Posted: October 03, 2019 | Author: Sonya Richmond Méndez, Yorkshire parent and Corporate Finance & Processes Consultant at ThirdCoast

We are the Richmond-Méndez family of four who would like to share our recycling journey with the Yorkshire Academy community. Our daughter is a second grader at Yorkshire Academy. We are not environmentalists; Dad and Mom work in the Oil & Gas and Chemical industries, respectively. However, we have been trying to develop a social consciousness for the world our kids will inherit. Together with our kids, we are learning ways to reduce our family’s environmental footprint with “reduce, reuse and recycle” practices.

For many years, we embraced the culture of recycling paper, bottles and cans. That was it! Then we moved into using a filter for water instead of water bottles. One day our eldest child came home talking about “reduce, reuse and recycle,” and we realized we needed to learn more and better ways to help the environment. We needed to become mindful about using natural and produced resources so our kids and the planet can have a better future. We needed to raise our environmental consciousness for our kids and to truly set an example.   

We researched several initiatives. Here are some of the ones recommended to us and our initial reaction:

  • Stop eating less (or all) meat—oh no way Dad was going to agree with this! The four of us are not ready to give up a good barbecue. Sorry! (But we’ve cut back a bit.)
  • Unplug your devices—this is a tricky one… if someone unplugs a device we tend to forget and go into a panic “the tv is broken” or “the phone did not charge.” This is much easier to do when going out of town than on a regular basis. (But we’re conscious of this, where before we were not.)
  • Drive less—in Houston? How? But we do miss the days we lived on the East coast and walked everywhere. (We do try to consolidate trips.)
  • Don’t use straws—we need straws for our daily caffeine intake (soda). What are the options? (Stainless steel. More on this later.)
  • Line-dry clothes—perhaps, but how much of a mess will that be? Will we have clothes all over the house? (We managed to hang clothes only in the laundry room: a quarter of our laundry is air dried.)
  • Plant a garden—maybe…

Some people recommend planting flowers or a garden. Easier said than done. We have no green thumbs in our family. Do you know those cute pots with beans the kids bring home from school? Well, they die in our house. However, we have discovered that we excel at herb-container gardening. We now grow basil, oregano, and rosemary in our garden for our own home consumption. This is a joint effort between Dad and Son. If you know of a good herb to plant, send recommendations our way. 

Plastic awareness or recycling comes in many forms—plastic bags, Ziploc bags, plastic straws, etc. We are trying to be mindful of plastic consumption in a few ways, the most immediate ones being plastic straws and supermarket plastic bags. We have embraced the use of canvas bags for our groceries, but sometimes we forget. We are trying to remind each other to carry the bags with us, or to walk out of the store carrying the products in our hands. It would be great to remember every time, but we certainly have reduced our plastic bag usage tremendously. Any recommendation to help us improve our consistency with this practice is welcomed.

Our daily intake of caffeine comes in the form of soda. To ensure we are wide wake, we often start our morning commute with a large cup of soda, just like coffee drinkers. If you consume liquids whilst driving, spills can happen. We solved this by using a plastic straw with our tumblers. This was a terrible habit—truly a thoughtless action for the environment. It was a quick and easy fix for us. We immediately began to use stainless-steel straws that go everywhere with us! Our kids understand the reason behind our ban on plastic straws and are full participants. Check out stainless-steel straws; some come with a pouch to carry, and others even come with a small cleaning brush.

My personal plastic recycling quest involved contact lenses. For over 20 years, I have used daily disposable contact lenses. I was embarrassed to produce so much waste. My husband casually mentioned that he read about a new recycling program for contact lenses. That sent me into an all-night research session. The initiative is a partnership between TerraCycle and Bausch + Lomb. It’s called One by One Recycling and is completely free for users. Although the initiative states it involves Bausch + Lomb lenses exclusively, they actually collect any brand of contact lenses. It’s easy to do: just collect your empty dry blister packs and discarded contact lenses, and then either drop them at local locations which will ship them for you, or mail them directly using a free shipping label you can find online. At the time I started recycling my contact lenses, I was not able to find a local office close by to drop my contacts. Instead, I started collecting the packs and lenses at home and mailing them directly. If you are a neat freak like me, you can see how I made recycling match our aesthetic style.

Please let me know if you are interested in participating in this program, and I would gladly help you collect the recycle materials. I have become very passionate about this initiative since I use a new pack daily and want to diminish my footprint.  

Here are some cool and very educational websites we follow online that can appeal to the business minded or the creative people who want to do more:

You can see that we have not taken recycling to an extreme. We are continually looking for ways to do a little more.  We believe if all of us are more mindful of our actions, the world will literally be a better place. I’m looking forward to hearing your family’s suggestions as to how you are embracing a more environmentally friendly lifestyle.