Saturday, August 23, 2008

Reduce > Reuse > Recycle

Recycling is all the rage these days! Companies proudly label their containers with statements such as "Made of 100% recycled paper," while some people obsessively put away every scrap of plastic and paper into the green bins. However, there are strategies even better than recycling for the environment.

Many people do not think of it, but recycling does require additional energy to process. Fossil fuels are needed to break down the old material, remix, and reshape the final product. The reason why recycling is better than throwing away is because first of all, there is no need to extract more of the material (paper from trees, etc.), and second, landfills don't get further clogged.
Reusing is a strategy that eliminates one step from the process. Of course, you have the initial manufacturing of the product, but you don't have the whole extra processes related to recycling. Items easy to reuse:
  • Small plastic snack baggies

  • Paper bags

  • Glass jars

  • Cans (Be creative! Pencil holders, anyone?

  • Paper (Use the back of that scrap piece as your shopping list)

Reducing and reusing go hand in hand. If you reuse certain items, you obviously will reduce the amount you buy. Reducing is the best strategy environmentally, because since you cut down on the amount you consume, you skip both the recycling process and the intial manufacturing process. So, do you really need two paper towels for that little spill? Can you use two sides of the paper when writing? Little changes like those really can reduce the amount you buy.

You can't reduce everything, but what you can't reduce, you most of the time can reuse, and what you can't reuse, hopefully you can recycle. A combination of these strategies will lead to a more sustainable lifestyle.

This image is from the Penwith District Council.

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