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Reduce Reuse Recycle

Reduce Reuse Recycle

This is a copied page from Surviving Economic Collapse

Photo: Creative Commons/

Reduce, reuse, and recycle, three principles that I think more people should consider following. Now I am not in danger of becoming a hippie treehugger, nor am I asking anybody to change their beliefs. However after trying to live the RRR lifestyle for the last 6 months, I am increasingly convinced of the tangible economic and environmental benefits of applying these 3 ideals rigorously in one’s daily life. In tough economic times, everyone should think about giving this approach a try for the following reasons.

If an individual were to efficiently use his/her material possessions, re-purpose old stuff into other useful items, and finally recycle everything that they cannot possibly reduce or reuse, the following benefits could be immediately realized:

1. Save TONS of money2. Become far less reliant on the consumerist wage slave system                                                                                  

3. Help slow down pollution and other forms of environmental damage

4. Build up one’s own self sufficiency skills

And to top it off, living an RRR lifestyle is not even that hard. Anyone can do it within a short span of time with some changes in their day-to-day behavior. To aid everyone in adopting the RRR paradigm, I’ve compiled a large list of tips to quickly and easily transition into this lifestyle.

Tips to Reduce (Or Pre-Cycling)

Pre-cycling is the art of stopping or at the very least slowing the creation of garbage at it’s source. By nipping consumerism at the bud, large sums of money can be saved off the bat. But beyond the monetary savings, the very act of reducing or streamlining our consumption helps the environment AND makes us more frugal. This is a triple-win in my book. So here are some pre-cycling tips:

  • Buy fruits/vegetables/snacks in loose packaging instead of in crates. Crates and heavy packaging costs money, thus without it, the food costs less.
  • Bring your own re-usable bags to the grocery stories instead of getting plastic bags (lowers cost in most stores)
  • Buy food in bulk packages. Think large sides of beef or fish or huge bags of rice and beans. Larger packages results in lower unit prices and less packaging waste.
  • Buy food in containers that are returnable. Containers like large Milk bottles can often be re-filled or exchanged at the same story for a nice little price discount
  • Use reusable razor blades instead of disposable ones.
  • Use mugs or glass/metal drink containers instead of paper/plastic disposable cups
  • Use washable plates instead of disposable ones.
  • Use clothe rags instead of throwaway paper towels and napkins
  • Use rechargeable Lithium Ion batteries instead of disposable ones.
  • Wear clothing until they become absolutely unwearable. No point in spending valuable resources to catch up with the latest fashion.
  • Use your cell phone, computers, and other gadgets until it breaks. No point in spending hundreds of dollars every year for technology that quickly becomes obsolescent.
  • Get an ebook reader or tablet to download books and magazines from the internet. It is going to be way more cost effective and many trees will thank you!
  • Reduce electrical consumption by turning off unused lights, lowering the thermostat, and lowering the settings on the refrigerator(s).

Tips to Reuse (Or Re-purposing)

Photo: Creative Commons/Urban Woodswalker

Photo: Creative Commons/Urban Woodswalker

There are many things that we can no longer use for their original purpose. But instead of throwing the stuff away, here are a bunch of tips on how to re-purpose these items into useful products once again at little or no cost.

  • Reuse one-sided flyers and opened mail envelopes as note-taking paper
  • Reuse clothes that no longer fit by passing them off to family members as hand me downs. This can result in savings hundreds of dollars every year.
  • Reuse clothes that are tattered or threadbare by re-shaping them into kitchen rags and mops.
  • Save brown paper bags and re-purpose them to wrap postal packages that you need to send out.
  • Re-gift an outdated IPhone as a very nice IPod to the kids
  • Fill empty plastic bottles with water, freeze these bottles, and proceed to use the frozen bottles of water in your coolers for BBQs and Picnics.
  • Re-shape plastic and styrofoam cups and egg cartons into seedling starters for your garden vegetables.
  • Re-shape plastic milk cartons into cold weather cloches which can extend the growing season of your garden as well as many other items.
  • Convert large glass pickle/pasta sauce jars into Cookie jars or other dry foods storage containers.
  • Re-purpose small glass jars into salt and spice shakers by punching very small holes into the cap
  • Aluminum foil can be reused many many times before being thrown away
  • Convert an old toothbrush into a cleaning tool that can be used to scrub difficult to reach places
  • Flatten old cardboard boxes into single flat pieces of cardboard which serves as the base of a raised bed garden
  • Stale bread can be converted into croutons, stuffing, and bread pudding.
  • Reuse dish or bath water by collecting it and using it to water your garden. You can convert this “gray water” into healthy organic food. Do make sure to use non-toxic detergents.
  • Reuse someone else’s vehicle by buying a used car. This translates into truly passive savings over time.
  • Reuse lawn/grass clippings as mulch for your garden, just make sure to use non-toxic fertilizer/pesticides on the lawn.
  • Sell stuff that you no longer use on Amazon, Craigslist or Ebay. Someone else might have a use for your unwanted item.
  • Consider giving away stuff that you no longer use to a charity, you can claim a very nice tax deduction that adds up to hundreds or even thousands of dollars a year.
  • Re-purpose unused trinkets or personal items into unique works of art and sell these on Etsy for large profits.
  • For items that just doesn’t fit your lifestyle (in my case a deep fryer), consider re-gifting it to friends and relatives. You stand to have better relationships in your community.
  • Glass beer and soda bottles can be made into the windows for Earth Shelters.

Tips to Recycle

Photo: Creative Commons/Joi

Photo: Creative Commons/Joi

Even after extensive pre-cycling and re-purposing, there will inevitably be items that just needs to be thrown away. This is where recycling comes in, recycling breaks an old item down into the raw materials which can then be used to create new items. If you live in a neighborhood with ready access to a recycling center, your municipal sanitation department might already collect bins of recycled materials when they pick up your garbage. Recycled items usually have to be separated by type(metal, plastic paper) at the time of pick up. However, for those of you who do not have access to recycling centers, the following tips should allow you to recycle some of your garbage and not spend an extra penny.

  • For paper waste, consider shredding and feeding the shredded paper to a worm composting system. The compost from this process can be used as mulch for ornamental trees and shrubs only.
  • For organic food waste such as kitchen clippings, consider setting up a composting bin and converting the food waste into rich compost for the vegetable garden
  • Even human waste can be recycled into compost, you can get the details by reading the Humanure Handbook . Please note that this is not for the feint of heart! :D
  • For electronic waste, consider using Gazelle, sometimes they will PAY you to recycle your old electronic junk.

So that’s my list of RRR tips so far. Through reducing, reusing, and recycling my material possessions, life has become a bit simpler and easier to manage for me. And while this is just an intangible feeling, I do have the very tangible results of saving several hundreds of dollars in just the last couple of months from following some of these tips. I hope that many of you will also consider implementing some of the above actions. As always, comments and feedback are welcomed and appreciated!

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