Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you probably know how important it is right now to cut down our waste as a species. There is garbage infesting our waterways, suffocating our wildlife, and polluting our forests. The four R’s probably burned into your brain from all those Earth Day presentations at school or work, but did you know that they are actually a hierarchy?
The 4 R’s are listed in order or preferability (of the planet); Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. This means, if there is a way for you to reuse something rather than recycle it, you should! Even better to not consume something at all. Let’s take a deeper look at each of the R’s and what they really mean.
The best and most eco-friendly option is to completely cut out the product that creates the waste. This can be done by finding sustainable alternatives to reduce your waste and set a precedent for your follow consumers. A water bottle with a cool pattern or a tote with a funny quote can leave an impression on those who see it and create a wave of waste reduction.
Some easy ways your can reduce your everyday waste are by; bringing a reusable straw and drink container to your coffee shop, using reusable tote bags at the grocery store, choosing to get online versions of your bills and credit card statements, and avoiding single-use items like disposable plates, water bottles, and coffee cups.
The second best way to make a meaningful impact on the environment is to be mindful of the products you purchase, how long you will use it, and how much waste it will create when you no longer need it. This of way you can repurpose items after you can no longer use them for their intended purpose as well. An old shirt will stains and holes can be cut up to make wash rags.
Consider the following ideas to reduce your trash and recyclable production; buying well-made clothes that will last a long time so you don’t have to replace them as often, switch to a french press instead of a coffee maker that uses disposable filters, donating any clothes or items that are still in condition, and taking good care of your belongings to make them last as long as possible.
After you’ve decided that you cannot refuse or reduce an item’s waste, think of ways you can reuse or repurpose the item. Think outside the box and consider using items for purposes that are different from their intended purpose. Lots of products can be continued to used for more than their intended purpose for many years.
Think about; keeping ribbons and bows from gifts to reuse, keeping jars, bottles, and plastic Tupperware for kitchen use, using a chipped mug as a pen or toothbrush holder, purchasing rechargeable batteries, and composting coffee grounds, tea bags, and produce scraps.
Even though recycling is a very important part of reducing your carbon footprint, it should be your last option. Think of ways to reuse, reduce, or refuse recyclables before putting them into your recycling bin. Once you’ve eliminated all other options, you can check the number on the bottom of your plastic waste or check our recycling guide to make sure that your waste will be recycled properly.
Remember to rinse out your food containers before recycling to eliminate the chances of your recyclables ending up at the landfill. Remove caps from plastic bottles and any styrofoam inserts from produce packaging. Check to make sure that any extra packing materials have been removed from cardboard boxes before recycling.