Think you know all there is to know about the three Rs of waste management–reduce, reuse, and recycle? You might be surprised at how even making a few small changes can really help the planet a LOT!
You can listen to the podcast here…
…or read on for more.
What are the Three Rs?
Reducing waste means finding ways to use less materials and energy in order to minimize waste and consume fewer natural resources.
According to CalRecycle.gov, the website for California’s Department of Resources, Recycling, and Recovery, waste reduction is the preferred approach to waste management. Using more of existing products and resources (i.e., reducing waste) means that fewer new products are created, resulting in lower waste management costs.
Some examples are:
- Repairing vs. discarding
- Cancelling unnecessary mail
- Not using disposable plates or utensils at home
- Avoiding buying plastic water bottles
- Not overbuying perishables at the grocery store (meal planning can help with avoiding wasted food).
- Buy in bulk when possible (less packaging). Reward companies that use less packaging with their products.
- Meal Planning. Whether you’re planning on a sheet of paper or using an application like Plan To Eat, meal planning can help you reduce the amount of food you throw away.
“Reusing” refers to using an item again, whether for its original purpose or a new one.
This is the second “R” in the hierarchy because with little or no processing, reusing items can help keep waste out of waste systems.
Some examples include:
- Using a washable rag to clean your house instead of paper towels
- Donating old clothes or household items
- Buying second-hand
- Using your old bedding for your pet’s bed
- Using glass jars for food storage
- Saving plastic containers to hold homemade natural cleaners such our all-purpose house cleaner
- Reusing a foaming soap dispenser for your own homemade version of foaming hand soap which is SUPER easy to make!
- Use reusable shopping bags or totes instead of plastic
- Buy reusable produce bags instead of using the plastic ones in the stores.
- Buy a reusable water bottle instead of buying bottled water.
According to the EPA website, “Recycling is the process of collecting and processing materials that would otherwise be thrown away as trash and turning them into new products.”
Sometimes it’s hard to see how throwing a cardboard package or glass bottle into the recycling bin can make that big of a difference. However, the following data from the EPA that shows just how big of a difference it can make:
- 10 plastic bottles can save enough energy to power a laptop for more than 25 hours
- Recycling 1 ton of office paper can save the energy equivalent of consuming 322 gallons of gasoline
- Recycling one ton of aluminum cans conserves more than 152 million BTUs, which is the equivalent of 1,024 gallons of gas or 21 barrels of oil.
What Are Some Benefits of the Reducing, Reusing, and Recycling?
Obviously, the Three Rs help the planet but just how does doing your part help?
It takes energy to manufacture new products. Reusing items and reducing consumption also reduces demand.
Saves Money (you might receive a tax benefit as well)
Some items you donate may be eligible for tax deductions. Be sure to check the IRS website or with your accountant before attempting to deduct anything.
Helps The Less Fortunate Find Goods They May Need (Such as Clothing and Furniture)
Thrift stores and other donation stations can help those who can’t afford to buy products at full retail find what they need at a reduced cost.
Helps Reduce Pollution Caused by Harvesting New Raw Materials
Not only does harvesting new raw materials cause pollution but it also depletes our natural resources. We need to make sure we leave our planet in a good place for future generations.
Saves Space in Landfills
We sometimes forget (or don’t even think about) the fact that our landfill space is limited. Landfills aren’t designed to break down waste, they only store it.
Garbage in a landfill does decompose, it does so very slowly.
While we aren’t necessarily in “crises” mode when it comes to landfill space, it’s important that we not put ourselves or future generations in that position.
We hope this episode has provided you with some insight into what you can do to help save our planet! Remember, even the SMALLEST changes you make can help!
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A Special Thanks To Our Sponsors:
- Old San Antonio Trading Post (our vintage item store!)
Further Reading and Resources Used for this Episode:
- The EPA has Resources for Students and Educators that includes activities, games, and publications.
- Our Guide to Composting 101 (VZ 94)
- 9 Simple Ways to Reduce Waste in Your Home (Huffpost)
Thanks for listening!
Peace and Veggies,
Vickie and Larissa