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It's the story of your stuff

Years spent in the junk removal industry can sure change your perspective on the world around you. 

Police officers who deal with crimes on everyday basis can tell you things about our society that you wouldn’t otherwise know. 

Doctors can spot major trends in healthcare and the way people take care of themselves (or don’t). 

After spending close to eight years hauling other people’s junk, I’m starting to see the ways that waste and recycling impacts our society on a large scale.

Let’s face it - as a society, we are quite wasteful. Our parents and grandparents lived very differently. It’s neither good nor bad, but our life is quite different from 50 years ago.

I’m old enough to remember that some furniture pieces would stay in family for decades. Nowadays, a quick trip to IKEA can furnish your house from top to bottom at a very reasonable cost. 

When I was growing up, our TV had been fixed numerous times both by my dad and the TV repair man. I’m not even sure if TV repair men still have jobs today, because nobody seems to be fixing TVs anymore. It’s easier to go buy a new one.

I’ve stumbled upon this quick video on YouTube discussing this trend in our society:

The Story of Stuff

Annie Leonard

Whether you agree with the author or not, I think the video poses some good questions. It will make you think. 

Think about the things we buy.

Think of where these things come from.

Think about what will happen to our things once we’re done with them.

Think how the way we live impacts our environment and infrastructure.

Think if there is a better way to live.

I’m not saying ‘let’s go back to the way our grandparents lived!’ . . . but isn’t there some sort of happy medium we can find?

We strive to be better in our society, and to be more aware and positive about our environment. But you can’t expect to get a different result if you don’t change the way you, personally, do things.

I ask you to watch this video in full. Perhaps it will put you into thinking mode as well.

If even half of us change our habits just ever so slightly, the results will be tremendous.

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Couch to go

We’ve all been there. 

You just bought a new couch, and it looks amazing. It’s soft, clean, and untouched. Your old one is still sitting there, now looking very sad. 

A few years ago it looked amazing too, but years of abuse are showing now. Cats have scratched it, dogs have sat on it, kids have spilled their food on it, and endless seasons of television shows were watched on it. 

It’s time to let it go, but you’re just not sure what to do with it.

Here’s what you should NOT be doing with it:

Leave it in the alley
It sounds like a good idea at first, but please don’t do it. Take a stroll through any back alley in the city, and you’ll find countless sad looking pieces of furniture sitting there. Trust me, nobody is going to grab it. It might work with your empty bottles or a $20 bill, but old bulky furniture stays where you put it. Rain and snow will only make it look worse. After looking at it for few weeks, you’ll be back to square one – trying to figure out what to do with it.

Burn it
While burning off excessive wood on your farm is usual business, burning off furniture or other household items isn’t the best way to go, since furniture these days is full of chemically produced materials. When you burn it, who knows what you’re releasing into our atmosphere. That couch might do more harm to the environment than, say, ten Volkswagen vehicles (too soon?).

Put it outside with a FREE sign
This also sounds like a good idea at first. Look, this couch is still useable, sorta! Well, it’s not. You’re just taking an easy route. After all, it’s garbage to you, why do you think someone else would want it? After a rainy day or two, it will turn into a completely unusable piece of garbage right outside of your house. Chances are it will get picked up by a city crew at your own expense.

Bury it
Burying items used to be a way to go when I was a child. Thousands of years from now, future archeologists will have a blast digging up what my family buried long time ago, from old bicycles and buckets to rusty tools and kitchen chairs. Sure, you might benefit archeology in this way, but just think about it - burying anything requires a tremendous amount of effort, and I think alternatives are simpler in today’s world.

There are much easier ways to get rid of unwanted items

Stop by a charity and see if they’ll take it. They can even pick it up from your house to save you a trip.

Place an ad in the free section of Castanet.

Ask your friends or family if they’re in need of this particular item. You might even score a pizza for it.

Use it for target practice . . . no wait, scratch that.

Call a professional junk removal company, we’ll take care of you.

Just do it

Ask any real estate agent out there, and he/she will tell you right away – de-cluttering will make your house look more appealing, desirable, and cleaner. 

It is probably the easiest - and cheapest - way to improve the looks of your property. Most home owners worry about ‘curb appeal’ and affordable ways to make their property look better (ie a quick repainting) before listing. They might invest their time and energy into repaving the driveway, or hiring a landscaping company. Yet many people forget to make their property look better on the inside before having potential buyers come in. 

Put yourself in the shoes of a prospective buyer. You’re looking for a house for your family, and you have a good choice with all the properties currently on the market. You want to see a spacious property that will fit your needs. When you walk through, you’re trying to imagine yourself living in the house. If the basement is full of old furniture, and closets are full of old toys, the home automatically looks smaller. 

Clutter can turn off any prospective buyer, thereby creating less competition for the home, which in turn can lower the final selling price.

You might be used to seeing clutter around your house, and may think it’s not a big deal. You may even think you don’t have clutter. Human mind tends to focus on the negative, though, and prospective buyers will focus on any clutter as opposed to seeing the features of your house. You might have a great floor plan and an amazing view, but if your house is cluttered with furniture and items dating back to World War 2, the floor plan and view will go unnoticed. The true potential of your house will be lost.

