We’ve been told since we were kids to follow the “3 Rs:” Reduce, reuse and recycle. Most of us only think about one, if any, during our everyday lives: recycling. It has been drilled into our heads to separate and dispose of recyclables properly, yet that’s merely the last of the 3 R’s, what about the first two? If we first reduce the materials we use and reuse other materials, then we wouldn’t have to trouble ourselves with so much of the third.
To reduce is to bring down to a smaller extent, size or amount. The best way to reduce your waste is to not create so much in the first place. According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s website, the amount of waste generated in the United States has risen over the past five decades from 2.7 to 4.4 pounds per person per day. We have become a disposable society. Think about the things you threw away over the past 24 hours. Did you need to get rid of all those things? Could you have reused that “waste” somehow? Perhaps you could have done without the item in the first place.
For example, if you went to Starbucks, the grocery store and the gas station today, you could reduce your waste production in several ways. When you stop to pick up a cup of coffee on the way to class, instead of just accepting the paper cup the barista gives you, which will end up in the garbage in mere minutes, you can bring a reusable coffee mug for your drink. While at the grocery store, think about the food you already have at home. Maybe there is something you have that you can use instead of buying something that could end up in the garbage in a few days. Make a list and plan ahead. This will also save you money. Your last stop is the gas station. When they fill up your car, ask that they don’t print out a receipt. Look at all the ways you can reduce your consumption just by making simple choices. Once you start, they will soon become habits that help the environment.
There are many benefits of reduction. Three of them are saving natural resources, reducing toxicity of waste, and reducing cost. Waste is not just created when you throw something away. The life cycle of a product, from extraction of raw materials, production and manufacturing, transportation and use, generates waste. Using less hazardous alternatives for certain items, like cleaning products and pesticides, sharing products that contain hazardous chemicals instead of throwing out leftovers, reading label directions carefully and using the smallest amount necessary are all ways to reduce waste toxicity.
The benefits of preventing waste go beyond reducing reliance on other forms of waste disposal. Preventing waste also can mean economic savings. Waste removal costs much more than the removal of recyclables so choosing products with less packaging that are recyclable can also reduce waste. By doing your part to reduce waste, you can save money and help save the planet at the same time.
Senior chemistry and dance double major