Thursday, April 22nd, 2021 by Deanna Brenon
This Earth Day we're launching into a summer of sustainability, starting by looking at consumption & disposal of materials. The three Rs are common in sustainability discussions- Reduce, Reuse and Recycle are staples of sustainable living, but they aren’t all-encompassing. To expand the pyramid for a more holistic approach, Refuse, Repair, and Replace must be added in.
The normal slogan is memorable and effective, but to really look at consumption on an individual or large-scale level, we also need to consider refusing unnecessary items, repairing items when possible, and sourcing sustainable replacements.
This R is pretty simple, but not always recognized. Before buying or accepting something, take a moment to think “Do I really need this?”. If the answer is yes, proceed with thoughtful action. If the item isn’t necessary, feel free to opt-out, say no thanks, or make an alternative suggestion. For example, if keeping reusable bags handy allows for the refusal of paper and plastic bags.
On the other hand, try not to be judgemental of people who don’t refuse some single-use items. Some situations require single-use items, and it’s not a competition to be the most sustainable. We don’t need a few people being perfectly sustainable, but millions of people trying to be a little more sustainable each day!
Reducing consumption is between refusing and reusing new items. It’s not always possible to say no or go without a particular resource, but you can try to maximize use while minimizing waste. We all need to use some non-renewable resources, like electricity or gas.
In these situations you can maximize efficiency by carpooling using alternative transportation, unplugging electronics when not in use, and switching to energy-efficient lighting and appliances.
To reduce waste generation you can also do a personal waste audit. Before emptying the trash each week, take a look and see what items are most common. Make a mental or physical note and think about sustainable alternatives!
Repair and refurbish can be grouped together within this category. These Rs are the most underrated but very important. Current waste generation rates are driven by the take-make-waste model, in which resources are gathered to make an item, and immediately after the item serves its purpose it is disposed of.
Repairing disrupts this cycle and extends the lifespan in a new but similar form. This is very relevant in three industries- fashion, electronics, and furniture. These materials are all often repairable or reworkable. Choosing to refurbish diverts items from the waste stream while also giving these old items new life, especially in wasteful industries like fast fashion.
Not every piece will be salvageable, but it’s often worth the time and effort to repair or refurbish items instead of replacing them. Repairing is better for the planet and your wallet!
Another one of the original “Rs”, recycling is often touted as an inclusive solution to waste issues. Recycling is extremely important to moving towards a more circular economy, diverting from landfills, and regenerating materials, but it is far from the only solution needed.
This is especially obvious given the lack of communication around proper recycling procedures! Did you know that recycling rules change from state to state (even sometimes from town to town), and if you don’t follow the rules, the recyclables can be “contaminated” and go to the trash?
Recycling is obviously very important to us here at Junkluggers, but it’s also important to us that our sustainability-minded friends & followers have a comprehensive understanding of recycling.
The last R is Replace, but do it sustainably, of course! Sustainable shopping can be done in any category by asking a list of questions, and they can be different for everyone. For example, you could ask the following:
Many people think shopping sustainably comes with a higher price tag, and honestly, sometimes it does! That isn’t always the case, but don’t feel guilty for buying an item that wasn’t sustainably made if you can’t afford the alternative. The most important thing is how you use it once it’s been purchased.
Another option is to shop local! Even if they don’t carry sustainably made items, you’re supporting a local business, your community, and diverting business from large brands that have negative environmental impacts.
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