Everyone has heard the classic conservation motto: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Most however, do not put much thought into the fact that the three R’s are listed in that particular order for a reason.
Reduce – The first “R” can make the largest, most positive impact on the environment. If we reduce what we use, the energy, water, and resources that normally would go into making the product would never be expended. The thought process is to cut back on what we purchase and use only what is needed. For example, using a refillable water bottle and refilling it with tap water, instead of purchasing bottled water, reduces one’s carbon footprint and impact on the environment, in both the resources and energy used to make and fill the plastic bottle. To produce one unit of bottled water requires nearly three times the amount of water to create the plastic bottle, cap, and label! Besides avoiding bottle water where possible, we can also reduce our environmental impact by using double-sided printing, purchasing items that are built to last and electronics that will use less energy.
Reuse – The second “R” is still better than recycling because you are re-purposing an item for another use without consuming significantly more resources. Pinterest fans have unlimited access to reuse projects as simple as repurposing toilet paper rolls into binoculars for kids or using old pallets to create a table and chairs. There are entire websites dedicated to repurposing or upcycling. You can also purchase repurposed materials from sites such as Etsy. Get inspired at the askHRgreen.org Pinterest page!
Recycle – This is the costlier option of the three “R’s” and is tricky in regards to educating people on how to recycle materials. For instance, in Hampton Roads, only #1 and #2 plastic bottles with a neck or spout are recyclable in all curbside bins. A lot of products we use every day are packaged in #5 and #7 plastics or plastic tubs that are only recyclable in certain recycling programs. Drop off recycling sites must be used to recycle items such as batteries, plastic bags, electronics, ink cartridges, and even textiles. Recycling is important in keeping materials out of the landfill and in reducing the need for raw materials. To find out what can go in your curbside recycling bin and what to take for drop off recycling, visit the Recycling Information by Locality page of askHRgreen.But it’s always better to create less waste in the first place!
Guest blog contributed by Christel Dyer, Senior Plant Manager with HRSD.