Reduce and reuse first, then recycle!
Everyone understands the importance of recycling. But, is recycling really the most environmentally-friendly choice?
First energy and resources must be used to build the recycling plants. Then, it takes a massive amount of energy to process things back to a point where they can be used again. Furthermore, rural communities, such as my own, must transport all their recyclable material to larger cities with recycling programs.
Now don’t get me wrong, I am an avid recycler and encourage everyone to do so as well. However, there are methods that are easier on the environment than recycling such as reducing the amount of waste we create, and when that is not possible, reusing as much as we can.
Today’s society is built around convenience. Unfortunately, that often comes at a price to the environment. Plastic sandwich bags were created to be thrown away after you eat your sandwich; they are less bulky and you don’t have worry about the hassle of washing it. Delis and fast food restaurants trumped that; don’t worry about making a lunch, just come in for a quick bite, and they will do the work for you, wrap your food in wax paper, put your drink in a plastic cup, and stuff it all in a plastic or paper bag. These conveniences definitely make life easier, but they are very wasteful.
Also, it is never a bad thing to do something powered by pure muscle with no electricity required! For instance, as convenient as a dish washer is, it is far better for the environment if you do the dishes by hand, which not only reduces energy consumption, but also allows you to reduce your water consumption as well. Reducing your energy consumption and waste will pay off both for your energy costs, and more importantly, for the planet.
Being realistic, it is impossible to cut the amount of waste we create down to zero. But, we can instead try to reuse as much as we can. For example, I will admit that I must constantly remind myself when I go shopping that I really don’t need a whole new wardrobe, as much as I may want it! However, it takes an enormous amount of energy to manufacture clothing, so we should only throw clothes away if they truly are not wearable. Remember, even if you don’t want something, someone else would be glad to have it, so donate it to your local thrift store.
It can take a little extra creativity both to reduce and reuse things, but the results will be worth the effort!