacturers, brands and retailers worldwide; you can sign with them for one of their programs, download a free shipping label, and send them whatever you’d like to recycle. Their researchers work to figure out how to break down and reuse many things you can’t put in the recycling bin.
Recycle old baby gear.
WasteManagement works with Target at certain times of the year with the Target Car Seat Trade-In Program that gives you a discount coupon for new baby gear in exchange for your old car seat, car seat base and more.
You’ll need to download the Target Circle app if you haven’t already. The program has recycled more than 1.7 million car seats since 2017! The next date for the program runs from April 16-30, 2023.
Recycle old clothing and textiles.
Fast fashion may be fun and economical, but it can wreak havoc on the environment. If clothing, accessories and other textiles aren’t in any shape to be resold or recycled, consider recycling them by checking the website of the clothing chain.
For example, H&M accepts old clothing from any brand to recycle, and Nike will recycle sneakers of any brand. Animal care organizations like the Humane Society of Tampa Bay and county animal shelters often accept clean, old towels as well.
Attend an Earth Day Event in Tampa Bay
Ecofest Earth Day Tampa Bay 2023 at MOSI | April 22, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Organized by Learning Gate Community School and MOSI, the 14th Annual EcoFest will be held on the grounds at MOSI, 4801 East Fowler Ave., Tampa. The event is free and includes live music, workshops, demonstrations, informational booths, green living products and services. You can also learn from green businesses, environmental organizations, alternative health practitioners, renewable energy specialists and organic farmers. mosi.org
*Originally published in the April 2022 issue of Tampa Bay Parenting Magazine.