Why “Reducing” Is More Important Than “Reusing” and “Recycling”
By Erin Rebello
When you think of eco-friendliness, what comes to mind? Perhaps you picture disposable bottles being recycled into new plastic, or old textiles being thrifted into cute new outfits. Perhaps you’ve even participated in this yourself, by purchasing reusable water bottles or buying secondhand! To put it simply, for most people, being environmentally conscious means reusing and recycling. Although these techniques help with reducing our carbon footprint, it almost feels as though they’ve been acting as an “eco” mask for more difficult-to-confront issues. In this day and age, when we’re at an environmental impasse, we mustn’t forget the less glamourous (and perhaps most important) triplet of eco-friendliness: reducing.
The Problem with Reusing and Recycling
Although the other two R’s are important, we must understand their limitations. For example, although recycling may seem like the solution to paper and plastic waste, we need to take a close look at the facts before making any broad statements. According to studies, only 25% of what you throw into a blue bin actually gets recycled. The rest is discarded because it is either non-recyclable or is contaminated with something that is non-recyclable, such as food waste or glass. Digging even deeper, only 9% of plastic waste in Canada is actually recycled! Are you ready for the cherry on top? Most plastics can only effectively be recycled once or twice before losing quality. Although recycling does help by small margins, by putting our faith into recycling, Canadians are effectively ignoring a number of more eco-friendly solutions.
Similar to recycling, the act of reusing can also be less helpful than we may initially imagine. Think about reusable metal straws. Although they may sound convenient and look pretty, without proper care or maintenance, they won’t last nearly as long as they should, and you may end up tossing them early. Additionally, if you only purchased these reusable straws to follow the trend, and never actually used them before, you’re actually creating more waste. Although reusing items gives them a sense of longevity, the misconstrued concept of “reusable” can also bring more harm than good.
Why Reducing is the Way to Go
Now that we know that both reusing and recycling can be problematic at times, how do we stay eco-friendly? Thankfully, the answer is quite simple: reducing waste! Although this may seem like a very vague piece of advice, reducing our own waste is a huge step in the right direction. Rather than speaking empty words, or surrounding ourselves with the “idea of being eco-friendly,” by reducing our shopping, travel, and expenditures we can make a sizeable impact. Although It is not as glamourous as thrifting or recycling, the reduction of waste products is easily the most effective way to reduce your carbon footprint.
How You Can Reduce
At this point, you’re probably wondering how you can reduce your carbon footprint, and thankfully, it’s not too difficult! Below are a few ways you can be less wasteful in your everyday life!
- Only buy food you plan to eat. When you go to the grocery store, only purchase the amount of food you intend to eat, and don’t go overboard! Although food waste products can typically be composted, food tends to have a lot of packaging, which isn’t always recyclable!
- Purchase less clothing. Although fast fashion can make you feel like you have to keep up with the seasonal trends, this way of thinking is very harmful to the environment. Online retailers like Shein, Romwe, Asos, etc. are cheap online brands, which are absolutely terrible for the earth! Not only this, but they also use unethical forms of labour. Although thrifting and buying second-hand are much better options, the best way to be eco-friendly is to purchase quality clothes that last for years.
- Track your Impact. Another way to reduce your environmental footprint, in the long run, is to track it! By making a list of all the ways you’ve consumed products, even just for a day, you can get a good idea of which areas of your life are less eco-friendly, and can find ways to reduce.
- Embrace minimalism. Finally, the best way to reduce your eco-impact is by embracing minimalism, which is a style of living that uses the fewest resources possible. There are many ways to incorporate minimalism in your life, and tons of resources online to help you through the process!
Chung, E. (2020, January 7). What Really Happens To Plastic Drink Bottles You Toss In Your Recycling Bin | CBC News. CBC. https://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/bottle-recycling-1.5416614
Why Your Recycling May Not Actually Get Recycled | CBC Radio. (2019, April 18). CBC. https://www.cbc.ca/radio/sunday/the-sunday-edition-for-april-21-2019-1.5099057/why-your-recycling-may-not-actually-get-recycled-1.5099103