When we were in school – we learned the 3 Rs: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.
While many of us may have picked up a recycling bin over the years, and began tossing some plastic bottles and aluminum cans into it, making a small dent in our weekly garbage haul, how often do we think about ways to reduce our consumption habits to dramatically reduce the material we throw away? I find many of us need a refresher course on our childhood lesson.
Earlier this week, I gave a recycling presentation to a group of fourth graders in Mt. Sterling, Ky. I asked what it meant to reduce our garbage, and I got the following answers:
- To use items like milk jugs as watering cans
- To not buy something
While their answers aren’t the Merriam-Webster definition, they get the basic idea.
But to really drive home the point, I love to give students tangible examples of how to reduce waste. Consider your average visit to a fast food restaurant.
Most of us are guilty of grabbing a large stack of napkins, straws and ketchup packets, using only a few of them, then tossing the extras into the trash at the end of the meal. But if we are actively trying to reduce our waste, we would only take the necessary items, knowing that if extras are needed, we can always grab a few more. Or, if there are extras, store them in our car for future use.
Too many times we drink a bottle of water, toss the bottle to the side, then grab another bottle from the fridge. When, it reality, you could refill that bottle multiple times in a day. (I’m not recommending using the same bottle all week long.) Or consider using a reusable water bottle, to reduce the waste to begin with.
There is more we are throwing away that can be reused. Nearly 6 percent of what we toss into the landfill is textiles. This would include items like clothing, stuffed animals and furniture - items that could find new life with a new owner by donating them to a charity or to a relative. However, too many of us are willing to toss these items to the curb out of convenience.
Now I would be remiss not to mention recycling in this post. It is Rumpke’s expertise.
So, make sure you check the list of items that you can recycle in your community’s recycling program and pledge to have your household divert these materials from the trash each week.
About the author: Molly Yeager is a corporate communication coordinator for Rumpke.