Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Reduce, Reuse or Recycle?

There's been a lot of publicity about recycling lately, especially with Tim Horton's announcing recycling of it's coffee cups. I like recycling, I think it's important, but I think it's the LEAST important of the three R's. In order to get to the recycling stage, you've already created the object and now you're using more resources to turn it into some other object to buy again. The disposable coffee cups is a great example of this. On the ecorenovator website, I read "The energy expended to recycle a paper coffee cup is extremely difficult - they are coated with a polyethylene. It takes 4-5 times more energy to collect, transport, reconstruct — i.e. recycle - than to simply make a new one". Recycling the cups is still better than letting them sit in a landfill, but think how much better off we'd be if we reduced the need for the cups (14.4 billion disposable coffee cups are bought each year in America). Yes, there are expenses and resources used up in making a non-disposable travel or china mug, but those mugs are reused countless times before they break for some reason. And each reuse saves the effort of making a disposable cup and the landfill space or cost of recycling.

In my opinion we should reduce as much as we can, reuse as much as possible and only then turn to recycling. Last option of all is the landfill of course. I'd love to try a zero waste challenge like that undertaken by this family in the UK. I really like the idea of voluntary simplicity and decluttering, which also works well with the idea of reducing our personal consumption. I still need to work on it in my own life. My husband is not impressed when I read blog articles that encourage me to declutter like this one or this one. I've figured out why though....I need to stop trying to get rid of his stuff and focus on my own :)

I think my best bet will be to adopt a one-in, one-out strategy for non-consumable/non-gift items. Of course, since I just bought 68 books at a yard sale last weekend.....but they're not staying! Once I've read the ones I'm interested in (they came in a box, I couldn't pick and choose) they'll be posted on freecycle or at a used book store. Today is Day One of my one-in, one-out policy. Let's see how it goes!

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