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Reduce – The First of the 3Rs Hierarchy

By Larraine Roulston:

This year, “Waste Reduction Week” (WRW) was celebrated from October 20-26. At this time, recycling councils promote the 3Rsreduce-reuse-recycle – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle — with activities and sponsored events.  WRW is intended to raise public consciousness about waste and its environmental and social ramifications.Reduce is announced first, as it is the most important, but sadly the hardest, “R” to promote.

Starting down the path to “Reduce” can be daunting until one actually begins. I believe people are generally conservative by nature; however, over the past several decades, we have been taught to “just throw it away.” We live in a world of overpackaging and overconsumption; and we deal with products that do not last and are cheaper to replace than repair. The promotion of large extra strength green garbage bags has made it even more acceptable to discard just about everything, including the kitchen sink. Consequently, we have become known as consumers in a disposable society. Annie Leonard says it all in her video The Story of Stuff.

To “Reduce,” give yourself a waste audit simply by observing the contents inside your garbage bag. Then, think of the alternatives. The following tips will help you reduce and save you money as well.

  • •Share major items. If you live in a friendly neighborhood, consider pooling resources such as ladders and wheelbarrows.
  • •Utilize your local library for books and videos.
  • •When using public washrooms, simply let your hands dry in the air to reduce the number of paper towels that accumulate in the trash can, or avoid using power from a hand dryer.  Reduce earth
  • •Rent instead of purchase.
  • •When in a restaurant, order a beverage without a straw. You can even go a step further and explain why.
  • •Children’s parties usually generate a garbage bag of “stuff.” Avoid straws, balloons, cheap party favors, plastic encased candy, and cheap loot bag items.
  • Share magazines, toys, games and jigsaw puzzles.
  • •Purchase only what is necessary, long lasting, and can be reused, recycled, repaired or repurposed.
  • •Reduce your use of energy and water.
  • •Encourage supermarket managers to avoid displaying produce on shrink-wrapped Styrofoam trays.
  • •Drink tap water and save money by not purchasing bottled water.
  • •Try shampooing your hair less often. In addition to your purchasing fewer shampoo bottles and rinsing less soap down the drain, you will be decreasing the loss of your natural oils. Visit “No Shampoo” or “How To Wash Your Hair without Shampoo” for encouragement.
  • •Help save forests by placing a “No Junk Mail” sign on your mailbox.
  • •When driving, reduce your speed; and, if possible, lighten the load in your trunk to save fuel.
  • •Reduce the urge to purchase chemical cleaning products.  Investigate the many recipes using vinegar and baking soda.
  • Composting will reduce your gardening water bill.

•Make up a game by asking they can reduce. Individuals  can make a difference by practicing the 3Rs (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle). And don’t forget composting at home, at work and at play. We must have ambitious objectives to reduce our solid waste during this decade. Re-Think! The Future is Rs!

Larraine Roulston authors the Pee Wee at Castle Compost series, www.castlecompost.com

About Larraine Roulston

A mother of 4 with 6 wonderful grandchildren, Larraine has been active in the environmental movement since the early l970s. When the first blue boxes for recycling were launched in her region, she began writing a local weekly newspaper column to promote the 3Rs. Since that time, she has been a freelance writer for several publications, including BioCycle magazine. As a composting advocate, Larraine authors children's adventure stories that combine composting facts with literature. Currently she is working on the 6th book of her Pee Wee at Castle Compost series, which can be viewed at www.castlecompost.com. As well, Larraine and her husband Pete have built a straw bale home and live in Ontario.

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One comment

  1. Thank you for acknowledging the fact that beginning a new habit such as Reducing is not only difficult to promote, but also difficult for someone new to the concept. I’ve had this conversation with many ardent conservationists who insist that people need to “just do it!” In order to get more people on the Reduce wagon, we’ve got to have easy baby steps for them to take. As they take them, they will build the memory muscle necessary to understand what they are trying to do (reduce in many areas of their lives), and to do it consistently.
    Really good article. Thanks

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