Reduce, REUSE, and Recycle!

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.

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