My neighbor moved out this week. I learned that when I found a moving truck blocking my car and I couldn’t get out of the driveway. No matter — by the end of the day, the truck was gone.
In its place, however, was a queen-sized pillow-top mattress, a wooden dresser, and five tires sitting there on the curb.
Then it rained for four days straight.
The dresser and the mattress appeared to be in perfect condition when she placed them out there. She probably could’ve gotten $100 for them if she’d sold them before she moved. But after four days of rain, who’d want them?
On the fifth day, the sun came out and I went for a walk. Another neighbor had three soggy couches on the curb, all apparently in good condition. At least, they had been before the rain.
Upset about the immense amount of waste now headed for the landfill, I told a friend about the furniture. She replied that her son had found an entire wardrobe of stylish clothing that others had tossed out, with much more going to the landfill.
Saving the planet can be hard to do. Who wants to deny yourself anything? And are you willing to spend extra money to lessen your impact?
I’ve always felt that the best place to look when trying to help the environment is at win-win solutions.
If energy-efficient appliances work well and they also save you money, that’s a win-win. If taking public transportation is more convenient than driving because you don’t have to bother with traffic and parking, great. If you enjoy eating organic food fresh from your local farm because it’s delicious, all the better.
Saving the planet is easiest when doing so benefits us in other ways, too. But the next easiest actions are those that require little effort and no sacrifice on our part.
Such as giving away things you don’t want anymore instead of sending them to the landfill.
In my neighbor’s case, all she had to do was post online that she had some stuff to give away. Somebody would’ve taken them off her hands within 24 hours. Then it wouldn’t have gone to the landfill. The same is true of the couches.
The local thrift store would’ve gladly taken the items too — and if she’d donated them, she could’ve gotten a tax deduction.
One can even find takers for items that aren’t in good condition. I’ve given away a broken DVD player to a man who thought he could fix it. You can also recycle broken electronics at stores like Best Buy and Staples.
Placing unwanted items on the curb for others to take isn’t necessarily a bad thing either. In good weather, and when there’s enough time for others to help themselves before trash collection carries everything off to the landfill, it can be a convenient solution.
All in all, giving away unwanted items instead of throwing them out is a relatively painless way to be environmentally friendly.
Saving the planet may be hard, but responsible spring cleaning doesn’t have to be.
OtherWords columnist Jill Richardson is the author of Recipe for America: Why Our Food System Is Broken and What We Can Do to Fix It.