Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A New Look at the Environmental Three R's

Bubba has a cute joke/saying that goes like this:  Look in pantry, nothing to eat.  Look in fridge, nothing to eat.  Lower standards and repeat.  Hopefully, that gave you a good chuckle on this Wednesday morning!

So we've all heard of Reduce-Reuse-Recycle.  This summer, while I was taking a composting class, I was doing some random research online.  You know, those little tangents that seem to pull you out on some really adventurous learning.  In the process, I came across some articles and other blog posts about the Zero Waste concept.

Let me be clear as mud about what Zero Waste means.  It means different things to different people, depending on how hard core you want to be.  In a nutshell, the concept introduces a few more R's.

The first of these R's is RETHINK.  Some examples:  Do I really need this item?  Can I repair something instead of buying new?  Can this item be donated or recycled in some way when I don't want/need it anymore?  Is the packaging and/or product recyclable?  I know our local school district started classes again today, and I know a lot of tight-budgeted families were working through this recently.  Do the kids really need new clothes/backpacks/school supplies?  What about hand-me-downs? You get the picture.

Next is REDUCE.  Once you've rethought your purchases, you'll automatically start reducing what you purchase and the packaging it comes in.  Oh, and did I mention your spending?  That's ALWAYS good!

In the middle are two biggies - REUSE and REPURPOSE.  I've already shared with you how I reuse the empty containers from food products, like spaghetti and salsa jars.  I also reuse paper egg cartons for seed starting in the spring, and other food containers to hold edible gifts.  Donating usable items to a charity falls into this category.  If something is worn out to the point it can't be reused either by myself of someone else, I try to find a way to repurpose it.  Remember the denim pocket purse?  One of the very first posts I did last fall was a tutorial for making t-shirt yarn.

RECYCLING is also a big part of this concept.  In many communities, recycling is no longer limited strictly to aluminum cans and newspapers.  Our town, for example, allows several types of plastic, paper, aluminum and steel cans, chipboard and corrugated cardboard.  Our local environmental issue committee also hosts bi-annual electronics recycling, with the recycling extravaganza in the fall including pretty much anything you can think of that can be either reused or recycled in some way.  One year, our local cheerleaders collected gym shoes to be recycled.  We've had scouts collect batteries.  And so on.  Find out what's available in your area and take full advantage.

Composting is also a form of recycling.  The process takes food scraps and yard waste, and turns these items into a usable soil amendment for your garden, your yard, your trees, your lawn, and your houseplants.  And it keeps the trash out of landfills.

And finally, REPEAT.  If you choose to make this a mindset, it eventually becomes automatic.

You'll notice that I didn't include the funniest part of Bubba's joke - the "lower standards" part.  By doing these steps, you aren't lowering your standards at all.  You are being a careful steward of our planet and your pocketbook.  We've been having such a great time here for the past several months, that I bet ya' didn't even notice that all the cool and fun and wonderful projects and recipes here have all followed these principles.  I don't feel I have lowered my standards one bit - I feel incredibly blessed instead.

So glad you came by, and I hope this encourages you on your journey today!  Tomorrow, we'll look at some ways that following these guidelines will save you money.  See you then!

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