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Rethink/Reinvent: consider and question consumption habits
To make a difference, people must make a conscious effort to do so. That begins by questioning our actions. We must ask ourselves, do we really need these things? Is there another use for this? Can this be recycled? (Green Triangle Blog, 2012). These are just some of the basic questions that we should consider every day. By investing more time in understanding personal consumption habits, people will become increasingly self-aware of their effect on the environment. This self-awareness may influence their behavior, values and consumption habits.
Refuse: make the choice to not generate waste
The most direct method of reducing the amount of trash is by refusing to consume. This does not mean to stop generating trash altogether but rather to stop consuming particular products. A person may decide not to buy certain items that generate more waste than benefit. For example, a person may feel the need to buy apples every time he goes to the store. However he may not eat them and often they go to waste. Knowing this, one may decide to quit purchasing apples which will result reduces the amount of waste they produce.
Of course, there are other reasons why people may choose to make a conscious effort to refrain from buying certain products. A person may decide to refuse a product either because of the quality, a short shelf life or it cannot be easily repaired, the company’s ethics, the chemicals involved, and so on. Whatever the rationale behind declining product purchases the result is less trash. This lifestyle operates from the value of learning to do without, to make do with what you have.
Reduce: make decisions that decrease the amount of waste produced
To cut trash, simply consume less. It is the idea that less is more. We can reduce the amount of material, toxins and waste sent to landfills through various means:
- Buy only what we need, by avoiding impulse shopping or purchasing too much of an item.
- Buy reusable or refillable items. An example of this is using a shopping bag rather than plastic bag, a coffee mug and not wax paper cup.
- Buy in bulk or economy-size. An example of this is by purchasing economy size cereal bags and not several smaller bags of cereal which would result in more waste.
- Avoid single-serving sizes. An example of this is by making pudding in a large bowl rather than purchasing single serving plastic cups of pudding.
- Products with less packaging. An example of this is by selecting a product in a smaller cardboard box and not a product enclosed in plastic. (EPA, 2012). Check this
By taking these tips to heart, people will cut the amount of trash they generate.
Re-Use/Repair: expand the shelf-lives of products
By reusing what you already have or by reinventing new uses for the item, you can extend the item’s product life. Before rushing out to the store to buy an item make the decision to buy as a last recourse. For example, we can use pickle jars for storage rather than buying a brand new container. It’s the idea of being creative with the things you have, to extend the life of a product. Even perishable items can be reused through compost (LaPado-Breglia, 2011).
Recycle: reclaim the raw materials
By separating items such as aluminum cans and plastic, we can reclaim the raw materials from these items which would have otherwise been thrown away. While recycling takes added effort compared to simply throwing the item in the garbage, there are many benefits in doing so. Recycled materials typically require less energy to process compared to developing new materials altogether (National Recyling Coalition, 2011). These items are not left in the landfill to rot and decompose resulting in reduced air and water pollution (Thibault, 2008). Helps conserve natural resources and sustain the environment for future generations. What can be recycled, though? There is an array of items, including paper, aluminum, yard trimmings, glass, and plastic, used motor oil, steel and batteries.
Consumers can recycle these materials by disposing of them in separate trash bins at home, work and school. These items can then be dropped off at local recycling collection sites and processing plants. Many cities, through their municipality waste management programs, offer curbside recycling option as well. By taking the time to separate these items, diverting them away from landfills through recycling, we can cut our impact on the environment.
Replace/Rebuy: next time consider recycled and green content
Consumers can promote recycled products by purchasing items that incorporate recycled materials (Wake Forest University, 2012). We make these items in whole or in part from material recovered from the waste stream. Consumers can look for labels on packages that include a percentage of recovered materials. If the demand for these products is present, businesses have an incentive to continue producing items that are more environmentally friendly. In addition, consumers can choose to replace a majority of their goods with green products. These products often contain fewer harmful chemicals, reduced emissions in production and/or incorporate renewable materials into their production (Vermeer & Michalko, 2010). By reviewing green certifications and recovered material percentage labels, consumers can make better informed buying decisions that promote sustainable practices.