Reduce, Reuse, Recycle:
Common and Creative Tips and Ideas
We've all heard the saying "reduce reuse recycle", but it is still an important topic that WAY too many of us overlook. We live in a culture that doesn't understand the dangers of having so many non-reusable and wasteful products and habits in our lives.
Below is a BIG collection of articles on the three R's, including how to recycle common items, reusable alternatives to disposable products, and some of the basics that you'd be surprised aren't all that well-known. Why is this the first section of all the "Home" sections...cuz it's often the easiest to make some simple changes to and see a big impact. And easy is good when you're starting out, no?
What Are The Reasons Why I Should Recycle?
Reducing, reusing, and recycling are important for many reasons. For starters, one of the most personal reasons: eco-friendly habits save us money. Constantly replacing disposable items (or repurchasing cheaply made products that wear out too quickly or aren't made to last) costs a ton, and not just because we're always buying new things, but because many of those things are pricey to begin with. (Have you seen the price of throwaway razors lately? Who wouldn't have a hard time throwing $20 away each month?)
In addition to saving money, eliminating waste usually leads to an elimination of harmful chemicals in our home, as well. This is partially because disposable items are newly manufactured, meaning constant off-gasing; many are made from the most harmful type of plastics or other synthetics, which contain chemicals, such as BPA; and other products are processed in a way that includes dangerous chemicals, such as the bleaching of paper napkins or plates that can actually contaminate our food.
Then there are the environmental issues behind constant waste:
- This first is manufacturing. Constantly reproducing new products means excessive use of finite resources, such as water or oil. The use of chemicals also leads to pollution around manufacturing plants, which affects the environment, as well as human health in the area.
- The second is the constant shipping of new products. This amounts to hundreds of thousands of pounds of carbon dioxide in the environment, more than what we create with every car in the world1. This affects plants, animals, and people all around the world, both around shipping pathways and anywhere the toxins are shuffled to by Nature.
- The third would be a loss of resources. Disposable still use an abundance of resources...resources that may be limited in the future, or even now, such as oil and water. Try finding stats on that one. Ain't so easy.
- Fourth, is litter. Most litter and dumped waste found on the road or in wild areas is from disposable products - bottles, bags, etc (all things hat could AT LEAST be recycle)2. Don't believe me? Take a look around.
- And last, is our long-term waste management. Designating landfills is a temporary solution to a permanent problem. And because things put in a landfill don't decompose (read the "biodegradable myth" article below), those items will never return back to a reusable form by man or Nature. So basically, when we throw things "away" it goes somewhere to stay. (In other words, there is no such thing as "away" on this shrinking globe.)
A highly disposable culture is simply NOT sustainable - meaning we can't sustain this level of use and waste for the long-term. (And who would want to?)
The short answer: Start with long-lasting quality. Then "use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without". Read the articles below for inspiration on how to do just that.
The Basics of "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle"
When you're ready to commit to the "Reduce Reuse Recycle" motto, these articles can help you make the switch to a more sustainable alternative, starting with some background and getting into the nitty-gritty.
What in the World is Planned Obsolescence?
Are you a visual learner or want to know a little more about how this system got created? Check out this article and it's video on a little something called "planned obsolescence". You'll be surprised. And maybe a little ticked off.
The Ridiculous Myths of "Biodegradable" Waste
Did you know that even after 50+ years in a landfill you can still read the newspaper and name the foods found within? Or that "biodegradable" plastics probably won't biodegrade at all?
What is PREcycling?
Did you know recycling starts before you even make a purchase of the item being recycled? Read this article about where to really start when you're ready to apply the "Reduce Reuse Recycle" motto.
How to Recycle the Right Way
Yes, there is actually a right and wrong way to recycle. Knowing how to properly recycle is so simple, yet so often overlooked. Don't let your recyclables get sent to the trash!
Home Composting to Reduce Food Waste
We simply can't talk about reducing waste without looking at the easiest thing to keep out of the landfill, AND the thing that does the environment the most good.
How To Maintain a ZERO Waste Home
After precycling, recycling, and composting, there are still usually odds and ends that are hard to avoid. Learn what to do to keep even plastic ties and foil wrappers from the trash.
Reduce: Ideas on How To Use Less
Stainless Steel Water Bottles
It's important to know what to look for in your stainless steel water bottle, and what to avoid. Nope, they're not all created equal.
Truly Recycled Toilet Paper: Cloth Toilet Paper Facts
If you're really ready to be a hippie, cloth toilet paper is the answer. I know, I know...it sounds pretty "out there" when you first hear about it. But I encourage you to read this article on it to learn the truth.
Fabric Gift Wrap: Your Unique Wrapping Alternative
One beautiful and sustainable alternative to traditional wrapping paper is fabric gift wrap. This unique gift wrap idea is reusable for many years and can be very affordable.
4 Steps to Stop Receiving Junk Mail
Put an end to the stacks of junk mail and you could save an average of 69 POUNDS of paper each year. That's the equivalent of saving a 10 year old from the trash in each household every year.
Truly Reusable Razors
Disposable razors are expensive and dull quickly. Plus they're not nearly as cool as safety razors and other supplies to "reduce reuse recycle" your shaving habits.
3 Alternatives to Plastic Food Storage Containers
Getting rid of plastics is a big step, and food storage tends to be one that people question. But there are many alternatives that are safer, healthier and cheaper than chemical-filled, short-lived plastic containers.
35+ Alternatives to Common Plastic Items
Don't think all plastic is avoidable? Learn what you can use to replace common things like a plastic toothbrush, shower curtain, hard hat, and more.
