The Real “3 Rs” Re-visited

The 3 Rs:  Reduce, Re-use, Recycle.  I’ve been thinking about that triple letter lately.  Humour me by allowing me to wander backwards a few steps:

Somewhere along the line I think many people have forgotten about the first two ‘R’s:  society seems to have quickly skipped over Reducing and Re-using and sped right into Recycling!   My oldest son Robin recently led me to a video on the truth about Recycling called  ‘Gone Tomorrow:  The Hidden Life of Garbage’ @  

 A real eye-opener!!  Everybody is into recycling and that’s great.  Where my sister Betty lives in British Columbia, people TAKE their bottles and cans to depots where they are given money back, all while they are out and about anyway – a ‘Pay-as-You-Throw’ system, so to speak.  Here in Ontario, many communities have contracted curb-side recycling  pick up……at a tremendous cost to the taxpayer and the environment we were committed to ‘respect’.  These huge garbage trucks utilize a non-renewable oil resource to drive all over the place to pick up the recycled bottles and cans every single week, spewing diesel fumes, polluting our air; then take these items to a recycling center to be sorted (Many items are thrown into the garbage anyway as they don’t meet the accepted recycling categories of a #2,3,4,or 6 -or whatever the municipality has deemed).  An interesting 20 minute video that you should check out is the Story of Stuff @ .

 Personally, I recycle/compost  everything possible and have a small bag of “packaging” garbage each week (for our family of 3), which I feel is still too much and intend to cut down on.  But I realize that I can improve even more . 

It seems to me that lately it is becoming increasingly popular to re-use things.  I believe in British Columbia I noticed that they called it “retro”……it’s good to know that what’s old has become new again:  I’m back in style!  Thrift shops have sprung up all over the place, providing a place for people to to let someone else re-use an item if they are finished with it and make a few bucks.  And even better is Freecycle where you can GIVE away an unused item or find something you need .  Other re-using modes include  or (or whatever community you live in), and even Ebay.  And I can’t help but mention MY favourite:  garage sales!  As long as I only spend a few dollars on gas driving around (in my efficient ’92 Honda),  it’s a fun time, too.   But seriously, we seem to live in a disposable society – people buy and buy then throw it away when they get tired of it or it breaks….  or have a yard sale.

First and foremost, we need to Reduce our consumption.  Along with purchases, comes all that packaging.  Everyone can take little steps to reduce the amount of packaging our products come in by making a conscious effort when we shop:

But we can simply reduce the amount of stuff we buy! 

The new buzz word is ‘Precycling’ or smart-shopping in the first place.  Precycling involves making buying choices that support responsible products and packaging.  It’s another way to reduce your garbage by not purchasing it in the first place!

I’ve stopped picking up the weekly paper with all those flyers.  It really bothered me to think about all the trees that were destroyed just for my reading and recycling pleasure.  I now just go online to read the local paper and check out any flyers.  Many years ago I stopped subscribing to my favourite magazines in a effort to reduce paper and the accumulation of years worth of magazines that I never throw out.  But I suppose it’s a good thing too because now my adult children can read my ‘vintage’  Harrowsmith or Organic Gardening Magazines.  And I can simply read my favourite, Mother Earth News, at my daughter Kristi’s place, since she subscribes.  I admit that I do love paper copies of books usually bought at the local book fair rather than read anything online as I have 8 full bookshelves to prove it.     As a mother, I used cloth diapers for all 7 babies and mainly ‘handed-down’ clothing:  my children experienced the 3Rs right from the beginning!  I made my own ‘baby food’  from foods we were eating at mealtimes anyway, avoiding babyfood jars and boxes (even though I coveted those small little jars from others).  During the ice storm of ’98, I became acutely aware of the value of water and it’s recyclable qualities for flushing the toilet!

There are literally thousands of books and videos about the 3 R’s.  I’ve set some goals for myself  for 2012 and will strive every day to learn even more and achieve them….

REDUCE first.  RE-USE second. And last RECYCLE.

Reduce, Re-use, Recycle


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Fred Schueler
    Feb 10, 2012 @ 14:59:03

    I was thinking the other day that at least we spell our RRR right, rather than the RWA that the traditional “three R’s” represent. There was someplace, maybe Mike Nickerson’s book, a history of how the establishment endorsement of “recycle” (or “downcycle” as Corey Wood phrases most of it) came only after horrified revulsion at the good that would have been done by the first two R’s, so they jerked the last up to sacramental status, and put the big money behind it.


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