Reduce, reuse, recycle, rot

Given the pressures of our consumer culture, it’s important to take stock of our buying habits. Decisions about if and when to buy something are usually more important than how we will dispose of it — but that’s easy to forget. Recycling saves resources and energy, but reuse requires far less of both, and reducing new purchases saves even more. Choosing products that have less packaging, that are durable and repairable, and that contain recycled content saves energy, wood, water, and mineral resources and means less environmental destruction. Consider these waste reduction tips:
About 25% of an automobile’s overall environmental impact, including 40% of its energy consumption, is related to its manufacture. [See Project Underground,] If you buy a car, pick a used one.
When considering the purchase of a product, determine whether it is repairable or is designed to be thrown away when it malfunctions. If your stereo, computer, or other electronic equipment does break, try to get it repaired before purchasing a new machine.
Rent items that you rarely use, such as power tools and motorized yard equipment. Some cities, including Berkeley and Oakland, have tool lending libraries. Sports equipment and camping gear can be rented from outdoor equipment stores.
Choose reused building materials rather than buying new. Bricks, lumber, windows, doors, and bathtubs can all be found at salvage yards. Check out the California Materials Exchange program at for a wide range of materials available at no cost.
When purchasing new products, select those that contain recycled content. 100% post-consumer waste (PCW) paper is the best choice for copy paper, toilet paper, and notebooks. Conserve paper by making double-sided copies, reusing single-sided paper, and sharing information via email instead.
Choose products that are packaged in recyclable materials and that are minimally packaged or better yet, not packaged at all. Buy in bulk whenever possible.
Shop at garage sales, flea markets, and antiques shops. Hold a garage sale. Resell your old books to a used bookstore. Check out books from the library, rather than purchasing them new. Children’s clothing, which is very quickly outgrown, can be purchased from and sold back to reuse stores.
Purchase items in refillable containers. Avoid single-use products such as disposable razors, pens, lighters, plastic/paper cups and plates, plastic utensils, and batteries. Use rechargeable batteries.
Purchase milk in refillable glass containers if you can.
When hosting a party, use durable items such as cloth napkins and reusable plates instead of paper. For a potluck, ask guests to bring their own plates, utensils, and cups. Thrift stores are good places to pick up extra place settings at low cost.
Bring your own cloth bags or a backpack when you go shopping. Make a list before you go shopping to help limit unnecessary purchases. Reupholster, slipcover, repair, or refinish furniture.
Watches, shoes, jewelry can all be repaired. Dressmakers can mend quality clothing.
Compost your food scraps. If space is a problem, consider a compact worm bin, which is much smaller than a standard  composter.

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