The hard truth is that we all need to reduce. Reduce the amount of money we spend. Reduce the amount of food we eat…and our waistlines. And reduce the amount of stuff we throw away. In fact new we look at the 3 R’s of reduce, reuse, recycle, they are actually in that order for a reason. It is a hierarchy for a reason and reduce is the Holy Grail. Put in its simplest terms reduce means that we use less of the earth’s resources and in any environmental scheme should be our first priority.
That said, it is also the hardest to accomplish. When I thought about all the things we do to be greener, the number of examples of reducing stumped me. I suppose the most obvious example of our efforts to reduce was the decision some months ago, not to purchase an automobile. My husband has the use of a company van, but even that is rarely used. The difficulty comes when we want to go anywhere as a family. The work van has only one bucket seat in the front that fits three people. Obviously this presents difficulties. Even on our Saturday shopping trips with my mother-in-law, I end up sitting in the back of van; a solution that is both dangerous and illegal for the children. About a year ago, when I was working full-time, we were seriously considering buying a vehicle. But in the end, we thought the expense was too much when you consider not just payments, but insurance, road tax, maintenance and gas. Instead, we signed up for StreetCar; a car rental scheme that you pay a monthly fee to join and an hourly or daily rate only when you need to use a car or van. Looking back, that was one of the best decisions we have made both for the environment and family finances.
The other obvious example I found of reduction was our decision a year ago to switch to bags for life. We now have a stack of them beneath our kitchen sink and faithfully use them for our Saturday shops. But I do admit to occasionally forgetting them when just running out to grab something quickly. When this happens though, we make certain to re-use (we’ll talk more about that tomorrow) any plastic bags we get for outings or for small bin liners. Did you know that in the UK alone 100,000 TONNES of plastic bags are thrown away each year; that is the equivalent of 70,000 cars? So if there is one thing, I can encourage you to do, it is purchase bags for life. My store sells the sturdy plastic ones for about forty pence, the jute ones are about a pound, and the pretty cloth ones are about three pounds with a portion of the proceeds going to charity. Or it is very simple to make your own if you sew.
Speaking of which, sewing and mending our clothes is another excellent way of reducing. My boys from my husband to my sons are always wearing holes in their jeans on the inside thighs. Before the economic downturn, I admit we were likely to just toss them out and purchase new ones. But since I have not been working, we have instead taken them to the drycleaners and had them patched. The cost of the repairs is less than the cost of purchasing new (although I am committed to mending them myself from now on…a further savings). And we have reduced in a very small way the demand for jeans.
Of course, as I sit at my desk in my bedroom I am witnessing another reduction…the daylight streaming in through the open curtains. One of the first things I do each morning is open the curtains and the blinds. By using natural light when and where possible, we are reducing the amount of electricity that we consume and that the power grids must generate. We are also of course saving money on our bills. My husband is a genius at this; going around and turning off and unplugging everything he can each night before bed. I admit though that being American this whole switch on the plug thing still gets me and I often forget to do that, but I am improving. Of course, another example was turning down our thermostat during the winter and wearing heavier layers of clothes instead. In fact, I can think of only a couple of days this winter when we turned our heat on before night fall at all.
These are just a few ideas of ways that our family is reducing. There are many other things that we and you can do to cut back on the things we consume and help save our earth’s precious resources. On Friday as I said, we will do a mini-inventory and I will commit to new ideas on how our family can better live the 3 R’s reduce, re-use, recycle. I will be especially focusing on reducing since this is the most important of the R’s.