FOUR “Rs” for Modern Environmentalists

Enviro Girl grew up aware of the “3 R’s” of environmentalism:  Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.  But the celebration of “America Recycles Day” seems to fall short of encouraging people to be true environmentalists and shrink their environmental impact.  In fact, it encourages just the opposite, greenwashing single use products by telling people to “Recycle them!” You see, recycling would be a useful concept if people really did it–but they don’t.  Recycling waste is no different from throwing it away when piles of “recycled” paper and plastic and metal loom beside landfills and manufacturers still turn to virgin materials to make their products.

Super Eco-Warrior Beth Terry makes an excellent point on her blog Fake Plastic Fish in the post “The Truth About America Recycles Day.”  We’re forgetting about the other option, the FOURTH “R,” if you will:  REFUSE.

Just say no–say no to bottled water, plastic shopping bags, single-wrapped servings of snack food, Happy Meal Toys.  Demand better use of our natural resources by consuming less and supporting only those manufacturers committed to reusing recycled materials.  Being a modern environmentalist means more than tossing your plastic bottles into the recycling bin. It means connecting our waste stream and our consumption and committing to making both smaller.  It means crying “Foul!” when corporations try to sell us on goods that only pad their pockets while increasing our collective environmental impact.  It means recognizing wasteful behaviors and addressing them with more efficient solutions.

Refuse.  Reduce.  Reuse.  Recycle.  In that order.

Tell the Eco Women, what do you refuse in the name of environmental activism?

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6 thoughts on “FOUR “Rs” for Modern Environmentalists

  1. We could go on and on, couldn’t we?
    I try to approach every transaction with an eye to “Do I need this? Can I substitute something I already have?” I’ve managed to cut out paper OR plastic, most of the time; some toilet paper and paper towels; almost all commercial cleaning products. I grow some of our vegetables, hit the farmers’ market regularly, cook from scratch. I compost and do my best to use water responsibly.
    If this sounds inadequate, it is. And notice I said “I”: unfortunately, it is I who institutes and maintains these systems. Family members cooperate to an extent and carry on their own systems in their own homes. I think they have absorbed some of the values implied.
    And if this sounds hard, it isn’t. Step by step did it for me.
    Now I’m beginning a thorough declutter. It’s delightful. If you can’t already tell, my last little lamb just left home (at 24) and we are giddy empty nesters.
    Jenny

  2. Yes! I couldn’t agree more. I’m refusing more and more and, luckily, my family is starting to absorb the message and do the same. Advertising and marketing are tricky beasts, however, and sometimes even I find myself thinking, “Oooh, I want that.” With the constant push to buy, buy, buy during this time of year, I’m reminding myself several times a day that I don’t NEED anything.

  3. I refuse to buy bottled water, except for the case I have in the basement as part of our emergency kit (3 day supply for 3 people). I like the taste of our tap water. And we have nice stainless steel water bottles to take to soccer and out and about.

  4. I reused and repurpose plastic bags, vcr tape, cassette tapes, denim, and other “trash” materials for crafting projects. I share and post all my patterns free at my blog and encourage others about the joy of green crafting.

  5. Good point, and something I don’t do enough of.

    But you forgot the 5th “R”: “repair”. how many items are thrown away these days which could be repaired and, in the past, would have been?

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