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What Are the 3 R's?

Learn about the three R's of green living -- reduce, reuse, recycle -- in this Howcast video featuring Alegre of Green and Greener.


Hi, Allegra from Ember Living, here today to talk about the three Rs. We've all heard them but you might not really know what they mean. Reduce, reuse, recycle are the three Rs and they're actually in order for a reason. They're hierarchical meaning reduce has the greatest impact on the planet and on our health. Reuse and recycle have less.

Now, I've actually modified the three Rs, I actually call them the six Rs and I have a whole pamphlet of it on my website. The six Rs of sustainable living. But it starts with reduce. It still starts with reduce. And reducing means thinking about what it is that you're going to consume. Do you really need it? One way I like to do this is whenever I buy new clothing I actually will not wear it right away. I hang it up in my closet and I have to keep it there for at least a week before I can wear it and during that week I try and wear everything that I have that's kind of similar to it and a lot of times at the end of the week I actually end up returning the item because I find that I have something that already works just as well. So, reducing, it's good for your wallet, it's good for the environment because you're using fewer resources.

The next tip is to research. Research what it is that you're interested in buying. When you go out and do a little research you'll find that there's much more eco friendly options out there. For instance, this is especially important when you're buying a big appliance like a refrigerator or a car or something. Do your research, find out what's the most energy efficient, most eco friendly option.

Third, run it into the ground. If you're going to buy something, you might as well use it and use it for its entire lifespan. So I tend to not buy things until they are totally broken. Even things like my smartphone. It has to be on its last legs with the screen popping off blah, blah, blah. But I feel like that's a responsible use of resources. If you're just replacing things on a whim just because you can, then you're going through a lot more resources than our planet can actually sustain.

Four, reuse it, repair it, return it, re-purpose it. They're kind of all the same step but the basic idea is to give it more life. So sometimes you can do that by returning it. For instance, if you get glass bottles for milk you can return those. Sometimes you can do it by re-purposing it. Say, wine crates. I've turned wine crates into so many different things. I've turned them into speaker boxes, I've turned them into holders for cat food bowls. There's lots of different things you can use with those. Repair. Find a good cobbler. I get my shoes repaired all the time. I get them redyed. I get them re-purposed. It's a great way to make use of a resource that still has good life in it but maybe just needs to be fixed up a little bit.

Finally, recycle. See how far down the list recycle is? A lot of people thing that recycling is the best thing you can do but recycling is really sort of the last thing that you can do because it requires a lot of energy to recycle things. If you think about it, great we're recycling these glass bottles but they have to be transported back to the plant, they have to be cleaned, they have to be melted down, they have to be turned into new glass. It's still a very energy intensive process, recycling. But, when there's nothing else that you can do with it then recycling it is actually a great option.

And finally, the sixth R is responsible disposal. You can't just throw things out willy nilly. You have to be smart about it. A lot of people don't understand that batteries are horrible for the environment and you'll find them just randomly in trash. You have to take things like batteries, prescription drugs, paint cans, all of these things that are kind of questionable that you're not sure if you should throw out, don't throw them out. Take them to your household hazardous waste. Look up your municipality's information about household hazardous waste and dispose of it properly.

So that's the six Rs. I go into much greater detail in my pamphlet about the six Rs but it's all designed to have you consuming in a responsible, thoughtful, healthy way. Thank you.

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