Closing the Loop

Nicole Basham
April 15, 2016

Make every day Earth Day. What does that mean for your family? It may mean you recycle, drive a hybrid car, have a compost, or participate in local cleanups. But you may not be "closing the loop."

"Closing the loop" means that you are making a conscious choice to buy products made from recycled materials. By closing the loop, you are creating demand for recycled goods and thereby cutting waste, saving energy, protecting resources and reducing pollution. Perhaps most importantly, you are taking steps to leave the Earth a better place for our children.

Similar to shopping for natural or organic foods, however, it can be difficult to know where to start. And in this economic climate, you have to be practical.

Let's start with paper. To boil it down to an image a young child might understand, on average every American uses roughly the equivalent of one 100-foot-tall Douglas fir tree in paper and wood products per year. Shocking, huh? Also, paper makes up 40% of our garbage, and it's something you and your kids come into contact with every day.

Enough with the grim statistics. The good news is that it's relatively easy to find products made from recycled paper. Major retailers such as Target, Amazon.com and Staples have an ample selection of recycled paper and household items in stores and online.

What's most important when shopping for products made from recycled paper? First, look for products which have a high percentage of post-consumer waste (PCW)—up to 100%. Post-consumer fibers are recovered from paper which has been used and would otherwise go to a landfill or incinerator and a product only has to be 30% to be classified by the EPA as "recycled." If you can, choose products which are processed chlorine-free (PCF), since making typical white paper releases toxins into the air. If you are unable to buy recycled, look for products with the Forest Stewardship Council label, which means the producers must meet environmental, social, and economic standards.

What can you find that's made from recycled paper? Of course, there is office paper, construction paper, paper towels, napkins and toilet paper, but you can also find literally thousands of products, including:

• Masking tape

• Globes

• Lamp shades

• Animal bedding

• Planting pots for seedlings

• Egg cartons

Products need not be totally reprocessed to be Earth-friendly. I have a set of coasters made from folded paper which I love which has withstood significant abuse from my three-year old and remained intact. Etsy and Uncommon Goods have other gifts and household items which have been "upcycled."

Last, but certainly not least, get your children involved! You can find plenty of activities online and here at Savvy Source using recycled paper. Involve the whole family in your buying decisions, and decide what small steps you might take to close the loop!

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From the Parents

  • Parent # 1

    Thank you for this post! Great resources and suggestions. My son's preschool encourages us to pack waste-free and teach about recycling. If we start early with our kids, the next generation will be a greener one. Kids Konserve is company that empowers children and families to reduce lunchtime trash. I just bought a 100% recycled plastic bottle insulated bag (Petspun). They also sell stainless steel containers (304 food grade). A great resouce to add to your great blog. http://www.kidskonserve.com

    over a year ago

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