5 Ways to Clean Up the Earth

Two people picking litter up from a beachWritten by: Hanbi Lee 

Photo by: OCG Saving The Ocean on Unsplash

1. Sort your garbage (the right way)

If you’ve been doing some spring cleaning recently, it probably brought to light the piles of unused items that you now need to throw out. But how do we throw out certain items that don’t exactly seem recyclable but aren’t quite fitting for the regular garbage bin either?

Recycle properly: 

Recycling is very important, especially these days when we overpackage all our items with unnecessary amounts of plastic. But just as it is important to recycle, it is equally important to recycle correctly. Otherwise, it actually defeats the whole purpose of recycling. So how do you recycle the right way? It’s important to consider whether the entire product is made of plastic. For example, flexible packaging can be composed of different types of materials (even though as a whole it might look recyclable) and therefore, should not be tossed into your recycling bin. It’s also essential to clean your recyclable items before you dispose of them. Make sure to empty out your bottles, containers, wash your cans, and flatten out cardboard! 

There’s so much more we can learn about recycling, and I’ve barely scratched the tip of the iceberg. If you want more information, there are a plethora of articles you can look at online, but here’s a good place to start. 

Reusing compost for gardening:

If you have a backyard or an indoor garden available, you can try using your compost as fertilizer for your plants. It’s kind of a tedious process to wait for your compost to cure fully before you can use it (you have to wait around 3 months), but you know it’s ready when it looks like dark, crumbly topsoil and has an earthy smell rather than a sour one. Using premature compost that hasn’t yet fully cured can have the opposite effect of what you want (i.e., attract pests and harm your plant), so ensure you’re using fully cured compost if you do choose to try this out!

Trashing emails: 

As important as it is to discard things you don’t really need, it’s also important to sort through your inbox and trash all your junk mail! Emails are stored in large databases that heat up easily due to their large capacity and consequently, these databases need to constantly be cooled. Regulating the temperature of these databases takes up a significant amount of energy, which can easily be reduced if we simply delete the emails we don’t read/need. If you’re skeptical about the massive effect this can have on the environment like I was, here are a few stats that may change your mind (taken from Medium.com):

  • Globally, annual spam energy use totals 33 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh). That’s equivalent to the electricity used in 2.4 million homes, with the same greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as 3.1 million passenger cars using 2 billion U.S gallons of gasoline.
  • Spam filtering saves 135 TWh of electricity per year. That’s equivalent to 13 million cars off the road.
  • There are about 2.3 billion email users in the world. The average email size is about 75 kb. So, imagine if everyone deletes around 10 unwanted emails (spam and non-spam), it could prevent 1,725,000 GB of data being stored in servers around the world.
  • The energy used to store 1 GB of data is around 32 kWh. So, calculating that it would mean generating 55.2 million kWh less electricity to power those servers.
  • And that’s cutting about 39,035 metric tonnes of CO2 emissions which is equivalent to 19356 tonnes of coal burnt every day to generate that amount of electricity (assuming that fossil fuels are being used).

Are you convinced yet? All that to say, start deleting your unwanted emails and spam as soon as you can!

2. Repurpose old items

Sell/repurpose items:

If you’ve been doing some spring cleaning, it probably brought to light the piles of unused items that you now need to throw out. But just wait! There may be things in your pile that are still perfectly usable and can benefit someone in need. Or you could even resell it and make some extra money for yourself. Try to sort your unwanted items into 3 separate piles: Resell, Donate, Discard. There are lots of reselling options from online marketplaces such as Facebook Marketplace and Kijiji to physical garage sales. Make sure to keep social distancing measures if you do choose to resell your items! You can also donate your items to the local thrift store or charity. If you are choosing to throw your items out, make sure to research carefully how to properly discard them. (Refer back to point 1 for help!)

Find ways to reuse: 

You can also easily repurpose items to serve other needs! For example, you can reuse glass jars in a variety of ways including food preservation, drinking glasses, propagation pot for plants, etc. Old bedsheets can be reused as a tapestry, picnic blanket, tablecloth for paint nights, or even curtains if you have sewing skills!

3. Plant a tree (either yourself or by contributing to a project)


Gardening is a great way to source clean produce at home! Depending on the space you have available, you can plant anything from herbs to vegetables and fruits. It also feels gratifying to harvest and enjoy what you’ve labored over for months.

Tree planting: 

Google a tree planting event near you and participate in your community’s green initiatives!

Study app that plants trees: 

Forest is an app that implements the Pomodoro technique while contributing to the environment. Whenever you have a task you want to focus on, you “plant” a tree on the app and if you leave the app halfway before the set time ends, the tree dies. Users can also use their virtual coins that they earn to plant real trees. When a user uses their virtual coins to plant a real tree, Forest donates to their partner, Trees for the Future (a real-tree-planting organization), and creates planting orders. 

4. Building awareness as a consumer

Looking for markers that promote sustainability at the store:

Look for official certifications and labels on your products, especially when grocery shopping

Supporting brands that support sustainability/care for the environment:

When shopping, read up on the brand’s effort to promote sustainable practices and how they are contributing to the environment. Lots of brands have taken on green initiatives and more will become transparent about their manufacturing processes if consumers continue to push them in that direction.

5. Adopt a “minimalist” lifestyle

Invest in quality items that will last you a long time:

Rather than buying a cheap alternative that you’re going to have to replace many times, invest a little more in something that will last you a long time. It might even end up being more cost-efficient in the long run.

Buy things that are timeless: 

Trends will come and go, so it’s important to buy clothes, furniture, etc. that will stand the test of time. The fashion industry is actually the second largest polluter in the world, and there are ways we can help reduce the impact as consumers. An effective way to manage your wardrobe in an environmentally conscious way is to adopt the capsule wardrobe – it’s the idea of having only a fixed number of items in your closet from which you can create many, timeless outfits.


One of the easiest ways you can contribute to the environment on a daily basis is to try conserving in whatever you can — energy, water, gas, etc. This also has a great added benefit of saving you lots of money! Simple things like not leaving the water running while you shampoo or unplugging all unused electronics can add up to a significant amount of savings and help reduce your individual carbon footprint. 

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