Reduce, reuse, recycle. I’m sure most everyone has heard this motto. And certainly, it seems like a very common sense approach to conservation and taking care of our world. There are many ways to implement each of these steps. In keeping with the message of this web-site, the important thing to remember in such efforts is to practice them without a sense of scarcity…the information from the resources page Non-energy Resources combined with the New Thought perspective Life Is Beautiful hopefully have given you the sense that you are provided for!
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
The first bit of advice in the reduce, reuse, recycle motto is to reduce—to lessen the amount of what we use. In keeping with the theme of this web-site, I do not advocate that this be done to the extent of making you feel a sense of lack! Happily there are simple things to be done that fall under the category of reducing your consumption:
- Turn off the water while brushing your teeth—this is something you’ve likely heard before…it really just makes sense! There is no feeling of being deprived as you brush, but you save a good bit of water.
- Take shorter showers—when it suits you! I take quick showers by nature, but enjoy a longer one when I want, guilt-free.
- Turn lights off when not in use—I remember my Dad pushing this when I was a kid…and certainly, you don’t miss lights when you’re not even there!
- Fill the dishwasher before running…again don’t sweat it if you need to run it not full—new dishwashers actually have sensors to adjust the amount of water so full loads aren’t so important. Choose the air dry feature whenever possible.
- Use phosphate-free dishwasher and clothes detergents–phosphates end up in our lakes and rivers and cause various problems. Used to be you had to special order such detergents, but now you can find them in grocery stores and places like Wal-mart!
- Use less hand soap with a Suds Pump from Pampered Chef–these work especially well with Dr. Bronner’s soaps…we all enjoy the foamy suds and supporting a company like Dr. Bronners!
- Compost your fruit and vegetable (and other biodegradable) waste—not only does this decrease your amount of trash, it enriches the ground where you do the composting. Even if you don’t garden, that’s a good thing. If you live in an apartment, consider trying to start a community compost/garden area.
- Bring cloth bags to the grocery store and reduce the amount of plastic bags used. I like the cloth bags, but they aren’t as easy for the baggers! I use mine now and then, but appreciate the ease of plastic—these bags will be mentioned in the other two areas also.
- Carpool—this can be a fun way to reduce your gasoline use, if an opportunity presents itself. Depending on your nature, you might also enjoy having a traveling companion.
- Use public transportation when possible. I have to admit, I much prefer driving myself, and alone, but if you have access to good public transportation, it certainly saves resources!
- Use LED light bulbs—they use less energy for the same amount of lighting power.
- Consider buying energy efficient appliances and/or cars…but you really have to look at cost efficiency…it doesn’t always make sense to make a new purchase just for the energy savings…but certainly it’s worth considering when it’s time for a new purchase!
Reuse is the next part of the reduce, reuse, recycle motto. The same word of caution here—reusing things without a sense of scarcity is the thing to remember. We all probably know a “pack rat”—someone who saves every little thing “just in case”…the people I know like this grew up in the depression and have, I think, this underlying feeling of crisis, shortage. You can reuse things from a perspective of plenty, though—which is what I suggest. The key, as is so often the case, is balance…doing things that come naturally—that fit into your day smoothly. Again, here are some ideas of items that can be reused:
- The most common item that I think most everyone already reuses is plastic grocery bags—and why not?! Use to line trashcans, as packing material, as mini-trash bags for “messy” trash or for the car…the possibilities are numerous! (OR check out this link on a way to make an actual trashcan from plastic bags!)
- Cloth grocery bags are a good alternative to the plastic ones and can be used and reused for multiple purposes. Plastic storage bags are also easy to reuse—I wash mine and hang them on a device made specifically for this purpose that I bought at Gaiam.com.
- CD’s and CD cases–I just found out that these can be recycled at your local Best Buy (or at least where I live they can be :)) No more having to toss old computer games that no one would want, or CD’s you mess up when burning copies! Nice!
- Batteries–you can find many places to take the various batteries you might not be able to use any more–Radio Shack, Best Buy, even Wal-mart’s electronics all take various sorts of batteries to recycle (old phone batteries, camera batteries, cell phone batteries, etc…) Check around in your area before tossing anything in the trash!
