Anyone concerned about the environment knows the 3 Rs – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. But there’s a 4th R, and it goes in front of the rest. It’s related to Reducing, but may be a stronger reminder that you should be cutting back on what you buy.
Refuse that plastic bag to carry your purchases. Refuse single use containers. Refuse unnecessary packaging whenever possible.
This isn’t easy to do in some ways. Packaging isn’t something you have much control over in some ways. Dodging that plastic bag when you shop by bringing your own reusable bags is easy, drinking water from a reusable bottle is easy once you build the habit, but actual product packaging you have only a little control over.
Even if you just do the easy things, you’re making a difference. Millions of water bottles are thrown out every year by Americans. Use your reusable bottle and help others to see how much fun it is to have your own bottle. It’s not all that inconvenient, after all, and the savings versus buying single serve, single use bottles comes quickly.
Pack your reusable bags in your trunk or someplace else where you’ll actually remember to bring them every time you go shopping, not just at the grocery store, but anywhere you shop.
The most challenging part is refusing to buy things that are overpackaged. It’s the area you have the least control over.
Some things you can buy online with less packaging, such as those products available with Amazon’s Frustration-Free Packaging. The selection is limited, but better than when it started. You can also seek out products locally that aren’t as heavily packaged, but you still face the challenge of getting something that isn’t heavily packaged.
When you’re stuck with packaging, think about what can be done to reuse it before you send it for recycling. Anything biodegradable can go in the compost pile. Some packaging materials can be used in crafts or to store other things you already own.
You can also avoid excess packaging by buying in bulk when possible. Buy concentrates and refills when they’re available. This is a habit that can save you money as well as reduce waste.
In general, we need to think when we shop. It’s not just what we buy, it’s how we buy it. Think about what you really need, consider the packaging, consider how you’re going to bring it home and try to make the best decision for your situation. You can make a difference by showing that you care how things are packaged and using less single use packaging whenever possible.