Reducing

Reduce is First for a Reason

Kathleen Rocco

Almost every time I enter a classroom, I ask about the three “R” words that remind us to be good to the earth.  Many students older than first grade can get them right away. But they usually start with “recycle” as the first word of the slogan which is supposed to go, “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.”

Reduce is the first word on the list for a very good reason.  Reduce means don’t make trash in the first place.  If you don’t make trash, you don’t have to reuse it, recycle it or throw it in the garbage.  You don’t have to worry about it.

Reduce: Convenience versus Permanence

Reduce is the most important of all the “R” words because it can lead us to a world without waste.  It is the hardest to do because we have to think about why we need certain goods and materials.  If the things we need and use on a regular basis are disposable because they are more convenient to use, then this is an opportunity to find more permanent materials to reduce waste.

Items that are strong and sturdy help us reduce because a metal water bottle or cloth napkin will last longer than the disposable stuff.  Think about it, if you opt to use good quality things that you spent money on, you’ll most likely take care of them and make them last longer.

Share How You Reduce

Please share with us the ways you reduce your waste.  I refuse plastic bags at stores, straws at restaurants and ask a carryout place not to pack plastic utensils and napkins, especially if I’m returning to my office or home.  I compost and feed some leftovers to my dogs, which I know some of you don’t like to do.  My dogs love carrots, apples and some other food scraps.

Some of you may choose a reusable coffee mug for those daily trips to the coffee shop or choose new goods with little packaging. Maybe you borrow, rent or share seldom used items. Other people buy fruits and vegetables at a farmer’s market or in bulk to avoid plastic packaging. Once you’ve mastered a few simple ways to reduce trash, take it a step further and plan a family or holiday celebration as a no-waste or low-waste event.

Before you buy something disposable, remember to think about a substitute so you can reduce first and reuse or recycle second.

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