Humans are having a deadly impact on our planet and it's not just affecting wildlife. Our species is responsible for overpopulation, deforestation, greenhouse gas emissions, climate change, overfishing, water poisoning, soil erosion, species extinction, resource depletion, and plastic pollution, to name a few. These are almost exclusively because of the waste and by-products we leave behind. The world's consumption of energy has been increasing steadily every year since 1982 along with the waste products of unsustainable energy production. Higher standards of living in developed and developing countries drive energy production and consumption sky-high.
Waste in the environment affects the air, water, land, plants, and animals (including humans). When we treat the environment as a dump yard, we take away habitat from wildlife, pollute the environment, and deplete its natural resources.
One way people are doing their part to protect the environment is by adopting the Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle Program. The 3 R's program reduces the amount of garbage going into landfills. Thus, protecting and conserving our environment. Let us look at this program in detail:
Reduce: Use fewer resources in the first place. It takes plenty of natural resources to manufacture, transport, and dispose of products, so reduction minimizes the use of new resources.
Reduce your carbon footprint by using public transport, using a bicycle, or carpooling.
Turn off lights that are not in use, switch to energy-efficient LED light bulbs, and make sure all your appliances are energy efficient.
Turn off the faucet when brushing your teeth and take short showers.
Minimize or avoid animal-derived products.
Avoid purchasing products that do not have a long term purpose. For example, when gifting a present to someone, please avoid the gift wrap or use an old newspaper to wrap the present.
Reuse: Use materials more than once in their original form instead of throwing them away after each use. Reusing resources keeps new resources from being used for a while longer, and old resources from entering the waste stream.
Use cloth grocery bags instead of plastic bags.
Donate old clothes, furniture, and toys to a charity.
Use silverware and dishes instead of plastic utensils and plates.
Store food in reusable metal containers.
Use refillable metal water bottles instead of plastic ones.
Composting is a great way to dispose of kitchen waste.
Recycle: Converting waste materials into new products by changing them from their original form by physical and chemical processes. Although recycling uses energy, it helps to prevent new resources from being used and old materials from entering the waste stream. Recycling also uses considerably less energy than the production of new materials. Many products that we use every day are recycled. Recycled products include paper towels, toilet paper, paper bags, beverage bottles, cans, milk cartons, and much more. Glass can be recycled over and over again! Most products have the recycling label on the package.
In the last decade, the 3 R’s have evolved to include other important R’s, such as Rethink, Recover, and Refuse. Sustainability advocates and experts feel that the 3 R’s were possibly too simple for managing resources and that the remaining garbage would have to be taken into consideration.
Rethink what we consume, rethink what we use, and think outside the box.
Recovery highlights the concept of extracting all valuable resources from the waste stream and possibly re-processing them into a fuel product that can be used to generate energy for the electrical grid or industrial processes. Recovery of materials would mean that the volume of product discarded or landfilled would be reduced.
Refuse is an intriguing play on words, of course. Refuse the product, package, or material first and create less waste. For example: Refuse to use plastic bags when shopping, or refuse to buy animal-derived products.
Together, these efforts can go a long way in halting the current global environmental crisis and possibly even reversing the harmful effects that we have had on the environment.
Author: Pratyush Pai
Editor: Arjun Krishnan