Recycle While Away from Home

At a young age, my parents taught me to be good to the environment. In our house, paper bags, cereal boxes, the Pioneer Press, National Geographic, aluminum cans, glass jars and bottles, plastic milk jugs and even used oil were recycled. My parents both grew up on farms in Wisconsin and—I think because of their farming roots—were a little more passionate about protecting the environment than some of our city-born neighbors. Recycling was fun. As an active kid with a big imagination, I made a game of crushing cans in the driveway. I would carefully set the cans in rows of three—two cans to a row— and see how many I could stomp in three jumps. Sometimes I’d hit a can at a weird angle and it would go flying, other times I’d land just right and squash it perfectly flat. Victory!

Child recycling

It’s important to teach your kids the
value of recycling at an early age.

Maybe because it was ingrained in me when I was a kid, but now, as a (somewhat) responsible adult, I cringe when I see an aluminum can or glass bottle in the trash. I can’t help it; my first reaction is: What is wrong with you? Didn’t you learn anything about recycling?! It bothers me so much that I have been known to “rescue” pop cans and beer bottles from my friends’ trash and bring them home with me, where they are recycled.

But what do you do when you’re traveling and the rules of recycling are not so cut-and-dry? In honor of “America Recycles Day” on Nov. 15, here are some helpful tips so that you don’t have to trash your good recycling habits while you’re away from home:

• If you are flying to your destination, the Environmental Protection Agency recommends using electronic—not paper—tickets when booking transportation or events. Electronic tickets generate less waste and cost less to replace.

• If you are driving, the EPA suggests making sure that your vehicle is “road-ready” by properly tuning your engine and inflating your tires to help save gas and money.

• If you’ll be gone for an extended length of time, call your newspaper to ask if you can stop your subscription while you’re away, or if you can donate the newspapers to schools or other organizations. 

• Invest in a reusable water bottle rather than buying plastic water bottles.  

•  Some hotels, B&Bs, lodges, resorts, and motels provide recycling bins and other sustainable practices for their guests. You can search for them on the Environmentally Friendly Hotels website

• Don’t throw away aluminum cans because you don’t know where to bring them. You can take recyclables to a recycling center or drop-off station. You can even bring them to the nearest Target store, where permanent community recycling stations are now part of the landscape. In 2010, all Target stores installed recycling bins. 

• Pack a box or large bag to hold recyclables during your trip and bring them back home with you. (It’s easier to do this if you’re traveling by car than by plane!)

Not sure what you can and can’t recycle? Find a list of recyclable items here

On America Recycles Day Nov. 15, I plan on showing my boys the can-stomping game and teaching them the importance of recycling, not just while away from home but every day. I recycle so that, when they are older, they have the opportunity to appreciate the same things I appreciate—camping, green space, public parks, fresh air, beautiful flowers and trees, wildlife in the woods, the peace and quiet of the country, clean beaches, hiking and biking trails that span for miles and miles, trips to the ocean, trips to the mountains, trips near any of the 10,000 (or more!) lakes right in our own backyard. I hope they listen.