I try to be earth-conscious and eco-friendly, whether at home, at the office or at the store. I guess it shows — one of my son's first words was "recycle!" Thanks to greater availability to literature, I also can self-educate on the best home and lifestyle choices that will benefit the planet.

One of my favorite resources to this end is RecycleBank. Since joining RecycleBank over a year ago, I've not only been able to expand my own knowledge but implement household choices that are beneficial to the environment (like repurposing items, composting kitchen waste, and upcycling electronics) and save money. Did I mention I also get actual, tangible product rewards for doing so — all for free? It's possible through RecycleBank!

What is RecycleBank?

RecycleBank is a free online site that rewards members for learning about ways to improve their environment and making eco-friendly choices. The site is point-based — points are awarded to users for a variety of activities, such as

  • understanding waste-reduction and recycling through watching short videos
  • discovering and committing to recycling practices through taking surveys and quizzes
  • learning alternate use ideas, crafts, and other items of personal interest through reading online articles

Points can then be redeemed for high-value coupons, magazine subscriptions, gift cards, online discounts, actual merchandise, and more. The more you learn, the more you earn!

What companies participate?

Recycle Bank partners with popular food, apparel, and online product companies/manufacturers to help educate consumers about green techniques and earth-friendly choices. Ziploc, S.C. Johnson, Kashi, Unilever, Domtar, Coors, and Knorr are just some of the companies that sponsor online activities.

How can I accumulate points quickly?

The best way to accumulate points is to complete activities before they disappear online. For instance, a set of videos may only be available for a given month, or a certain quiz may only remain active for a couple of weeks. Users do not have to log in daily but should use the available activity list to see what activities they can do to earn rewards. Setting aside a block of time (like 30 minutes one afternoon) is great for longer activities that can net several hundred points.

Some months and holidays have featured high-point promotions. For example, this April (for earth month), members could earn over 500 points for a series of less than five minute video/quiz combos. Prior to Halloween, members could click with their mouse through a "spooky" house to learn about money-saving, low-energy options and earn several hundred points in the process.

Also, some routine activities (such as recycling at certain centers, making purchases from eco-friendly online retailers, upcycling unused electronics, and even referring friends) are a sure-fire way to keep points accumulating in an account.

What are some typical reward redemptions?

Hundreds of rewards are available for redemption, starting at as little as 10 points (usually for a printable coupon). Here is a sampling of some available rewards:

  • 50 points for a printable $2 off two boxes of Kashi cereal
  • 150 points for a mailed coupon for $10 off a $30 purchase at Bed Bath & Beyond
  • 190 points for a 12-month Marie Claire subscription
  • 340 points for a 12-month O Magazine subscription
  • 1500 points for one Kids Konserve reusable cozy food wrap
  • 1500 points for a $5 Starbucks e-gift card
  • 2500 points for a $10 Walmart e-gift card

Some rewards will be promotionally discounted by up to half of their normal point cost; these can easily be found through a "Weekly Select" option in the "Rewards" tab of the site.  Also, rewards change as new merchandise is released by sponsoring companies, so check back routinely to see what's new.

What's the catch?

There is no catch — really! Yes, some companies sponsor the activities, and some individuals write the articles, but members are under no obligation to follow, buy, use, or recommend the products/services/ideas presented. A Weekly Activity report can be emailed to show your activity level and help you keep track of points, but aside from this, members do not receive company or sponsor spam, texts, or calls. If you want to use the site, log in. If you're not in the mood, let your account sit.

RecycleBank, like many sites, does collect member information and uses it to understand household makeup and consumer trends. They make their full privacy policy readily available.

There's no reason not to give RecycleBank a try. I use it to educate myself and my family, but I've also used it to get free magazine subscriptions and those if-I-only-had-a-coupon-to-complete-this-deal store scenarios I've been dying to get. Try it yourself and see what it can do for you!