Did you know that Earth Day began almost 45 years ago?! Founded by Gaylord Nelson, then a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, at a time when environmental activism was emerging, yet legislation to protect our air, water and land was practically non-existent. Well, thank you Gaylord because there are few things in life that I am more passionate about than our planet and keeping it healthy!
In celebration of Earth Day, let’s talk about the three R’s: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. We’ve likely all heard of them and I’m pretty sure you’ve seen the little triangle loop of arrows on the bottom of yogurt containers and on the sides of recycle bins in our offices and homes and various other places.
Many of us recycle, and lots of us do a pretty good job of it. Some of us (ahem) might even be “over-recycling” and just crossing our fingers and hoping for the best when we toss our stuff in the blue bin (I’m totally guilty). Here’s a lovely website put together by a fellow recycler that shows you what does/does not recycle in your city: recyclebycity.com. More cities coming soon!
But what about reducing our use in the first place and asking ourselves if we really, really need to buy something? Americans have so much stuff that some of us pay storage companies just to house our stuff! And then we forget what we’re actually storing and buy more stuff! It’s wasteful, expensive and stressful.
What if when we needed something we asked ourselves:
1. Do I really need this?
2. If I get this item, where does it go at the end of its lifecycle? The landfill? Can I recycle it?
3. If I really, really need it, where can I get it? Do I have to buy it new or can I find it at a resale/thrift shop, Craigslist, borrow/buy it from a friend, or request it on Freecycle? (I am in love with Freecycle! More on this below.)
Reuse is a fantastic way we can keep stuff out of our landfills. We can pass items on to other people or repurpose materials for other uses. Back in thriftier times, Americans did a lot more of this. Upcycling is a fancy term for turning our stuff into other stuff. Do a web search for “upcycling” and some of the ideas you’ll find are incredible. How about making your old snow skis into a chair? Amazing.
Ok. What is this “Freecycle” thing? You can write an ‘Offer’ if you have something to give away or a ‘Wanted’ post for something you need and see what happens. I have given away probably 200+ items on Freecycle and gotten some great stuff back, too. It is a wonderful way to extend the life span of some of your old items and build community at the same time. Go to freecycle.org to find a group near you.
If you need a little jumpstart to break you from your consumption habit, take a few minutes and watch this most excellent video “Story of Stuff”.