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Living on Less

Re-thinking the three R’s.

We are really big on recycling. We often forget about reduce and re-use. People use the phrase “Throw it away.” without thinking about the fact that there is no away. I enjoy the new R – Refuse. It should be added to the waste hierarchy. The term waste hierarchy is very thought-provoking. It seems like a better way of thinking about the consumption of things and what options we have. We have been trying to reduce our waste. Some forms of reduce would include zero-waste, shorter showers and using natural cleaning products like baking soda instead of chemicals. I totally ripped the following from a Wiki page to better explain the Waste Hierarchy as I understand it.

The Rs are categories at the top of our disposal options. They include a variety of initiatives for disposing of discards. Generally, options lowest on the list are least desirable.

Reduce – to buy less and use less. Incorporates common sense ideas like turning off the lights, rain barrels, and taking shorter showers, but also plays a part in composting/grasscycling (transportation energy is reduced), low-flow toilets, and programmable thermostats. Includes the terms Re-think, Precycle, Carpool, Efficient, and Environmental Footprint.

Reuse – elements of the discarded item are used again. Initiatives include hand-me-downs, garage sales, quilting, travel mugs, and composting (nutrients). Includes the terms laundry, repair, regift, and upcycle.

Recycle – discards are separated into materials that may be incorporated into new products. This is different from Reuse in that energy is used to change the physical properties of the material. Initiatives include Composting, Beverage Container Deposits and buying products with a high content of post-consumer material. Within recycling there is distinction between two types:

Upcycle– converting low-value materials in high-value products (more desirable)
Downcycle – converting valuable products into low-value raw materials (less desirable)

Generate – capturing useful material for waste to energy programs. Includes Methane Collection, Gasification and Digestion, and the term Recover.

Incinerate – high temperature destruction of material. Differs from Gasification in that oxygen is used; differs from burning in that high temperatures consume material efficiently and emissions are controlled.

Devastate – to discard into the natural environment, or to “trash” the planet. Includes Litter, Burn Barrels, Unnecessary Vehicle Idling, and Dumping discards onto land or into water

Waste hierarchy – Wikipedia
The word “devastate” is so scary but realistic. We are trashing our planet. If we focus on the 4 R’s (refuse, reduce, reuse and recycle) maybe we could start loving our planet again. That would be a Christmas present the planet would appreciate.



About stephanieough

Wife, mom, concerned citizen of the earth. Striving towards intentional living rather than blindly following. Former Education Specialist for a corporation, I have now taken a step back to spend time with my family and work closer to home. Hoping to reduce our waste through refusing, reducing and reusing so that we will not have to recycle as much. Also, I love to explore zero-waste fast food and take pictures of my sucesses. I'm a fan of British comedies like Red Dwarf and Black Adder, Kevin Smith and his movies, Asian food, documentaries, biographies and going to Las Vegas on vacation. If someone told me I could only listen to the Beatles for the rest of my life I would die happy.


One thought on “Re-thinking the three R’s.

  1. Good thoughts on this post. I have a hard time remembering that I can always refuse something when I think “I’ll just take it home to recycle it.”

    The recycling dumpster in our alley is always so full – the trash dumpsters are getting less and less use…I think that is a sign in the right direction and someday maybe everyone will be interested in refusing and reducing.

    Posted by sonrie | December 12, 2011, 3:59 pm

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