Written by Laura Eamon
March 18 marks Global Recycling Day, and we’d like to take some time today to dive a little deeper into the three R’s: reduce, reuse, and recycle.
Up first is the most important and impactful R: reduce. Reducing our overall consumption, specifically in the global north, is the strongest way to make a positive change personally. Always buying brand new and more than you need takes a heavy toll on the environment *and* your wallet! Setting budgets, being mindful with your purchasing decisions, and using up what you already have are great ways to reduce your consumption. There are many online groups, books, and blogs about doing a year or month of buying nothing. Reading and sharing about these experiences can be super helpful for those who may find it difficult to reverse their consuming behaviours or don’t know where to start.
Some people use the word “refuse” instead of or alongside “reduce” when reciting the three R’s. This is a helpful reminder when it comes to outings like restaurants or parades. You can refuse things you don’t need like plastic straws and cutlery or branded giveaways like pens or stickers. There’s a movement around the world toward a zero waste lifestyle, and we are so lucky to have stores like The Tare Shop right here in Dartmouth. This alternative way of business involves zero packaging where customers bring their own empty containers to refill what they need!
Here’s where creativity and innovation really shine! Reusing materials is such an easy and fun way to extend the life of our goods. You can start at home by finding new uses for old items, like turning worn t-shirts into rags and bringing your own bags to the supermarket. You can make beautiful, unique jewelry out of beach plastics or sensory toys from packaging boxes. You can also be a superstar in helping others reuse the items you’d like to part with! There is an incredible community online called Buy Nothing Canada with each neighbourhood having their own closed Facebook group. Search online to find what treasures you can find for free from others, and post items you’d like to get rid of. I’ve even given away opened boxes of products I tried and didn’t like. Shopping second hand is a great way to get more use of products already out there.
If we reduce our consumption and reuse our items for as long as we can, we shouldn’t end up with that much waste. However, there’s no one true way to live a perfectly zero waste lifestyle, so it’s important to practice good waste management at home and in our communities. If you do have household waste to go out on recycling day, make sure to use What Goes Where, HRM's waste management app and website in which you can look up items to determine where they should end up! Check it out at Halifax.ca. You can also take a look at seven questions we need to ask ourselves to ensure we create households and communities which recycle as responsibly as possible from Global Recycling Day.
Some people might find themselves doing a spring clean and trying to get rid of many items in their homes at one time. It’s important to note donating bags of items in bins or big charity shops isn’t always a sustainable option. A lot of these items end up getting sent overseas to the global south and making a hugely negative impact on the environment and people there.
While this blog post focused on individual efforts in reducing, reusing, and recycling, we acknowledge there are bigger organizations globally who have the ability to make bigger moves with bigger impacts. It’s important for all of us to take steps toward a more sustainable, healthy future!