The 4Rs at Home and at the Office: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Recover!
Before recycling, we must first REDUCE and REUSE!
Do you know the 4Rs?
Reducing, reusing, recycling and recovering remind us of the importance of reducing our waste production on a daily basis and thus avoiding our contribution to the piles of materials found on landfill sites.
Is the sequence of the 4Rs important?
Certainly! We must first and foremost REDUCE our consumption.
There is no need to manage wastes when we reduce because everything is taken care of at the source. In other words, buying less and reusing to the maximum reduces the contents in recycling bins. If the recycling bin is less full, automatically the environmental impact is reduced, because remember that the recycling process is not done without an impact on the environment. Sorting, cleaning, melting and transforming recyclables into new products use a lot of energy.
That is why it is important to reduce and reuse as much as possible and to recycle as a last resort.
RECOVERING is the last step!
After having reduced, reused and recycled, it is important to recover! Recovering is the process of giving a value to a material believed to be waste. Recovering means to transform wastes into resources.
The best example of recovering is composting. It transforms our fruit and vegetable wastes into rich soil conditioners, commonly known as compost.
Review of the 4Rs…
REDUCE consumption at the source.
REUSE goods as much as possible to give them a longer life.
RECYCLE to the maximum.
RECOVER, that means composting putrescible wastes at home.
Here are simple and effective daily actions!
- Limit purchases, that’s fundamental. The magic question: Do I really need it?
- Opt for bulk products, thus limiting packaging needs.
- Give priority to durable goods (longer life span) and reusable products instead of buying disposable items.
- When buying a coffee, use a reusable container (thermos). Imagine the number of disposable cups that won’t end up in a landfill site thanks to you!
- At the grocery, retail or convenience store, always bring reusable bags (canvas or other), thus saving on the use of plastic bags. Useful tip: Make sure to put reusable bags back in the car after each use. You will avoid the surprise of showing up at the grocery store without your bags!
- At work, on a trip or at school, bring a zero-waste lunch box along with reusable containers, washable utensils, a water bottle and a small cotton towel. Make sure to compost fruit and vegetable skins.Avoid using styrofoam or plastic glasses; instead use washable glasses. Did you know that a styrofoam glass takes more than 1000 years to decompose and a plastic bag takes more than 450 years?
- Opt for food or products that are produced locally or in Canada to reduce your ecological footprint.
- When no longer in need of a product (a piece of clothing, for example), find someone to give it to. Otherwise, bring it to a thrift store or a clothing depot. What a good example of reusing!
- Instead of throwing away or recycling an appliance that won’t work, have it fixed.
- During a house construction, try to recuperate as many materials as possible.
- Practice grasscycling… which consists of leaving grass clippings on the lawn when mowing.
- Commit to composting all fruit and vegetable scraps as well as any organic materials found in your backyard such as dead leaves or small twigs.
4Rs at the Office
Here are true-to-life actions you can take based on the 4Rs principles:
REDUCE – I read my emails on the monitor instead of printing them.
REUSE – I make recycled notebooks out of scrap paper.
RECYCLE – After having reduced my paper consumption and having reused it to the maximum, I recycle it.
RECOVER – I make compost out of all my fruit and vegetable wastes at work or at home.
- The first step towards reduction is certainly to reduce unnecessary purchases. Opt for renting or purchasing reusable and more durable products.
- Unsubscribe to useless paper publications or give priority to electronic publications.
- Reuse the back of sheets of paper as scrap paper.
- Print back-to-back (set copier in back-to-back mode by default).
- Avoid changing garbage bags every night in the offices.
- During meetings, avoid bottled water. Use pitchers and reusable glasses instead (use tap water).
- Use a white board or projector instead of a flip chart pad (paper).
- Use reusable cups for coffee at the office.
- Opt for a zero-waste lunch using reusable plates, bottle and utensils.
- Give away furniture and appliances that you don’t use anymore.
- Reuse folders, portfolios, envelopes, paper clips, etc.
- Opt for reusable ink cartridges and rechargeable batteries.
- Use reusable bags for your purchases.
Tips for Recycling at the Office
Two important elements for the success of recycling in the work place are bin visibility and location.
- Remove garbage cans in offices and replace by recycling bins (should motivate employees to recycle more).
- Centralize bins in one section of the building: make sure that the recycling center is next to the garbage can.
- Place recycling bins in key locations: underneath cashes, near copiers…
- Make sure that recycling bins are visible and well identified.
10 Steps to Reach Your Goals… One Step at a Time!
- Set up a green committee in your enterprise or organization. Involve key persons right from the start: management, janitors, etc.
- Get involved: set up an environmental policy.
- Prepare an action plan. Make a list of well-defined actions, but most importantly make sure they are achievable.
- Assess activities and actions already existing.
- Identify: make a list of every possible activity.
- Set your goals. For example, in one year, our organization seeks to reduce by at least 30% the amount of wastes produced.
- Sensitize and educate. Keep the staff informed on a regular basis and involved in its overall environmental performance (educational workshops, bulletin boards, newsletters, emails, etc.).
- Inform the general public: enterprise exposure and positive influence on the community.
- Provide a follow-up, give results, reevaluate if needed and seek continuous improvement.
- Celebrate your accomplishments!