Clean out the basement of unwanted items. Call your kids and tell them to pick up the stuff they’ve been storing down there since they moved out. Have a garage sale and sell it if they don’t get it done promptly (that will teach them!). Call a local charity for a free pickup, if possible. Give away unwanted items to strangers on a street. Use the Free Items section of Castanet Classifieds. If all else fails, call a professional junk removal company, and ask them for help. 

If you really want to keep everything, and you can’t bring yourself to let your clutter go, rent a portable storage box from Big Steel Box, and store your items until it’s time to move. While it might take up some space in your driveway, it’s still better than having it throughout your house when potential buyers knock on your door.

Need more motivation? Think of it this way - when your house sells, you’ll need to deal with it anyway. So, why not be proactive and deal with it in advance. Doing it this way will benefit you financially and make the sale of your house much easier, so do as famous Nike commercial advises: Just Do It.


The future looks good

What does the future have in store for us?

We live in a constantly changing world, facing new developments in all aspects of our lives, from gadgets we are using every day to the cars we drive. If somebody had told me as a kid that we’d have fully electric cars and all-reaching wireless internet by the time I grew up, I would have told them they were dreaming.

Recycling and clean technologies are also changing as we go. Recycling in general has changed drastically over the years to the point where you can recycle almost anything. When I was growing up, the only materials being recycled were cardboard and metal. Nowadays the list of items required to be recycled is never ending – clean wood, painted wood, tires, drywall, metal, wires, electronic components, various types of plastic, office paper, batteries, paints, used oil, light bulbs, and more.

Recycling technologies are making our world cleaner and more efficient by allowing us to recycle items that 20 years ago we thought could never be recycled. What does the future have in store for us? What recycling or clean energy technologies will be available to our kids when they grow up?


Closed loop paper recycling

While paper recycling is not new, there’s a new technology coming online that will allow us to recycle paper multiple times. All paper, when recycled, breaks down, and can only be used for lesser quality paper. Grey’s Recycling, out of Edmonton, is solving this problem by using a cutting-edge process of adding cotton to paper. This keeps the paper strong, so that good quality office paper can be made. It also diverts tonnes of clothes away from the landfill. 

The benefit to the planet? It has been established that production of one tonne of office paper requires the cutting of 17 fully-grown trees. Closed loop paper recycling helps to reduce that number by recycling already-produced paper and cotton material destined for the landfill. 

I hope this Canadian company takes off in a big way to benefit us all in the future.


Self-charging vehicles

Electric vehicles are becoming more prominent today thanks to their obvious benefits. The Tesla car is all over the news lately, because Tesla makes driving electric vehicles truly cool. They’re extremely clean to run, quiet, and much easier to maintain than their gas engine counterparts. Who wouldn’t want to drive a Tesla?

There are still some downsides to owning an electric vehicle, though. Since they run on batteries, the effective range is limited by the battery’s capacity. Once the battery is depleted, you have to find a rechargeable station or head home to plug it into your home recharging unit. This isn’t very convenient, especially if you’re planning on using an electric car for travelling long distances. 

But fear not, new technology is here to save us. Companies around the world are working on introducing technology that will allow your car to be charged wirelessly, by means of induction, while you’re driving down the road. Just as it is possible to wirelessly charge your cellphone, it will be possible to charge your car by merely driving it at a normal speed along a specifically-designed motorway. Equipment installed underground will transmit electricity into a receiver installed on your car. Neat-o!


Dynamic windows

Believe it or not, buildings are the largest source of energy consumption in the world. When it’s cold outside, they need to be heated. When it’s hot, they need to be cooled. Almost 30% of this energy is lost through windows. New technologically-advanced dynamic windows solve this problem with zero effort.

‘Dynamic windows’ is a broad term for windows that are able to electronically change tinting in response to the outside environment. Just as the thermostat in your house controls the temperature, dynamic windows can change the level of tinting to match the weather outside, or time of day, or even sun movement. Electrochromic technology will change the colour of windows to absorb or reflect solar energy. This allows the windows to cool the building down by reflecting light when it’s sunny, or absorbing light when cooler. According to some manufacturers, dynamic windows can save 20% on heating and cooling system costs, 20% on lighting costs and reduce peak load by 25%.

The future is looking good.

More Reduce, Reuse, Recycle! articles

About the Author

Yoree Grozenok owns and operates 1-800-GOT-JUNK? in Kelowna, part of world's largest junk removal company. Years of operating this great business has given him wealth of knowledge and experience in recycling.

While other companies think of recycling as a 'nice thing to do', Yoree Grozenok built his business with recycling in mind from the very beginning. Not only is every effort made to recycle obvious items like scrap metal or cardboard, but the goal is set to recycle up to 80% of items picked up. They also recycle through donating items to charities or Kelowna Food Bank. All recycling efforts are tracked and publicly available for greater accountability.

Yoree Grozenok also started an annual eWaste recycling event that takes place each April in an effort to divert electronic waste going to the landfill. This drive give residents a chance to recycle their televisions, computers, and other electronic junk.

1-800-GOT-JUNK? was nominated for Green Business award through SIFE Okanagan.

Contact: [email protected]

Website: www.1800gotjunk.com

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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