Saturday, February 5, 2011

The three ARRR's, matey!

I am not sure where the waste hierarchy originated but many people have heard and follow its simple advice: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. This concept is actually arranged in order of importance. While all three are important, environmental scientists generally agree that the #1 thing you could possibly do to help the world out as a whole is to reduce the amount of...well...everything you need. The next best thing would be to reuse what you already have. Lastly, you should recycle whatever is left over so that it can be used in other ways.

Well, it seems as though people as a whole--including myself--have been practicing the waste hierarchy backwards. I obsessively recycle just about everything I can, but it is only recently that I have learned the importance of the first two R's. I think most of us have done the basics of reducing the amount of water and energy we use: low flow toilets, energy saver bulbs, or simply turning stuff off. But there is a lot less obvious stuff out there that we can all reuse and if you think about it, reusing one thing reduces your use of other things! Here's two very easy things you can reduce and reuse:

Water Bottles
These come in a variety of forms: the traditional plastic; the trendy aluminum/stainless steel; or the progressive glass. I personally use glass water bottles because of the possible dangers and overall bad taste that comes with using plastic or metal water bottles. Glass will not leach materials from previous beverages, unlike plastic and metal ones. (Despite certain claims that they wont. If you can taste a foreign flavor in your water, it's probably due to leeching!)

Stay hydrated and look like a badass pirate while doing it! Did I mention this bottle was originally a $6 lemonade? Talk about reusing!

Still not sure about it? Consider this:

  • About 80% of plastic bottles will end up in a landfill despite the fact that about 80% of U.S. citizens have access to recycling centers.
  • Recycled plastic is usually made into carpet, clothing, new bottles, and other much-needed products.
  • Producing new products from recycled plastic uses two-thirds less energy than starting from scratch.
  • In 2008, nearly 2.5 million tons of plastic bottles and jars were thrown away.
  • Plastic photodegrades which means that it simply turns into smaller and smaller fragments. These fragments pollute soil and water and are ingested by humans and animals.
  • Tap water is tested for harmful microbiological content multiple times per day, whereas bottled water companies are only required to test their water once per week.

Shopping Bags
Unless you've been living under a rock the last 5-years or so, you might have noticed plenty of trendy old ladies bringing canvas shopping bags into grocery stores with them. Reusable shopping bags have spread like wildfire and stores now even carry them for sale which serve for both branding and shopping. But canvas bags aren't the only bags which are reusable. Plastic bags have been reusable this entire time! I've been using them in my car and for small trash bins for as long as I can remember. I've also seen dog walkers use them to pick up "land-mines" on the side of the road.

Not convinced? Maybe this will change your mind:

  • Like plastic bottles, plastic bags do not biodegrade and can be harmful to people and animals if ingested (or put over the head!).
  • Is made from fossil fuels and only tightens our grip on oil.
  • I will reiterate: Producing new products from recycled plastic uses two-thirds less energy than starting from scratch.
  • If you don't want to reuse them, plastic bags are 100% recyclable and most grocery stores these days have recycle bins for bags by the front entrance.
  • Thrift stores will more than likely also take grocery bags from you so they can use them instead. 
  • Canvas bags are pretty. See?

It's a suitcase! It's a purse! It's...a grocery bag? Yep, from Trader Joe's.

Now that you've got a head start, take a look around your house and office and think about what else you can reuse. Remember that reusing stuff isn't always just for practicality. What creative things can you think of that can be done with old clothes, dishes, glass, etc? Tell us in the comments what you came up with and stay tuned for more ways to reduce, reuse, recycle!

There's at least 52 other ways you can be more eco friendly. You can also learn the history of electric vehicles, or maybe make the switch yourself!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing, I have written a blog about going green. A bit different from your, but the same basic idea. Stop, read, enjoy and follow me.

    Also share your page with us and add us to your wall. We appreciate your support.


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