We can thank the environmental movements of the 1970s for the catchy “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” slogan. It is important to realize that while these events led to the creation of the EPA in the United States, and the founding of Earth Day, society has remained in the cycle of consumerism.
The following concepts can be applied to almost any type of item that creates waste from textiles to electronics, food to paper.
The first step is to stop and rethink. Do you really need it that item? Can you change the way you shop in an effort to reduce waste? Can you borrow the item? Have you thought about the whole life cycle of the product? What goes into making the item? Where does the item end up in the world?
Avoid buying products like single use plastic and that use excessive packaging.
If you are not able to refuse, reducing your usage of waste-producing goods is the next step. This is the first “R” in the traditional “reduce, reuse, recycle” model.
Reuse and Repair
Simply stated, when you reuse or repair item for it’s intended purpose instead of rushing out to replace it you avoid the waste of the original product and the waste generated from obtaining the replacement.
Some of the most well known reusable items include shopping bags, cloth napkins and paper towels, reusable coffee pods … just a few of the numerous items that can replace single-use and disposable items.
Similar to reusing, re-purposing uses the item for a different purpose. It can be something as simple as using an old metal bucket for a flower pot. The possibilities are endless!
If possible, compost organic matter as it creates methane gas in landfills. In my city, we are fortunate enough to have a city-wide composting program available. However, apartment complex landlords are not required to offer this service, especially when they opt for the dumpster instead of the bins.
Check with your municipality, town or city for your specific regulations. Many retailers offer basic e-waste recycling. Be careful when buying items that you don’t fall into the trap of thinking that because something is recyclable that it’s free of consequences. While it’s great that an item can be diverted from the landfill, it doesn’t always end up being recycled. As consumers, we get tricked into buying more of an item and made not to feel bad because we think once it hits the recycling bin that the story is over.
In conclusion, the bottom line is that recycling should be the last step. When teaching and talking about the three basic R’s, the other R’s -to rethink, to refuse, to re-purpose, to repair, and to rot – are important additions to the standard Reduce, Reuse, Recycle everyone knows.
It starts with rethinking your habits and considering the whole life cycle of the product.
Working from home has the best commute ever! The COVID-19 pandemic lockdown has forced many people to work from home. I am fortunate enough to be one of these people. Whether your work from home experience is related to this crisis or its a perk of your job, here are some ideas to help make your teleworking experience as green and sustainable as possible.
This post does contain an affiliate link. If you decide to purchase, we get a small percentage of the sale, at no cost to you.
Develop Energy Saving Habits While Working From Home
Working from home, you have the ability to implement energy-saving habits. Turn your computer off at night? You can go one step further and unplug or turn off the power strip when you’re finished for the day or week. Most electronics have an “eco mode” that will conserve power. Are you leaving your computer or laptop for a while? Sleep mode! It’s always a good idea to unplug electrical items if you aren’t using them.
You can also set up your workspace to maximize the use of natural lighting. Don’t have that much access to natural lighting? Using energy-efficient LED light bulbs can help save energy, usually last a very long time-saving money as well. If you’re able, work outside. Just being in nature can help relieve stress and make you more productive.
Go Green and Paperless
I have personally used One Note. It automatically syncs and saves with the ability to access from multiple devices. Make use of the highlighting and tags for easy follow-up and quickly search for keywords in your entire library! You can insert images and information from other apps, files or web pages. You can even record audio or video messages as you go! Pages or entire notebooks can be shared with others, who can also contribute to the notes. If needed, you can also password-protect sections you want to keep private.
Set your default printer to print to a PDF or a cloud network like Google Drive. This way, you will avoid printing on paper by mistake! Using this method will help you get into the habit of saving digital copies instead of printing paper copies. If you must print, try to use the duplex setting to save paper and recycle — if you cant.
Digital signatures are a great option to take advantage of if it’s available. At my work, we had to wait for some forms to be optimized. Being able to sign PDFs by inserting your signature electronically saves on paper and time. It is cumbersome and wasteful to print the document, sign, scan, and send it back. If this is the only option, make sure only to print the needed pages.
Working from home, being in your own space, you can control air quality. Every year, many people suffer from sick building syndrome. Caused by poor indoor air quality, sick building syndrome can result in poor performance and headaches. Most workplaces don’t have windows that can be opened, contributing to reduced indoor air quality. Opening your windows at home can be a fantastic way to get fresh air and also cool your living space — depending on your climate.
House plants are an easy and fun way to help clean the air and introduce the natural element into your workspace. I suggest making sure that they are non-toxic to your pets if you have any. Spider plants are pretty straightforward to take care of, can help clean the air and are pet safe. Parlour Palms and Money Trees are good and pet safe as well. They are a bit harder for me to keep alive, due in part to my cat chewing on them.
I love diffusing essential oils, creating blends that help me to be calmer, focus, and be more productive. One of the downsides to working in offices was that they were often scent-free zones. Which I totally understand and support. Being at home gives you greater control.
Additionally, you can also purchase an air purifier to improve your air quality. We purchased the one below from Amazon.ca during the lockdown.
The Blue Pure 411 air purifier has a three-part filtration system that captures 99% of common airborne PM 2.5 pollutants such as allergens, odours, smoke, mould spores, dust mites and pet dander.
Eco-Friendly Choices and Local Supplies
Just because you are working from home doesn’t mean that you have to rush out and buy a whole new office set up. Already have an office or workspace at home? Great! The dining room or kitchen table can work in a pinch. For the first couple of months of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, I used the dining room table as my workspace to allow me to interact with the family. Check out local buy nothing groups, freecycle, buy/sell/trade groups, thrift shops, and online classifieds for office furniture. Will you be buying new? Try to get the most eco-friendly and sustainable products you can find. Bonus points if you can find it locally and don’t have to rely on online shipping. If you’re able to, try and support local office supply stores instead of large chain retailers when it comes to office supplies.
Use Non-Toxic Cleaners
Most offices and public spaces have to make use of heavy-duty and industrial-strength cleaners due to the number of people sharing the space. A benefit of being in your own environment is that you can use non-toxic cleaners.
There are many commercially available brands, but a mixture of equal parts white vinegar and water can be effective at cleaning. You can add essential oils to that have cleaning properties, or just for a refreshing scent. Recently, I have started using Thieves cleaner from Young Living. Environmentally friendly and non-toxic cleaners are safer for you and the environment.
Remember the basics! Always implement the Five R’s Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Re-purpose, Recycle!