- Reuse shower or bath water—you have to check in your area about “grey” water use…where I live, we had water restrictions and so such usage was allowed. I love to garden…so I put buckets in each shower and catch the “warming up” water as well as whatever collects during the shower…certainly not as convenient as using my sprinklers, but it did allow me to continue with my flowers and it added a bit of exercise to my day toting the buckets outside. Setting up a rainwater retrieval system is a more effective but also more involved way to “reuse” available water for your garden.
- Give away unwanted items- one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, after all! I never understand why people throw things in the trash instead of giving it away (I’ve seen nice looking chairs etc…on the side of the street for trash pick-up)
- Water bottles—I have a stainless steel thermos bottle I use for water, but I do still buy bottled water now and again when I’m out…I recycle most of them, but save a few for reuse when I want to bring a disposable water bottle. They can also be filled with water and placed in your toilet bowl water tank to lessen the water used each flush.
- Scrap paper—I have little piles of paper near each phone mostly made up of those daily page calendars—my kids like these calendars….so I reuse the pages and then recycle the pages when done. You can even save envelopes from junk mail if you don’t have the calendar pages.
- Hotel soaps and shampoos—if you use these where you stay, but don’t finish them, think about bringing them home and donating them to a homeless shelter (or finishing them off yourself). I have made this suggestion when I stay at hotels, but have yet to see that offered—so for now, I do that myself.
- Hotel towels—many places now offer you the option of not having your sheets and towels washed every day—which certainly isn’t necessary! Make that choice when given the option!
- Packing peanuts—I have a box in my garage that I keep filled with any packing peanuts that I get to reuse when I need them. Anything beyond that, I take to mailing centers like Mailbox Plus—they gladly accept them for reuse!
- Plastic utensils—I don’t always do this one, but at home, at least, I generally wash these for use at a later time—yes, it defeats the purpose a bit, washing them…but it also allows for them to be used several times before being tossed…and there is still the luxury of tossing them when desired.
The last word of the reduce, reuse, recycle motto is recycle. I must admit I have been a bit of a recycling fanatic in days gone by…and I still recycle everything I can, though I don’t agonize as I once did over tossing a recyclable when I am out and there is no recycling receptacle. As with all “green” practices, it seems, recycling must be looked at objectively. On the surface it seems to be the best thing we can do—reduce waste, save resources…right? However, according to Bjorn Lomborg in the Skeptical Environmentalist, current recycling efforts are such that we don’t need to be concerned with increasing our efforts (Lomborg, p. 209). The reason? Well, one point of recycling is to save resources…but new studies regarding paper, at least, seem to indicate that it costs more to recycle paper than to produce new paper. Common sense would indicate that perhaps recycling of non-renewable resources should be a higher priority. This is not to discourage recycling efforts in general, but to remind you to look at all aspects of “green” practices and products to decide their value (a case in point is the hybrid cars—I read an article that discussed the environmental damage caused to extract the nickel, I think it was, for the batteries. Add to this all the fuel used to ship them here, and their “value” went down in my eyes). Anyway, here is a list of recycling ideas to consider:
- Curbside recycling isn’t available everywhere, but take advantage of it if you have it! I live in an area where it is available, and don’t understand why many people don’t participate. Check to see what all is accepted—I can even recycle all my junk mail, which I get too much of!
- Make suggestions wherever you stay when you travel to have recycling available—I go to the same spot each summer, and they added recycling bins due to the demand for them!
- Make the same suggestion to other venues you frequent—many sports and concert arenas are beginning to offer recycling receptacles, again, in response to public demand…and, of course, utilize them!!
- Recycle the plastic grocery bags—as mentioned in the previous sections, be sure to bring back your bags for recycling—almost every grocery store offers this chance. Even using the bags, and lessening the number of bags I get by sometimes using the cloth bags, I end up with a lot to recycle.
- Styrofoam cartons, trays—where I live, Publix grocery stores accept these along with the plastic and paper bags.
This list of suggestions on ways to reduce, reuse, recycle is not exhaustive, and you quite likely have other ways you live the three R’s—good for you! Just remember that these actions are helpful but not essential to the welfare of our world, and don’t get too radical! I think of it as doing what we need to do while seeking to know what we need to know (I think Polly Berends said that in one of her books, but I couldn’t locate the quote). The knowing part is more essential, imo…but meanwhile, the actions are helpful! So just do it! Reduce, reuse, recycle today and smile!