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reduce reuse recycle - in that order

paul wheaton

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 17433
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
I've always thought that the order is important.

Recycling is really lame compared to reuse.

And reuse is lame compared to reduce.

Today came the thought: how lame?

After a chewing on it a while .... I came up with:

reuse is 20 times better than recycle.

reduce is 20 times better than reuse.

Therefore, reduce is 400 times better than recycle.

Minimalism and Frugality reign supreme. Although there are some aspects of minimalism that say to not keep things that could be re-used. So I would think it would be important to find some balance in that space.

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Leila Rich

Joined: May 24, 2010
Posts: 3999
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
It's all made easier for me, since I'm consistently broke.
It also had consistently broke extremely frugal parents who taught me the special joys of buying stuff in particular containers because they were ideal for storing/making X.
nancy sutton

Joined: Feb 22, 2010
Posts: 446
Location: Federal Way, WA - Western Washington (Zone 8 - temperate maritime)
LOL! Leila, I am rich beyond belief in containers... I HAVE to save all glass, and anything else that is unusual, or with any kind of potential...known or unknown :) Fortunately, we have basement areas for storage... but there are also under-beds, eave rooms, etc.

I have at least a dozen ancient clear (or almost) plastic gallon wine jugs, with bottoms cut off. They make great cloches, with or without caps, and kind of stack for (unattractive) storage ;) (btw, husband has eschewed alcohol for many years now ;)

And then there's a bunch of paint 'buckets'...with bails! - I like the black plastic ones best-no rust -lids are not waterproof, but I love the little 'pails' ;) And the zillion clear plastic flimsy pastry etc. closable containers....for seed starting, pot saucers, etc. And the 5 gal buckets - especially the black ones someone drug home from work! And the blue plastic 30 (or 50?) gal 'barrels' I hauled home from behind a Wilber-Ellis outlet (with permission ;)... and a giant bag of woven plastic... finally found a use for that. I do have 'junk pile' corners....might look trashy to some, but look like wealth to me!

One of my favorite reuses is pop can everlasting plant labels... cut tops and bottoms off with scissors, cut out labels, and 'engrave' name with ball point pen. A paper hole puncher will enable tying with wire... or just stick in at the end of the row.

I LOVE, 'repurposing'. I used to be a 'scrounge' at building sites, but now I'm a 'recycler'. I'm just sorry that grocery dumpsters are now locked up....I'm about ready to take that step.

I wonder what ingenious ideas are in the brains on this forum, that I haven't thought of yet ;)

It's time to get positive about negative thinking    -Art Donnelly
Dale Hodgins

Joined: Jul 28, 2011
Posts: 5503
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
In my businesses of dimantaling buildings for reuse of the materials, I've encountered many hoarders. Their quest for frugality turns obsessive as they aquire far more than they need.

By hoarding all of this stuff, they prevent the materials from falling into more sensible hands. So what started out as well intended ends up hurting the cause of re-using resources.

Although these folks support green businesses and they vote for environmentally progressive candidates, their natural greed and fear of scarcity takes over.

Dale's picks - These are some of my favorite threads. Greed - My garden - ethics - Good wood bad wood Alder - Bees - Pulling nails -
Josh T-Hansen

Joined: Jul 14, 2010
Posts: 143
Location: Zone 5 Brimfield, MA
I agree that order is important. The longer version of the list: 1.refuse 2.reduce 3.reuse 5.recycle 6.relocalize

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nancy sutton

Joined: Feb 22, 2010
Posts: 446
Location: Federal Way, WA - Western Washington (Zone 8 - temperate maritime)
Don't worry about this 'hoarder', Dale! My scrounging days are long gone... everything now is into a dumpster immediately, and thence to the giant 'hugelkultur' landfill. No more lumber leftovers for firewood or small construction... no scraps of reinforcing wire or woven plastic barriers....all tidily buried, you'll be glad to know ;)
Dale Hodgins

Joined: Jul 28, 2011
Posts: 5503
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
I love those internet sites where you can post stuff to give away. Huge amounts of stuff that used to go to waste is now picked up by those in need.

