Reduce, Reuse. . . then Recycle

Cheryl Birkey, CG Trainer

Let’s break down a slogan we’re already familiar with: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: The Three R’s! This slogan is our guide to waste management and is organized as a waste hierarchy; a priority of actions to reduce the amount of waste generated.

How to REDUCE: As the first action in the hierarchy, it is the most important and means reducing your consumption and purchasing of goods and, in turn, reducing waste generated. Starting simply, this can be as easy as bringing your own shopping bag to the store with you, bringing your own to-go mug to the coffee shop and bringing your own water bottle to the gym; all in an effort to reduce the use of disposable items. If you’re bringing your own reusable items with you, then you won’t be using single use items that end up in the landfill.

To reduce even further, consider cloth napkins over paper, unsubscribing from junk mail (I contact companies directly and ask to be removed from their mailing lists), carrying your own collapsible container with you so you’re always ready to box up your leftovers and won’t be in need of a Styrofoam box at restaurants, and even supporting environmentally conscious companies that use sustainable materials.

How to REUSE: Before you throw away an item that has served its original purpose, consider how else it can be used. How can you use what you already have without buying new items all the time? You can wrap gifts in newspaper or fabric, you can store spices in jars you already own, and you can frequent thrift stores and garage sales to give old items new life. You can even make art before you throw something away or, at least, donate items to those who can at

How to RECYCLE: Often the go-to for most people, I want to encourage you to keep recycling as your last resort as it is the final stop on the waste hierarchy. However, if recycling is a must, then please do so correctly. Not everything can just be put into your curbside recycling bin and putting items in there that don’t belong contaminates the whole recycling process.