As a society, we are becoming more and more aware of our dwindling natural resources and the increasingly important role resource recovery and recycling play. But how much does each of us really do every day to make sure we are part of the solution and not the problem?

An easy place to start is just being aware of what you're doing or not doing with the things you buy, use and then discard. Here are some things for you to consider:

  • Let Your Dollars Do the Talking: What you purchase (or don't purchase) speaks volumes about your priorities. Being more conscious about what you put in your shopping cart is really where the rubber meets the road. If we don't take the time to look at labels or pay attention to packaging, we send a signal to the marketplace that the status quo is just fine, and we are settling for less than we deserve (e.g. healthy food and a cleaner environment).

  • Know the Rules of Recycling: We've all been there. You can't remember if your empty container is recyclable, and you just don't have the patience to look for that recyclables list. What to do? If the container is made of paper or metal, chances are it goes into your burgundy recycling cart. If it's plastic, turn it over and look for the triangular recycling symbol with a number. If the number is 1-5, then it's recyclable.

    And what about packaging that is made from various materials, like kids' juice boxes? Rule of thumb: When in doubt, recycle it.

  • Bag the Bag: Plastic bags may be convenient, but they contribute to litter issues and ultimately marine pollution. Most of us have a stockpile of reusable bags in our garage or car, but can't remember to use them. If you are committed to using fewer plastic bags this year, you should try:

  • Writing a reminder at the top of your shopping list

  • Leaving your reusable bags on the passenger seat of your car

  • Carrying bags that fit in your pocket or purse. If you only have a few items, you can forgo a bag altogether. Remember: You can't put plastic bags into your recycling container; they need to go back to the retailer.

  • Take the "3 R's" to Work: Sure, you're recycling at home; but, why not take that same routine to work? If your workplace is already recycling make sure they're doing it right. If not, why not send out a friendly reminder about why and what to recycle? While you're at it, is your office using recycled content copy paper? What about reusable cups, plates and cutlery?

    The most important thing of all? Know that you are not the only person affected by your actions. Your family, community, and the planet are counting on you to care enough to make an extra effort.

    Contact Lois Courchaine at lois@wastediversion.org