Green Living Guide

Feature story - December 11, 2004
We are all part of the environment and what we do to the environment, we do to ourselves. This is one of the cornerstone messages of the environmental movement. And in the same way that environmental degradation takes place in a variety of forms, so too does environmental healing. The United States, as one of the world’s largest consumers and waste producers, plays a major role in the degradation of the earth. We must ALL be part of the solution.

There are many ways you, as an individual, can step a little lighter on the Earth. One of the simplest things you can do is to remember to "reduce, reuse and recyle."

Reduce

Really, the best thing that we can do for the planet is to use less of it. At the heart of the environmental crisis is our consumer society. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself before you buy: Do I, or the other person I am buying this for, really need this? Is there another product which would do the same thing but more sustainably? Will this last a long time? Do I know how this item was made, how it will be used and how it will be disposed of? Where was this made and under what circumstances? Are the materials used to make this renewable and have they been harvested in a sustainable manner?

Reuse

Regrettably, because we live in a "disposable society," we are encouraged to buy a new and "improved" item even if the one we have can be repaired. When we buy, we should buy items which are durable, we should maintain them, and have them repaired when necessary. If we practice this, many things cannot only last a lifetime, but can be passed along from generation to generation. If something is truly unusable for its original purpose, try to be creative and think of how else it might be used. When you are done with it, think of whether someone else might be able to use it as well.

Recycle

Rather than throwing an item out when neither you nor anyone else can make use of it, have it recycled. And while recycling is not perfect - it requires energy and the process of changing something into something else often produces by-products - it is better than sending goods to the landfill or having them incinerated.

Find out what types of materials can be recycled in your area. Clean and sort the materials before putting them out on the curb - often collectors will not pick up recycling that is mixed or contains non-recyclables.

For more information on recycling, visit the National Recycling Coalition website.