The three R’s, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle has sadly been overused and overlooked. Folks think about the big green tub that their trash company may or may not pick up on any given Thursday to send their recyclables off somewhere. Hopefully the rumors aren’t true and they really are being recycled. Many people don’t have recycling services available to their homes so don’t even bother. We tried, sorry, we’ll wait for recycling to come to our town.
Alright, now we need to slightly tweak our way of thinking so that we are not dismissing these three R’s. We don’t want to view them as an inconvenience and we don’t have to wait for someone else to offer us a service. It would be wise for us to start considering these R’s. I know that we all have heard over and over again about our finite resources, islands of plastic in the ocean killing animals and fish, oil spills tainting our water and who knows what floating in our drinking springs. We have heard of landfills the size of states and the problem isn’t decreasing. But, when we can’t see the detriment with our own eyes, it is hard to fathom and is often easier to just go about our day and hope all that remedies itself.
Here are some easy ways to bring back the three R’s into our day to day routine, save money, and keep things out of the landfills and oceans.
This is one of the harder ones. “I need this!” I do attempt to stay out of stores all together now. It doesn’t always work. I try to see Walmart and department stores in a new light. Shelf upon shelf upon shelf of cheaply made items shipped from overseas that may or may not be bought that will ALL end up in a land fill. Boxes and packaging and cheap petroleum based items. Tons and tons of it. Scary. Set it under fluorescent lights and you have the makings of a horror movie.
Do you really need it? Probably not.
Things like twist ties and rubber bands can be reused in a myriad of ways. I use the twist ties to fasten plants to trellises and cages. I use the rubber bands to bundle produce, extra silverware, pencils, etc.
Paper bags can be reused to hold vegetables in the fridge or be used to pack a lunch. Or to dry herbs. Likewise, the plastic produce bags can be reused to hold homemade bread or potato chips for a picnic.
Sandwich bags and freezer bags can be washed and used several times.
Glass jars can serve as leftover containers or drink receptacles.
The obvious scratch paper can be used to make lists or write down reminders. They can be shredded and added to compost.
Cardboard can be used to suppress weeds or make a playhouse.
Try to give everything a second life.
Now at some point we have to throw some things out or we get a little cluttered. There are recycling services out there, whether the trash service that will take marked bags or a place you can drop off. Try to recycle what can be recycled!
There are other ways to recycle. When we need wood for a project we immediately go to the hardware store. We have never thought twice. Our friend, Rob, showed us another way. He drives to building sites after hours and hauls off the wood that has been placed in dumpsters. Perfectly good, wrong sized, wood thrown in a dumpster to haul off. He has collected enough wood to build a goat barn and a chicken coop.
He came to our house (we are boarding his goats) and built a feeder out of wood strewn about the yard that has been here longer than we have lived here. Now, mind you the goat kids flipped it over and are using it as a playground, but a recycled wood playground nonetheless!
Thrift stores have a ton of usable fabric instead of buying new. They also have quite nice clothes that can be reused. And dishes, and pretty much anything else one would need to set up house.
Craigslist is a great way to find what one needs without buying new. I did end up buying a new cheese press yesterday because I had exhausted every avenue finding a used one, but in most cases, from furniture to cars, this service helps folks save money and reuse something instead of buying new.
Analyzing the Trash
What is in your trash? For me, most of the trash is paper towel (could I use clean towels that don’t attract cat hair?), plastic coverings (overused sandwich bags or bread bags…maybe I can sew some?), used cat litter (is there a litter that breaks down and can be put in the compost?), torn plastic bags (can I remember my reusable bags maybe??), and empty coffee bags (would they fill a different container?). My business is trickier. Wax and oils are really messy to work with and we almost have to use paper towels and end up throwing away really gross jars and old bottles. I wish I could find a more eco-friendly way to do business. Could folks come over with their own bottle and fill it up? If I could do business out of my house, maybe. There will not be a perfect solution, we cannot go back to our great-grandparents’ time when things weren’t so over processed and packaged.
How about the recycle bin? Beer bottles and wine bottles, organic soda cans, paper, and cardboard are the main things in there. I noticed that if I do not buy packaged cereals, crackers, and other processed foods, I have a lot less waste. Homemade food is not only better for us, but saves us money and creates less waste.
We could go on and on with ideas…compost, don’t buy it in the first place, make things into planters….but one day at a time. We just need to bring the three R’s back into the forefront of our day to day and make better choices so that we can take care of ourselves and our planet.