We have probably all seen this symbol and read the phrase "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle" and I think we can all take that on board, if we care about the impact we are having on the planet. But what does this really mean to you? For many people this means separating the recyclable materials from their household waste and putting them out on the kerb in a special bin.To me there is more to this message than just that and there is far more that we can all do before we get to the recycle bin.
To me, the symbol is a little misleading as it portrays a cycle or looped system without any hierarchy. Personally, I think the phrase should be viewed as just that, a hierarchy that can be applied to our every-day lives and thinking. So let's go through this hierarchy and see how it works.
Reduce your consumption, wherever you can.
- Think twice about jumping in the car to drive a couple of blocks, walking is good for you.
- Reduce the amount of extra waste you purchase in the form of excess packaging.
- Reduce your energy consumption at home by turning off appliances and lights when they are not in use.
- Think about ways to reduce your water consumption, from fixing leaking taps to turning off the lawn sprinklers.
- Do you buy a lot of books? Why not join a library and borrow the books from them? (Most libraries will be able to source a wide range of material, even if they don't have it on the shelf and most will listen to member requests when it comes to purchasing new titles.)
This is an area where some creative thinking can really come up with some amazing ideas an re-uses for old products. If we are growing a part of our food at home (and I urge everyone to try to do this) then the oppurtunities to reuse things is greatly expanded.
- Reuse bottles and jars for hom-made sauces, preserves, relishes etc.
- Reuse tin cans as plant pots for seedlings or kichen herbs.
- Reuse plastic drink bottles as an excellent seedling pot with a self-watering system.
Plastic drink bottles can be reused as seedling pots. Cut the bottle in half and drill a hole in the cap. Insert a length of wicking material through the hole. Invert the neck and fill with compost or potting mix. Part fill the base with water and place the neck inside the base for a stable, self-watering seedling pot.
- Build a compost heap or a worm farm and recycle your vegetable and garden waste and even some paper.
- You can build a simple compost heap from four old pine pallets. They can usually be found nad sourced for free. (The size of a standard pallet is perfect for a compost heap as it gives you the volume to get those microbes working well.) If you have the room, get a few more pallets and make a second compost heap next to first. Then you can turn your compost from one heap into the other.
A simple compost heap from reused pallets.
- Reuse waste water in your garden to water trees. This can range from just using grey water (washing machine,sink and bath water) to complex systems that clean up and reuse all waste water from your household.
A lot of money has been spent to develop recycling and collection systems, so in the end, keep sorting your rubbish and recycling what you can that way. It's still the lowest priority to me because it is very energy intensive. But we still need those systems in place, just to help deal with the amount of waste we generate. Many new products are being manufactured from recycled materials and that's good. So if you can, seek out those products and further support the recycling industries.
Well that's the way I interpret this catch-phrase and implement it in my own life. It doesn't take much extra effort really and can even enrich your lifestyle. I hope you will give it a try.