HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns
June 11, 2007, Herald Journal

Reduce, reuse, and . . . what?


Whatever happened to reduce, reuse, and recycle? Many may feel tossing their aluminum cans in the recycling bin is enough. Actually, one recycled can power a television for three whole hours, according to Waste Management. But there is so much more that can be done. I hear this all the time from my mom, and she hears it from my brother, so now I’m telling it to you. Lucky for you!

Recycling is the most popular of the three Rs but it’s not the only one that should be taken seriously. “Reducing” is a major way we can eliminate waste and therefore, not have to worry about recycling at all.

Reducing the use of disposable items such as paper plates, cleaning wipes, and any other one-time use products that’s main purpose is convenience is another way to help eliminate waste.

Products nowadays are made for convenience purposes. We wouldn’t want to spend too much time washing dishes or old fashioned plastic toilette brushes. Now everything is made so you can just toss it away when you are done using it. How convenient for us, mother nature on the other hand, isn’t agreeing with that mindset.

Each Minnesotan, on average, throws away six pounds of garbage a day. This isn’t so astonishing since a pound of that is junk mail.

Snooping around for column ideas, I came across reduce.org which noted 4.33 million tons of garbage comes from unwanted mail.

The site also included a registration form with the Direct Marketing Association where a person can sign up to have their names taken off the advertising mailing list.

Another useful site is the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, www.pca.state.mn.us.

The site gives some suggestions for practicing the three Rs including buying products that are less toxic and have less packaging, using reusable containers and other reusable items, maintaining and repairing products (as well as borrowing or renting tools and equipment instead of purchasing for a one-time use), participating in recycling programs, and buying products made from recycled materials (they even have clothing now).

I’m not one for spending money on Tupperware. I take advantage of the I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter containers and the like. Sometimes, I’ll have to open three yellow container before I actually find the butter.

I’m also finding many businesses that go through a lot of garbage don’t recycle. Unlike homeowners, it’s up to the businesses to contact their waste management company to request a recycling bin.

Oh! And for those summer picnics, buy plastic and wash them.Don’t buy polystyrene foam aka Styrofoam. The process of making it pollutes the air and creates large amounts of solid and liquid waste, according to a 1986 EPA report.

Another easy thing to do, especially during the spring and summer months, is reduce waste by building a compost pile. This can be made up of both yard trimmings and food scraps. Food scraps include coffee grounds, tea bags, raw fruit and vegetable scraps, along with yard clippings and leaves.

Using compost in gardens can replace fertilizer and improve soil quality for plants.

The key, I believe, is to be conscious of what you buy. Don’t buy things just because they will save you time . . . think about the environment as well. If everyone could just think before they do, the world would be a lot greener.