Sustainability is based on a simple principle: Everything that we need for our survival and well-being depends,                                                                        either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment.

To pursue sustainability is to create and maintain the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony to support present and future generations. 

One way to practice sustainability is to practice the 5 Rs daily:                                                               

Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Rot.

These are all ways to reduce the output of waste and properly dispose of waste.

Just a few benefits from following the 5 Rs include preventing pollution caused by reducing the need to harvest new raw materials, saving energy, helping sustain the environment for future generations, reducing the amount of waste that will need to be recycled or sent to landfills and incinerators, allowing products to be used to their fullest extent, and finally, following the 5 Rs saves consumers money.

Refusing to create waste can be as simple as making good habits a daily ritual. Like bringing your own reusable bag to the grocery store or bringing your own reusable utensils.

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 Reducing waste means choosing sustainable, recyclable, or compostable options over single-use items. This can mean purchasing items that are sustainably created, are high in quality (reducing the time period before replacing the item) or purchasing items locally.

  • Purchase items made with recycled content. Check labels to see if a product or its packaging is made with recycled materials.
  • Maintain and repair products, like clothing, tires, and appliances, so they won’t have to be thrown out and replaced so frequently.
  • Borrow, rent, or share items that are used infrequently, like party decorations, tools, or furniture.

Reusing items you have on hand is a great way to keep them from going to the landfill. This can include getting creative and upcycling your stuff (giving items new purpose) or repairing items to continue their longevity and use.

  • Glass jars can be used as vases for flowers, cups to drink out of, or used to store food.
  • Scrap fabric can be used for gift wrapping or as towels to clean with.
  • Tin and aluminum cans can be used to hold plants, small items, or as pencil holders.
  • Buy used items. Give items a second life.

Recycling items is typically seen as a last resort for waste, as recycling is a good thing, but not the best way to extend an item’s lifespan. First, try the other Rs with your waste. If an item’s lifespan is spent, then recycle.

Contaminants are items that have ended up in the recycling bin but are not recyclable. Be sure to reduce the number of contaminants in your recycling bin. 

Check the type of plastic you’re recycling. Plastics #1-#5 & #7 are recyclable. The triangle indicating the plastic-type can usually be found on the side, cap, or bottom of the container you’re recycling. Please be aware that the triangle itself does not indicate an item is recyclable. The City of Princeton does not currently accept any type of Styrofoam for recycling.

Do not recycle broken glass. Broken glass can be dangerous at recycling facilities, for the workers who may encounter your recycling bin, and for any neighbors (or children) who may come into contact with your recycling bin. Save broken glass for the trash.

Recyclables with heavy food residue can contaminate other recyclables (like cardboard and paper) so empty out recyclables prior to placing them in the bin.

Helpful resources from the Environmental Protection Agency

Let compostable food waste Rot. Food waste is the most prevalent form of waste found in our landfills at 24% according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Food waste can often be turned into compost and used in the garden. Be sure to do your research on what items are and are not compostable.

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Composting is a resourceful way to recycle the food scraps and yard trim you generate at home all year and manage your waste more sustainably. Composting reduces the volume of materials that might otherwise be disposed of in landfills or trash incinerators - leaves, grass clippings, yard trim, and food scraps.

Composting involves minimal effort, equipment, expense, and expertise, and can be fun. It can also save money by producing a free, high-quality soil amendment – compost, which reduces the use of fertilizer and pesticides. Compost can be used to build healthier soil, prevent soil erosion, conserve water, and improve plant growth in the garden and yard.

Helpful resources for composting:

 Teaching one another the importance of practicing sustainable habits is the only way to ensure a brighter future. 

Fun resources: