They're small, but not insignificant. Recycling one aluminum can saves enough energy to run a television or operate a computer for three hours.
Reuse the sleeves that your newspaper comes wrapped in. Wrap paintbrushes in them if you're midway through a project but have to stop for the day. The plastic sleeve will keep the brush soft for up to a day and saves water normally used for rinsing brushes. You can also use them to slide shoes into when packing.
Printer cartridges / recycle
Office Depot, OfficeMax and Staples take back ink and toner cartridges -- and hand you a $3 store coupon for your effort.
Printer cartridges / refill
Walgreens and OfficeMax offer in-store refilling stations in some of their stores. Bring in your empty printer cartridge and a store clerk will refill it on the spot (or in a matter of 10 minutes or so) and at a price that beats buying a new one. Walgreens charges $10 for black cartridge refills, $15 for color. Check the Web site (walgreens.com) for the list of refillable cartridges and for the list of participating stores. OfficeMax charges $12.49 to $26.99; call stores to inquire about participation; visit officemax.com for store locations or call 800-283-7674.
Walgreens stores in Chicago take back household batteries for recycling. So does any Chicago Public Library. All Office Depot stores take back cell phone and household batteries. All Staples and OfficeMax stores in the Chicago area take back rechargeable household batteries. Or visit earth911.org for a battery recycling site near you.
Discrete recycle stations
Don't be quick to say "I don't have room to recycle all that." Or: "I hate the look of recycling bins in my kitchen." Try scattering (pretty) wicker or rattan baskets in bare corners of your apartment or condo or in any home where space is at a premium. They will add warmth to your place and be your catchall for recyclables such as batteries, printer cartridges, magazines you plan to pass along to friends and family.
E-liminate it. Recycle your electronic waste -- computer monitors, desktops, laptops, fax machines, printers, scanners, peripherals, keyboards, telephones, digital cameras, VCR players, DVD players, televisions, etc. -- , which could be chock full of lead, mercury, plastics, etc.
* Visit illinoisrecycles.org and click on "E-cycling" for a list of collection sites (some take items without charge; others charge a small fee).
* Visit earth911.org for more of the same
* Office Depot offers a Tech Recycling program. The store will recycle as much e-waste as shoppers can fit into one of Office Depot's small ($5), medium ($10) or large ($15) Tech Recycling boxes. The only charge is for the box. Visit officedepot.com/techrecycling for the list of acceptable items.
* Staples stores in Chicagoland also invite consumers to bring in a wide variety of e-waste (but not TVs) for recycling. There is a $10 fee per piece of large equipment; no charge for small computer peripherals such as mice and keyboards. Some of the items will be refurbished by Staples' partner, Collective Good, and sold with a portion of the proceeds going to charity. For more information, visit staples.com/ecoeasy.
* And finally, OfficeMax has extended its pilot program for electronics recycling. Through February, customers can bring obsolete computer equipment to any Chicagoland OfficeMax store (downtown Express stores excluded). Cost to recycle: $5 to $20 a piece. For their effort, customers get an in-store coupon ($5 to $30) to use on selected items.