Reduce, reuse take backseat to recycling

Whether it was in a classroom or on “Rocko’s Modern Life,” everyone learned the “3 R’s” of waste management as a kid. “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” is a phrase that rings familiar with many, but there has always been a struggle for the spotlight between the three. Despite the order, “recycle” has always had the largest following and attracts the most attention. Most people make a conscious effort in daily life to abide by the terms of this word.

But in reality, “recycle” falls last in the order of the trio for a reason.

The trash room is not a magical incinerator, making garbage disappear entirely. Most household trash has a long and not-so-lonesome journey that doesn’t end with the garbage pickup. It is estimated the average American produces 4.6 pounds of solid trash a day.

Taking time to consider how much waste one person produces is the first step toward conquering the concept of “reduce.” So, take time to think: Do I need to print out these notes, or can I just look at them on the computer? Will I really need 18 napkins to eat my bagel? Small decisions can add up.

The best way to reduce is by reusing. Most recycling bins at the College are filled with plastic water bottles. When thinking about the number of bottles used and discarded on campus in a single day, it’s mind-blowing to consider the output of the entire country.

Aside from the energy it takes to process these in recycling plants, a huge number of bottles end up as waste in landfills. If every College student chose to use a reusable water bottle instead of a disposable one, the reduction would be tremendous.

With the world “going green,” there are many efforts and new methods to relieve the stress we put on the environment. Though it is unrealistic to expect all College students to drive hybrid cars or keep compost piles behind Travers/Wolfe, there are simple things everyone can do every day to reduce personal waste production.

Simple tips for reducing, re-using and recycling

Cut out cardboard coffee cups completely. There are free reusable coffee mugs at the C-Store that can be can filled up for the price of a medium coffee anywhere on campus.

Get a reusable water bottle. They are just as convenient as plastic and cooler-looking.

Get a reusable shopping bag. Reduce the use of plastic bags. Some stores even give a slight discount for reusing bags. If the purchase is small, don’t opt for a bag.

Make a paper recycling box for dorm rooms. Paper products make up about 30 percent of landfills. Just because paper recycling bins in the dorms are scarce doesn’t mean all personal paper is doomed to a landfill-bound future. Just put a cardboard box in your room and empty it in the nearest paper recycling bin every so often.

Recycle your receipts. Receipts can add up to a large volume of paper that could have been recycled. Instead of crumpling up receipts and tossing them in the nearest trash, put them in a pocket or purse to empty into a paper recycling receptacle later.