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The Four R’s That Will Save the Planet
Conservation seems to be on everyone’s mind lately. How to save energy, money, resources and most importantly, save the planet (which is the only one we have right now). Going Green is definitely the trend and the term reduce, reuse, recycle is being used over and over again by the eco-minded crowd. Recently, a fourth “R” has emerged to join the ranks of the steps to save the planet. This article will discuss what these four “R’s” mean and simple ways you can practice them at home, in the car, and even at work.
Reduction refers to reducing the amount of energy you use and the amount of waste you create. There are several simple ways to do this that do not cause much inconvenience to the average person. Being aware of the packaging of the items you buy is an easy way to reduce your consumption. Avoid products with layers of packaging whenever you can, and buy refillable products and their refills whenever possible. Plan your meals in advance and avoid wasting food that has gone bad waiting to be cooked. Store or freeze leftovers for another day. Consider signing up for a service that will reduce, if not eliminate, the amount of junk mail you receive (a win-win for you and the planet). You can find such services by typing “spam” into Google. Also avoid buying magazines and newspapers that kill thousands of trees every year. Get your news online or on TV. Finally, plug all your appliances and electronics into power strips that you can easily turn off at night and when you’re not using them to avoid “phantom draining” your electricity. Not only will you reduce your energy consumption, but your energy as well bill.
There are many products that can be reused instead of thrown away. Unfortunately, most of us have been raised in a disposable society and think nothing of throwing away products when we think they have served their purpose. For example, if you currently buy individual liquid soap dispensers for each sink in your home, you can buy one large bottle of hand soap and refill the smaller containers over and over again. Donating is another way to reuse items. You give something you no longer find useful to someone who can use it without having to buy it new and use all the resources that go into creating a new consumer product. Reuse the back of your printer papers by turning them over and printing on them again (just make sure they aren’t used for your kids’ homework, teachers find this annoying). If you grow a garden or want to, you can use old vegetable and fruit waste for composting. Shredded paper, coffee grounds, eggshells and brown leaves can also be reused in this way. The resulting organic compost is like gold to gardeners, so even if you don’t want to use it, you can probably find a budding gardener to buy it from you.
Recycling is similar to reuse in that the same item is used again. With recycling, however, the item is broken down into a more basic substance and reformed into something completely different. For example, a pile of plastic soda bottles can become a sandbox for a child. It’s important to know your community’s recycling rules because every place is different. On plastic products, for example, you should find a number surrounded by the recycling logo (it looks like a triangle made up of arrows). Some plastics with numbers are more difficult (and more expensive) to recycle, so many communities only accept the easier-to-process numbers. You should be able to find your local laws either on your city’s website or by calling your local city hall. Apart from plastics, which can be difficult, you can usually recycle any cans made of metal, any containers made of glass, juice and milk cartons (with tins and glass jars), newspapers, magazines, any printed paper and cartons food (like the ones pasta comes in).
New to the recycling scene, repurposing is my favorite conservation step. I love the idea of finding a new way to use something old. For example, my daughter and I made shell people by painting some old quahog shells and hot gluing some googly eyes and raffia hair to them. Similarly, we use old mismatched socks for hand puppets. I used an old dry sink that was falling apart for a makeshift garden center and an old hose for a home watering system for my garden. I’m currently braiding some strips made from plastic bags into mats that are easy to keep clean and quite appealing to the green at heart. As you can see, there are endless ways to look at old things with new eyes.
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