REDUCE, REUSE and then Recycle

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Photo Credit: Jonathan Rausseo

As a child, this message was ingrained in my brain from the time I was able to understand what a blue box was for and to this day it has been repeated over and over, especially since I began my job here at the Sustainability Office on Campus. However, it has taken on a different meaning than when I was a child because I am no longer focused on which bin should my juice carton go in, in fact, I am not focused as much on recycling at all.

It started way back during Recycle Mania when our Waste Diversion Coordinator decided to go waste free for the entirety of the competition. This brought up some important messages from previous courses including “life cycle analysis” which focuses on the environmental impact from the creation to the disposal of a product. Brigitte was concerned about the end point of her products, where her waste would go and how she could REDUCE her impact. After trying waste free for a week and picking up the book “No Impact Man” by Colin Beavan, I have completely rethought my purchasing practices. This includes reflective questions such as “Is this container reusable?” or “Is there a trickster piece of plastic film hidden under this recyclable packaging?” and can been very frustrating at times (Damn you, plastic film!).

Then the day came that I was taken to 200 Lees to visit our furniture recycling rooms. Now, Katimavik had told me marvellous stories about the wonders that lay in these three massive rooms and how we had to organize, lift and move pieces of furniture that the university decided it did not want anymore. However, seeing these rooms, piled high with chairs and desks was beyond amazing.

I was in paradise because a lot of my furniture in my student apartment was already from something we call “Goods Exchange Day” in Owen Sound, when people would move their unwanted items to the curb for others to take. Three rooms full of free things was like a condensed version of one of my favourite days, a garage sale where everything is potentially free and crammed together into one space. Needless to say, I was in awe and recently have identified some things I want to REUSE rather than buy my own new stuff which REDUCES my consumption and the amount of furniture that goes to the dump.

Recently, these R’s have been further emphasized as we cleaned out the fourth floor of Montpetit. We just finished sorting through crap that profs decided they did not want to go through- choosing furniture we can reuse and even going through old papers to find one sided paper for recycled notebooks. I have found some awesome bucket seat chairs, a bookshelf and a coat rack which I am bringing home with me to furnish my apartment in September. It is satisfying to know that what would have been thrown out before Brigitte worked here is now saved from the landfill and reused all over campus and our community.

REDUCE, Reuse and then recycle.

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