The Five Rs of Environmentalism: Reduce

You can reduce your impact on the environment by minimizing what you send to a landfill.

While most of us agree we need to “do more” to be good stewards to our planet, we can’t always figure out the best, most practical ways to integrate these activities into our lives. In honor of Earth Week, we are providing some real, actionable steps to minimize your negative impacts on the environment. Our hope is that each reader can come away with at least one concrete thing to do (or specifically NOT do) to make the world a better place.

In the remaining posts of this series, we are covering The Five Rs – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Replace, Refuse. These Rs of environmentalism make it a little easier to quantify things that we can do. The five are interrelated, and there is some overlap between them. This post focuses on practical ways to reduce.

One of the main ways to reduce is to minimize what we contribute to landfills by doing the following.

  1. Think about what goes in your trash: Pick ONE ITEM that you want to start keeping out of the landfill—usually by recycling—and stick with that one item until it becomes a habit. Then, pick another, and another, and so forth. A good place to start might be the cardboard at the center of TP and paper towel rolls, or the plastic shampoo, body wash and contact lens solution bottles in our bathrooms.
  2. Compost: While composting is not possible for everyone—renters, apartment dwellers, or those with rascally wildlife can’t reasonably compost—it does reduce waste going into landfills, and it can be a great way to enrich your garden. A good portion of landfill waste is composed of rotting foodstuffs. This food is what makes trash stink.
  3. Buy only the food you can eat: If we have less food in the fridge going bad, we are putting less rotting food into the landfill. This is not an attempt to shame people about food waste but rather to encourage us to think about what things end up in the trash. I personally have issues with carrots and lettuce. I buy them with the intent to eat them all and live a healthy, fantastic life, but inevitably I end up throwing away the slimy sludge at the bottom of the bag.
  4. Consider whether you really need to print that document: If you do, print double-sided and check the beginning and end of the document to eliminate blank title pages or overhanging, unnecessary text at the end of the document. Then, when you no longer need the document, recycle it.

In addition to landfill waste, we should also be conscious of our water consumption. Something as simple as turning the faucet off when brushing your teeth or “letting the yellow mellow” can make a big impact on the amount of water you use on a daily basis. Other ways to reduce waste can be found here and here.

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