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REDUCE, REUSE, THEN RECYCLE

Have you thought about what happens to that cereal box after you throw it into the recycling bin? Perhaps nothing-unless you close the loop by buying products containing recycled content. Industrialized nations, who make up 1/5 of the world population, use 2/3 of all necessary resources and generate 75% of all pollution. There are countless ways that you can help reduce the impact on our environment including following the "3 Rs": reduce, reuse, and then recycle.

REDUCE

Who would have thought that every person creates an average of 4.6 pounds of waste per DAY?! That's almost double the amount created 35 years ago. Reducing the amount and the toxicity of the waste discarded is the preferable method of waste management. Reducing doesn't necessarily mean going without-that would be in direct conflict with "the American dream". Buying bulk, purchasing longer lasting products and demanding that manufacturers use less packaging for non bulk items are ways of reducing waste. The 2-liter plastic soft drink bottle is a star waste reducer. It went from 68 grams of plastic per bottle to 51 grams, saving 250 million POUNDS of plastic per year!

REUSE

STOP! Don't throw away that scratched CD, instead use it as a reflector! Get creative and have fun reusing old items. Reuse an item for the same purpose (cloth napkins, grocery bags), make something new with an old item (break old kitchen/bathroom tile into pieces and glue to picture frames, tables, etc. for a new look), and donate items you no longer want to charity and community organizations. Reusing is a step above recycling because less waste is produced (transportation, processing, and manufacturing are usually not involved in reusing an item).

Try these easy ways to reuse old items:
When your jeans get holes in the knees cut into shorts. Tie the cut off pant leg into a knot and use as a toy for your dog.
Cut paperboard boxes (i.e. cereal and tissue boxes) into index cards and use as flashcards or recipe cards.
Use your old shower curtain as a drop cloth when painting or when kids are creating messy projects.
When you are waiting for your shower to get hot, collect the cold water in a bucket and use to water your plants.
Use a film canister as a traveling sewing kit: fill with safety pins, needles, thread (wrap some thread around a plastic bread tab), straight pins, and buttons.

RECYCLE

Recycling, including composting, has diverted 64 million tons of material from landfills and incinerators in 1999, according to the EPA. The benefits of recycling include conservation of resources, prevention of greenhouse emissions and other pollutants, saving energy, creating jobs, stimulating development of greener technologies, reducing need for landfills, etc. Although there is no doubt that recycling is beneficial to our environment, it should be practiced after you've reduced and reused.

Moving the trend from recycling to reducing and reusing will help reduce the negative impact we have on our environment. Perhaps it's time we rethink "the American dream".


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