The 3 Rs in simple steps

First: reduce. This critical first step has been overshadowed by a focus on recycling. Simplify your life as much as possible. Only keep belongings that you use or enjoy on a regular basis. By making the effort to reduce what you own, you will naturally purchase less and create less waste in the future.

First: reduce
This critical first step has been overshadowed by a focus on recycling.
• Simplify your life as much as possible. Only keep belongings that you use or enjoy on a regular basis. By making the effort to reduce what you own, you will naturally purchase less and create less waste in the future.
• Switch from disposable to reusable products: food and beverage containers, cups, plates, writing pens, razors, nappies, towels, shopping bags, etc.
• As much as possible, create a tree-free home: – replace paper napkins with cloth napkins – replace paper towels with a special set of cloth towels/napkins which you can wash and reuse – purchase bleach-free toilet paper that is made from the highest post-consumer waste content you can find – if you print documents, print on once-used paper and/or bleach-free, recycled paper with the highest post-consumer waste content available (or hemp/alternative-source paper, if you can find it) – leave messages for family members/roommates on a reusable message board – if you will be doing construction on your house, search out alternatives to using new wood: – straw bale, bamboo, previously used wood, cob etc.
• In general, think before you buy any product: do you really need it? How did the production of this product impact the environment and what further impacts will there be with the disposal of the product (and associated packaging materials)?
When you are thinking about buying something, try the 30-Day Rule: wait 30 days after the first time you decide you want a product to really make your decision. This will eliminate impulse buying.
• Avoid products that are packaged for single use (drinks, school lunches, candy, cat and dog food, salads, etc.). Instead, buy in bulk and transfer the products to your own reusable containers.
• Instead of buying these items new, save and reuse all: bags (plastic and paper), rubber bands, twisties, boxes, and packaging material.
• Buy products in bulk to save on packaging. Many health food stores have bulk bins where they sell everything from grains to cereal to cleaning products.
• Avoid creating trash wherever possible: when ordering food, avoid receiving any unnecessary plastic utensils, straws, etc. (ask in advance specifically not to be given these items), buy ice cream in a cone instead of a cup, don’t accept “free” promotional products, buy products with the least amount of packaging. Every little bit of trash avoided does make a difference!
• When shopping, always bring your own shopping bag.

Second: reuse
The media has done a wonderful job of selling us on the attractiveness and benefits of buying “new”, “improved”, “special”, etc. products. However, we already collectively own so much that we could all survive for quite a while on the existing products – if we just reused them a few times!
• Shop at and hold garage sales – this is a great way to reuse products.
• Donate your old clothes, furniture and other products to charity.
• Donate your old computer equipment to needy schools and organisations.
• Donate your old eyeglasses to the local Lions Club.
• Organize a community swap program.
• Buy products that will last and take care of them.
• Teach your children the value of thrift.
• Be creative about how to reuse products.
• Create and use note pads from once-used paper and make your own cards/letters from once-used products or handmade paper.
• Buy second-hand books from your local library or used book store.
• Join in with neighbors to purchase infrequently used products such as lawn mowers, ladders, etc.

Third: recycle
• Learn about the recycling centres in your area. Check your local phone directory and the Biophile website: www.biophile.co.za
• Create designated holding “bins” for each type of recycled product and place in convenient locations in your home/garage.
• Create a fact sheet on recycling centers in your area for yourself and interested neighbors. Find out where you can recycle newspapers, glass, styrofoam, corrugated paper, plastic, aluminum, paper, cardboard, tin cans, scrap metal, junk mail, and alkaline batteries.
• In general, try to buy products/containers made from recycled material as often as possible to support the recycled product market. When purchasing paper products (toilet paper, etc,), look for paper that has been recycled using a minimum of 50% post-consumer waste. Also, purchase from companies that do not use chlorine to bleach their paper products (which creates dioxin waste).
• Tell your local retailers you want them to stock more products made from recycled materials
• Leave grass clippings on the lawn as fertilizer.
• Start a compost pile with garden trimmings and kitchen waste.
• Purchase rechargeable batteries and a battery recharger (some battery rechargers will also recharge regular alkaline batteries).
• When you buy new tires, ask if your old tires will be recycled – if not find out if there is a tire recycling center in your area.
• If you are travelling and no recycle bins are available, take your recyclables home with you whenever possible.