"Rethink" is the New R
Updated: Mar 31
Have you ever thought about this? Things that you throw away represent inefficiencies in packaging, but also inefficiencies in how you spend your money. This holds true at a consumer level and at an organizational level. As individuals, we acquire products that we bring into our homes to use and enjoy. That's the fun part. But ultimately things will leave our house when we decide they are no longer of use to us. What do you get rid of?
Things that are broken or torn?
Clothes that are out of style?
Leftovers from last week?
Things you've lost interest in?
Anything that is in our home is there with our permission. That vase, package of potato chips, tube of toothpaste and pair of sandals are in my house because I brought them into my house. Similarly, anything that leaves my house does so with my permission as well. Whether that is throwing items into the trash, donating them to a good cause, holding a garage sale, dropping off at the recycling station, or throwing into my backyard compost pile, I have made the decision as to what happens to the items.
As individuals, we each contribute to the mountains of waste in our communities. Reduce, reuse and recycle is the common mantra of environmentally-responsible living. I would offer up another "R," which is "rethink."
Rethinking is an invitation to yourself to take a moment. To pause and consider what you are doing. Before you put something in your shopping cart, ask yourself if this is the most efficient use of your hard-earned money and whether or not you are maximizing your purchase potential.
Say you need toothpaste. You go to the store and purchase a tube of toothpaste, which is packed neatly into a beautifully-decorated cardboard box. Of the $3.79 you just spent on that product, from a sheer weight perspective, probably less than one-third of what you just spent on that purchase is actual toothpaste. The box will be thrown out immediately (preferably recycled) and then eventually the tube will be discarded. That waste is an inefficient use of your resources, but what choice do you have?
That’s where rethinking comes into play. Toothpaste tablets and toothpaste powder are available at a store near you. Both of those products are often packaged in glass or metal containers that can be reused - great little containers for medicine, gum, peppercorns, or maybe even your own DIY toothpaste powder. You have an opportunity to consider your options, weighing the full value of what you are buying and thinking through how much waste will actually result from the purchase. The more of your money that goes toward usable resources, the more efficient your spending is. In other words, less waste=efficiency. And when you cut down on waste, you are not the only winner. Your community and the planet win as well.
Now, I know what you're thinking. It's just one tube of toothpaste. The environment is not going to collapse because of one tube of toothpaste. But here's where you can take stock in the bigger picture. If you've never done a waste audit at your home or business, it's worth the time. Yes it can be messy going through your trash, but it is very eye opening to get a full picture of what you are throwing out. It's likely that there are items in your trash receptacle that can still be used, perhaps in different ways from their original purpose. One thing is for certain, if you send all these items straight to your local landfill, they will do absolutely no good for anyone. They will cost the city (and you) money - from the truck that hauls it away to the heavy equipment that buries the trash to all the processes and infrastructure in place to manage the greenhouse gases and leachate produced at the landfill. Landfills are a very costly, heavily regulated endeavor. Your tax dollars at work!
It's time we all took responsibility for what's in our house - what we bring into it and what we take out of it. Rethinking our actions can benefit our pocketbook, our communities, and our planet. Isn't that worth taking a moment to ponder?