Reframing the 3R's

| July / August 2006

For most of us, recycling is a habit on autopilot-we dutifully devote kitchen space to those clunky bins for glass and plastic, and we balk at tossing our soda cans into sidewalk trash cans.

Collectively, though, we're less attuned to the other two R's of the environmental movement: reducing and reusing. And in a world that's quickly moving beyond climate change into a state of climate chaos, it's time to make reducing and reusing second nature.

The first step in reducing is simple: 'Start by reducing the amount of waste packaging that comes with consumer goods,' write Dave and Lillian Brummet in Natural Life Magazine (March/April 2006). Look for goods that come in reusable containers, they suggest, or buy bulk products. Refuse to buy items like twice-plastic-sheathed toilet paper. Merely paying attention to packaging redundancies will have you seeking products that come wrapped in less.

Reuse begins with a refusal to see any object as having only one lifespan. Once your imagination starts seeing a CD as more than a CD-and instead as, say, a canvas onto which you can paint a design and then hang as a Christmas tree ornament-the possibilities for reuse are endless. The Brummets consider old belts to be reincarnation classics. You can cut them down to size and fashion a pet collar out of them. They make great scratch guards if you cut and glue pieces under dressers or chairs, and peerless cupboard door mufflers when they're cut into strips and glued on the inside of the doors.

Other ideas to get you going: ironing boards transformed into potting benches; old doors turned flat and affixed with pipe-and-flange legs to make funky, spacious desks; and old doorknobs mounted to a board to become a quirky coat rack. -Laine Bergeson

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