R is for Reduce
For the next 5 weeks I am going to cover the 5 R’s. Are you confused? Most often, when thinking about waste, which I know happens constantly, people think about the 3 R’s: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. While these are definitely important there are 2 others that are often overlooked but equally as important. These are Rot and Rebuy. But, now I am getting ahead of myself. Lets turn to Reduce for the time being.
Polly La Barre in Fast Co. Magazine in February in 2003 said, “One of the most shocking measures of our prosperity is the fact that the US spends more on trash bags than 90 other countries spend on everything. In effect, our trash bags cost more than all goods consumed by nearly half of the world’s nations.” Yikes. Couple that with the fact that for every 1 trash can we put out at the curb, 70 more trash cans have been created along the way in the manufacturing of the products we toss. And we toss alot! The average Wisconsinite creates 4.7 lbs. of trash a day (and that doesn’t include what we recycle!) For an interesting bit on how much stuff we make, I recommend a video on the trash of a human lifetime. A link is available at my squidoo page along with a lot more interesting information. There is also an interesting video by Annie Leonard that shows the entire life cycle of a product. It is a little longer (20 minutes) but well worth it if you have the time. It is pretty entertaining too, nothing that will put you in a coma.
So, to solve the problem. Well, that may be a little much for one day, but very easily we can get a pretty good start. 1/3 of non-industrial waste is packaging. This is part of the reason that 99% of what we use is thrown away within 6 months of us getting it. Here are a few packaging tips:
- Look for items with less packaging. Buy fresh fruits and veggies without packaging.
- Buy in bulk if you will use it all. There is less packaging when you buy in bulk. Consider a large bag of chips vs. a lot of individual packages. There is a huge difference!
- Buy items with recyclable packaging. For example, look for eggs in paper cartons rather than Styrofoam.
Taxes pay for what we toss in a landfill. Garbage is very expensive! By reducing the amount of stuff we use, thereby reducing how much we have to throw away, we will enter an economic Shangri-La. Well, probably not. But every little bit helps. Also, remember that recycling earns your community money! So the more you recycle the more money your community makes! For more waste reducing tips visit our website at www.waukeshacounty.gov/recycling or www.besmart.org.