Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

recycle binsIf you are of retirement age, you might sometimes reflect on what the legacy of our generation will be. Several things have made me think recently.

The first was a little girl walking in park with a t-shirt that said “Save our Planet”. I know we do not want to be known as the generation that destroyed the earth for our decendents. The second was when I received our water bill and realized that a hose not turned off completely can result in as much as 970 gallons of water wasted in 24 hours with as little as 1/16″ leak. It made me think there are a multitude of things that can make a difference. And starting small, may indeed help save the planet.

Certainly, the environmental revolution has been greatly advocated by a Baby Boomer, Al Gore. While he has long been an enviromentalist, it was his documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” that really got people thinking about what is now a common term, Global warming or more generically one’s carbon footprint. The internet now has many websites with ideas to start thinking about what we can do as individuals to make a difference in what happens to our planet.

The new 3 R’s get people thinking in a different way: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Think of these terms in priority order. The foremost thing to do is reduce what we use in the first place. Reduce what we need and we reduce what is produced in the first place, including enery. The second term, reuse, is as simple as giving your unnecessary things away to another family member, friend,or community member. It is a better thing to do than recycling, since reuse does not involve any reprocessing costs or energy usage, other than the energy we use to take our unwanted things to a new home. Finally, there is recycling, which is now available for many people through their communities. Recyling has become much more commonplace in the last ten years and is now more economically feasible too. People will actually pay for many recycled goods now.

Another idea that is catching on at the grocery store is that instead of the usual paper or plastic, it’s now “BYOB” bring your own bag. People are bringing a reusable bag to carry their groceries home. And people are more conscious of what they are putting in the bags. A little meal planning helps make sure that no food is thrown away.

The internet and libaries offer recycle guides, which tell what can be recycled and how to do it. And reuse can be as simple as putting a “Free” sign an item that no longer is useful for you, but may be just what someone else is looking for. Also, many cities have Reuse Centers where you can find everything from bicycles to door knobs at reasonable prices.

Perhaps our greatest wastage in this country is energy. Have you ever thought to do an assessment of your home for energy efficiency, or better yet, to have your utility company perform an energy audit? They will identify where your home is losing money and it is usually done for free or at a very low cost. Households use about one fifth of the total energy consumed in the United States and the average household spends about $1,500 a year. 42% of an average family’s energy bill is spent to keep homes at a comfortable temperature. A two degree adjustment in the thermostat (lower in the winter, higher in the summer) can lower heating bills by 4% and prevent 500 pounds of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere.

So, there are many simple things we can do. It is not too late for our generation to be known as the generation that began the environmental revolution to save our planet!