The Three Rs of Greening your Waste

The Three Rs of Greening your wasteWe’re going to tackle the three Rs of greening our waste. The concept of Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle is one we hear often, yet do not properly understand how to implement in our daily habits. To start off we’ll explain a little bit about what each of the three Rs mean.

Reduce is rather straightforward. It simply involves cutting down the amount of materials that we purchase, consume, and throw out as garbage, or waste. This can be done by simply buying less or by trimming down the packaging that our commodities come in. Learning to buy less will likely involve changes in our lifestyles.

Packaging, unfortunately, typically generates the most amount of waste. Paper (including cardboard) and plastic (including Styrofoam) often make up the bulk of the volume of our purchases. Keeping in mind the concept of “reduce”, the idea here is to be mindful of the packaging waste that will be generated by your purchases, and perhaps even go a step further and check to see if the wrapping is made from recycled materials.

But if you absolutely must buy something that is heavily wrapped, don’t rush to throw out the packaging. Find a new use for it! Reusing involves giving a second life to the commodities we purchase and/or their packaging. There are many ways to give your “junk” a second life.

1. Sell it if it’s still in workable or usable condition. There are many people out there who scour used product sites in search of bargains.

2. Give it away. If you are generous (or were either unsuccessful at, or can’t be bothered with selling) consider giving your stuff to someone who would make better use of it than letting it leach into the soil of a nearby landfill.

3. Use it again. Perhaps you want to upgrade to something new, like a new monitor, or couch, or even some new clothes. Consider keeping your stuff a little bit longer. Move the couch to your basement, repaint your dining set instead of buying a new one, hack your old monitor (that is, get the parts from the electronics store) to add a second monitor to your computer set up (unless it is a CRT – these drink your electricity, remember).

4. Rework it. Make it into something else. Make use of your old clothes to make pillow shams and cases, or if they are totally worn out, make them into rags for the kitchen. You’d be surprised to see what old books (those you know no one else will want because the stuff you read is weired) can be used for. With a little bit of imagination you will never have an excuse to say you are board.

Not everything, unfortunately, has a useful reusable life. Remember that when shopping, we should try to keep the entire life cycle of our purchases in mind, including their packaging. But sometimes, things just can’t be reused in any meaningful way. Instead of sending them to become part of a poor bird’s diet, consider giving them a rebirth, in the form of recycling.

Recycling, sometimes mistakenly used synonymously with reusing, involves incorporating these materials into the creation of new materials and goods.

This is the last R in this list. Recycling is one of the most common green notions recognized by the general public. This is because it is one of the easiest to practice, or so it is thought. Generally speaking, people feel that if they recycle they are doing good no matter how much they output. Ideally we should reduce our waste to the point where we have nothing to throw out and nothing to recycle. Realistically speaking though, we should try to focus on reducing our waste as opposed to focusing on recycling. So, the first R in this series (i.e., Reducing) is really more significant, all R’s being important.

Recycling as we’ve alluded already, is the use of post consumed materials in the production of new materials. The most common materials that we see are the ones that are collected in our homes such as tin, aluminum, glass, plastic and paper. What is true about all of these materials is that there is only a subset of each that is recyclable. This is due to the way production incorporates post-consumed materials. All this to say that we need to be mindful of the type of material that we are collecting in our recycle bins.

Once you have committed to reshaping your waste material you will be introduced to another two R’s of greening practices. These are the Rest and Relaxation concept of eco-friendliness. You will Rest assured that your efforts will have a positive impact on your life and you will be able to Relax knowing that the positive changes you have made will ensure a healthy and beautiful world for our children.

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