This is the most effective of the three R’s, as it saves natural resources such as raw material and energy, as well as preventing waste. However, it can be the most difficult for consumers, as it requires us to rethink how and when we buy.
- Look for products with less packaging.
- Borrow, rent or share items you use infrequently.
- Purchase products with classic designs that will not go out of style.
- Maintain and repair products so that they will last longer.
- Purchase products made locally.
Simple lifestyle changes will also help you reduce your usage of energy and natural resources at home.
- Turn the light out when leaving a room.
- Save energy on heating and cooling.
- Set your washer to wash and rinse with cold water.
- Unplug battery chargers when the charge is complete.
- Don’t leave the water running unattended.
Many items that are disposed of in landfills could have been reused. One of the easiest ways to reuse is to donate items you no longer need:
- Used clothing, household goods, furniture and electronics can be donated to thrift stores.
- Local schools and nonprofit organizations may accept used books, office equipment and computers.
- Some charitable organizations accept used automobiles, building materials, or eyeglasses.
- Some used items can be remade in new ways. For ideas, visit our Pinterest recycling tips board.
Did you know that the average person in the United States generates over 4-1/2 pounds of trash every day? In fact, we produce over 250 million tons of garbage per year – enough to cover the state of Texas, twice! Over 75% of all waste is recyclable, but only about 30% is actually recycled. The impact of recycling on our energy usage is dramatic:
- Recycling one aluminum can saves enough energy to listed to a full album on your MP3 player. Recycling 100 cans could light your bedroom for 2 weeks
- Recycling aluminum cans saves 95% of the energy used to make cans from new material
- If we recycled just 10% of our newspapers, we could save about 25 million trees each year
- One ton of paper from recycled pulp saves 17 trees, 3 cubic yards of landfill space, 7000 gallons of water, 4200 kWh (enough to heat a home for half a year), 390 gallons of oil, and prevents 60 pounds of air pollutants
- It takes 22 gallons of oil to produce a new passenger tire, but only 7 gallons of oil to retread a recycled tire
- Recycling one glass bottle saves enough energy to light a 100-watt light bulb for four hours, power a computer for 30 minutes, or a television for 20 minutes. There is no limit to the number of times glass can be recycled.
Every municipality has its own recycling program, and not all programs take all materials. Contact your local recycling program for more information.
Estimated Decomposition Rates of Landfill Items
|Paper towel†*||2-4 weeks|
|Orange or banana peel†||2-5 weeks|
|Apple core†||2 months|
|Waxed milk carton*||3 months|
|Wool sock†||1-5 years|
|Cigarette butt||1-5 years|
|Plastic bag*||10-20 years|
|Nylon fabric*||30-40 years|
|Tin cans*||50 years|
|Aluminum cans*||80-200 years|
|Disposable diapers||450 years|
|Plastic beverage bottles*||450 years|
|Glass bottles*; Styrofoam||Unknown/Eternity|
*Can be recycled – check with your local recycling center to determine which items they accept
† Can be composted
(Source: US National Park Service; Mote Marine Lab, Sarasota, FL)