The holidays are coming to a close and you have a pile of cardboard boxes; what should you do with them all?! With our goal to live more sustainably, finding other ways to use all those cardboard boxes is a must. With the amount of cardboard boxes we end up with though, through store shopping or online shopping the goal is to not automatically think to just throw it in the garbage. There are a few cardboard uses that come to mind right away. Before we hop into that though, lets talk about what we may or may not know about our waste here in the U.S.
Paper waste accounts for over 50% of waste. Between the landfill and municipal, that is a lot of waste. Just like when food waste goes into the landfill, paper and cardboard products that end up in the landfill release methane gas when they decompose. When the landfill is filled with products that release methane gas, that further contributes to our environmental pollution problem we have today.
What to do with the cardboard
- Reuse (+ Re-purpose)
The 5 R's from Bae Johnson are Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Rot. When finding alternative uses for cardboard, there are 3 of those R's that apply here. Reuse as much as possible. When it comes to recycling, recycle what you can. Just remember that recycling is not a simple system and not always the answer. It takes a lot of resources to recycle and it is not a 1:1 system. Rot organic material to a compost system. You can either have an in-home compost system or find a local business or farm who does composting for you.
Cardboard uses come with many options. With all of the cardboard boxes you may have received during your online shopping for gifts, they are now ready to serve a new purpose. You can reuse them if you know you will be moving soon, great for storage, arts & crafts or even re-purposing them for other household uses! You can offer them to new home buyers in the neighborhood too, a great way to make new friends :) Also, If you know you wont be moving anytime soon, but happen to know someone who is, I am sure they will be grateful for extra boxes no matter the size!
When thinking about other sustainable cardboard uses, opt to use them for mailing out packages instead of buying more boxes to put your package in. In other words, always hold on to some cardboard in the case you need to mail something. You never know when you might need it.
Recycling, as said above is not your first best option. The best way to recycle though, is by reusing or re-purposing those boxes. Recycling cardboard is a simple and effective way to reduce the amount of paper that ends up in landfills. Currently almost 85% of cardboard is being recycled, which is a good thing, but at the same time other ways to use them are available. The good news though is that recycled cardboard creates 35% less water pollution and 74% less air pollution than “virgin” paper pulp. This makes cardboard significantly more sustainable than others recyclables. It can be recycled multiple times, after which point it can be used to add in compost or for animal bedding. After you have reused it beyond its use and re- purposed it as much as possible, there should not be much left to recycle.
Once you have reused the cardboard, before you think about recycling it, consider composting. Do you compost? Have you thought about it? Do you know what it is? Composting is simple and effective and great for the environment. Compost is a mixture that consists largely of decayed organic matter and is used for fertilizing and conditioning land. Plain cardboard can be soaked in water and added to compost along with food and garden scraps. If you know a little something about composting, you know that adding your browns is super important! So adding your cardboard, toilet paper rolls and paper towel rolls, just to name a few, are a great addition to compost material.
It takes a lot of resources to recycle. Composting is not only simple and effective, but also super efficient. It is the most efficient form of recycling because it can be done locally and does not need to be transported to turn the matter into compost material. Remember that transportation requires using fuel. When you compost you can go without the transportation unless you are using a compost pick up service.
The best way to be sustainable with your cardboard
We all know that trying to live a sustainable life is the goal, but can also be hard. Be conscious about your waste and think about the most sustainable way to discard if you so choose to do so. Remember, the best way to be sustainable is to be conscious of our buying to begin with. If we must recycle our card board though, remember that the best thing is to reuse it, re-purpose it or even compost it. These are all resourceful ways to use our excess cardboard. It can be a challenge to live a more sustainable lifestyle, but if we are more conscious about our decisions it can make it super easy. As always, we aim to create sustainable happiness and make people’s lives better. Providing you with powerful and meaningful information is one of the ways we do so.