We make a huge impact simply by the choices we make every day. What we do and don’t do, what we spend and where we spend it. When it comes to important resources like food, water, energy and land space, these choices determine how much of it is used, how much is wasted, and ultimately how much they cost the consumer and the planet.
Sustainability is all about making better choices. It’s about starting somewhere, however small, and moving in the right direction. Just like experts aren’t made overnight it’s making progress day-to-day that adds up.
In this 3-step guide to sustainability we cover the Three R’s: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. The order is important, so let’s take a look at the first R.
Step 1 – Reduce
Reduce is the first step on the list as it’s the most effective way of being more sustainable. Simply put, it’s reducing the consumption of things that can lead to waste and pollution. Things like single-use plastics, food waste, and fossil fuels. The next two steps, Reuse and Recycle, only help to minimise waste and pollution after the wheel is in motion. Reducing our consumption slows or stops the wheel altogether.
- Don’t buy things you don’t need. Think carefully about what you already have – do you really need it? If the answer is no, then you can live quite happily without it
- Stop using single-use items. Plastic water bottles, disposable cutlery, and takeaway coffee cups are examples of things that are often thrown away after just one use. Swap them with a reusable alternative
- Print wisely. It may seem small, but printing less overall reduces deforestation and demands for electricity and water. Consider whether you need to print an email or document. But if you do, print on both sides of the paper and in black and white where possible.
Step 2 – Reuse
Reuse is about giving items a second life for you or someone else.
- Pass it on to someone else. If the item is still useable, see if it can be used by someone else. Donate it, sell it, or gift it so it can find a new home
- Repurpose the item to find another use for it. Jars and food containers can be used to hold plants, herbs, or stationery. Leftover food can be used to make some great all-in-one dishes for another meal
- Buy it second-hand if you need something that doesn’t need to be new. Buying second-hand clothes and electronics, for example, can save you anything from a little change to a small fortune
Step 3 – Recycle
Recycling is the third step on the list and should never be the first consideration. When materials are recycled they get broken down into useable and non-useable parts. This process requires additional resources like electricity and water and nearly always produces some form of waste.
Some materials can be recycled more easily than others and this depends on the type of material, how it was made, and what recycling options are available to you. For example, some types of plastic are very difficult to recycle and can contaminate other plastics making them impossible to process. Before you buy, it’s always best to check the packaging label.
If you’re unsure what you can recycle locally check out the Recycle Now website.