We’ve all heard this motto before. But what you may not know is that these words are listed in order of priority, guiding us in just how to best save the planet. This means reducing our consumption and waste is at the top of the list and is the most important and effective precept. Reusing is the next in terms of its ability to help the earth. Last but not least, recycling is a simple and easy way to protect the environment. Read on for a list of practical, eco-friendly things you can do to put the 3 Rs into practice every day and really make a difference.
1. Bring Your Own Bag.
Reusable shopping bags are a fashionable way to reduce a huge waste problem. Americans use roughly 102.1 billion plastic bags annually. Tons of landfill waste is generated when they get tossed out. Less than one percent of plastic bags are recycled each year. The cost to recycle one ton of plastic bags is about $4,000, and the end product can be sold for only about $33. Plastic bags are not biodegradable. Sunlight gradually breaks them down into smaller and smaller pieces. These particles contaminate the soil and when they get into the water, filter feeding marine animals ingest them. Biotoxins like PCBs move up the food chain, potentially ending in humans. In 2009, during an International Coastal Cleanup, Ocean Conservancy found plastic bags to be the second most common waste product found. One out of every ten things picked up and cataloged was a plastic bag.
2. Get a Reusable Bottle and a Water Filter.
With reusable bottles and a water filter you can purify your own tap water rather than buying bottled water. Bottled water is not only much more expensive, but it creates up to 1.5 million tons of container waste annually. And, according to Food and Water Watch, those same plastic bottles require up to 47 million gallons of oil annually to make. We prefer stainless steel water bottles or personal glass bottles because they are always BPA free.
3. Try Litter Free Lunches.
Over 9 million pounds of waste from lunches are thrown out DAILY. Using reusable lunch bags, lunch boxes and BPA free containers will lower this number substantially. The average family can keep nearly 300 pounds of waste a year out of the landfill just by switching to reusable lunch bags and containers. Throw in a cloth napkin for a completely waste-free lunch.
4. Donate, consign and buy used.
One person’s trash is another person’s treasure. By donating or consigning your gently used items, you can help reduce the amount of trash entering landfills on a daily basis. Consider buying used, too. There are a number of ways to buy second-hand goods these days. Consignment stores, thrift stores, yard sales, flea markets, and antiques dealers are all very good ways to find used household items, clothes, and treasures. Craigslist and FreeSharing are great online sources for local used products. Remember, the longer we keep something out of the landfill, the better!
5. Keep electronics out of the trash.
This includes cell phones, computers, electronic games, and more. E-waste contains mercury as well as other toxins and is a rapidly expanding environmental issue. Donate or recycle them whenever possible. Many local governments have electronics recycling and/or hazardous waste collection events. Call for a schedule. If your local government doesn’t have any events scheduled, then ask for one. You are probably not the only person asking.
Small changes make a huge impact.
Every little action — each box you recycle, each cloth shopping bag you use, each tree you plant — makes a big difference. By reducing, reusing, and recycling, you are using up fewer natural resources, contributing less to the landfill, keeping toxins out of the environment, and safeguarding our planet’s future. Eco-friendly practices ensure that our Earth will continue to be a safe, healthy, beautiful place for us, our children, our grandchildren, and many generations to come.