The New 3 R’s

I was back in the grocery store this Saturday, but it was not the prices (although I did manage to keep it under ninety pounds once again) that caught my eye or even what other people were buying. In fact, what I noticed this Saturday did not happen until I was home and unpacking my weekly shopping. What I noticed was the amount of packaging, most of it useless, that I put into the bin. Of course, we have been using our green bags for over a year now so we are not throwing very many plastic ones away. Well, in fact we don’t really throw any away, because we try to follow the adage…Reduce, re-use, re-cycle. This week I would like to examine that phrase, its meaning and how we can all improve.

So this week is a strictly environmental week if you will. Except for today, when I want to look at how reduce, re-use, recycle fits into all of the Frugal Fam core values.

Family first. Since we are our children’s first and best teachers, I think that the time we invest in teaching them about all things environmental is an excellent investment in our futures and theirs. Isn’t it ironic that reduce, re-use, recycle could become the new 3 R’s. In fact so I don’t wear out my fingers re-typing it all over and over again, let’s us that term in the rest of the article to refer to reduce, re-use, recycle. It is never too early to begin either. At three, my daughter knows the difference between the bin and the recycle bag (sometimes better than my eighteen year old).

Saving money. In fact, in the UK most councils offer free recycling facilities to all residents, which means that recycling costs us nothing. There are examples too of how recycling can actually save you money though, such as my wormary, which produces organic liquid fertiliser and compost or reducing your energy consumption by turning down the thermostat. And as I have shown in past post about Freecycle, charity shops and similar services, you can save a great deal of money by re-using items that someone else may no long need.

But in the USA recycling too can actually pay money. Although not as easy for many American families to place bags or special bins on the stoop (although some forward thinking counties and cities are offering curb-side recycling as in the UK), the profit from this activity can be used to fund extras or meet essential obligations. Before I left Los Angeles in 2006, there were increasingly mini-recycling centres often in the parking lots of grocery stores. Families could take their paper, metal and plastic products and turn them into paper…paper money that is. In some ways this is more incentive to recycle than the UK system. What if your family could pay for its holiday through recycling? Perhaps even clean up your street? I know that my three years old loves helping me to pick up trash in her park. Could your family do something similar?

Environmentally friendly.  Like I said, the 3 R’s are among the basics of environmentally friendly. It is one of the easiest things that we can all do to save this special planet for our children and grand-children. Alright, we have all heard the pundits talk about how recycling does not make a difference. So to clear up a few of those myths:

  • Enough energy is saved by recycling one aluminium can to run a TV set for three hours.
  • A steel mill which uses recycled scrap reduces related water pollution, air pollution, and mining wastes by at least 70 percent.
  • Creating one ton of recycled paper uses only about 60 percent of the energy needed to make a ton of virgin paper.
  • Seventeen trees are saved for each ton of recycled newspaper.
  • Recycling steel and tin cans saves 74 percent of the energy necessary to produce them.
  • Today most bottles and jars contain at least 25 percent recycled glass.

If you don’t believe me, check out a couple of the following sites for more information:

Healthy living. It may not be immediately obvious how the 3 R’s can make you healthier, but I have a couple of examples:

  • Reduce your carbon footprint by walking to school, the store and anywhere else you can…also increases the amount of exercise you are getting. Walking is actually one of the best exercises there is.
  • Eating fresher often means that there is less packaging as frozen, tinned and jarred products, which produce more waste also, are likely to have more added salts, sugars and preservatives.
  • Reducing the carbon miles of your food by growing your own fruits and vegetables also allows you to grow them organically as well as having the benefit of reducing your stress through the pleasurable hobby of gardening.

Now that we have talked about how the 3R’s of reduce, re-use and recycle keep with the Frugal Fam core values, for the next three days we will look at what each of these terms mean, how they are different from one another and explore ideas for improving the amount of things we each reduce, re-use and recycle. On Friday, I will do a mini-inventory of how my family does on the 3R’s…and specifically look at those things we need to do better. I hope that each of you will join me in this journey and share your ideas for Reduce, Re-use, Recycle.

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