Reducing Instead of Reusing & Recycling

recycling at Burgerville – photo by MikZ

We’re used to recycling: paper, glass, aluminum, soda cans, plastic — we’ve even gotten used to the idea of composting (sometimes even at fast food restaurants). Reusing is easy — shopping at thrift stores isn’t a stretch, and we might even refill old yogurt containers with leftovers instead of using plastic wrap or a zip-top bag, or bring shopping bags to the grocery store to reuse again and again.

Some of us are more vigilant than others.

And most of us have forgotten the cardinal command of the 3 R’s: REDUCE. Sure, we reuse and recycle, but what about minimizing our need to do those things?

I'm giving away some recycled goodie packs for crafting goodness - see bottom of post for details

We’re Americans (I know not all of my readers are), and we do what we like to do and have been conditioned to do: consume! We buy things whenever we want them, usually with little regard to the waste generated by the simple process of unpackaging them, and without a thought to all the waste that went into making them and shipping them from factory to store.

So, reducing.

Pam at Gingerbreadsnowflakes has been saving her packaging for awhile. She is doing a series on making things out of trash, but she posted some photos of just how much she has saved and started a discussion on how much stuff we buy only to turn around and throw most of it (the packaging) away. Sure, we can reuse some of it, craft with some of it, but in all honesty, there’s more than we can reuse and we have to dispose of the rest.

Pam said it best:

And think about it – just how many oatmeal boxes, glass jars, tin cans, or plastic bottles can we realistically repurpose?

The answer seems to me to be – not very many and certainly not as many as pass through our hands in a years time.  Don’t misunderstand – I am all for repurposing!  But there is a limit to how many items even the most energetic among us can repurpose.

I’m not preaching to you because I’m as guilty as anyone. I have high intentions, but often my tiredness/laziness/need to just get it done outweighs my desire to be kind to the earth. Being idealistic doesn’t do anyone any good; action is what makes a difference.

There are a lot of things I do wrong. A lot of things I can change without much impact on my current lifestyle. And a few things I can do with a slight impact on my lifestyle. Not that I’m opposed to changing my lifestyle, but baby steps are usually more effective than making grand pronouncements that I have no chance of living up to immediately. You have to train before you can run a marathon.

Playset I made from recycled box

Things I currently do:

  • Recycling almost all packaging (cardboard, cans, plastic containers, glass)
  • Buy in bulk sometimes
  • Reuse some containers
  • Go out of my way to recycle plastic (it isn’t accepted in the recycling bins in our neighborhood)
  • Buy used if possible (no packaging)
  • Buy from local outlets (farmer’s markets, mostly)
  • Make crafts from recycled materials (sometimes)

Things I could do without even breaking a sweat:

  • Look in my recycling bin first before buying new (paper, cardboard, containers, or for craft supplies)
  • Design projects around recycled items instead of new
  • Buy less stuff (ask myself if I really need it – the answer will often be no)
  • Buy bulk more often
  • Cook from scratch with bulk items (instead of using readymade stuff: cookies, other baked goods)
  • Avoid buying overpackaged items or items with unrecyclable packaging
  • Reuse certain packaging I throw away (washing zip-top bags)
  • Buy toys and other items that are made from recycled materials

Thanks for your post, Pam, and for getting me thinking about reducing (instead of JUST reusing and recycling).

Fun ways to Reduce-Reuse-Recycle:

Thanks for sticking with me this far! I want to share some amazing scrap packs I got from SCRAP with two of my readers, so comment here with your favorite recycling crafty idea (with a link if you like) and I will choose a winner via random.org on Tuesday.

The giveaway booty:

I super-love these packages the kind folks at SCRAP have put together with random goodies for your crafting pleasure (LOVE those recycled labels they used to close up the bags).

Cute ingredients label.

Once again, to win one of these goodie bags, comment here with your favorite recycling crafty idea (with a link if you like) and I will choose a winner via random.org on Tuesday.