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Reduce, Reuse, Recycle — Which Matters Most?

August 24, 2021

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Hello, I'm Jen
As a Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization® (CPO-CD®), I am uniquely qualified with the knowledge and experience to help you with ADHD issues, hoarding, chronic disorganization, and aging. 

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Just recycle it!
It is one of the most common phrases I hear when people throw things away.
Recycling is a great option to prevent items from filling the landfills compared to throwing those items in the trash, but is it the best way to divert waste?
Reduce, reuse, and recycle has been a phrase used for years since the 1970s (1). But it seems as if most people focus on the recycling part and forget about reducing and reusing. Let’s go over each category to see which one is the most impactful way to help the earth.

reduce, reuse, recycle is important to professional organizers

Does Recycling Really Work?

The Benefits of Recycling (2)

  • Conserves energy and natural resources
  • Reduces air and water pollution
  • Reduce emission of greenhouse gases
  • Diverts trash from going into the landfills

How recycling would be in a perfect world

  • Every component of products get recycled for future products
  • Consumers recycle their items correctly and put them into appropriate bins
  • Recycling plants then take those separate pieces and recycle them accordingly and produce new items and diverting tons of waste from landfill

The Reality
Not everything can be recycled and some companies don’t want to.
Many companies don’t recycle due to the look of products or the cost of taking used stuff back. It is easier and more cost-effective for some companies to produce new plastic rather than recycle them. (3)
Some consumers feel good that they are recycling, but in reality, they may not be doing it right. When recyclable items are contaminated, they are deemed unrecyclable. As a result, more items are funneled into the landfill. (4)
An example of contaminated waste and hopeful recycling is Costco’s three slot trash cans which all lead to the same trash bag. It makes us feel like we are recycling, but everything just goes to the trash.
Also, recycling is not streamlined enough. Every city has its own recycling guidelines making it very confusing for consumers to know what they can and cannot recycle (5). But you can definitely look up your county’s guidelines online. While recycling does help, it still requires natural resources and energy to give them a new life (6).

reusing jars in your home

Does Reusing Really Work?

The Benefits of Reusing (6)

  • Reusing diverts more waste from landfills than recycling
  • Save money
  • Using products for a longer time
  • Conserves energy and natural resources
  • Reduces air and water pollution
  • Reduce emission of greenhouse gases

How Reusing Items Would Be In a Perfect World

  • You have usable items, and you use them and reuse them until it breaks or becomes unusable
  • You repurpose items so you can use them for different things
  • Examples include:
  • Jars can be reused as a pickling jar, to hold flowers, or to-go travel containers.
  • Old t-shirts can be reused as rags, hand towels, dusters.

The Reality

Reusing has its limits.
A broken television, car, lava lamp, expired food, and other items would be difficult to reuse.
There are only so many things like glass jars, boxes, or containers you can keep and reuse before they take more space in your home.

Example of a Client Who Loves Reusing A client of mine has pasta jars and plastic ice cream containers to reuse for leftover food storage, while he buys food storage containers. He meticulously cleans all the containers, removing labels as needed, and saves them for leftovers. This is fantastic; until the jars begin to take up so much space, he can’t even get to them. Reusing is excellent, but don’t let the idea of it cost you your own space.
If you cannot reuse them yourself, donate to people who make the most of the items and cherish them.

finding ways to reuse things and reduce with the help of a professional organizer

Does Reducing Really Work?

The Benefits of Reducing

  • Consuming less = less to reuse, less to recycle, and less waste
  • Buy less and save more
  • Save space, time, energy
  • Decrease greenhouse gas emissions
  • Contribute less to landfills and minimize pollution
  • Show companies with your hard-earned money that there isn’t a demand
  • Conserve natural resources and energy

How Reducing Would Be In a Perfect World

  • People are only buying things they need and use — nothing else.

The Reality

People buy things that they need or don’t need. And that’s okay.
That’s inevitable because people always need food, clothes, and other items.
The real win is 73% of global consumers say they’d change their consumption habits to reduce their environmental impact (7). Many people are reducing their spendings by buying items that can be reused again and again.
With people being aware and minor changes made in their everyday lives, it has a considerable impact and reduces waste going to landfills. We can choose to slow down how frequently and how much we buy.

So, Which One Is the Winner?

Reducing wins.
Reducing > Reusing > Recycling
By reducing the amount you consume, you produce less waste and less energy used to recycle or process waste. The idea is simple and effective. Reducing consumption is the best way to prevent and decrease pollution from going into landfills and the ocean.
But reducing alone won’t save the planet. It is up to consumers and companies alike to change their ways. As individuals, it is the combination of reducing, reusing, and recycling that truly make a difference.

Why Does “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” Matter to Me, a Professional Organizer?

As a professional organizer, I have worked with people with chronic disorganization, ADHD, and so much more. During my time working with them, we uncover a lot of waste that ultimately ends up in landfills.
Before I’m an organizer, I’m a person who cares for the environment. I believe that people should be aware of the other options besides recycling to help save the environment in our homes and the planet.
Many people don’t declutter their homes because they feel bad for contributing to the waste and landfills.
As a professional organizer and environmentalist, I work with my clients to figure out sustainable ways to declutter their homes and minimize the number of items in the waste.
If you are in Contra Costa & Alameda area and want help with your home, sign up for a free consultation with me today. We talk about your needs and develop an action plan to help you create a livable space — sustainably.

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  1. […] you have two options. You can shred the entire document or shred only the confidential section and recycle the rest of the […]

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