12 Focusing on the 3 R's

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


  1. I reusable my kombucha bottles to store food like beans, rice, popcorn, anything really. If it fits in the hole, it is going in the jar!

  2. Great post. I like to add the verb "Refuse" to the list. Refuse single use disposables!

  3. I agree with you about the wastefulness of the Keurig and it's one of my main complaints about having one even though the convenience is undeniable. I also reuse glass containers, like the mason style jars Italian sauce comes in - they are excellent to store those smaller packages of steel cut oats, muesli, quinoa, etc. and prevents infestations by bugs.

  4. That is a great use for those jars! I have also read of people using them to store leftovers.

  5. I love the term 'Refuse' Beth! I honestly think that may be the hardest one as we live in a 'convenience' based world.

  6. Hi, We purchased a Keurig but also purchased the reusable filter cup rather than buying disposable K-cups. I love it, as we only make as much coffee as we need and it's always hot. There's zero waste, as the coffee grounds go to the compost. We also have a sodastream. The syrup bottles are a fabulous as a reusable as well. I make my own eco cleaning solutions so they're great for that, since they're easy to label and a convenient size.

  7. I have not seen a Keurig that comes with reusable filter cups! I know there are other brands that are like that thought, but didn't know the Keurig did too. Thanks for that tip!

  8. Ditto the Sodastream and Keurig reusable filter. I like that it also allows me to buy and grind my own Fair Trade and organic coffee rather than relying on trying to find responsibly made coffee in a K-cup. Although it would probably be even better if I migrated completely to a french press :-) Refuse is the WORST for me too, here in Dallas absolutely no businesses are familiar or open to using our containers and most say they are prevented from doing that by health laws. That is probably not the case, but it's what they believe...

  9. Jenny I have the exact same problem! I get the "healthy code" excuse all the time. The only time I don't is when it is somewhere that I go all the time and they "know" me.

  10. Get to know your neighbours - and what in their tool sheds! My neighbours own, collectively, rather a glorious set of tools, so I've never had to buy a jigsaw, a crowbar or a woodworking clamp. I've even had a go at a very scary circular chopsaw, something I would be too wimpy to own, but really needed that one time. CelloDad still walks behind his pushmower, but for the 1-2 times a year when the grass gets really long, we borrow our neighbour's power mower - as well as his son, who does a great job of it!

  11. I totally agree with your assessment of the 3 Rs and how the emphasis on recycling in society does not go to the root of the problem.

    I've recently discovered a little butchers shop near me which is the first I've seen so centrally in London and it has big queues outside at the weekend so it must be good - and it'll save on the plastic trays supermarket meat comes in so that's one "reduce" done, many more to go yet.

    As for reusing things, I haven't quite got that one down yet :S

  12. @ Steve - that is a great "reduce"! We have one butcher that puts everything into plastic bags :( But there is also one right by my work that sells organic/drug free/free range meats and they don't use plastic bags so I try to go there when I can.