What do these terms mean?
Reducing is sometimes called "waste prevention," because the basic idea is to have less trash by not making as much in the first place. One of the best ways to reduce trash is by reducing packaging. You know, all that plastic and cardboard stuff you throw away as soon as you buy something. Have you ever considered how much unnecessary packaging comes with, say, a video game or a tube of lip gloss?
Reusing means finding new ways to use something instead of just throwing it in the garbage can. Instead of just being "trash," something gets a whole new purpose and stays out of the waste cycle.
Why are they important?
They conserve resources. The earth's raw materials (wood, metal, etc.) are finite. This means we only have so much of everything, and eventually it'll all get used up. Reducing helps save our resources for the things we really need, instead of packaging or disposable items that will just end up as garbage. Reusing helps too; the more we find new uses for old items, the less new stuff will have to be created.
They save money. It takes money to make and transport new products, and also to dispose of the trash they generate after we're done with them. If we buy fewer new things in the first place, it stops that cycle.
They save space. Landfills fill up, and new ones are built. Then those fill up too. And it's all because we make too much garbage. Reducing and reusing help us keep our personal trash piles smaller, so that the trash piles of our community, our state, and our country are smaller too. They let us use our precious land for housing, parks, farms and wilderness- well, just about any use for land is better than another garbage dump!
Ideas for Action!
Here are some ideas that can help you reduce and reuse in your daily lives:
- Save computer paper by only printing when you absolutely have to, and printing on the back sides of paper you don't need anymore.
- Try to avoid "disposable" stuff like plastic forks, paper cups, and paper plate. Use the real thing instead. If you do find yourself with something plastic, decide if it's something that can be washed and used at least a few more times.
- Buy some cool cloth napkins and use those in your lunchbox instead of paper ones.
- Consider alternatives to buying new books, DVD's, CD's, and video games. Can you borrow them from the library or friends? Can you find them used? Maybe you and your friends can throw a "swap" party? These are all ways you can save money while helping the planet.
- Choose clothes made to last rather than items that are cheap or trendy. Find a resale or vintage shop, or ask a parent if you can shop online auction sites. Throw a "fashion swap" party with your friends.
- Use yogurt cups, soup cans and other clean food containers to store a million things.
- Fill up a water bottle with water a few times before you recycle it. Better yet, buy a couple of reusable water bottles to carry with you. There are so many great ones out there; they're like the newest, coolest fashion accessory!
- Save grocery bags and reuse them next time you shop, or use special reusable cloth bags. If you're feeling creative, buy some plain canvas totes to decorate yourself.
- If you don't need a bag to hold a small purchase, don't ask for one. There's probably plenty of room in your backpack or purse!
- Buy in bulk. Shop at grocery stores that let you buy staple items (rice, flour, pasta, etc) from bulk bins. This reduces the amount of packaging you use, like boxes and plastic. When you get home, you can store these things in your own reusable containers.
- Live with less. Every time you have the urge to buy something new, ask yourself, "Do I really need this?" It can be so tempting to grab a great item simply because it's inexpensive or on sale. If you really want something, think about why you want it. Will you truly use it? Is it just because others have it?
- Do stuff instead of buying stuff. Does shopping give you a rush of happiness? Well, running or swimming or writing a story might feel even better! Activities help you collect memories instead of more stuff you might not really need and that won't last very long.