How to Reduce Trash: A Recycler’s Mantra

By keeping in mind the phrase “Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose, Recycle” one family was able to drastically cut back on their trash production.

| April/May 2014

  • Unique glass bottles can be reused for a variety of purposes.
    Photo by Fotolia/

To reduce our environmental footprint and save money, our family of six has ardently employed the simple strategy of “Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose, Recycle.” We’ve quickly learned that focusing on the first of these — reduce — dramatically downscales our need to employ the remaining three parts of the mantra. In fact, this past year, we were able to ask our recycling company to cut in half the number of times it picks up our recycled goods (our bill also dropped accordingly).

We accomplished most of our downsizing through a shift to bulk whole foods, which have little to no packaging. (Bulk up your money savings and waste reduction with food-buying clubs. See Buy Bulk Food to Save Money on Groceries. — MOTHER EARTH NEWS) When brainstorming how to reduce trash production, we had the idea to establish a bin for items that could be reused and repurposed rather than recycled (or discarded as trash). Among the items that make their way into this bin are unusual wine or other alcohol bottles, which we cork and then use to serve chilled water at our dinner parties.

John Atwell
Oakton, Virginia

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