Non-recyclables can be turned into eco-friendly products like these.

Today we’re talking snacks on the Shopping Blog. I do love fashion, and this year we’ll see lots more style goodies at the Shopping Blog (gorgeous garments, gobs of shoes and boots, and great accessories), but for our first Green Monday of the new year, I’ve got a little treat for you!

This weekend, my best friend and I went to Lake Theater to catch a flick. I usually refrain from buying my favorite snack, chocolate covered peanuts, because of the packaging. It’s not recyclable. It’s the same reason I won’t buy Cliff Bars and I wouldn’t buy my kids those juice pouches. But I had a killer craving, and so I broke down. But this story has a happy ending.

Let me back up a little. My earth-friendly education did not start at home: it began post-college in my apartment. My friend and roommate, Lauren Jencius Steger, was like a tenacious trash fairy, determined to teach me the ways of recycling. With aplomb she would pluck items out of the garbage and gently instruct me as to what could and could not be recycled. She was like the Julia Child of recycling, “This,” she would sing-song with brio, “can be recycled! But it must be rinsed first.” I’d take my gooey jars and sticky cans and wash them: it was enlightening.

According to the EPA, the national recycling rate is just 30%. Increasing materials recycling in the US to 60% could save the equivalent of 315 million barrels of oil per year. Recycling takes little time and makes a great difference, both locally and globally.

Here in Oak Park, we use the single-stream collection approach, which means you don’t have to sort your recyclables, but you do have to be aware of what you put into your bins ( So what do you do if like me, you’re really trying to be a conscientious consumer, but you have a weak moment, where chocolate confections call to you and override your rational thinking?

Now you can turn previously non-recyclable materials into eco-friendly products. TerraCycle is a green company founded in 2001 by Tom Szaky, a then 20-year-old Princeton University freshman. As a student, Tom produced organic fertilizer and packaged it in recycled soda bottles. Ten years later, TerraCycle now provides free waste collection for hard to recycle materials in eleven countries, turning waste into affordable green products – including products for your children, home, garden, and even your pets. Their goal is to keep waste products in tact and to make new products using no energy at all. Visit to find out how you can become involved and for a list of recycling sites near you. 

Ideally, I’d rather reach for an apple and not have to worry about the waste product, but when green thoughts turn chocolaty brown, then I feel a little less guilty knowing I can send formerly discarded casings to candy wrapper heaven.

See you around town and in the shops!

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