Growing up I learned about the 3R's and the focus always seemed to be on 'Recycle'. Even in our home the focus was on producing less trash through waste separation. As we examined our waste and how much was in each stream we started to focus on reducing the amounts we were generating. You can not accomplish this through recycling, you have to look at reducing and reusing.
There is a reason why it is Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and not Recycle, Reuse, Reduce. They are in order of importance so why do we all spend so much time on the one that falls last? Probably because it is much easier to recycle then it is to find alternative uses for something or have to find a whole other product in the first place.
Step 1 - What are you buying
Look at what you are buying and ask yourself the following questions:
* Do I really need this?
* Do I already have something similar?
* Can I buy this used?
* If I need it, can I reuse it in some way once I am done with it?
* If I need it and I can't reuse it, can I recycle it after I am done with it?
If you can not answer Yes to one of the last 2 questions then do not buy it unless you can not do without it. And not like 'OMG I sooo want that awesome [insert awesome thing you really want here]. I can't live without it!!!'
Step 2 - Finding Alternatives
It can be hard putting down a product you use and walking away because of the waste it would produce in the end. Sometimes you think you are making the smart choice but you get that product home and realize that this is not the case. A few weeks ago I made the switch to organic pancake mix in an attempt to get our house to GMO free. When I opened the box it contained 2 plastic bags of the mix. FML seriously???
Joe wants a Keurig but we are not getting one because of the waste K-cups produce. One the flip side we purchased a SodaStream to reduce the amount of pop cans/bottles we were recycling. I ditched my body wash that came in a plastic bottle and switched to Dr. Bronners bars of soap (wrapped in recyclable paper).
Step 3 - Creative Reuse
Look at the product you are using and find alternatives for when you are done with them. This can be hard to do so you have to think outside of the box....or in 2012 you just have to turn to Pinterest!
I have this weird obsession with reusing lately. I get excited about an empty jar of lemonade or box of wine because I can see the possibilities within them. I have been buying organic lemonade all summer. It comes in glass jars that have a little bit of style to them. I had an aha moment a few months ago when I was looking for storage ideas for our pantry and was dying at the cost of glass jars. It is actually cheaper to buy this lemonade and use the jars for storage than it is to buy other storage containers.
Step 4 - Recycling
Not all municipalities recycle everything that can be recycled. It is annoying really but there are ways around this. If you generate something that can not be recycled in your area look for a friend who is allowed to recycle it and the next time you are there take it with you. Maybe you can even exchange recyclables if their area doesn't recycle something that your area does.
I had already made the decision to no longer buy baked goods from our local market if they were on a styrofoam tray. I was choosing to take one of the team to reduce our waste. That is until I went into the market one day and saw that they were switching to compostable trays. So not a full reduction but we are able to add them to our green bin if we decide to buy something as a treat (not a regular purchase).
Which of the 3 R's do you focus on? How do you tackle 'Reduce'? What are your best 'Reuses'?
Related Posts - Check them Out
Composting is Rocket Surgery
Kicking the Plastic Habit - A Journey to Becoming Plastic Free
When Holidays keep on Giving