Today I am going to examine the first part of the now infamous (but often hollowly uttered) trifecta of green lore: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. What does it mean to reduce? To me, it means avoiding things I don't need and using logic and common sense in the pursuit of the things that I do.
Without reducing, there isn't any point to any other parts of the system. If we don't reduce our consumption (and soon), we will consume ourselves into extinction.
Reduction goes across the board, into every aspect of life, but the three main areas are: food, energy, and water.
We toss away a ton of food, waste an egregious amount of energy, and use water as if we will never run out. If I went into any great detail about this, I'd never stop writing. And you would probably get bored and stop about three paragraphs down. Which you might still do. Because of this, I'll try and keep it quick and simple, with a few beginner tips.
The world is covered in water, and most of it is salt water. The fresh water that exists, isn't exactly fresh. The number of chemicals, toxic substances, and trash that have been poured into almost any waterway, river, stream or lake near you, can make it un-consumable, and in some instances, unusable for any other function. We do not require the amount of water which we habitually use to live happy and healthy lives. Many easy – but hard to start doing – actions can greatly improve the quality of water in the world, and the amount that is available for us to use.
- We can take shorter showers. A long shower can be great, but it's a waste. We can time ourselves and observe how long it actually takes to get clean. Then gradually reduce that time to what is essential.
- Practice, "If it's yellow let it mellow. If it's brown, flush it down." If we can flush once, instead of twice, we've saved half the water right there.
- We can turn the water off when not in use in activities such as brushing teeth, and washing dishes.
- Our wheels don't have to be at a spit polish shine to drive to the grocery store. If you have a vehicle, wash it less often.
- For our lawns, we can think about re-landscaping with native species. You'll need less, potentially no water at all, to keep your land looking beautiful.
- Our gardens need water, however, we can employ a rain barrel, instead of, or in conjunction with, a watering can and hose.
All of these will save you time, money, and lots of water. In addition, be vigilant in what you wash down the drain. If you wouldn't eat it or drink it, or if it isn't biodegradable or a naturally occurring product, dispose of it in a proper manner. You don't want your milk jug turning up in your fish sandwich many years later.
Food is incredible, however, we waste mass quantities of it without flinching. We make and take more than is needed, and toss away what isn't used. Not bothering to save it for later, or acknowledge that we are wasting it in the first place. It's heartbreaking and infuriating. My conclusion: we are ignorant to the world around us, and really have no idea how much we consume (going way beyond food) on a daily basis. Wastefulness of food could be solved simply with observation and education. If we notice leftovers are going bad, or we are tossing our meals away, we can make less food. Besides curbing wastefulness, this would also save money in goods, and time preparing the meals. It's a win on all fronts!
The laptop I'm using right now is using energy from a wall. We waste energy. We leave lights on 24/7. We leave objects plugged in that get used once in a blue moon, and then when the bill comes, we get angry at the price. "How can this be?" we express with frustration. We don't typically stop to look around and investigate what is causing the high bill. We simply get shocked by the price. When confronted with solutions and ideas to remedy this, we brush them off as if the problem is the cost, and not our usage. We must realize for ourselves (just like most things in life) that we are wasting energy. We could do an energy audit of our home. Make a list of everything that is drawing power, and/or plugged into the wall. See what is used daily, and what is used periodically. From there, we can unplug, and turn things off that are not in use. It's amazing how much power certain items use when they are not turned on, but simply plugged in. An action that I take, although I've read things against it, is turning off breakers that are not in use. I've been turning off breakers on a daily basis both at my home, and at multiple jobs for over a decade. Not once have I run into an issue. The argument against it is: the breaker will go bad quicker and will cost more to replace than the energy you save. From my own experience, this has not been the case.
You are ultimately the judge. Take what I've mentioned here, and do your own research. See if anything works for you. There is an unlimited amount of information out there. This is only the tiny tip of the melting iceberg.
Reducing is the number one priority we humans need to tackle if we want to survive. Things need to change. Thoughts need to be re-thunk. One person DOES make a difference. All you need is one person to change the world. That person is YOU.
What are you waiting for?
Rethink. Reduce. Reuse. Repair. Recycle.