Reduce, Reuse, Recycle:
Common and Creative Tips and Ideas
We've all heard the saying "reduce reuse recycle", but it is still an important topic that WAY too many of us overlook. We live in a culture that doesn't understand the dangers of having so many non-reusable and wasteful products and habits in our lives.
Below is a BIG collection of articles on the three R's, including how to recycle common items, reusable alternatives to disposable products, and some of the basics that you'd be surprised aren't all that well-known. Why is this the first section of all the "Home" sections...cuz it's often the easiest to make some simple changes to and see a big impact. And easy is good when you're starting out, no?
What Are The Reasons Why I Should Recycle?
Reducing, reusing, and recycling are important for many reasons. For starters, one of the most personal reasons: eco-friendly habits save us money. Constantly replacing disposable items (or repurchasing cheaply made products that wear out too quickly or aren't made to last) costs a ton, and not just because we're always buying new things, but because many of those things are pricey to begin with. (Have you seen the price of throwaway razors lately? Who wouldn't have a hard time throwing $20 away each month?)
In addition to saving money, eliminating waste usually leads to an elimination of harmful chemicals in our home, as well. This is partially because disposable items are newly manufactured, meaning constant off-gasing; many are made from the most harmful type of plastics or other synthetics, which contain chemicals, such as BPA; and other products are processed in a way that includes dangerous chemicals, such as the bleaching of paper napkins or plates that can actually contaminate our food.
Then there are the environmental issues behind constant waste:
- This first is manufacturing. Constantly reproducing new products means excessive use of finite resources, such as water or oil. The use of chemicals also leads to pollution around manufacturing plants, which affects the environment, as well as human health in the area.
- The second is the constant shipping of new products. This amounts to hundreds of thousands of pounds of carbon dioxide in the environment, more than what we create with every car in the world1. This affects plants, animals, and people all around the world, both around shipping pathways and anywhere the toxins are shuffled to by Nature.
- The third would be a loss of resources. Disposable still use an abundance of resources...resources that may be limited in the future, or even now, such as oil and water. Try finding stats on that one. Ain't so easy.
- Fourth, is litter. Most litter and dumped waste found on the road or in wild areas is from disposable products - bottles, bags, etc (all things hat could AT LEAST be recycle)2. Don't believe me? Take a look around.
- And last, is our long-term waste management. Designating landfills is a temporary solution to a permanent problem. And because things put in a landfill don't decompose (read the "biodegradable myth" article below), those items will never return back to a reusable form by man or Nature. So basically, when we throw things "away" it goes somewhere to stay. (In other words, there is no such thing as "away" on this shrinking globe.)
A highly disposable culture is simply NOT sustainable - meaning we can't sustain this level of use and waste for the long-term. (And who would want to?)
The short answer: Start with long-lasting quality. Then "use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without". Read the articles below for inspiration on how to do just that.
The Basics of "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle"
When you're ready to commit to the "Reduce Reuse Recycle" motto, these articles can help you make the switch to a more sustainable alternative, starting with some background and getting into the nitty-gritty.
What in the World is Planned Obsolescence?
Are you a visual learner or want to know a little more about how this system got created? Check out this article and it's video on a little something called "planned obsolescence". You'll be surprised. And maybe a little ticked off.
The Ridiculous Myths of "Biodegradable" Waste
Did you know that even after 50+ years in a landfill you can still read the newspaper and name the foods found within? Or that "biodegradable" plastics probably won't biodegrade at all?
What is PREcycling?
Did you know recycling starts before you even make a purchase of the item being recycled? Read this article about where to really start when you're ready to apply the "Reduce Reuse Recycle" motto.
How to Recycle the Right Way
Yes, there is actually a right and wrong way to recycle. Knowing how to properly recycle is so simple, yet so often overlooked. Don't let your recyclables get sent to the trash!
Home Composting to Reduce Food Waste
We simply can't talk about reducing waste without looking at the easiest thing to keep out of the landfill, AND the thing that does the environment the most good.
How To Maintain a ZERO Waste Home
After precycling, recycling, and composting, there are still usually odds and ends that are hard to avoid. Learn what to do to keep even plastic ties and foil wrappers from the trash.
