By Dana Schroeder, Sustainability Peer Educator Program
Summertime in Bloomington has been a beautiful thing. The weather’s been fabulous, our lives seem to have slowed down a bit, and the farmers’ market is bursting with green goodness! But something is missing…
Oh yeah, maybe it’s the thirty thousand or so students who will be moving back to town in just a few short weeks. Don’t get me wrong, the traffic-free streets have been wonderful, but I’m really looking forward to the buzz returning to our vibrant town! For those of you who will be making a move in the near future, remember a familiar adage to lessen the impact (and cost…and stress) of your transition: REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE. Read on for a breakdown of the why and the how.
Above is the “waste minimization hierarchy”, which illustrates actions we can take at different levels. Starting at the bottom, we have dispose. When we dispose of the things we own, the “Story of Stuff” goes like this: resources must be extracted, transported, manufactured, consumed, then sent to the landfill…with environmental, social, and economic impacts every step of the way! Visit the Story of Stuff YouTube page to learn more about the concept and the type of impacts associated with our belongings.
One action we could take to minimize these impacts, would be to recycle, whereby our belongings can be transported back to a manufacturing facility, eliminating the impact from extraction and disposal. What would be even better, though, would be to reuse. Here, things can cycle through the consumption stage over and over. Now here’s the kicker…What impacts are left when we reduce the amount of stuff we buy?
Right! You are intentionally avoiding more stuff when you reduce, so the “Story of Stuff” doesn’t exist for that avoided belonging, and there are no impacts! This is really ideal, which is why the waste minimization hierarchy starts with reduce at the top, then if you can’t reduce, goes down to recommend reusing and then recycling. Here are some questions you can ask yourself during your move to determine whether you can reduce, reuse, or recycle:
Finally, here are some commitments that you can make to keep this August RE-population of Bloomington simple, cheap, and greener than ever:
- I can stop buying cheaply produced things that will need to be thrown away soon (think Target dollar-spot items, Dollar Store products, etc.)
- I can minimize purchasing of purely decorative items and stick with things that serve a practical purpose.
- I can buy products with less packaging (avoid bottled water, individually wrapped food, etc.)
- I can save money and resources by buying the things I need from the Hoosier to Hoosier Community Sale on August 23rd and 24th.
- I can remember to bring my own bags every time I go shopping and my water bottle every time I’m thirsty.
- I can be sure to recycle all plastics labeled 1-7, aluminum and tin cans, glass bottles, and paper. (Yes, that includes all those cardboard boxes you packed your stuff in…But better yet, save them for the next time you’ll need to move or give them to a friend!)
Good luck as you pack up and make the journey back to B-town. We’ll see you folks soon!