(ARA) - These days, we're all trying to make small changes in our everyday habits to live a little more "green," from switching to energy-efficient light bulbs to carrying reusable shopping bags and composting kitchen waste. But many don't realize that one of the easiest ways to be more eco-friendly is by de-cluttering and donating gently used items that you're no longer using.
"We know millions of families across the country are already clearing out their clutter with spring cleaning," says Tony Shumpert, vice president of recycling and supply chain operations for Savers, Inc., a thrift store chain. "By donating these items, instead of simply throwing them away, you can give back to the community and save quality goods from polluting the earth. In fact, we operate one of the largest recycling programs in the world, keeping more than 500 million pounds of goods out of landfills last year alone."
But if the thought of going green has you turning red in exhaustion, consider some of these tips to make the task easier:
* Bring a friend in to help with spring cleaning. Not only can the two of you spend a great afternoon together, but your friend can also give you an objective opinion as you sort through items to keep or donate.
* Be organized about getting organized. Start in one corner of one room, and make your way around the room in a circle. Don't move on to the next room until you are finished with the first. If you need to take a break, go for it, but always return to where you left off.
* Designate a specific place for donations. Your "clutter corner" should be in a handy, but out-of-the-way location in your home. Encourage family members to place items - clothes, toys, housewares - that they aren't using any longer into the bin. For parents, your children will see that gently used items shouldn't be thrown away, and something they don't want any longer can have a new life with someone else.
* Be realistic about what you think you want to keep. If you haven't worn that shirt in more than a year, it's ready to go. Another way to determine what to donate is to put items you're not sure about into a box. Seal it and store it. If you haven't opened that box a year later, donate the entire thing. Chances are, you don't have a clue what's in the box and don't need it.
* Know your nearest donation drop. Once you've designated items to donate, you don't have to spend hours tracking down a location to drop your items off. Simply visit http://www.communitydonationcenter.com/ to find a nearby Community Donation Center where you can drop off your goods. This site also provides a list of nonprofits in your area with donation home pick-up service where they'll come straight to your door to collect donations.
"Even donations not suitable for resale, or that just don't sell on our shelves, find a second life with Savers," says Shumpert. "A portion of these goods are sent to developing countries where they support micro-economies and help improve the lives of people in other parts of the world. Remaining items are sold to domestic material wholesalers who recycle the products into new materials such as wiping rags, car insulation and much more."
Another bonus to donating your gently used goods - Savers partners with more than 140 nonprofits and pays these organizations for every item they collect. These partnerships turn otherwise unused goods into sustainable funding that supports the nonprofits' programs and services.
When you donate your unused items to Savers' nonprofit partners, another person can put them to use, which helps save space in landfills, and charitable organizations in your area will benefit as well. And you can feel good about taking one more step toward living a little greener.