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Published: September 5, 2023

Recycling bottles (640 × 480 px)

Here’s the good news: General awareness about humanity’s impact on the earth and the growing concern around climate change has increased rapidly over the last decade – now making it a hot topic across the globe. Recycling efforts continue to grow and evolve. 

The Fair News:

In terms of actual waste that is being recycled or composted today, the US is achieving mixed results. Some items like batteries, cardboard, food containers, and the like – the US is achieving substantial results, with over 50% of the waste streams being recycled.

The Bad News:

The US is faring incredibly poorly in other categories. Clothing, furniture, food waste, and small appliances have very low recycle rates. With these objects, many residents and businesses are either incapable of recycling them, or simply don’t know how.

These findings, from Recycle Track Systems “The State of Recycling Today: 2023 Recycling Trends and Beyond,” hits home the idea that being a green consumer is more complex than just participating in curbside recycling.

The Three R’s of Recycling

The three R’s are not new, but what more can you do to reduce, reuse and recycle?

“Take shampoo and conditioner, for example. There are plenty of companies that have recently introduced shampoo and conditioner bars that get the job done, and make your hair smell pretty amazing. The best part? Once that shampoo is gone, it’s really gone. No plastic bottles taking up space in your tub,” according to Recycle Track Systems. 

Other ideas to reduce, reuse and recycle include:

  • reusable bags for grocery shopping, including mesh or fabric bags for produce;
  • keep a handy spork (spoon and fork) and reusable coffee mug and water bottle in the car for carryout and refills;
  • sign up for paperless bills, bank statements, tickets and like;
  • use the library and electronic devices for reading when possible;
  • be on the lookout for creative ways that retailers recycle - or encourage them to do so. For instance, you can donate gently used bras at Soma, which support women in crisis, and unneeded but clean socks to Smartwool, which turns them into new products;
  • tap friends, neighbors, consignment shops, garage sales, flea markets, and secondhand sites - especially for things like Halloween costumes or that power washer you’ll use just once or twice;
  • when it comes to clothes shop for quality not quantity. (Imagine you’re traveling with one small suitcase, make each piece count.)
  • support such nonprofits as Habitat for Humanity ReStore, Little Free Library and Goodwill by donating items no longer needed.

Kendal Recycling & Other Sustainability Initiatives

In 1993, Kendal at Oberlin was founded on many Quaker values, including a foundation of practices that improve the environment. Over the years Kendal has established an accredited arboretum on the 100+ acre campus, installed geothermal heating and cooling in some renovated cottages and implemented a robust recycling program, to name just a few. 

Like many households, Kendal has had to adapt its recycling policy because of changes at Oberlin’s recycling program, which no longer accepts glass bottles and jars and certain plastics. Some residents continue to recycle those items and take them to the Lorain County Collection Center.

Kendal dining services uses compostable containers for select food items, recyclable clamshells for carry-out dinners, and residents leave coffee grinds and compostable food waste in a bin, which is collected by a commercial composting service. 

Facility services collects and recycles old computers and other electronic devices, and residents have found recycling outlets for used batteries and plastic bags. 

In Kendal’s current Strategic Plan (2022-2026) one of its seven goals is to “Greatly strengthen and extend Kendal at Oberlin’s conservation and sustainability initiatives, including cost-saving measures and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, consistent with the City of Oberlin’s Climate Action Plan and recommendations from its Climate Adaptation Task Force.” 

Some of these actions, such as a new solar installation and energy-efficient lighting, are well underway. In 2021 Kendal mounted 60 solar panels on a new garage and carport, each with 2 EV charging stations. These panels will generate enough electricity to light both buildings, power the charging stations and illuminate 75 energy-efficient LED light poles and posts, which will replace aging sodium lights over the next three years.

Not only will the new lights reduce electric consumption, but they will greatly reduce light pollution, which is a serious environmental problem, significantly improve star-gazing and habitat for animals and plants that thrive at night and create a safer campus.

Kendal has formed an ad hoc committee to pursue certifying Kendal as a “dark sky community,” which means reducing exterior light pollution with energy-efficient lighting. Ohio has only one site certified by the International Dark-Sky Association (Geauga Observatory Park) and there is no continuing care retirement community on the international list that is so certified.

“I’d love to make Kendal the first,” says resident Terry McGowan, who worked for nearly 40 years at GE and now runs a consulting business.


 Learn More About Kendal at Oberlin – A Vibrant Community for Older Adults
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Are you making plans for your future? Kendal at Oberlin offers an active lifestyle with opportunities for lifelong learning, art and culture.

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Author Molly Kavanaugh 2020In the past, Molly Kavanaugh frequently wrote about Kendal at Oberlin for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, where she was a reporter for 16 years. Now we are happy to have her writing for the Kendal at Oberlin Community.

About Kendal at Oberlin: Kendal is a nonprofit life plan community serving older adults in northeast Ohio. Located about one mile from Oberlin College and Conservatory, and about a 40 minute drive from downtown Cleveland, Kendal offers a vibrant resident-led lifestyle with access to music, art and lifelong learning.