Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
How can you help conserve our natural resources?
Minimizing consumption is the first step in reducing our society’s dependence on limited natural resources. If we’re selective about the items we buy, we can save the materials and energy required to produce and bring items to market. We also won’t have to be concerned with where or how to dispose of the packaging or whatever is left of an item when we’re through using it.
Consider carefully who you buy from, also. Businesses that make stuff can play a large role in helping us become better consumers. They can do this in product design (cradle to grave) and making sure their products are free of toxins and are bio-degradable or easily recycled. Before buying an item, try to find out how and where it was produced, what percentage of recycled materials went into its production, whether any scarce or threatened resources were exploited to produce it, and so on.
Some other suggestions for simple actions you can take to prevent waste:
- Repair your shoes, clothing, appliances and electronics instead of replacing them
- Instead of buying a new computer, upgrade your operating system, add memory, or upgrade only your hard drive
- Don’t buy more than you need. When you buy paint, for example, don’t buy a gallon if a quart will do
- Whenever possible, buy in bulk to minimize packaging. For example, buy super concentrated cleaning liquids or larger boxes of laundry detergent (this will also save you money)
We encourage you to shop for things for your home at our retail outlet, EcoBuilding Bargains. Here we sell only recycled and donated building materials–cabinets, counters, windows, doors, lamps, bathtubs, shower inserts, appliances… you name it, EcoBuilding Bargains usually has it–and for a lot less than you’d pay for it new.
- Use reusable mugs or cups
- Carefully evaluate whether you really need a new item; if you do, determine whether it makes more sense to buy used rather than new. Often a car that is just a few years old will provide much better value than a new car, will give you many years of use if well maintained, and will require no new energy or materials to produce
- For events, use reusable plates, glasses and silverware instead of disposable paper/plastic
Recycling paper, metal, plastic and other materials saves significant amounts of energy and raw materials. Composting food waste helps reduce methane gas production in landfills. (Methane is a powerful gas that contributes to global climate change.)
Your recycling efforts can create local jobs in your community. On a per ton basis, sorting and processing recyclable materials sustains more jobs than incineration or landfills. Recycling contributes significantly to the Massachusetts economy. A study published by the Northeast Recycling Council in February 2009 identified 2,018 recycling business establishments in the state, providing 13,905 jobs, with an annual payroll of $498 million. These businesses had total annual receipts of $3.2 billion.
Individuals, schools, businesses and farms can all recycle. Many things are recyclable, including:
Even items containing mercury are recyclable. These items can include:
- Dial-down thermostats
- Spent compact fluorescent bulbs
- Fluorescent tubes
- Mercury thermometers