While you are likely quite familiar with the phrase “reduce, reuse recycle,” have you ever heard of the term “precycling”? If not, precycling is the practice of reducing the amount of waste you produce by avoiding certain items, actions, and activities that result in the creation of waste in the first place. Brilliant right?
Precycling is essentially the step you take before resorting to recycling, reusing, or landfilling an item, as it occurs at the point of purchase. By avoiding purchasing single use or disposable items, you don’t have to worry about finding the most environmentally friendly way to deal with your waste! Additionally, precycling is a great way to get into the habit of buying earth-conscious items!
In order to apply the concept of precycling to your life, it is helpful to first assess the areas in your life where you tend to produce the most waste. Then, you will be able to brainstorm different ways to precycle, therefore reducing your waste production.
Take a hard look at your purchases
Take a look at the goods that you buy and use up on a regular basis such as toiletries, cosmetics, groceries, and cleaning supplies. Although these items are often necessities, it is beneficial to determine how these items contribute to your waste production.
For example, personal care products and cleaning supplies are often encased in wasteful or plastic packaging, both of which have the potential to negatively impact the environment. There are quite a few ways you can deal with issues such as these! For one, try buying in bulk when possible. Instead of buying multiple bottles of shampoo over a period of time, see if you can find a bigger size. Similarly, concentrated foods and cleaning products use less packaging without being any less effective.
Choosing refillable personal care and cleaning products is another way to precycle, as you can keep using the same containers time and time again. Look for bulk/refill stores near you!
Package-free items are also an option! Think bar soap, bar shampoo (yes, that’s a thing), and whole produce instead of pre-cut food in plastic containers or bags.
Trade single-use items for reusable ones
Items that are made to be used once and then thrown away simply aren’t sustainable. To make matters worse, they are often made with plastic which persists in the environment. For a more in depth look at the environmental issues associated with single-use plastics, check out this blog post and Episode 60 of the Live. Well. Green podcast. There is actually reason for hope!
Some commonly used single-use items include take-out food and drink containers, plastic bags, straws, plastic water bottles, cotton pads, paper plates, cotton swabs, plastic cutlery, wrapping paper, and many more. Take a look at this plastic-free guide which may help you identify some of the single-use products you use on a daily, weekly, or even weekly basis. There is always room to improve, even if you already limit your use of single-use items.
There really are so many reusable products out there that can replace any one of the items mentioned above. For example, LastObject is a company that is based in Copenhagen, Denmark which produces reusable and sustainable alternatives to single use personal care items. They create reusable cotton swabs, tissues, and cotton rounds which you might want to check out!
Less exciting, but just as effective, ways of reducing your usage of single-use items includes using reusable shopping bags, water bottles, lint rollers, and more!
Lastly, you can always refuse certain items without finding a replacement, as some items just aren’t that necessary! For example, if you are able, you can refuse a straw and just sip your drink from the cup.
Avoid paper mailings/subscriptions/flyers
As businesses, retailers, and organizations continue to transition to digital platforms, the need for physical advertising has decreased. However, you might find that you are still receiving paper flyers, bills, mailings, and subscriptions. If you have access to a computer, tablet, or smartphone, there is a high likelihood that you can access these services online and reduce the amount of paper you receive and recycle.
Check out which of your mailings could be switched to electronic delivery. This is often an option for magazines, newspapers, and bills. Additionally, assess which mailings are no longer useful to you so that you can remove them from your mailing list and cut down on paper waste.
Sharing instead of owning
Another cool way to reduce your waste production is to take part in the shared economy! This means that instead of buying items in the first place, you can share them with others, therefore reducing the amount of waste that will eventually be sent to the landfill. Different ways you can take part include cup sharing programs, tool libraries, and car sharing!
Seek out used alternatives
Ok, so you decided that you do need to acquire something, perhaps a table or lamp or home decor or even a gift. But, have you considered that it does not necessarily need to be new? Yes, it’s true. You can find great unique and quality used items very easily through online sale platforms like Kijiji and Craig’s List and Etsy. And, you can even find great gifts from these vintage finds that your friends and family might just love.
A few years ago I struggled to find a way to give gifts to my young nephew who loves sports. Trying to find gifts that aligned with his interests and my values was a challenge, but then I came up with the idea of seeking out vintage sports memorabilia from the Winnipeg Jets - our local hockey team. And guess what, he LOVED it! It was different and interesting, he knew that I had to search it out, and the gift also let me demonstrate to him that he can get cool stuff that does not need to come from purchasing new. Win-win-win.
Choose quality items if you do need to buy new
Sometimes we produce waste because our items, whether they are furniture, clothing, home décor, or appliances, break and can no longer serve their purpose. In many cases, this can be avoided by purchasing items of good quality that will last longer.
You may have already taken note of the fact that your parents or grandparents have been using the same items for many years, as they were constructed with care and made to stand the test of time.
Next time you find yourself in need of purchasing a new item, try choosing one that is likely to last by purchasing quality items with a timeless style. For electronics and appliances look for items that have good warranties and take-back programs.
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