Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – we all could probably recite this phrase in our sleep. Which is a good thing, don’t get me wrong. But I think a lot of us look at this slogan and see only recycle, sometimes acknowledging reuse. Reduce, the first word, is mostly ignored.
Why is this? Reducing is probably the easiest thing to do out of all the R’s, and yet it’s antithetical to who we are, or who we think we are. In our culture, we buy things, some of which we need, a lot of which we might be able to do without. Now, I’m not suggesting you become an ascetic and have no possessions – the contents of my toddler’s room would make me a hypocrite! The point is that buying brand new is not the only way to acquire items, the majority of toys my son has are hand-me-downs or were bought secondhand. When you shop, shop with the lifecycle of the product in mind: take time to think about the resources that went into making the item, how long it will last and what’s going to happen to it when you’re done with it. Case in point: my son’s toys and books will either go to friends or charities (the books go to Recycled Reads, of course!).
When you view your possessions and purchases in terms of their lifecycle, it can certainly whittle down what you need and what you just might want for convenience’s sake. For example, think about how much we could reduce by committing to using reusable cups for coffee. Reducing can be challenging at first, and I'll be the first to admit I'm still struggling with it at times. But when I manage to remember to bring my reusable cup, I feel better about myself, and my day is a little brighter because of it.