It’s likely you know and love the chant “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.” Yet, many green advocates are calling for us to add three additional R’s to the list. The new slogan looks like this. In this blog post series we’re introducing the new R’s, as well as reviewing the old ones. Here are the links to the first 4 parts: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse (and Upcycle), Repair, Recycle… and now Re-Think.
Part 6: Re-Think
If you’ve been following along with our blog series I hope you’ve gained a greater understanding of the traditional R’s as well as the 2 new one’s we’ve introduced so far.
Now it’s time for the most radical of the R’s – Re-Think.
“Re-Think” is a challenge to examine your assumptions and purchasing and the good life and consider alternative ways to consume when you upgrade your stuff, design your life, enjoy leisure activities, or more.
Upgrade Your Stuff
Eventually, our stuff becomes old or obsolete and needs to be replaced. However, we may not need to replace every piece of it. For example, when I upgraded my phone in May for the first time in 4 years, I was delighted to find that the charger I’ve been using with my old phone still works with my new phone. This is an example of compatibility. When items are compatible with each other, you do not need to replace parts or pieces that still work, even if you decide to upgrade the components.
When you upgrade your electronics, wardrobe, vehicle, or anything else ask: is there a way to upgrade without buying a completely new thing? For example, could I just reupholster this chair? Do I need a new set of dishes, or just 1 or 2 replacement plates? Will what I buy work with my current space?
Sustainable design can refer to architecture, technology, or urban planning. You can design your life to be sustainable by focusing on using less energy, producing less waste, and reusing more products.
Again, as with a new phone upgrade, sustainable design involves planning for ways to upgrade with complete compatibility instead of purchasing entirely new product and accessories. In a sustainably designed world, products would be designed as completely reusable and able to be recycled into a new product, or entirely biodegradable. For example, glass bottles can be completely recycled over and over again. However plastic bottles, are limited in the number of times they can be recycled into goods that are of equal quality.
Other products that use sustainable design contain non-toxic materials and renewable resources such as bamboo for cutting boards, or cotton for clothing which are completely biodegradable. Other methods to increase sustainable design involve using energy efficient production methods, and sourcing raw materials from nearby locations. Urban planning involves developing cities that can be easily navigable by foot or bike, and using architectural methods that waste less energy.
Some questions to ask when you think about how to design your life include:
Will I be able to recycle or compost this object when I’m done to make something of equal value? Was this product made locally? Can this object have more than one use?
To learn more about Cradle to Cradle design (and what that is) click here.
Have you ever considered borrowing something instead of owning it? We all enjoy historic places in Salem (such as Derby Wharf) without feeling the need to own the lighthouse, or the Friendship. Have you considered doing that clothing, cars, or tools?
Re-thinking the items you use for entertainment can free you from needing to find a place for new objects as well as purchasing items you only use once or twice a year. The rise of the sharing economy and Airbnb and Uber just might help you get your next vacation for much cheaper. Instead of purchasing movies, books, or magazine (even the e-edition) you can borrow from the library, or programs like Audible, Netflix, and Next.
This can even extend to less leisurely objects – like tools. If you own the lawnmower maybe your neighbor can own the snowblower and together you’ve both saved yourself some space and money by sharing.
Ask yourself: Do I need to own this? Or can I share with my neighbor, friends, or community and benefit all?
I hope you’ve enjoyed our 6R’s Blog post series and it has caused you to reconsider all of the R’s.
PS: If you are a savvy reader and environmentalist I’m sure you already know there are more than 6 R’s. Here are three more that I came across that didn’t make my list, but are just as helpful in practicing green living.
ROT: Consider that fact that food waste makes up approximately 25% of American waste, composting your food waste can significantly reduce your output as well as lead to tangible benefits for gardens and soil.
RECOVER: Sometimes called “trash picking” I saw this R on several lists. If you’ve ever noticed a beautiful dresser curbside and taken it home, you’ve practiced “recover.”
REGIFT: When you use a gift someone gave you to provide to another person, or taking a gently used object from your house to give to a friend you’ve practice this “R.”
This post was written by Beth Melillo, a member of the SalemRecycles committee, who has practiced, at one point or another, every once of these R’s!