Reduce thoughtfully~reuse creatively~recycle (too) easily

Tree and greenery courtesy of Kyoto, Japan

Tree and greenery courtesy of Kyoto, Japan

I'm intrigued by people who've been able to reduce their yearly waste to just a bag or two of trash. Even though our circumstances have had us without a garden for a couple of years, I've composted for more than two decades. But the idea of being so completely aware of every single thing I touch in a day, determining how to reduce~reuse~recycle each one? Astounding.

I've written before about the changes I've tried to make in my behaviors, especially when it comes to being more mindful in my daily actions. But the three Rs of environmentalism has become a mantra of sorts for me. I figure if I can keep it on repeat in my brain the actions will become second nature. 

Where to start? Let's take them in reverse order ...

Recycle (too) easily
This one is a no-brainer. Most communities with curbside trash pickup provide recycling bins. Those without usually have a place at their transfer stations to sort plastic, glass, paper, metals, and more for recycling. When I'm away from home I've taken to toting these items with me until I find a proper place to drop them. Even so, my issue with recycling is that it's become so easy for us to not realize all the items we go through in a day~~plastic drink cups, beverage bottles or cans, unnecessary print outs, etc. We can feel a bit better knowing these items are finding a second use after processing, but I gotta admit feeling a little sad when our recycle bin fills up faster than our trash ... and with items that are just so disposable. With a little bit of forethought we can avoid using some of these things in the first place.

Reuse creatively
Using the backs of one-sided printouts, saving unavoidable plastic containers for leftovers ... that's just the beginning. My family has made fun of me for years for inheriting my mom's passion for saving wrapping paper for future use. (Hey, at least I don't iron it like she used to!) But this is the one I have fun with. I try not to buy them myself anymore, but I wash~~and wash again~~the plastic food storage bags I somehow acquire to keep reusing them until I can't. I save large envelopes and food packaging~~like the bags cereal and other food items come in~~for litter box cleanup. I fill empty essential oil bottles with a carrier to enjoy them a second time, now holding a scented moisturizer. How about running beautiful glass containers through the dishwasher to prepare them for a second life as packaging for homemade gifts? Sigh ... it's no wonder I've fallen in love with Katwise sweaters ...

Reduce thoughtfully
If reuse is the quirky fun girl, reduce is her high-maintenance sister. You know the one ... she's annoyingly intelligent and somehow always right. That's because this one often requires advance planning. I trained my brain long ago to remember to bring my own bags while shopping, whether it be for groceries or building supplies. There are some great ones out there that will squish right down to fit in your pocket, and having them on your person (or in your purse) is best. Similarly, could you keep a travel mug in your vehicle to hand to your morning coffee angel? (Usually s/he'll just want you to hold onto the lid while s/he prepares your beverage.) After that, the sky's the limit. You can fill your dance card with "no straw" organizations, and attractive, down~home food storage solutions are now widely available.  

I feel good about where I've been, but I know I have further to go. I need to be better about bringing my own containers to buy bulk groceries (I've already made the decision to purchase loose produce instead of packaged when I can), and I need to come up with a way to remember to tell our Chinese take~away order taker that we don't need the hot mustard ... or soy sauce, or fortune cookies. Next up? I'm looking at you, Amazon Prime. It's far too easy to buy new things these days. But we do the best we can, working to improve ourselves~~and our actions~~every day.

What about you? Please share your little reduce~reuse~recycle victories. I want to do more, and there's so much we can learn from one another.