Some simple ways to practice your 3 R's at home
Whether you believe in Global Warming or not, there’s no denying the colossal amounts of waste that humans produce every day. Practicing your 3 R’s (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) is an easy way to be a bit more conscientious of what you’re throwing away, potentially saving even more indecomposable plastics from winding up in landfills for the next century or two. Often, we think that if we’re using our green recycling bins at work for plastics and paper, we’re keeping ahead of the curb, but what if we told you that most of these items still end up going to the landfill? Keep reading for some easy ways that you can Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle at home!
Reducing our waste is the first crucial step in being conscious about our part of the environment. Without reducing our waste, we’re telling manufacturers that are continuing to use plastics that we need more product, creating an ever-increasing problem that eventually ends in the landfill long after we’ve stopped thinking about it. Before heading to the store to buy more goods, try these instead!
- Buy once, cry once: The old adage is true when it comes to the environment. When looking to make a purchase, endeavor to do your research and purchase something that will last a long time, rather than something that will need to be replaced much sooner just because it costs a bit less. (Fun fact: the movements in our clocks last on average around 20 years with good maintenance, and the wooden cases are true heirloom quality, meaning with a new movement, your beloved clock can be passed down through generations to come).
- Avoid disposable products when purchasing, especially plastic and Styrofoam. An easy way to accomplish this is through your household cleaners! Purchase glass bottles instead of plastic and buy your cleaning solutions in bulk so you can refill your glass bottles as they empty. Substitute products like glass cleaner for an effective DIY solution of cleaning vinegar and water (feel free to add in some lemon juice or essential oil for a fresh citrus scent).
- Got (junk) mail? Look for the sender’s contact information and reach out (through email or over the phone) to request that they remove your address from their mailings. It’s amazing how much paper waste you can eliminate just by taking a few minutes to do this!
- Whenever possible, shop local! Not only are you contributing back to your local economy and supporting small businesses, but local products will have smaller ecological footprints since they’ve traveled less distances through shipping couriers.
Unfortunately, we can’t recycle or reprocess everything, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to get the most out of what we do have.
- Connect with your local community through Buy Nothing groups on social media or reach out to local art programs in your area. Many schools and artists love reusing household materials in their projects. It’s a super easy way to pass on your empty paper towel rolls and plastic bottles, not to mention that old couch you’ve had taking up space in your garage!
- Collect rainwater for plants. Look at your local hardware or gardening store for help finding the right collection container. (Be sure to check into your local laws before doing this, because some states actually have laws against rainwater collection based on the rationale that it may disrupt the hydrologic cycle, or it may even date back to the Old West appropriation laws that were implemented as a first-come, first-serve basis for settlers. However, a study published by the Scientific World Journal shows that the amount of rainwater collected by individual homes would have little to no effect on the hydrologic cycle on a macro-level. In fact, since most collected rainwater would be used for gardening and household purposes, the water would eventually be returned to the ground anyway. If you find that this practice is illegal in your area, get involved in your local politics and bring this item to your community's attention!)
- Finally remodeling your kitchen? Instead of throwing away your old appliances, post a quick photo online of what you have, or consider calling local trade schools, repair shops, or hobbyists who might want them for education or training purposes. Items like sinks, cabinets, and even unused building materials like tile, grout, paint, or trim, can be dropped off at a local Habitat for Humanity Restore. You’d be amazed at how much you are able to eliminate waste this way!
The most talked about way that we can practice our 3 R’s is through, you guessed it, recycling. Here are some quick ways to make sure you’re effectively recycling your household materials once you’re finished with them.
- Keep separate recycling containers around your home in strategic locations. Common locations include the bathroom, home office or study, and the kitchen.
- Be sure to read up on your local recycling center’s requirements. Not every center accepts the same materials, and there may be steps you need to take before you set your recycling bin on the curb for collection. It’s always a good practice to rinse out any plastic bottles so that they are clean, and be sure to remove items from plastic bags you may have reused as garbage collectors for bathroom waste. This helps the recycling processors quickly determine what they can actually keep and avoids sending waste that you thought you were recycling from ending up in the landfill.
- Batteries can’t go in your regular trash bin, but, what do you do with them? Ask around your local stores and recycling centers (or even libraries) to see if they participate in city recycling programs. Some grocery stores will take your old batteries, too. Look online at resources like this for info on options in your area.
The last step you can take to help eliminate waste is to support recycling efforts by purchasing items with recycled content—that’s the whole point of recycling, to create a cyclical movement of materials through our manufacturing and consuming systems. Whether it’s sharing resources or information, we are all trying to do our part in creating eco-friendly neighborhoods. If this article had any helpful tips for you, consider sharing it with your own neighborhood or community to spread ideas for everyone to get excited about contributing to a cleaner world.