When I was in high school, I had a theory: Girls travel in packs of three. The pretty one, the smart one, and the fun one.
I think I can apply this to the three Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle) as well.
Recycling gets all the action. People get behind it because it’s dynamic and concrete. It gets its image printed on Tshirts. It’s the face of the green movement, the spokesperson, leader of the pack. It’s the pretty one.
Reusing requires a bit of creative thinking. People love to see what crazy ideas others have come up with. LP as snack tray? Cool! Homes made from shipping containers? Super awesome! Ottomans from old washing machine drums? Dang, wish I’d thought of that when my mother-in-law had an washing machine drum sitting in her garage! Reusing (and its twin, repurposing) is definitely the fun one.
Which leaves us with poor old Reduce, less popular but smart as a whip. There would be less need to reuse, repurpose and recycle if we didn’t buy the stuff in the first place. Recycling is great, don’t get me wrong, keep doing it! but ultimately it still uses a lot of energy and causes its share of pollution. And while reusing and repurposing extends the life of an item, its final destination is still going to be the landfill.
I think I’ve mentioned before that I am in the throes of a massive declutter, trying to free up some space so I can breathe, and just getting rid of stuff so I don’t have to organize it or clean it or shuffle it around anymore. Right on the heels of that decision came the realization that all this work will be for naught, if I keep letting new stuff in the house.
Right around then I came across Crunchy Chicken’s Buy Nothing Challenge. I wasn’t the little joiner yet that I’ve become (in the last two weeks or so; what’s happened to me?) so I didn’t officially sign on, but in my mind I made the commitment. Aside from food, gasoline and bills, I have not bought a single thing in three weeks. Nothing. However, in the next month I have a flurry of wedding activity, which requires gifts and clothing, and I don’t think I’ll be able to sustain the buying of nothing. (More on my attempts to keep it green and simple during wedding season later this week.)
So the new challenge: What other ways can I reduce?
The most obvious place to start is my carbon footprint. By my calculations online, our family’s footprint is lesser than that of your Average American, but surely we can do better than that. (See how I said that without any sarcastic comments on the Average American being a wasteful, lazy, inconsiderate slob? How nice I’ve become!) So I’ve been doing some thinking and clicking around, and here’s what I’ve come up with:
- I joined the Gift of Green’s Clothesline Challenge. I’m shooting for 100% line-dry for the duration of the challenge (May, June, July). That’s completely doable during the summer, since I can easily offset rainy days by doubling up on bright sunny days. Also, during the summer the clothes are smaller! So less loads overall.
- I also signed on for Farm to Philly’s One Local Summer challenge. This one requires me to make one meal a week using only locally grown ingredients from June 1st through August 31st. This one is also completely doable; I can just make our Sunday dinner from whatever I buy at the co-op farmer’s market that morning. I couldn’t make the button functional on the sidebar, but here’s the image:
- I’ll conserve more energy by using my laptop rather than the desktop whenever I can.
- Cassie’s last day of school is tomorrow, so I won’t need to drive quite as much. I’m going to attempt to give the car a rest four days out of the week.
- Sometimes I will take the paper bags at the grocery store, just to have something to put the recycling into and make it more convenient to drop off at the recycling center. That’s just me being a bum. From now on it’s my fabric bags only, and I’ll put my recycling into a big Rubbermaid tub and transport it that way.
- I’ll put out containers to catch rain, to water the vegetable garden. I’ve been meaning to do that anyway, I hate dragging out and putting back the hose.
- I’ll learn how to save all the good recipes in one place on my computer instead of printing them out and putting them in the binder. I’ve already “discovered” the wonders of del.icio.us (long after everyone else in the world, nobody tells me anything) so I don’t need to print out articles anymore.
- I’ll do more shopping from the bulk bins to cut down on packaging.
- I’ll remember to bring my mug to the Y for my coffee, rather than use the Styrofoam cups (I always feel super-hypocritical doing it! But I do forgo the stirrer!)
- My magazine subscriptions all lapse next month, and I’m not going to renew them; many of the articles are online, all of the parenting magazines are available to read at the Y while I work out, and everything else I can get from the library.
- One thing that I will buy: a battery charger and a bunch of rechargeable AA and AAAs. The end of the school year means Wii privileges are restored, and those remotes go through a lot of batteries.
Help a lady out! What am I overlooking? What other ways are there to reduce?
What do you do?