Before I begin, I’d like to mention a few things: I’m not an expert, this is just a short essay compiling what I’ve learned; I’m not here to tell you how to live your life; this is a judgement-free zone.
Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s talk about the three Rs.
It’s the mantra of my second grade teacher come back to haunt me- reduce reuse recycle! As a kid I never thought much of it, beyond wishing my teachers would stop shouting it at me. I lived in Canada, which as I mentioned in my last post, is indeed very admirably environmentally conscious. In school and at home recycling was pretty important. The several different recycling bins and rules often stumped my visiting American relatives. Beyond the everyday recycling, the three Rs took a backseat to other things I had to learn as I got older; and at some point it stopped being important.
I don’t know when it was exactly that I started caring again- it could have been when we moved to the US. At school we threw everything away- Styrofoam, plastic, paper, food- into one trash can. At home, the city only gave us one very small recycling bin. This all seemed fundamentally wrong to me. And the truth is, your grade school teachers were right. Reducing, reusing and recycling is important. Even though it probably doesn’t seem like it, what you do with your garbage matters.
- recycling means we need less new materials, and as a result we save natural habitats
- we can prevent pollution that is put off during the creation of things that use new materials
- landfills give off chemicals that are harmful to the environment, recycling reduces this pollution
- our landfills are filling up fast, and we are needing to create more and more of them to accommodate all that we waste
- recycling means using less energy
Reduce & Reuse
- Reducing means using less. If you don’t need it, don’t buy it. So many times we buy things we think we need and then they just sit, or we end up throwing it away.
- Throwing it away often means putting non-biodegradable materials into a landfill where it will sit and pollute our environment for years.
- Before you throw something away ask yourself some questions and think about it first.
- “Will I really never need this again?” Sometimes we throw things away too hastily, and end up needing to buy another one later (needless to say this produces unnecessary waste).
- “Can this be recycled or given to someone else who will reuse it?” I try really really hard not to throw anything away if it is still usable. Even if you’ll never use it again, take it to a thrift store (I’m a big believer in thrift stores, more on that later) because odds are someone else is needing one.
Other Simple Ways to Be Green
You don’t have to have solar panels and a wind mill powering your house to be green (although those are both great things).
- Invest in a reusable water bottle. Even if you diligently recycle your plastic bottles, getting a reusable bottle is a good choice. Americans go through about 50 billion plastic water bottles a year, and 38 billion of those go unrecycled. (source)
- Donate items, especially clothes, you aren’t going to reuse instead of throwing them away. 14.3 billion tons of textiles get thrown out and wasted every year, while 50% of it could have been recycled.(source)
- Say no to plastic bags. Take your own reusable bags to the store. More than 500 billion plastic bags end up flying through the air as litter, and about 300 million get blown into the Atlantic ocean. And it takes 100+ years for them to breakdown. (source)
- Carpool. You’ve most likely heard this one a million times, but that’s one time for every car I see during the day.Taking one car to work/school with three of your friends is better than three cars with no friends. In fact, not taking a car at all is even better. Walking and biking are also great ways to get around, and they don’t produce any pollutants. I know that’s not always realistic- I live in what is possibly the least pedestrian-friendly city in the world, with a grand total of three sidewalks that all start in and lead to the middle of no where- but it reduces pollutants and you get exercise.
There are so many ways we can work to make the world a better place, if not for us then for the future generations. Reducing, reusing, and recycling are small, simple, yet effective ways of working toward a less polluted future. What I’ve written about in this post only scratches the surface of all the ways you can work to be more green.
An earth this beautiful deserves to stay this beautiful.