Refuse. Reuse. Refill. Repair. Repurpose. Reduce. Recycle.
Here, in geographically isolated New Zealand, recycling must increasingly be considered the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff.
The mantra for the future: Refuse. Reuse. Refill. Repair. Repurpose. Reduce. Recycle.
Our ‘right to convenience and consumption’ as individuals has somehow come to take precedence over the survival of our species. We can turn the tide of this entitled behaviour by refusing avoidable, everyday single-use items. And we can wake up tomorrow morning and begin. Taking stewardship over our daily habits and the products we choose, or choose to refuse, is empowering and effective. It also acts as a gateway drug of good behaviour, if you like. Once we begin to consider the implications of our small actions, a whole world of awareness begins to open up.
So, begin with little things? Refuse straws when you are at a café - mention it firmly and politely when you place your order. Stay and drink your coffee in, rather than using a single use takeaway cup, or if you must run, repurpose something from home to get the job done instead of buying something new.
Stop buying bottled water. We have no need for it. It is a scam. 50 years ago the idea of paying for something that falls from the sky and pours from the tap would have been laughable – we need to laugh at ourselves and each other if we do it now. Let positive peer pressure police our choices.
Teach yourself to love inconvenience? Buy oranges rather than a plastic bottle of orange juice! Look for food items with the least possible packaging – our consumer power will change how products are presented. Buy vegetables and fruit loose. If you still drink dairy, search out a local farm who uses glass bottles you can return? Use your own containers if you are getting a take away meal. Compost your food waste? Keep it out of landfill.
Set household goals – can we cut our waste enough to put our wheelie bin out once a month? Once every 2 months? Longer? Can we put our recycling bin out every 2 or 3 months? Think not simply, ‘can this be recycled?’ Think ‘can this be avoided?’ Reducing the production of unnecessary items is as vital as dealing with their end of life.
If it breaks, fix it. If we don’t need it, don’t buy. Stop and consider the word ‘need’. Can we make do? Gift time rather than things. Teach our children that a person is valued for their kindness, generosity, humility and integrity, rather than their possessions. Disrupt the idea that to have more is more.
Recycling has its place. But refusing and reducing must be a priority if we are to give future generations a chance to lead healthy and untroubled lives. And we can do this. Refuse. Reuse. Refill. Repair. Repurpose. Reduce. Recycle.
We are the first generations to realise the damage our modern lifestyles are causing, and the last who will be able to stop it. The 7 R’s may help.