Reusable Shopping Bags
Using reusable bags is a popular recommendation for green living. Whether you buy them or make them, just remember to keep them in your trunk.
Reuse: Upcycling Ideas
Reuse means anything you can do to use an item multiple times, maybe in multiple ways. Upcycling means taking something old and crafting it into something completely new, and often unrelated to the first item.
7 Easy Steps to Make Yarn (Plarn) From Plastic Bags
Ever find yourself with plastic bags and not sure what to do with them? Recycling takes a lot of resources, but you can have fun upcycling them into a bag, mat, or purse instead!
Step-by-Step Rag Rug Instructions
Learn how to make a durable and beautiful rug with old linens, t-shirts, sweaters, or other scrap fabric with this written and photo tutorial.
20+ Unique Ways to Recycle Old Tires
Learn how to keep your old tires from the dump by upcycling or recycling them into numerous and unique indoor or outdoor projects for the home and garden.
More Upcycling Inspiration
What can you do with a broken dresser drawer? How can you upcycle your old-school computer moniter? Check out my Pinterest board for truly unique (and sometimes ridiculous) upcycling inspiration and ideas.
Recycle: How To Recycle Odds and Ends
Besides the basics above, this short section gives you ideas on how to recycle the rest of what you might otherwise throw away.
Recycling Ideas for Common Household Items
This guest post talks about how you can recycle (as well as upcycle) some common household items that you may no longer need or use.
E-waste accounts for a tremendous amount of landfill these days. But computers, cell phones, and other electronics can be recycled easily for their materials.
Have a question about how to reduce, reuse, recycle something? Ask me here or in the comments! Or contribute your own ideas below!
Submit your own creative ideas!
We'd love to hear your creative ideas for reducing waste, reusing common household items, and recycle or upcycling those hard-to-recycle objects.
Share your ideas below, and to make it easier for readers to find what they are looking for, please try to be as descriptive as possible in your title. Also, list any resources you have to make it easier for others to reduce, reuse, and recycle too! The more (relevant) info and photos you can add the better!
(For all our submission guidelines, please click here.)
Creative Ideas from the Whole Community
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More interesting stats: http://storyofstuff.org//wp-content/uploads/movies/scripts/StoryofStuff_FactSheet.pdf
When kids see the trash from their home being taken away by a garbage collector, it can be hard for them to grasp that this garbage actually ends up somewhere else, like in a landfill, and doesn't just disappear. But when you adopt environmentally responsible practices in your home, you teach your children not only about where trash ends up, but also how they can work with you to produce less garbage and thereby protect the environment.
Here are some ways to put the four R's, reduce, reuse, recycle, and rebuy, into practice in your home.
Earth Day Every Day: Reduce
There are many ways you can reduce the amount of waste you create. Take your kids shopping with you and lead by example as you take the following steps to cut down on waste:
- Say no to disposable shopping bags. Bring your own reusable ones instead.
- Choose products that have the least amount of packaging.
- Buy in bulk when purchasing items like laundry detergent, shampoo, pet food, cat litter, and other household items.
- Buy unpackaged items in loose bins when available, such as tools and produce.
- Use what you already have instead of buying something new whenever possible.
- Buy liquid products that are concentrated.
- Avoid single serving foods that require extra packaging.
Earth Day Every Day: Reuse
To reuse means to continue using the products you have, instead of disposing of them and buying new ones. You can teach your kids to get in the habit of reusing by adopting these policies in your home:
- Purchase reusable, rather than disposable, products such as mugs, dishes, cloth napkins, and metal flatware instead of paper cups, plates, and napkins, and plastic utensils.
- Use refillable containers, like water bottles and soap containers, whenever possible.
- When you must use them, show your kids how to take only as many single-use items, like paper napkins, as they need.
- Mend clothing and repair appliances and other products so that they can be reused, and have your kids help you sell or donate their used clothing and toys instead of throwing them out.
- Find creative ways to reuse items you might otherwise throw away. For example, find craft projects for used paper towel rolls, linens, boxes, packaging, and/or empty containers. Or donate them to your child's school to use.
- Use both sides of paper when printing from your computer.
Earth Day Every Day: Recycle
Many products are recyclable, meaning they can be made into other products. The environmental officials in your community can tell you about the recycling programs in your area. Teach your kids to place all recyclable items, such as glass, aluminum, steel, paper, and plastic, in the appropriate containers around your home. Sign up for home pickup of your recyclable items or find a local recycling center to drop off these items. Be sure to take your kids along when you do the drop-off. Other ways to teach your kids about the importance of recycling are to:
- Participate in local environmental initiatives, such as recycling drives.
- Work with your local environmental officials to establish a recycling program in your area if you don’t already have one.
- Find local retailers that accept products like used batteries, antifreeze, motor oil, paint cans, plastic bags, and cell phones, and take these items there when you are finished using them.
And to help your kids understand where the trash does go, the Environmental Protection Agency has a Web site for kids called Recycle City.
Earth Day Every Day: Rebuy
Rebuying means purchasing products that have already been used or were recycled. You can show your kids this concept by:
- Shopping with them for clothing and other products at consignment or thrift stores.
- Purchasing products that contain recycled materials, like some bottles, cans, bags, paper, glass and dishware, wrapping paper, and other household items.
By adopting the four R's in your home, your kids will begin to understand the importance of cutting down on the amount of waste they create. Teaching your kids about environmental initiatives, starting with the four R's, can help them learn lifelong lessons about environmental responsibility.