Saturday, January 15, 2011

The neglected R of the 4 Rs

I learned about the 4 Rs on being more earth friendly a few years back. Recycle is the most well known. Reuse could be the second most well known. I think the last two should need more publicity.

I think the third is reduce. I find it contradictory to conduct reuse competition and projects when participants, even though may be told to collect used item, just buy the materials they need. Sometime even though the main item is truly used item, but the auxiliary items aren't. If, by reusing something you increase, instead of reduce, the consumption of another item, may be it is not worthwhile reusing. Thus, it is more important to stress on the concept of reduce than reuse. It is better to have nothing spare for reuse than to have spare things for reuse.

The neglected one is refuse or reject. In a way, recycle is the most effective way, but that is not on the part of consumer, but the manufacturer, starting from the designer. The design and materials used for a product should be as recyclable as possible. However, if they don't have pressure from the consumer to do so, they are not likely to do so. Thus, as consumers we should learn to refuse and reject products where the recyclable level is low.

One practice I think that can combine the last two is by buying custom made products. Take for example printed T shirts. I think most people don't like to see many others on the street wearing the same T-shirt. Wouldn't it be nice if you can print your own T shirt? For example, if you are a fan of Navy, you may consider printing some navy t shirts, or if you want to spread stories about pirates, you can wear Pirate T shirts. In so doing, T shirt companies may end up reduce their productions for the mass market when more people refuse/reject mass produced products.

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