Reusing items can help us reduce our environmental footprint. While plastics are useful in small quantities, our over reliance on single-use plastics has created an environmental problem. Single-use plastics of all kinds-wrappings, bags, cups, cutlery, etc-end up clogging our waterways and strewn across the streets. Littering harms both the wildlife and us. Toxins from litter enter our water supply and soil, which can contaminate food. One of the best things we can do to decrease our reliance on plastic is to invest in reusable items and products. While recycling is a great innovation, it requires a lot of energy. Sadly, not everything produced is recyclable. If we only rely on recycling, we end up using new resources every time we repurchase items. In other words, recycling is better than sending things to the landfill, but reusing items cuts down on resources and decreases our reliance on single use items.
Reusing and repurposing are the way forward. In times when resources were less globalized, items were designed to be reused. Disposable and single-use is a fairly new term that refers to items created to be thrown away. The downside of the plastic revolution is items do not last as long. If you are looking to adopt a more environmentally friendly and sustainable lifestyle, invest in reusable items!
When items cannot be reused, due to age or wear and tear, consider upcycling. Here are reasons to reuse:
1.Reusing is less expensive.
If we are recycling items, that means we are continually buying new things. We can reuse items like grocery bags, paper, boxes, and electronics. This saves us the cost of having to buy these items multiple times. Additionally, consider buying used items. Buying used will save you a bundle and conserve resources and prevent perfectly good products from being tossed.
2. Reusing uses less energy.
Recycling is an energy intensive process. Our recyclables have to be heated, melted, and reconstituted. A lot of embodied energy is lost every time we recycle rather than reuse these items. Most items can be reused and/or repurposed. If you grow your own food, you can reuse most glass bottles, after sanitization. Or, if our recyclable items are not particularly useful to us, you can probably find other people who would use them. Check out the ‘Buy Nothing Woodbridge’ group on Facebook. You can connect with local people who are looking to swap or just give away items that no longer serve a purpose for them.
3. It causes less (or no) pollution.
Because recycling requires a lot of energy, it comes with its own share of pollution. Reusing and repurposing do not create pollution. Rather, items are made useful in their current state. This is especially true for things like clothing. If you cannot reuse clothing, try upcycling or repurposing it or donate to a local homeless shelter. Practicing conscious consumerism will cut down on the amount of items that end up in landfills.
4. Reusing encourages quality over quantity.
If you buy for longevity, you are more inclined to buy higher quality, something built to last, and something you truly need. Our consumer culture encourages us to buy cheap, replace often. If things are meant to last, we are more likely to think about what we buy. Are you investing in furniture that could be passed down to your children or friends? If so, you are more likely to buy quality.
5. Reusing is more responsible.
Reusing and repurposing gives us more agency over the amount of waste we create, which makes us more conscious of the consequences of our purchases. When we get into the habit of reusing and repurposing, we are apt to reduce our consumption, and avoid excess packaging and waste.
6. Reusing can be a lot of fun.
Repurposing items can turn into a great time. You will be surprised at all the ways you can be creative, active, and involved in creating something new. Repurposed lumber, such as from pallets and crates, can be useful to hobbyist carpenters. Jars and tin cans are great for crafters. Old newspapers and junk mail can become beautiful artwork. Ever visited a junklugger or salvage store? They are full of old items begging for a new lease on life. Get creative! Making stuff is a lot more fun than sorting it into bins.
7. Reusing is friendlier.
Reusing and repurposing is a great way to make friends! Offer to redo someone’s backyard furniture. Jars can be upcycled into gifts. Clothes can be passed on to neighbors. Replaced TVs, tools or phones can be donated. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. You never know what your neighbors have that you can turn into something new. Make friends and get started creating!
This is not to say we should never recycle; recycling is an important and useful tool to rid the world of excessive plastic. However, we can do better. One way to reduce our dependence on recycling is to shop sustainably and practice conscious consumerism. Shopping at second hand stores is a great way to get into reusing and repurposing, and donating to them is a great way to avoid creating waste.
Help us create a better future!