Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Brought to you by the letter "R"

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Lynette and I just had a conversation about this last night.  I think that a lot of people look at this slogan and actually interpret it as Reduce, Reuse, or Recycle.  While, yes I think that is good, I think it should be more like Reduce, then Reuse, and then Recycle.  Let me explain.

I like to consider myself a fairly normal American, and I feel like I can relate to the misunderstanding of this slogan.  I never assumed that the "R" words were arranged in the order they are for any particular reason (other than sounding catchy).  I bought whatever I bought, and tried to recycle what I could of cans, plastic bottles, glass jars, etc.  In the recent year, I've become more aware of all the stuff that can actually be recycled (paper, cardboard, etc).  I find that we're doing whatever we can to put something in the recycling bin before the trash bin.  Yes, this is great, but we find our recycling bin filling up very quickly, and I think just focusing on the last of the three is completely missing the point.  They are in that order for a reason!  I think people, us included, need to evaluate what they buy a little more and consider the order of the slogan: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

I think that over the last year we've really tried to buy more fresh produce, less processed foods, and in general less packaged stuff all together.  We've done really well, but I still look at a lot of the stuff we buy and I think we can do so much better.  Luckily, my wife is completely on board and we both look forward to a day when we aren't buying anything in cans, plastic bottles, and glass jars.  I know that the tomato juice/sauce/paste/ketchup, mustard, pickles, and whatever else we make ourselves will be so much better on every level!  Yes, there will still be the occasional thing we'll need to buy like an odd ingredient, or just stuff like flour, sugar, spices, etc. that we realistically won't easily be able to get away from.  For these exceptions, that is where the second "R" comes into play.

Reusing items is something I've thought about from time to time, but didn't have an exact idea what to do with that wine bottle, jelly jar, or ketchup bottle.  From here forward, we're going to be trying to save as much of this stuff as possible and try to find some use for them.  Some people may know that we don't have pop/soda in our house.  We just don't buy it.  I, however, have gotten some 2 liter bottles from work, cleaned them, filled them with water and stuck them in our deep freeze.  We've only had our freezer for a few months and it's still pretty empty.  Having these frozen bottles help to add to the thermal mass in that freezer and helps maintain the temperature; therefore making it run more efficient.  They are also great to put in a cooler, and a great source of emergency water if the water here becomes undrinkable for some reason.  Old wine bottles might eventually hold some delicious, fresh made apple juice/cider, and the ketchup and mustard bottles might just hold homemade ketchup and mustard.

Another interesting Reusing item is something I haven't actually tried, but I've recently heard about on a podcast I listen to.  It's the Harvest Eating podcast, and the product is a reusable canning lid!  They are called Tattler Reusable Canning Lids.  They are BPA free, work just like regular lids (from what I understand), and seem fairly reasonably priced.  Like I said, I've never used these, and I'm definitely not getting paid to talk about them or anything, but it just seems like a really good idea.  We're planning on ordering some of these sometime soon and will give them a try once we finally start canning some stuff.  I'm excited that it won't be just a "one and done" product!

Finally, when all efforts have been made to Reduce consumption and you can't Reuse what you have bought, then it's on to Recycling.  I think that we should all be buying products with these 3 things in mind right away.  I know when we go to the store next we're going to be asking ourselves if we can 1. make this ourselves and save from having to buy it, 2. reuse whatever packaging the product is in, and finally 3. if we can't do either 1 or 2, can we at least recycle it.  I think this will even further reduce our waste, save us money, will mean fewer trips to drop off the recycling, and will most definitely mean tastier, fresher, and healthier foods in our fridge, pantry, and stomachs!

I know that to some people we are pretty out there, making our own butter and all, but I really think that everybody should be thinking about this on some level.  Yeah, you might not have any desire to make your own jelly, but could you use that glass jar for something else?!  You could easily store some dried beans or rice in it.  You could use it for something non food related too.  You could put buttons in it or use it on your desk to hold your pens and pencils.  If anything, just make sure you recycle it, but don't use that as an excuse.  There are still extra energy, fossil fuels, and costs that are expended to remake that jar into another jar.  

Do you have some creative ideas to reuse?  What are somethings that you've started making yourself in order to reduce your consumption of packaged goods? Do you find your recycling bin filling up faster than your trash can like we do?  


Rachel (Hounds in the Kitchen) said...

My biggest tip for reducing packaging is to buy in bulk.

We use a LOT of glass mason-type jars around our place. They hold craft supplies, leftovers, canned goods, dry goods, packed lunches, etc. They almost never wear out or break so we just keep up the reusing cycling.

Allison said...

I am planning on making my own produce and bulk items bags so that I don't have to put plastic bags inside my reusable grocery bags. I actually DO reuse the plastic ones, but if I can get rid of them, I will.
And by get rid of them, I mean cut them into strips of "yarn" and make bags.
--Decadent Philistines Save the World

Eric said...

Rachel, we are finding more and more uses for mason jars! We've started storing dried beens, pasta, oats, etc. in them. They are so useful! I even know a guy who insists on using them as a drinking glass (shout to Jeremy if you read this)!

Allison, that's a great idea on those plastic produce bags. It's common place now to use reusable bags at the checkout, but I never really thought about all those produce bags. I worry that someone would think I'm stealing something if I put some produce in an opaque bag. You'll have to let me know what you come up with. We're going to start trying to buy more stuff in bulk, and it would be nice not to have to use those plastic bags.