The Six Rs

April 26, 2023

Member Services Manager, Brian Patnoe, recently shared his thoughts on the modern day Rs and it's more than recycling:

Many of us grew up with the “Three Rs”.  Reduce, Reuse, Recycle! Nice and simple. But like most things in life, it's expanded over time. We need to start looking at things differently.

Since I twisted my knee badly right before Earth Day, I could not help with our town’s roadside cleanup, so instead I decided to bring the Earth Day sentiment home. I looked around my house to see what changes I could make to become even more environmentally friendly. That's right, even with over 20 years in this industry, even I can still do better - just like we all can.

I started by thinking about and looking at 6 fundamental options: 

Can I REDUCE my waste, can I REUSE an item, can I REPAIR it, can I REPURPOSE it, can it ROT, or can I RECYCLE it?


This one, in theory, is simple: reduce your waste. Lots of small steps can help make this R a reality.  Some examples include buying in bulk, stop using single use items whenever possible, and stop to think, "Do I really need this? Is there a more sustainable option? Is there a second-hand option?" before buying something new.  A simple switch I made in my home was the purchase of refillable coffee pods. I buy coffee in bulk, but still have the convenience of a coffee pod. I prepare the pods a day in advance so we don’t waste unused coffee. Once we've made the coffee, we put the used coffee grounds in our garden.  It's a good example of how a small change can make a big difference.


When you reduce the use of single-use items, it's a great opportunity to replace them with something reusable like a reusable mug or refillable bottle. Another easy switch is to bring reusable shopping bags when you go to the store (put them in your front seat so you remember to bring them in the store!) On a community-wide scale, my town's transfer station has residents set aside bubble wrap for others to take and reuse. When I get packing material sent to me, I simply bring it to the transfer station so others can reuse it. For other items, you can always check to see if there is a local donation place or an online marketplace to list an item - you never know what others may need and be able to reuse!


There is no denying that we live in a throwaway society.  Local repair shops are uncommon and even so, often a repair costs more than just buying the item new. Some communities have started “Repair Cafés” where people can bring in items to get repaired by volunteers or for a small fee.  Common items that can be repaired include coffee makers, clocks, and even some electronics.  Another opportunity for repair? Clothing! Replace lost buttons, redo a zipper, or patch a hole - or bring it to a tailor who can. I recently received a used “broken” laptop that I repaired - it's now going to be used as my son’s first laptop for learning over the summer!


For years, farmers have repurposed items, and that same mentality is now gaining steam in the general population. Many things can be repurposed to create new and unique items. It can be as simple as metal bed frames used for welding, old windows to be put together into a greenhouse, or pallets used to create a little shed.  A favorite example of repurposing at my house is the wreath we made for the holiday season a few winters ago, using an old tractor tire!


Food waste accounts for over 24% of all the trash we as a society throw away, so it's important to divert as much as we can from the trash. This can be done through composting or feeding food scraps to livestock. At my house, our chickens are the lucky winners of our food scraps!  At the town-level, many communities offer leaf and yard waste composting at their facility, and some even offer composting. 


Yes, I put recycling last on the list.  You know we love recycling - and it is definitely better than tossing it in the trash - but at the end of the day, it's a lower priority than reducing or reusing. Each week, I have more recycling than trash, but I'm always looking at ways to decrease ALL of the waste I create - whether it's trash or recycling.

So now the challenge is yours: think about these 6 fundamentals and how YOU can implement them in your own home to help make our Earth a better place.