April 22, 2012

EaRth Day 2012 - The Four R's

I thought about Earth Day pretty much the same as I usually do until I put 2012 after it. Now it sounds special - ominous even.

Today is an important time to remember the R's of resource use, sometimes inflated to 5 or more, but commonly limited to a very useful 3. Listed according to effectiveness they are (from most - least effective) - Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.

To the essential three I would add a 4th that is the most effective of all - REFUSE.

Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

I was teaching grade 4 when a parent told me her daughter started sobbing one evening at home when she saw a tin can in the garbage. "But mom", the daughter cried, "that can be recycled."

I don't want any students getting that upset over the state of our planet, but it would be more effective to cry when the family gets a third car, a second home, or when they fly frequently. Refusing and reducing are the most effective of the R's.

The curriculum was recycling/reuse-centered because they are more active. You can't see, touch, or manipulate resources you never use. Recyle/reuse are also more business-friendly because you don't have to cut consumption in order to participate in them.

Despite obvious environmental breakdown, it is still considered radical to propose that people cut consumption and buy less, do less, or live less resource-intensive lives. It doesn't matter that both they and the planet would be happier. We are trained to consume, and that is after all, what is best for the all-important economy.

But we can be more gentle on the earth, and break free of dead-end consumerism and waste by following the 4 R's:


    * to believe that infinite economic growth is possible or desirable.
    * to be programmed by advertising.
    * excessive packaging.
    * luxury and extravagance.
    * things that are toxic or can not be recycled.
    * instant gratification.
    * to buy things you don't need.


    * the amount of energy you use.
    * your reliance on brown corporations only concerned about the bottom line.
    * factory farmed foods in your diet.
    * the amount of waste you produce.
    * your desires, and therefore your ecological footprint.
    * time spent indoors in front of the TV and computer.


    * clothes - treat them gently so they can be used over and over (Dolly Parton does not wear any clothes more than once... why do I know that?)
    * leftovers - they are food, too.
    * whatever resources you can (collecting belly button lint for pillow stuffing is going too far).

    * whatever can not be reused.
    * at recycling facilities that are provided in most population centers.
    * but understand you get more bang for your eco-buck with the previous 3 R's.
    * includes composting.

Every day is Earth Day.


    1. We try to do all of these things, but our need for quality water is causing us grief with a large amount of plastic water jugs, that of course, need to be recycled. I'm currently in the process of finding the perfect reusable water filter in order to correct this problem.

      1. We just went through that process. What a nightmare trying to find something that doesn't generate a gigantic used up plastic filter cartridge every three months.

      2. Quality water is so important - we can't live without it.


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