4Rs Tip for 08.27.2022 – Top 5 Tips to Build A Reuse Lifestyle

Reduce and Reuse have always been more important for a reason – we can’t keep filling our planet with garbage. But for a long time we didn’t think we were trashing the planet. We thought most of our disposables were getting recycled.

Since we now know recycling hasn’t worked, especially for plastics, avoiding the need to do it is the only answer.

It’s time to get serious about Reuse and
find ways to Reduce our trash.

This isn’t working…

A big contributor to failed recycling is too much disposables and not enough people doing it right. Apartment complex recycle bin picture by Jen Thilman.

Last week I talked about the high cost of plastics, like the health damages they cause as a fossil fuel based product. And I talked about the huge opportunities for economic growth and jobs in the coming reuse economy

So how do we, as individuals, support a transition away from disposable plastics into this circular economy of reuse? How do we do that when there’s so much disposable crap, aka packaging, in the world? 

One step at a time.

Start picking up some reuse habits today.
Soon you’ll find it easy to do more.

Here are some of my favorite ways to reuse items that might otherwise end up in the trash or recycling, and reduce our impact on the environment.

  1. Reuse plastic containers, food baggies, and wraps.
    • Food tubs, like for cottage cheese, have tight-fitting lids and are great for storing leftovers in the fridge. Note: it’s not healthy to freeze food in these. 
      • Take them with you when you eat out to carry home your leftovers.
      • Store dry goods and small items, like nails or buttons. 
      • Keep an open one in the back of your fridge with old coffee grounds in it to absorb odors.
      • Use masking tape to label them so you can peal it off and easily change it when you keep reusing these.
    • Zip-close plastic bags can be washed and reused over and over.
      • When I learned about reusable food storage bags I decided I would buy some once I finished my current box of disposable ones. That was over a year ago and I still have a few left because I wash and reuse them for as long as I can. I will be buying reusable ones soon.
    • Plastic food wraps are strong enough to be washed a few times unless they’ve been used on greesy foods which make them difficult to clean.
      • After you wash and dry them, use a butter tub to store your pieces of plastic wrap for reuse.
      • Look into reusable food wraps like beeswax wraps or this DIY way to make wraps from old materials. A great use for those worn and torn clothing you can’t donate but shouldn’t put in the trash.
    • Look for crafts and DIY things you can make with milk jugs, bottles and other plastic containers you frequently buy.
      • Look to buy your regular items in reusable containers.
        • Explore Loop, a reuse program offering refillable containers in stores.
  2. Get into gardening. Growing plants reduces carbon output and your impact on the planet. Growing your own food improves your health. Add composting to reuse food waste.
    • Compost to provide healthy nutrients for your plants and reduce methane gas, a seriously bad greenhouse gas.
      • If you don’t have a yard for outdoor composting, there are portable systems that fit perfectly for apartment life. 
      • Food waste in landfills is one of the biggest emitters of methane gas. But it can be avoided if we compost and reuse the organic materials.
    • Having house plants is good for your health. Indoors and outdoors.
      • Some food like tomatoes and peppers can be grown in canisters on a patio or balcony. Look into growing a lettuce bowl.
      • Eating fresh produce direct from the plant is the best way to get the vitamins and nutrients it was meant to provide.
  3. Electronics have to be disposed of correctly to reuse the materials that otherwise have to be mined from the earth. 
    • Shortages of components, like computer chips, happen all the time. 
      • These could be avoided if the raw materials in electronics were being recaptured and used to make new.
      • Always recycle used electronics at e-waste events. You may be able to sell or donate working electronics.
  4. Buy used clothing and household items to reuse what’s already been made. When you need something browse thrift stores and yard sales. It also gives you time to rethink whether you need to spend money on that item.
    • I’ve bought clothes at thrift stores with the original price tag still on them.
    • I’ve been wanting to get a blender. Browsing Goodwill recently I found a glass Black and Decker one for $5 and it works great. Chaching! People get rid of the best stuff.
  5. Because it’s heavy and comes in different colors, glass can be difficult to recycle. 
    • Stick to aluminum cans for beverages.
      • Aluminum has one of the highest recycle rates and can be recycled over and over.
    • Look for refill programs in your area.
      • There are regions around the world making this work, like in Germany. In the US, some states have pilot programs.
      • Watch for and support reuse programs in your community. We all need programs like this one in Seattle, WA.
    • Instead of trying to recycle things like pickle jars, reuse them around the house.
      • Wide-mouth jars can make great planters.
      • Use them for food storage.
      • Mix things in them, like paints or baking mix.
        • Fill a big jar with cake mix and the ingredients, have older kids shake it up to mix it. Baking fun for the whole family.

Start working on these reuse actions today, or find more online. There are tons of resources and ideas out there. Then keep adding new reuse habits every week or so.

Why It’s Important

I talk a lot about habits. That because, when it comes to the environment, good habits can and will save us. I’m a fan of James Clear, author of Atomic Habits. Sign up for his free emails and read his books. They can help you build good habits and make reuse a part of your life. 

If we build reuse habits now we will immediately reduce our individual impact on the environment.

  • We reduce the amount of plastics we generate.
  • We reduce our carbon output by growing plants.
  • We live healthier growing our own food, reducing food waste and transportation emissions.
  • We save money when we buy used items.

Eventually your neighbors might notice when you take less trash and recycling to the curb. Your friends will be inspired by the reusable dishware you use when you entertain. People may notice and you will make an even bigger difference when they follow your lead and build reuse habits, too.

With Much Gratitude

That’s it for this bi-weekly issue of the 4Rs.

If you like this post, please forward it to every earth-friendly human you know. 

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Drop me a line anytime if you have questions or comments. I love hearing from you.

Thank you for reading these tips and subscribing.

Pat yourself on the back for doing your part. Remember, everything helps.

We’ve got this!

All my best,

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