Reduce, Reuse, Recycle; In That Order!
There has been much written on this topic over the years, and truly the list has expanded to include upwards of eleven R's of environmental responsibility depending on the source, but the original three still form a great basis for addressing your environmental impact. There has been a lot in the news lately about the efficiency of the recycling system in North America, especially with the roll-out of national policies across the Pacific that raise serious questions about the sustainability of our recycling programs continent-wide, but, at least in theory, recycling is still has a vital role to play overall. That said, the original three weren't just placed in that order because it sounded good that way, but because they're prioritized based on the impact of their implementation.
First, you reduce the amount you consume; this isn't just about purchases but also resources (water, electricity, fossil fuels, including those required to make and transport your purchases) and packaging (wrappers, trays, clamshells, bags, boxes and other packing materials). Recently this concept has been refined slightly to add Refuse ahead of Reduce; think of the recent media coverage of people refusing single-use plastics, specifically straws.
Second, you find ways to reuse those things that you can't do without; this includes a couple of the other sub-categories that have been added over the years with Repair, Repurpose, Retrofit, Rot, etc. I will be doing a deeper exploration of all of the various additions to the list in a future post because there truly is a hierarchy within this category as well but essentially what you want to be aiming for with REUSE is to find a purpose for an otherwise expended item without using too many other resources in the process. Think washing out empty jam jars to store spices or leftovers in the fridge so you don't need to use plastic, or turning an old cotton tank top into a shopping bag by simply sewing a seam across the bottom.
The broad heading of REUSE also has a very important relationship with REDUCE when it comes to evaluating the things you do choose to buy and use. Instead of the single-use plastic straws, plastic water bottles, and impossible to recycle take-away coffee cups and plastic grocery bags you can choose to reduce the amount you purchase in the future by choosing reusable variations. There exist many options in just those categories alone, and we will discuss the pros and cons of the various materials used in the production of reusable products in another post but even the plastic version of a reusable straw, water bottle, travel cup or shopping bag is going to last for years and keep large amounts of single-use plastics from entering the waste stream (not to mention actual streams).
It is for this exact reason that we've developed our Waste Reduction line of products; we wanted to make available an alternative to many of the single-use items that fill our household trash bins. Shopping bags, bulk bags and produce bags are a no-brainer when it comes to considering the environmental impact of the traditional choices available; most of the time the option made available to you for use at the store is plastic, non-recyclable, and of limited reuse.
Of course you can buy reusable shopping bags at almost any grocery store, dollar store, shopping centre, etc but most of the time those too are made of plastic and even the recycled versions aren't really the best option for the environment; there are other, better uses for recycled plastic than a shopping bag; it's for this reason that we've designed our own unique line of reusable bags made from organic unbleached cotton. There are various sizes of bulk food bags with drawstring closure and made with boxed corners so they'll sit nicely while you fill them, and beeswax bags made with locally sourced beeswax, with more products being added regularly.
While coffee filters, facial wipes, and paper towels are biodegradable and more likely to end up in our compost pile than a landfill, it still uses considerably more resources to produce the number of paper towels, cotton rounds, and coffee filters that would be used in the lifetime of a package of our cotton flannel coffee filters, facial wipes, or un-paper towels. Coffee filters are available for various drip and pour over coffee makers including Hario, Mellitta and Chemex, with more shapes and sizes to come. Our two-ply un-paper towels and facial wipes are made of cotton flannel for maximum softness and absorbency.
Simply because of the nature of the materials we work with and our overall belief in environmental responsibility we offer a number of products that provide a sustainable version of their plastic counterparts around the home, mostly because we really do think they look a lot better in their warm and natural wood tones, but our Waste Reduction line has been specifically conceived and designed from inception to provide an environmentally responsible alternative to some of the most wasteful items in our homes and we hope you'll consider choosing to replace your current products with our reusable versions.