Recycling is a very essential part of our lives today, giving waste materials a new life. However, when we use it as an excuse to consume and discard more than we need, the question arises – Is recycling really the best option?
According to Greg Peterson of Urban Farm in Phoenix, recycling is the lazy way to be green. He believes that people allow themselves to buy or use more than they need, because they think, ‘I’ll just recycle it.’ Is there another way to do it, then? Peterson says there is – We should first look to reducing and reusing, THEN recycling.
Reduce – Cutting down on consumption is the simplest and most effective way to be ‘greener’, since it helps to eliminate waste at the most basic level. In addition to reducing manufacturing and recycling loads, it also helps you save money, since buying less stuff means spending fewer dollars!
Reuse – People often mix up reuse and recycling, even if they’re actively engaged in reusing materials and items. The term ‘reuse’ is broadly defined as any activity that extends the life of an item, while recycling refers to the reprocessing of goods or materials into new raw materials for a different purpose.
The US Environmental Protection Agency actually lists these terms in their order of importance – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!
How ‘Reduce and Reuse’ is better than ‘Recycle’
According to the EPA, “making a new product requires a lot of materials and energy: raw materials must be extracted from the earth, and the product must be fabricated and then transported to wherever it will be sold. As a result, reduction and reuse are the most effective ways you can save natural resources, protect the environment, and save money.”
Cut down on junk waiting to be recycled
The Benefits of Reduce and Reusing of Waste:
- Reduced hazardous waste, energy consumption and pollution (from the recycling or manufacturing process)
- Greater source reduction and preservation of ‘embodied energy’ from the manufacturing process
- Goods and materials kept out of the ‘waste stream’, making them available to those who would be unable to acquire them otherwise
- Financial savings (money that would be used for manufacture, distribution and purchase of new items, as well as recycled ones)
- Creation of business and employment opportunities for entrepreneurs, companies and individuals
- High-quality, sustainable and affordable supply of refashioned or upcycled goods in different sectors
How Can You Get On The Reduce And Reuse Track?
Here Are A Few Ideas That You Can Incorporate Into Your Lifestyle Right Away:
- Reduce your consumption of paper and ink by printing only what you need. These days, practically any data can be shared electronically over your phone or computer (bank statements, bills, receipts, letters, party or wedding invites, etc.).
- Turn off lights, fans and electronic appliances when they are not in use. We tend to leave phone charges, toasters, microwaves and other items plugged in even when we aren’t using them, but they keep draining energy that is wasted.
- Invest in a durable shopping bag or two (leave one in the car and one at home). When you head to the supermarket, you won’t have to lug groceries home in paper bags that eventually get trashed, even if they survive the journey!
- Instead of buying a dozen articles of clothing, pick a few high-quality pieces that you can mix-and-match instead. Be honest – how many of the clothes in your closet have been worn more than once or twice a year?
- Grow your own food, even if you don’t have a garden. A windowsill is the ideal spot for a few planters with herbs or veggies, and you can even grow some plants like tomatoes and peppers upside down in cans or buckets!
- Collect water from your kitchen sink or use a rain water barrel to water your plants. Add scraps of leftover fruit or vegetables to the soil, creating your own organic compost, instead of buying it at the store.
- Avoid using your air conditioner if a ceiling fan will do the job. In the winter, use heavy rugs and drapes to trap heat inside your home, rather than a space heater or radiator using excess energy to warm your home.
This Upcycled Tin Car Makes A Gorgeous Conversation Piece!
- Buy or sell items that are pre-owned, refashioned or upcycled. If there are things you only use once in a blue moon, like power tools or party lighting, borrow or rent them instead of buying and storing more than you need!
- Use glass or stainless steel bottles to store drinking water and containers to store food, instead of buying more plastic that will need to be recycled at some time. Carry along containers when you’re getting takeout meals.
- Solar panels can be expensive to install, but will bring your power bills down tremendously over as little as a year. If you want to start small, get a solar cooker or water heater for your daily needs. They’re easy to use and quite affordable too.
- If you have enough space, a vegetable garden is the best way to experience the joy of eating fresh produce and save money too. Why stop there? Plant a fruit tree and get some chickens – you’ll have fruit and eggs for years to come!