The Three Rs of Living Sustainably
We can help our earth by Reducing waste, Reusing various materials, and Recycling things we no longer need. If you don’t need an item, don’t throw it away – find a way to reuse or recycle it somehow.
One of the easiest ways to Reduce electricity use is to change all light bulbs to LEDs. The new LED bulbs are much brighter than the former fluorescent ones (with the spiral) and the old incandescent ones, and they use way less power. Alberta just announced a program where they will come and change them for you. If you are buying new appliances, look for Energy Smart ones – they are marked on the label. Remember, some LED and fluorescent bulbs have special discarding instructions.
Composting is one way to Reduce waste, and it’s great for gardens. If you save all your peelings and other organic scraps, you can layer them in a pile in a corner of the yard, or in a composting bin, and they will break down over several months. You will have wonderful rich soil to spread around shrubs and trees. There are books on various ways of composting in the Library. An excellent book I found is called Compost by Rachelle Strauss.
Reusing various materials was done by our grandparents – they used things over and over. Parts of shirts, skirts and blouses still in good shape became part of quilts, like the star quilt pictured here, or in “rag rugs” that were braided. Containers can be used for art projects, and some have even been used to build walls or greenhouses. One new product uses old rubber tires to make new stepping stones for your yard. Fall leaves can be used as mulch to overwinter trees and shrubs. Pruning twigs can be used to make willow furniture or fences. Broken glass or pottery can be used to make mosaics. Edmonton has a Reuse Centre where you can pick up various used items. Habitat for Humanity stores have many used building materials left over from construction jobs. It’s an amazing place.
Recycling helps protect our earth from too much garbage. Ashes from fires create good fertilizer, kitty litter becomes clay in the soil, and manure from animal waste becomes fertilizer to feed the trees and shrubs. Why go out and buy a bag of fertilizer when you can make it naturally outside with very little trouble? Use the blue bags to put out cardboard and other recyclable materials for the weekly pick-up. My blue bag is always more full than my one small garbage bag.
Recycling can also mean giving good things away so someone else can Reuse them. So if you have dishes, clothes, shoes, tools, or furniture that you no longer need, thrift shops like Bissell Centre, Salvation Army, Goodwill, or Value Village all collect and sell used items which, in turn, support community organizations. It’s a win-win solution. Some of these organizations, like the Boys and Girls Club, will even come and collect them from you. Bottle depots give you money for returning used bottles. Our city is a world leader in urban recycling and they provide other depots that recycle small appliances or computers. The Big Bin Events help recycle big items like appliances.
Bottom line: don’t buy something new if you can get it used. If you haven’t started using these methods yet, why not give at least one a try? Go to the City of Edmonton website and search “recycling” for detailed information.
Joanne McNeal is a McCauley senior, musician, and artist who uses many of these methods in renovating her 100-year-old house.