Reuse It!

The 3 ‘R’s are synonymous with being “green”.  More and more people are recycling, but reducing and reusing are just as important, if not more so, than recycling.  It’s great to recycle, but it’s not as great if we’re recycling things we didn’t need in the first place.

The recycling economy has consistently been growing over the past several decades but reducing and reusing has never been a point of emphasis. Why?  Because if we reduce and reuse more then we buy less.  Planned obsolescence is evident in many of the products we buy, especially technology.  Doesn’t it always seem that when you finally buy that new piece of tech, the new version comes out the next day?

On top of things being made “not-to-last”, it’s next to impossible to know where all of our things are made or where those manufacturers get all of their raw materials.  Even the international companies that dominate the global economy have a hard time knowing where all of their manufacturers are getting their products.  Steve Jobs even admitted it when discussing where certain minerals are obtained for their products:

“We require all of our suppliers to certify in writing that they use conflict few materials. But honestly there is no way for them to be sure. Until someone
invents a way to chemically trace minerals from the source mine, it’s a very difficult problem.”

It’s hard to not want the shiny new thing but buying new products only when you need them reduces your negative impacts on the environment, public health, and your wallet.

A recent editorial from the July 8, 2013 issue of Waste & Recycling News laid out “The real waste problem” in today’s world.  Here’s how they put it:

“Although it’s not a conscious act, our culture views its trash containers as magic vessels that make garbage and responsibility disappear. Once something is
dropped inside – a flag, recyclables, perhaps a perfectly good coffee maker that lacks the features of a newer model – it becomes somebody else’s problem.”

It goes on further to explain what we need to do about it: “If our nation is really going to cut its waste, boost its recycling and cherish the environment, our culture must realize that the privilege of owning stuff comes with an obligation to properly dispose of it. Culpability does not end at the rim of the trash can.”

Everything that goes into the trash can has an impact on the Earth.  It’s time to change our way of thinking when it comes to trash, every time before you drop something into the trash can, you should stop and think whether or not it can be used for something else.  Every bit of “trash” we keep out of our landfills is one small step towards saving the Earth for the generations to come.

Earlier this week we told you about the Reuse Barn Project conducted in Charles County, Maryland where you can donate items, such as books and furniture, to the Project instead of putting them in the landfill.  You can do the same thing even if you don’t live in Charles County.

  • Consider local consignment shops for your used goods
  • Homeless or women’s shelters
  • Clothing drives
  • Host a community yard sale
  • Give your old clothes to a friend, neighbor or family member, especially children’s clothes and shoes 

Buy used goods and products made from recycled materials.  You should always opt for reusable products over disposable ones; such as a refillable water bottles and coffee cups, use silverware from home for your lunch instead of using plastic cutlery.  The same goes for reusable shopping bags instead of paper or plastic ones.  If something breaks your first reaction should be “Can it be fixed?” not “It has to be thrown away”.

Are the kids driving you crazy this summer and on those lazy, rainy days?  Recycled art projects can be loads of fun.  Take a look in your recycle bin and find boxes, toilet paper and paper towel rolls, clean metal cans, bottle caps, anything goes.  Give them some scissors and some glue and set them loose.  You’ll be amazed at the things they can come up with.  A quick Google or Pinterest search can give you all sorts of ideas.

There aren’t a whole lot of things out there that cannot be reused in one form or another; just use your imagination.  For those things that do need to be thrown away please be conscious of how you dispose of them.  If they are hazardous be sure to find out when a local hazardous waste collection event will be taking place.  Compost your food scraps and yard waste.  Recycle your paper, aluminum, cardboard, plastic and glass bottles, etc. in your curbside bin or at your local recycling center.  And always REUSE what you can.  You will be shocked at how little trash you end up actually throwing away.  Challenge yourself for at least a 50/50 recycle/reuse to waste rate.

Not recycling at work? Contact us to learn more about how Reduction In Motion is helping organizations achieve their sustainability goals.  We specialize in waste reduction and waste flow strategies for companies of all sizes.  Focused on education and driven by on-site facilitation, our processes have helped our clients achieve award-winning programs.  Don’t forget to connect with us on FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn.