The power of 3: Reduce, Re-use, Recycle

Reduce what you consume,

re-use what you have,

and recycle what you can’t use anymore.

Three powerful ways to decrease the waste you are creating, thus reducing your footprint and giving the planet a break!


There is only one Earth. We can all agree that our Earth is thus very precious. Yet all the waste we produce is buried or burnt on this Earth.

There is nowhere else to put our rubbish!

The best garbage is the garbage we don’t produce. This is because if rubbish is produced, we will have to deal with it one way (landfill) or another (incineration).

Landfills are horrible things:

  • they take lots of room (space taken from wildlife),
  • they pollute the soil, particularly through all these juices produced by the decomposition and oxidation of waste, washed away by rain, and which in turn contaminate the groundwater and/or aquifers by leakage,
  • they emit methane that is even worse than CO2 as a greenhouse gas, which is pretty bad news for climate change,
  • they are a health risk (harbouring many disease vectors such as rats and flies),
  • they are also not nice to people living around (they can create issues like dust, bad odour, vermin, or noise pollution)...

Incineration ("thermal treatment") is a terrible thing:

  • it produces fly-ash, a highly toxic waste, that still needs to be disposed of, thus we still need a toxic waste landfill somewhere else,
  • it emits toxins such as heavy metals which are very dangerous even at low levels,
  • it also emits fine particles, which are linked to significant health problems (including difficult or painful breathing, decrease in lung function, aggravation of asthma, bronchitis, and other chronic lung diseases, aggravation of heart diseases and even increases hospital admissions, emergency room visits, and premature death among sensitive populations).

 

Hopefully by now you are totally convinced that the best solution is to NOT produce garbage. How? By the power of the 3 Rs!

Reduce (or in other words, Use Less)

If we all use less, there will be less produced, thus less garbage. Not rocket science, hey?

It also decreases our footprint. There is a cost for the environment and the wildlife for each thing that gets produced (a cost in energy, of raw material, of transport...)

I found that I often don’t need as much product as marketing would like me to think...

I thus tend to dilute everything. For example, you know these liquid hand soaps that deliver a certain quantity of soap? Well that’s just too much! I dilute the liquid soap with half of water, thus I use twice as little soap.

And do you really need to change your mobile phone that often just to stay in fashion? Your tablet? Your car? We are pushed to consume all the time. But we don’t have to. We can choose to be fulfilled by something else than what we can buy.

We can choose to enjoy the beauty of a sunset, quality time with kids, friendship, love... These are the real ingredients of happiness. And you can’t buy them.

Re-use

You know where I’ll start don’t you? Bags!

An easy win, bring your own reusable bags when shopping. Plastic bags often end up in the sea. Turtles can easily mistake them for yummy jellyfish, and this is not a good idea for a turtle to be full of plastic. Plastic can obstruct turtle guts and painful death follows...

sick-turtle

Sick turtle with guts full of plastic

In general, try to use less and less the things that can only be used once: coffee cups or take away containers for example.

In coffee shops and food places, bring your own reusable cup or Tupperware. The more we do it and the more it will become the rule. We’ll have less garbage while also decreasing the impact on the environment of producing all of these plastic (=petrol) things...

If you have no more use for something, before throwing it away think of whether it might still be useful to someone else:

  • give it away at a thrift shop,
  • put it online at Ebay in case you can make some money out of it,
  • otherwise, put it online at Freecycle (join for free, as the name indicates). Freecycle is a network of people that are giving (and getting) anything and everything for free. Great opportunity to keep as much as possible out of the landfills (and get free stuffs, and get rid of what we think is junk without leaving our house).

Your thrash may be someone else’s treasure!


Also if you have children or like crafts, think of alternative uses before you throw away: for example, there are a thousand ways to make fun things with toilet paper rolls! Or empty jars, tins, tissue boxes, cereal boxes, bottle caps, dried up pens, popsicle sticks, corks, old clothes, buttons...

Seriously, just type "homemade gifts" or "crafts" in your favourite web browser and discover how clever people are!

Recycle

Be sure to recycle any way you can (paper, battery, electronics, mobile phones, tellies, fluorescent light...) and get the whole family involved.

For example, there are still many valuable parts of computers or tellies that can be reused instead of polluting uselessly the environment in a landfill.

Electronic goods that do end up in the landfill are actually very dangerous. They leak many toxins and heavy metals, including lead, mercury, brominated dioxin, beryllium cadmium, and hydrocarbons. None of them are good news for wildlife, especially if they end up contaminating rivers.

What do I hear?

You sometimes feel like recycling is not useful because not enough people do it? Think again! Society as a whole can get into recycling! San Francisco has reached a 77% waste-diversion, which means it diverted 77% of its waste from landfill.  

San Francisco is not a small town... Changes like this make a huge difference.

Finally, compost. Compost is a beauty, especially if you have a garden. It takes all your organic waste (food scrap etc.) and creates a great natural fertiliser. Get a worm farm! It’s educational for the kids, and the alternative is just too heart breaking: let all the good nutrients get wasted in a landfill...

Reuse-a-shoe is a program that recycle your old sneakers and transform them into high-quality sports surfaces! Find the location the closer to you to recycle your shoes!


Sometimes you might think it’s all too hard...

Too hard to always remember to bring your bags to the shops, too hard to face the look at the coffee shop when you give them your re-usable cup, too hard to sort your garbage in 3 different bins, too hard to remember the compost...

When you feel like this, stop and think. Think of what’s the alternative.

Visualise a pile of garbage, the size of TEXAS, floating in the ocean (the Pacific Trash Vortex) or a rubbish pile 150m high and 700 acres in area (Puente Hills Landfill, the largest rubbish dump in America).

Yes, this is reality.

All the garbage we produce stays right here with us, on Earth.

So let’s chose the only reasonable alternative and stop producing that huge amount of garbage.