Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Is it nearly Christmas?

As we approach the season of goodwill it’s tempting to just forego any kind of cut backs and spend spend spend at all costs.  However this could quite possibly be the best time of year to take stock of things and to start think a little more green.  

I’ve been thinking about how much in paper, plastic and other materials we, here at home, go through and use up at  Christmas and I wondered if there was any way to do things a bit differently this season.

The famous three green R’s….

I’ve heard them said so many times in the course of supporting and implementing green ideas but realised the other day – what do they actually mean?  You just roll them off your tongue and you get on with it (with a little help from the Council recycling team), but in reality I’m not sure I am so I thought it would be good to revisit what the three words actually mean and why the order of the words are so important.

The three R’s were originally coined as a waste hierarchy which was taken on board as an effective framework for tackling the ever burgeoning waste problem in developed countries by the European Union back in 2008.  However I am more than sure I’ve heard the term since the mid 90′s to be honest.

The hierarchy classifies the management of waste according to the options the waste has to be disposed of which is all rather confusing when it’s waste to begin with.  It’s also defines the waste according to it’s material, chemical inputs/outputs and it’s environmental impact once disposed of (think Fridge freezers).

Reduce, re-use and recycle form the central part of the hierarchy after prevention and before disposal.

But what do the words mean?

Reduce

Ultimately this means to prevent the consumerism, the buying, the using, the act of spending in it’s entirety.  Not many like this idea but more and more people are at least getting interested in it.

Instead of buying a new TV every year just because a new, supposedly better (and probably bigger) version comes out reduce the spend to when the TV you have now breaks and can’t be fixed.  It means instead of buying more creams, moisturisers and shampoos to use the ones you have up first and only replace when finished, not just keep adding to the bathroom cupboard.

Reduction can be sought in every single room of the house, the garden, in the car (including the car).  Even just reducing the amount of bottled water bought at the supermarket can make a huge impact.

Only this R can make the biggest difference with reducing and eliminating waste.  Not only that, it can also make our lives more fulfilling.  Yes really.  Because we start to think and act differently.  When you realise that just because something is affordable doesn’t mean it has to be bought, it really makes you think!

It’s just about slowly stopping the flow of products and services (think water and electricity) coming into your home, your life, which ultimately means you save money and spend time enjoying the things you have bought rather than always looking at buying the next thing.

Re-use

You know the saying, one man’s rubbish is another man’s treasure?  Well it doesn’t always have to be someone else using your stuff once you chuck it out, it could be that the old clothes, the shoes, floor tiles, shelves, spades, could be used as something else.

Just because something stops working in it’s bought capacity doesn’t mean it can’t be used as something else in it’s second life.  In other words, if it can’t be repaired turn it into something new.  A sink could be turned into a potting tub, clothes could be turned into cushion covers, even re-using the packaging that comes from gifts and store goods into extra insulation for your grow house.  There are literally 100′s of everyday items that can be turned into new, sometimes better, things.

Rather than chuck it away, take each item as it reaches the bin, or the recycling tub and ask yourself – could I use this again?

Recycle

This is a other way to re-use things, but it’s not usually you doing the re-using.  Plastic, paper, card and various other materials can now be collected on your doorstep (every week if your lucky) in the good knowledge (because I’ve checked) that they will be taken away and either turned into electricity or to create new materials.

Recycling is the bottom of the hierarchy because although it’s great in itself (we’ve come such a long way in actually accepting things should be recycled rather than sent to landfill), it still uses up a lot of energy.  Materials have to be separated and they are all going towards either producing or helping to produce more goods which starts the whole business of buying, consuming and waste all over again.

It’s not always easy but it’s definitely the right way to go.  A fellow blogger – Westy Writes has been reducing their household plastic waste for the best part of six months – this is how it’s done at ground level on a daily level, which is I think is very inspiring!

How are you going to add the three R’s to your Christmas this year?

____________________________________

Cover photo courtesy of TaraChill

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7 responses to “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

  1. Sophie, this is such a good piece. The truth is we all need to consume less, this I think has to be the starting point. We have had a major reassessment this Christmas and I hope it will continue.

  2. I’m having a present truce with most people this year, so there’s a reduction. I’m thinking of making chutney though as kind-of-gifts ( because not giving anything at all feels a bit miseable), so I’ve been saving jars.

    • I was reading a good article the other day about presents, instead of giving gifts – give experiences. So for example instead of buying cut flower that end up in the bin, buy a packet of seeds for the person to sow, or something similar. Or to make a card that says it entitles the bearer 3hrs of your time to help out in their garden. I’d never thought like this before but it opened my eyes to the huge potential of what there really is to give, and not just over packaged, over priced, plastic crap!
      Chutney by the way is an excellent gift, I love chutney and in actual fact I never make it myself (nor do many ppl), because it’s time consuming so your gift is even nicer ;-)

    • That sounds good and finding the “right” good causes is time well given in itself.
      Hey, what about challenges to complete for charities in each others names…! Eh?! ;-)

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