Reduce: Ideas on How To Use Less
Stainless Steel Water Bottles
It's important to know what to look for in your stainless steel water bottle, and what to avoid. Nope, they're not all created equal.
Truly Recycled Toilet Paper: Cloth Toilet Paper Facts
If you're really ready to be a hippie, cloth toilet paper is the answer. I know, I know...it sounds pretty "out there" when you first hear about it. But I encourage you to read this article on it to learn the truth.
Fabric Gift Wrap: Your Unique Wrapping Alternative
One beautiful and sustainable alternative to traditional wrapping paper is fabric gift wrap. This unique gift wrap idea is reusable for many years and can be very affordable.
4 Steps to Stop Receiving Junk Mail
Put an end to the stacks of junk mail and you could save an average of 69 POUNDS of paper each year. That's the equivalent of saving a 10 year old from the trash in each household every year.
Truly Reusable Razors
Disposable razors are expensive and dull quickly. Plus they're not nearly as cool as safety razors and other supplies to "reduce reuse recycle" your shaving habits.
3 Alternatives to Plastic Food Storage Containers
Getting rid of plastics is a big step, and food storage tends to be one that people question. But there are many alternatives that are safer, healthier and cheaper than chemical-filled, short-lived plastic containers.
35+ Alternatives to Common Plastic Items
Don't think all plastic is avoidable? Learn what you can use to replace common things like a plastic toothbrush, shower curtain, hard hat, and more.
Reusable Shopping Bags
Using reusable bags is a popular recommendation for green living. Whether you buy them or make them, just remember to keep them in your trunk.
Reuse: Upcycling Ideas
Reuse means anything you can do to use an item multiple times, maybe in multiple ways. Upcycling means taking something old and crafting it into something completely new, and often unrelated to the first item.
7 Easy Steps to Make Yarn (Plarn) From Plastic Bags
Ever find yourself with plastic bags and not sure what to do with them? Recycling takes a lot of resources, but you can have fun upcycling them into a bag, mat, or purse instead!
Step-by-Step Rag Rug Instructions
Learn how to make a durable and beautiful rug with old linens, t-shirts, sweaters, or other scrap fabric with this written and photo tutorial.
20+ Unique Ways to Recycle Old Tires
Learn how to keep your old tires from the dump by upcycling or recycling them into numerous and unique indoor or outdoor projects for the home and garden.
More Upcycling Inspiration
What can you do with a broken dresser drawer? How can you upcycle your old-school computer moniter? Check out my Pinterest board for truly unique (and sometimes ridiculous) upcycling inspiration and ideas.
Recycle: How To Recycle Odds and Ends
Besides the basics above, this short section gives you ideas on how to recycle the rest of what you might otherwise throw away.
Recycling Ideas for Common Household Items
This guest post talks about how you can recycle (as well as upcycle) some common household items that you may no longer need or use.
E-waste accounts for a tremendous amount of landfill these days. But computers, cell phones, and other electronics can be recycled easily for their materials.
Have a question about how to reduce, reuse, recycle something? Ask me here or in the comments! Or contribute your own ideas below!
Submit your own creative ideas!
We'd love to hear your creative ideas for reducing waste, reusing common household items, and recycle or upcycling those hard-to-recycle objects.
Share your ideas below, and to make it easier for readers to find what they are looking for, please try to be as descriptive as possible in your title. Also, list any resources you have to make it easier for others to reduce, reuse, and recycle too! The more (relevant) info and photos you can add the better!
(For all our submission guidelines, please click here.)
Creative Ideas from the Whole Community
Click below to see contributions from other visitors to this page...
Dont throw away those paper towels! Not rated yet
After you wash your hands at a restaurant, hospital, school, etc and dry your hands with paper towels, DONT THROW THEM AWAY! They are clean! The water …
Cement Recovery Not rated yet
New portable light weight forms allow for the recovery of cement on the jobsite while producing a value added landscaping product. As most are aware …
9 Ideas to Reuse Empty Checkbook Boxes Not rated yet
I have several ideas for what you can do with empty checkbook boxes! Use them as draw organizers in the bathroom (they are great for holding makeup, …