|A creative example of repurposing a common item that might otherwise go to the landfill.|
In the R's scheme we have been emphasizing the wrong approaches. Recycle is not always the best way to go, and can end up being a well-meaning and wasteful activity. Often it is used as an excuse to continue high consumption ways, but recycling will never make up for over-consumption.
When school children are taught the "3 R's" they are taught an consumption-friendly list - Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. But there are other R's that are more effective, but not usually taught.
I have tried to put a few of the other R's in order starting with the most effective.
- Rethink - one of the most important R's which asks us to consider all aspects of our lives and identify where we can be more earth friendly.
- Refuse - my favourite of all of them. Everything gets better if we refuse the myths of consumerism and "the good life", and quit buying things we don't need.
- Reduce - use less of the things that you buy.
- Reuse - using things over and over and over.
- Repair - fix the things you buy so they can be used longer. Don't buy things that can't be repaired, or are designed to break down prematurely.
- Repurpose - finding new ways to use old things, like a toilet seat door on the chicken coop.
- Recycle - aluminum, steel, plastic and glass, are the most efficient to recycle.
When it comes to the R's, not all are created equal. For example, it is more effective to refuse to buy bottled water than it is to buy it and recycle the plastic containers. We use a reusable stainless steel water bottle filled with tap water.
It is too bad that recycle is the most commonly known environmental R word. It is time to move on to the other, more effective R's, and perhaps think up a few more. I propose Reality, as in "is expecting infinite consumption on a finite planet consistent with Reality?"