Monday, April 23, 2018

Save Green By Living Green

Save Green By Living Green

Zero Waste Initiatives aim to create a more sustainable society by seeing “waste” as a resource that creates jobs and stimulates the economy. It is also one of the fastest, cheapest and most effective strategies for combating climate change. Did you know that as much as 82% of the materials in landfills are recyclable, reusable or compostable? Imagine if we found a way to help everyone in every community reduce that number to next to nothing! It would save cities millions of dollars in landfill related costs and create thousands of new jobs. If we could achieve this in the US alone, the environmental savings would be equivalent to closing 21% of the US coal-fired power plants. The most common R’s in Zero Waste, in the order they should be implemented are: Rent, Repair, Repurpose, Refuse, Reconsider, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Rot. So let’s take a brief look at each of these and discover just how much impact it has on our own budget.

Rent rather than purchasing an item and reduce all the packaging and fossil fuels associated with that new item. We no longer have to have extra storage space and we don’t have to do any maintenance. Tool, office and household rental businesses are sprouting up in every community offering baby and toddler supplies, furniture, computers and every tool imaginable. Some of these have memberships where you pay a fee to access all of their products whenever you need them. So instead of paying out a hundred dollars for a drill gun, for instance, you can rent one for $5/day.

We can Repair instead of purchasing a new item – pretty much everything from shoes and books to lawnmowers and furniture has repair potential. The trick is finding the people locally who can do this for you, or acquiring the skills yourself. Like the first ‘R’, you avoid purchasing a new item and all the environmental costs that come with it.

When we have decided that a new item really is eminent, we can be a little more discerning while shopping. We can Refuse to accept manufacturing standards by expressing our concerns or praises to the company listed on the packaging. We might Reconsider the product we were about to buy and choose one that has a lighter environmental footprint. We can Reconsider our importance and realize that we can indeed have a profound impact on the environment and our local charities, while boosting the community’s economy. When we learn this it becomes a part of our life, we aspire to do more, we seek out new opportunities from our choice of transportation to where we live and every day activities.

We can Reduce how much we buy beyond the first 4 R’s listed above by considering just how much we really need. For instance, we might purchase an item in smaller amounts in the bulk section, or in larger family sizes and save money at the same time. By incorporating small changes like reduce waste like reusable, refillable refreshment cups and bottles we not only reduce waste, but also save a lot of money because we are no longer purchasing items at a higher cost, and we save money in related waste collection services as well.

Reuse is a wonderful way to extend the budget – reusing containers, bags, boxes and so on, instead of purchasing those items new every time. Repurpose is similar except that we alter the item for reuse. A good example here is cutting a yogurt container into strips, making one end pointed, and using them as plant tags. You can make 8-10 of these from one container in just a couple minutes, and now you don’t have to go shopping for that item. There are many places you can take your “waste” that will see it as a resource – groups or classes involving the arts, children, sewing and more – helping them extend their budget and support their programs.

Recycle has 3 meanings really. 1: Utilizing resource recovery programs such as returnable containers, recycling program, return and collection sites for things like oil, paint and batteries, etc. 2: Releasing your unwanted items back into the community via donation, thrift stores, consignment shops, reuse centers and garage and estate sales. 3: Shopping at the used stores, visiting reuse sites, etc.  So instead of spending $35 on a new can of paint, you can visit a paint collection site and pick up just the amount of paint you need for the project – for free, usually.

And that brings us to Rot. Composting keeps organics out of the landfill, preventing leachates and toxic gasses that are actually more damaging to the environment than carbon dioxide. It produces a natural fertilizer that you can use on your lawn, trees or shrubs, in the garden and landscape beds, in your potted plants, etc. and that means pesticide, herbicide and fungicide use will be reduced because you have healthier plants. Additionally the soil will be able to retain water, meaning you’ll have less work to do and you’ll use less water as well.

Incorporating these activities is kind of like clipping coupons in a way; we save anywhere from a few cents to a few dollars with each action. At the same time we extend the life of that item, using it one more or a dozen more times before it enters the recycling system.

I hope you have enjoyed this introduction to the many R’s involved in Zero Waste and are inspired by how much money you can save, help create a healthier environment, support charitable causes, and stimulate the economy in your own community.

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