Being Green Without Spending Green

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The word green is synonymous with caring for our environment and a green community has multiple meanings. Green community can refer to a community actively engaging in energy conservation. A green community is a community using renewable resources.  And a green community can promote re-purposing materials. In short, a green community favors the motto “reduce – renew – recycle”.
While most of us are familiar with these concepts and want to do our part in environmental protection, many communities don’t know where to start. Other communities become concerned as they look at the significant costs of projects that support this effort. For instance, consider the cost of replacing incandescent lighting with LEDs or of re-landscaping. These are possible projects for electricity or water conservation. These two green options payoff over time and there is a strong return on investment, but they require significant money upfront to get the project off the ground.  Many good ideas for projects abound, but they call for investment.
Are there ways to be green without having to spend more green? Yes, all they require is some ingenuity, research and number crunching. Where can you find such a project? Well, you can find it in the trash.
Many communities look at their trash disposal expense as a fixed utility cost, a cost which mostly goes up from time to time due to inflation. Furthermore, if a community has a trash problem, the trash hauler encourages the community to buy more of their service. But, well managed waste can be a source of new found money and can be transformed into your latest green project. Looking closely at trash is not a waste of time. It can be worth your while.  It can be a strategic move towards conservation of both money and natural resources.
Picture yourself implementing a recycling program in your community. Not only is it possible that you won’t need to spend money, but may actually save money – without upfront costs.  Imagine saving that money and closing the year under budget. Or, better yet, using the money saved on other green projects that do require investment. This is all possible when it comes to recycling. The savings depends on your city and trash hauler. Your community could save ten to thirty percent on what you spend for trash removal and setup a community recycle program. “How can this work?”
Two factors need to be present. First, your community must use communal trash bins provided by a trash hauler, instead of rollout totes. Second, your local trash hauler must offer no-fee or low-fee recycle bins. In certain cities in Southern California, trash haulers like CR&R offer these types of recycle bins. Their fees vary, but the bins cost less than refuse (regular trash) bins. The recycle bins may be either for specific use, such as green waste (landscape material) or mixed use (paper, plastic, aluminum & glass). The trick is figuring out how much trash your community actually produces and how many trash or regular refuse bins can be swapped out for lower cost recycle bins.
Let’s take a case in point. An Orange County townhome community was spending $70,000 a year in trash removal in 2010. After careful study, the board implemented a recycle program throughout their 348 unit community, saving $18,000 per year or 26 percent. Today, they are greener and under budget. Will your community get the same results? Potentially you can. It depends on your city, your trash hauler options, your current waste volumes and the amount of service provided by the hauler. It is certainly worth taking a closer look.
Where do you get the expertise to help you put a money-saving recycle program together? The trash haulers want you to ask them; after all they work with waste all the time. In some instances, they offer sound advice and good recommendations. However, asking them to review your community’s trash and recycle needs is a little like asking the fox to guard the hen-house. How can you get totally unbiased recommendations on how to reduce your trash bill from the very company that makes money selling you more removal service?  Consider using a waste and recycling consultant to figure out your options. They may be less biased and more likely to keep your community’s objectives in mind. Many will perform an analysis at no charge.
In today’s economy, your community is challenged to be green without spending green. How many green projects can your community implement which help our environment, save thousands of dollars and have no initial investment? The answer is “at least one!”
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