On Planet Green, we talk a lot about projects that reuse household items that usually get tossed into the trash or recycling bin. When we finish with something, there is often a surprising and completely unseen new purpose for it, if we put ourselves in a mindset of figuring out what that purpose might be. At first glance, it might seem trivial to try and figure out a reuse for things like Altoid tins, toilet paper rolls, or bread tabs. But there are at least three reasons why getting ourselves to think in this way, and then act on what we come up with, is even greener than carefully recycling and composting whatever it is we've just finished using.
1. It Makes You Realize How Much Waste we Actually Produce
One of the benefits of trying to reuse everything we might otherwise throw away is that we finally start to realize the sheer amount of things we create to serve only one purpose, and then discard. Even when we're putting something into the recycling bin, giving it a fair shot at returning to the consumer stream, we're still putting it in that bin after the item accomplished just one fleeting goal. When we stop to consider how much energy, water and resources went into creating an item, and how much will go into breaking down and restructuring it again if it is recycled, we start to appreciate the far smaller footprint of reusing an item when we're done with it, rather than discarding it (and reducing how much we consume in the first place).
When we think this about everything that goes into the trash bin, recycling bin, or compost bin at the end of the day, and multiply that by the number of people in our families, our communities, our nations...we start to comprehend the ways in which we need to change in order to be more sustainable. And that includes - aside from cutting down on what we consume in the first place - reusing or repurposing things that we might otherwise discard.
2. Even 100% Recycling isn't Perfect
In an ideal world, we'd be able to recycle anything that we can't compost, and nothing would go to a landfill. But even if this ideal world were to exist with 100% recycling for everything we discard, that still wouldn't be as perfect as 100% reuse.
Recycling takes water and energy to turn discarded items into something new. And while many materials can be recycled, our current processes and technologies limit us to what can be effectively and efficiently turned into something "new." Reuse, if it uses any energy and water resources, uses far less, making it a much more sustainable solution to recycling.
3. When You Use More, You Need Less
If you're constantly reusing what you already have, you'll find that you need to bring far fewer things into your life. If you're able to constantly find whatever it is you need from items already in your home, you'll drastically cut down on the number of specialized items you purchase from a store. We might as well throw in here that you'll also save a lot of money this way because you simply won't need to buy anything.
So when it comes to reuse projects, they might seem unnecessary or even silly, but they will get your creative juices flowing so that at some point, everything you start to place into the rubbish bin will suddenly look far more like a raw material for a project than like garbage.