Earth Day: Reduce, Reduce, Reduce

11 Apr


The more I think about it, the more I want to give whoever created the slogan “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” a high five. So I looked around the internet trying to figure out who or what was responsible for its popularity. Other than this brief reference to it starting in the 1980s I have found astonishingly little.

If this is true it would explain why I, a child of the mid-80s, had this message drilled into me growing up, but unlike shoulder pads and stirrup pants this is a trend that stuck around, and for good reason. It’s simple, it’s catchy, and thirty years later it’s still an effective way to be earth friendly.

I have heard alternatives that add in “Rethink,” ”Replace,” and “Refuse,” and while I see their point, I prefer the K.I.S.S. principle.

“Reduce” comes first in the slogan for a reason: It’s the most important. I will even go so far as to argue that Reusing and Recycling are just round about ways of reducing; when you reuse and recycle something you would have thrown away, you reduce the amount of material in the waste stream. Reusing is great, and lengthens the life of our stuff before it gets thrown away, but it still requires an initial expenditure of energy and raw materials to make the product in the first place. The technology behind Recycling is totally nifty, and it saves trash from the waste stream but it uses a lot of energy and the recycled product is often inferior in quality.

The Reduction principle can be applied beyond the waste stream in our everyday consumption. Can you think of anything that would have a negative impact on the environment if we bought less of it? Because I can’t. The same idea applies to the water and energy we consume in our daily lives.

Imagine this scenario: You are out shopping and you see it. Maybe it’s a game, or a pair of shoes, or a piece of furniture (or, if you’re me, it’s probably fabric). Whatever it is, it is so incredible and so life changing that you think to yourself: Dude, I have to have that. Maybe you buy it right away. Or maybe you save for awhile before you buy it. But when you finally get it, you take it home and then… don’t really use it. Maybe you do for a little while, but eventually it ends up sitting in the closet or in a drawer. It collects dust, maybe acts as a paper subjugation device, but eventually you give it away or donate it to Goodwill. I suspect everyone reading this can identify with this.

In the Lorax, Dr. Seuss coined a phase that embodies so perfectly many of the products that flood our store aisles and commercials, the Thneed: the thing that we think we need. There are plenty of things we do actually need to survive and thrive in our world. But there are tons of things that we buy everyday that we don’t.

For example: Do we really need single servings of peanut butter individually wrapped in plastic when a small reusable sealable container would do? Do we really need a blanket that has sleeves? Do we need the iPhone 5 when we already have the iPhone 4?

Please understand that I’m not trying to point fingers here. I have Thneeds too. (Ask me sometime about my ever growing stockpile of craft supplies.) I’m just saying that we could have a significant positive impact on the environment if we just think about how much we actually need something before we buy it.


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3 Responses to “Earth Day: Reduce, Reduce, Reduce”


  1. Earth Day: Recycling Wrap Up | Without a Map - April 30, 2013

    […] Robin is right.  Reduce.  Reduce.  Reduce.  That’s the key to making recycling super easy.  When you don’t bring many new items into your house to recycle, it’s easier to recycle what you do have. […]

  2. Destash Bash and Giveaway Day | Without a Map - May 6, 2013

    […] uses. It grew when April wrote about being a conscience consumer. It escalated as I wrote about reducing how much we buy. It reached DEFCON 1 when April posted about green crafting […]

  3. Earth Day: All In One Place | Without a Map - August 27, 2014

    […] Talk April 9, Earth Day: Water Footprints April 10, Earth Day: Being a Conscious Consumer April 11, Earth Day: Reduce, Reduce, Reduce April 12, Earth Day: Recycling Update April 13, Earth Day: Throwback April 14, Earth Day: Room by […]

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