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Reduce, REUSE, and Recycle!

2010 October 19

By Erin Jones

The 3 R’s – Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle have been around for awhile. I think people understand the basic concepts behind them. In a nutshell: REDUCE—look to purchase products that require less packaging or to limit the waste you are producing; REUSE—use a travel mug or reusable water bottle and avoid single-use bags; and RECYCLE—paper, plastic, glass, magazines, electronics, and more can be processed into new products while using fewer natural resources and less energy. This is the 3 R’s mantra.

I am always looking for ways to make these 3 R’s a little bit more fun and a whole lot “cooler”. I find a lot of cool when I look at the REUSE possibilities. A whole culture of folks across the U.S. are taking yesterdays products, reusing them and making those things cool again. I recently attended the Renegade Craft Fair in Chicago, IL and found a whole lot of cool REUSE action in the crafts that artists were selling there.

I saw birdhouses and picture frames made from reclaimed wood, bottle caps reused and turned into magnets, cufflinks and jewelry made from reused maps and postage stamps, seatbelts reused to make belts and guitar straps, and skirts and dresses made from old textiles and tailored into new modern clothes.

This makes me think, what do I already have, that I could REUSE and make cool again?? It also gets me thinking about these artists whose jobs help reduce the waste that our society has produced. Craft fairs and other markets for “green” consumer products seem to be popping up all around us. And although these products reduce harm to the environment to differing degrees, I believe every little change I can make in my consumer behavior has got to help. So step back, think about the 3 R’s, and try to make them fun and interesting in a way that matters to you. Break out of the traditional 3 R’s mantra and be creative and find ways to make reducing, reusing, and recycling cool enough to be a part of your every day life.

Note: The Renegade Craft Fair is a traveling show with free admission. This past year, it stopped in Austin, Brooklyn, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Chicago throughout the spring and summer months and will return to Chicago and San Francisco in December 2010.

About the author: Erin Jones is an Intern at EPA Region 5 working in environmental education. She is currently working on her Master’s in Geography & Environmental Studies at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago, IL.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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10 Responses leave one →
  1. armansyahardanis permalink
    October 19, 2010

    Human nature – not perfectionist.
    Sometimes I am wasteful to use the water, throw the paper to the basket and smoking in the cafe. So, I think Iam not an evironmentalis.
    Really, I appreciate for the human nature : egoist, forgotten, unstable and perfectionist. I am worrying The Environmentalists forget it.

  2. Jean Greco permalink
    October 19, 2010

    I live in Virginia and the waste management system at my apartment complex asks all residents to practice single waste stream recycling by separating garbage into recyclable and non recyclable waste. However, I have no faith that the system is working. How can we know?

  3. WendyWyatt permalink
    October 19, 2010

    I have started doing this. Anything that is not recyclable, I find a use for it, and then I try not to buy anything that is not packaged with recycled material. I also stopped buying ‘anything’ I don’t really need, and I am saving a lot of money too! :)

    The great thing about this, is that corporates want us to think they have all the power, but they really don’t. The consumer does! They only have the power we give them by our consumer choices. They can have all the lobbyist in the world, but if we don’t give them our dollar, they have nothing. The problem is we have become consumer …hmm irresponsible as consumers. Of course myself included! I didn’t realize how much I was consuming and was not paying enough attention to who I was supporting and what ethics they had, or lack of environmental ethics they had.

    Bottom line, we are voting every time we spend a dollar.

  4. Wade Cockfield permalink
    October 20, 2010

    I admire what the artists at the The Renegade Craft Fair has achieved, making crafts out of materials others would consider as rubbish. Theirs is a trade that never losses as their only capital are the artistic talents they possess while the raw materials for their products are free.

  5. Michael E. Bailey permalink
    October 24, 2010

    This is great. If you can take something that is old and reuse it and turn it into something new and fresh, it will be teriffic. And it is something everyone can do. You don’t need a lot of special education or special equipment just the material and a good imagination and a few basic tools. This also has the impact of lessening the carbon and water footprints associated in the usual manufacturing processes. Best wishes, Michael E. Bailey.

  6. Jeff Fread permalink
    October 25, 2010

    Chances are that most of the people reading this blog are already doing some things. Seems the challenge is two-fold: How can we each do more? And how can we encourage others to adopt Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle as part of their daily lives? The latter is the tougher part.

    It’s also frustrating that here in PA, while there are laws requiring proper handling of things like yard waste, it’s just very hard to make it happen. There are only 2 dates a year (at odd times) when it’s picked up separately. All my neighbors just throw it all away in the weekly trash pickup. I wish it were easier to recycle/compost this stuff, too, which has to take up a large percentage of wast.

  7. Suzzie and her Little Black Dress permalink
    October 27, 2010

    People should recycle plastic bags..and reduce using it too..segregate biodegradable and non-biodegradable if possible and let the bio ones decompose where it can be used as fertilizers on not buy a lot of clothes, dresses and unimportant apparels, these products consume a lot of energy and water!

  8. Will permalink
    October 28, 2010

    its amazing how much we could do with recycled goods. yet, how little people actually recycle. I think if we offered cash incentive, it would drastically help to get this done, especially with the uncertainty of the economy.


  9. Scott permalink
    December 21, 2010

    Ya but how do we keep cost down to make more people want to act on all this….. Compare recycled prices to non-recycled items!

  10. Balmain Cafe permalink
    August 5, 2011

    Great things are given in this blog, and i look forward to reading are from you. Keep up the good work.

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