In the book Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson, the 5 basic principles of precycling are listed. These have basically been accepted everywhere:


         o Refuse       o Reduce         o Reuse            o Recycle           o Rot


   * Use reusable bags.(Heavy-duty canvas ones last a long time and are

not expensive.) You can make your own: use an old pair of blue jeans,

an old bathrobe, a worn but still salvageable outer layer of a coat.

No doubt you could come up with your own ideas of what to use that would

keep some fabric out of the waste stream. Plan ahead for the 2024 plastic bag

ban that goes into effect in stores in Cheltenham.

Think BYOB: Bring your own bags.       


* Buy large quantities at the storeand put these items into smaller reusable containers at home.

  * When buying something that comes with a choice of polystyrene (a.k.a. Styrofoam) or cardboard, choose cardboard:it can be recycled. One example is cardboard egg cartons, which are often made from recycled newsprint.


* The Environmental Defense Fund shares this rule of thumb:“If the unprinted side” of a paper box, such as a cereal box “is gray and not white, it’s made from recycled materials.” Good choice.


* If you purchase mesh bags -and they come in different sizes and may have drawstrings – you can buy fruits and vegetables loose. This way you can bypass polystyrene trays and plastic wrap.

Take your own multipurpose mug with lid  so you can

carry hot or cold beverages. That way you avoid disposable cups

and their plastic lids.

* Some stores let you bring your own containers so you can buy in bulk:
They will weigh your container in advance and write the tare on it. When they weigh and price your item you only pay for the item.

* Listen to Bea’s TED Talks for inspiration and ideas:

               o Two Adults, Two Kid, Zero Waste
  o  Zero Waste is Not Recycling More but Less

* Farmers’ Markets often take back cardboard berry baskets and egg cartons.

* Drink tap water. You can add a squeeze of lemon or other flavor if you wish.

* In a bucket, capture water that you use as you warm it up for your shower,    then use this to flush the toilet or water the garden.

* Install a rain barrel so you can fill your watering can for garden plants.

* Compost food waste and use the compost to improve the soil in your garden. You don’t even have to dig in the compost; the worms will do the work of moving the compost down into the soil for you!

* Donate clothing that is in good conditionbut may not fit or be out of style.

You can make your own compost bin.

Click here to see what   

and what not to compost.  

There is so much we can do if we add these to our routine gradually. These actions will become second natureand will truly move Cheltenham Township towards its goal of sustainability.
*Note: See previous article “
Plastic-Free Back to School Guide"






by Judith Gratz, Environmental Educator

Go to
to get more ideas on how to precycle.

Precyclingis an action taken to avert the purchase of excess items that might have to be trashed or recycled. Your buying choices will make the difference. Here are some actions you can take right now.


cheltenham chamber of citizens