For Christmas this year I gave away TVs that I found on Used Victoria. With so many people getting new flatscreens there are lots of perfectly good ones being given away. Three of them were Sony Trinatron(top of the line ten years ago) I delivered these to apartment dwellers who lack the ability to pick them up.

Everybody won. The old owners were glad to free up the space and the new ones exchanged 25 yr old 13 inch models for 27 and 32 inch models. I got some exercise. A 10 year old 36 inch Sony is a beast.
Marcella Rose

Joined: Nov 09, 2011
Posts: 95
Location: Central Texas, it is dry here.
I love Freecycle. So many people give away sheets and pillowcases with barely any use...GREAT quality material and then I sew them into something I need or want (braided rug or a new dress, etc). LOVE, LOVE, LOVE!

No land yet, but growing what I can with what I have!
Anna Carter

Joined: Feb 11, 2011
Posts: 66
Location: Lacey, Wa
I think reducing is definitely key. And by reducing, I mean reducing one's buying of stuff. Housing, gas, prepared foods, tech, toys, etc. Buy choosing not to buy something, you are refusing to take all of those resources required to make the thing. If you buy used (re-using), those resources were still extracted and used, you're just using them again, instead of completely squandering them. I also think that reducing and reusing are often quite interconnected. For example: instead of buying a water bottle (or heaven and intelligence forbid, bottled water), reusing a old jar.

I also think this ties in with some of the principles of a simple life, where you are actually happier by having less stuff.

I'm a young and I'm not going to contort myself to fit in with our very ill society. I am a citizen of the world, not a mindless consumer. If you want to follow along with my journal, here's my blog: Life Happened Today
duane hennon

Joined: Sep 23, 2010
Posts: 540
Location: western pennsylvania zone 5/a

here's another example of community RRR

Zero Waste Champion: Mary Kouba of Mrs. K's Varieties
By Ryan Jones

tel jetson

Joined: May 17, 2007
Posts: 3328
Location: woodland, washington
paul wheaton wrote:reuse is 20 times better than recycle.

reduce is 20 times better than reuse.

Therefore, reduce is 400 times better than recycle.

I object to the mixing of qualitative and quantitative, but I agree in principle.

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Amit Enventres

Joined: Mar 24, 2011
Posts: 122
I agree. On the reuse part, it doesn't always have to look like re-used junk.

People come over to our house for holidays and are impressed by the beautiful ceramic plates and cloth napkins. "It's so fancy." They say. "..and cheaper." I add. "What about water?" they say. "That's a reuseable resource, and I use a bucket-like system to wash them which is fast and efficient. Plus, don't you think they use water in manufacturing paper and plastic plates?" I've had someone ask for a paper napkin because they didn't want to ruin the beautiful cloth napkins. Funny, huh? We had to hunt for a stragely spare paper napkin.

I replaced paper towels with many, many rags. Okay, fine, we have the propensity to tear, whipe, and throw. So, now we don't tear, but we can whipe and throw (in the laundry basket). Works great.

Diapers I plan on the same thing. Same with wipes.

I have a large quantity (enough to go a week+ without doing laundry) of anything that society would otherwise make disposable, and I think that's the trick. People look at me funny and ask me "isn't it expensive?" Well, initially, it costs more (sometimes). Long term, it's just about free (the cost of a washer load once a month). If I don't have enough to implement the system, I'll switch back to my old ways and not use the new system. The new system must be as convenient as the old system, or I don't have the time and energy.
Suzy Bean

Joined: Apr 05, 2011
Posts: 940
Location: Stevensville, MT
Paul and Jocelyn cover more listener questions in this podcast. Some things they talk about include Paul's food rating system, (similar to Jack Spirko's Agritrue), eco-labeling, nurture vs. nature, recycling, legality of things like the clothes line, and pirating copyrighted material.
It's in the permaculture playing cards. Here's the link:
subject: reduce reuse recycle - in that order