Why Reduce & Reuse?
In the hierarchy of the 3R’s, Reduce and Reuse come first because they are higher and better uses than Recycling alone. Today, Refuse and Rot have also become part of the hierarchy to create the 5R’s!
Practicing the five R’s helps us lessen the environmental impact that manufacturing and distributing products has on our environment. Reducing waste is the most effective 5R practice, because it means not producing unnecessary waste in the first place—so there’s zero impact on the environment.
Read our monthly articles about the 5R’s in the Salinas Californian and El Sol!
The 5 R’s
Reducing waste means not creating it in the first place. Next time you’re about to buy something, ask yourself: “Do I really need this product? How long will it last?” Avoid impulse shopping and buying disposable products. Instead, look for reusable or more durable alternatives.
Next best is Reuse, because it extends the life of a product. That item still had to be made, but it is used over and over, reducing the need to make new stuff. Reusing means that items in good condition don’t get sent to the landfill. Sell or donate these items instead. Somebody else might be looking for just what you’re trying to get rid of! Reducing waste and reusing saves resources, money and space!
Here are some ideas:
- BYOB: Bring a reusable Bag when you go shopping or a reusable Bottle for water or drinks
- Avoid over-packaged products
- Buy in bulk (“economy size”) instead of individually packaged portions
- Bring your own mug to the coffee shop
- Get rid of junk mail
Host a low-waste event; like a family picnic, BBQ or gathering
- Use both sides of the paper and if you must print, print double-sided
- Sell or donate reusable items (link to Reuse Guide)
- Upcycle and give items a new life
- Share tools with your neighbors and co-workers
- Repair furniture, appliances, computers and electronics
Request a free Recycling & Waste Reduction Guide by calling us at (831) 775-3000!
Recycling is the reprocessing of materials. Recycling prevents new—or “virgin”—natural resources such as trees, petroleum or metal ore from being extracted. This reduces pollution and damage to the environment. However, recycling still creates some pollution because it is an industrial process. That’s why Reducing and Reuse are the most important in the 5R practices.
Recycling saves energy
Saving energy is one of the most important benefits of recycling. Collecting recyclables and processing them into new materials requires energy, but it’s far less than the amount needed to make those same products from “virgin” materials.
For example, recycling used aluminum cans requires only about 5% of the energy needed to produce aluminum from bauxite, an aluminum ore. That is because bauxite has to be heated and chemically treated to extract the aluminum, while the aluminum in a used can is already refined. Recycling just one can saves enough electricity to run a TV for 3 hours!
Recycling saves natural resources and prevents pollution
Consider this example: As much as two thirds of all paper products in North America are manufactured from virgin fiber. That means cutting down trees—sometimes from old growth forests—not to mention water and air pollution from the paper-making process. On the other hand, recycling just one Sunday newspaper every month for a year saves a full-grown tree and reduces contributions to air pollution by 95%! That’s because office paper, tissue paper and cardboard can easily be made from recycled paper instead of trees.
Recycling helps fight climate change
Climate change is caused by “greenhouse gases” – carbon dioxide, methane and other gases that trap heat in our atmosphere. Most of these gases are generated when fossil fuels are burned for energy. A considerable amount of energy is used in the production of new bottles and cans, which means a lot of greenhouse gases are put into the atmosphere. Recycling used containers into new ones rather than making them from raw materials requires far less energy, which cuts down on greenhouse gas emissions.
Refusing means not taking what you do not need: Do you really need another free “chachki” from the event you just attended? If you are going to use that pen or reusable bag then by all means take it. But if it will end up in the trash eventually, just say no thanks! Refuse to purchase products that can harm you, your family or the environment. And what about all the single-use plastic items we encounter in our daily lives; disposable straws for your to-go drinks or hot sauce or ketchup packets? If you don’t really need it, then say so and refuse it politely and start eliminating the “stuff” you don’t need or use.
Composting – the natural process of recycling organic materials back into soil – fights climate change, too. That is because food scraps and yard waste that are buried in the landfill generate methane, one of the most potent greenhouse gases. In a compost pile, on the other hand, there’s enough water and air for these organic materials to break down naturally and create “gold for your garden”.
What is Zero Waste?
The Zero Waste International Alliance defines zero waste as, “a goal that is ethical, economical, efficient and visionary, to guide people in changing their lifestyles and practices to emulate sustainable natural cycles, where all discarded materials are designed to become resources for others to use.”
Zero Waste means designing and managing products and processes to systematically avoid and eliminate the volume and toxicity of waste and materials, conserve and recover all resources, and not burn or bury them.”
For tips on how to make your home zero waste visit: www.Zerowastehome.com
Learn how to start the zero waste journey in your community by visiting Eco-Cycle Solutions