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Friday, November 15, 2013

On America Recycles Day - Please Reduce and Reuse first!

Today is America Recycles Day.  I appreciate any day that helps move the conversation along about  the amount of waste people generate, whether it is recyclable or not.  But today, I want to spotlight "Reduce" and "Reuse"  and the more important pieces of our  earth’s  sustainability puzzle.

Reduce should really be the first choice of  Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.  Reduce - means simply don't make the trash. For example,  instead of buying individually wrapped snacks, buy one large box of that snack, and parcel out the snack into a reusable container.   Those  plastic bags that hold snacks are often not recycled;  some regions don't recycle them, others aren't recycled due to food waste inside.  A much better way to go is to just get a reusable container to hold your snack. 

Reduce can also mean to choose to go without.  I challenge my kids to think about every toy they want.  What is it made of  and where  it came from, and what will happen to it after they are done with it.  Our treks into the $1.00 area of stores like Target have completely stopped.  We don't need that stuff - and we don't want it littering our earth!  This is also great because our house is less cluttered. 

Reuse is a great way to reduce.  Reuse means to use things over and over.  I have been following the work of the Plastic Pollution Coalition which is asking people to pledge not to just Recycle today, but to Refuse single use plastic - like "disposable" water bottles, because of the impact single use plastic has on our environment.    You can commit to using a reusable water bottle.  You can pack your lunch in reusable containers. 

Earlier this week there was a another story about a  whale washing ashore. The cause of death was a stomach full of plastic trash.  We have created garbage that doesn't break down into our environment, and we are just beginning to see the effects on our earth.  We need to be mindful of this as we go about our day to day lives, and use it only when there isn’t a more sustainable choice.   
Recycling is important.  Taking our natural resources and making them into something new again is a great way to not strip the earth of our resources.  However - Recycling takes its own resources;  collection, sorting, transit to a recycling plant, the recycling process, and putting the "new" product back in to the market.

Recycling should be the third option to be good to the earth, after Reduce and Reuse.  With simple changes we can all be superheroes for the environment!