February 11, 2001
What does this symbol really mean?
By Royce Carlson
people, when asked this question, would say that this is the recycle symbol,
but they would be only partly right. It means much more than that. It is the
symbol of the Three Rís of the environment, Reduce, Re-Use and Recycle, of
which Recycling is only one part, and the last resort at that.
People think the symbol means only recycling because Recycling is the only
one of the three Rís that industry can make any money at. They have reduced
the meaning and have drawn attention away from the other parts of this
triangle. Why? They canít make as much money if you are reducing consumption
and re-using their products and packaging. They can make money with recycling.
Have you noticed that some recycled products are actually more expensive than
ones made from new materials? Donít be fooled. Pay attention to the other two
Rís Ė Reduce and Re-Use.
Americans alone throw away over 50 billion food and drink cans, 27 billion
glass bottles and jars, and 65 million plastic and metal jar and can covers
every year. 85% of it goes to a landfill. The amount of trash we throw away can
be reduced by reducing consumption and by re-using materials as long as
possible. The last step, after reduction and re-use, is to recycle the
Letís look at each of the three Rís individually.
consumption means reduced waste:
- Consider whether you even need a particular product.
- Buy products that don't have a lot of packaging.
- Buy products that have packaging that is re-usable, recyclable and did not
require a lot of energy to produce.
- Borrow or rent instead of buying
- Share products with family and friends so each individual doesnít have
to have his/her own.
- Instead of buying magazines and newspapers, read the news online, or at
- Compost food waste and then use the decomposed materials to enhance the
soil in your garden.
Reduced energy consumption helps keep our air cleaner:
- Walk or ride a bike when you can, instead of driving.
- Use public transportation where available.
- Turn off lights that you are not using and use energy saving light bulbs.
- Use energy-saving appliances.
- Use low-flow showers and toilets.
- Save energy on home heating by adding insulation to your house.
- Have a home built with energy savings in mind.
By reducing consumption and waste you can do the most to help the
environment stay cleaner and healthier.
Re-Use. Instead of
throwing things away, use them again.
- Use your own cloth sacks when you go to the grocery store instead of the
paper or plastic bags the stores provide.
- Use coffee cans, jars and other containers that usually get thrown away to
- Donít throw away used clothing, toys or furniture. You can have a yard
sale or donate them to thrift stores.
- Use both sides of paper.
- Store food in reusable containers
- Use silverware and dishes instead of paper plates and throwaway utensils.
- Use rags that can be washed instead of paper towels.
- Be creative in thinking of ways to re-use materials rather than tossing
By re-using materials you are saving money, being creative and helping
reduce waste at the same time.
Recycle. If you
cannot re-use an item, see if the materials can be recycled.
- Try to purchase items that are recyclable. If they have the Three Rís
symbol on them you can take them to a recycling station or maybe your city
collects recyclable materials.
- Newspapers, cardboard, glass, and many kinds of plastic are recyclable.
Donít throw them in with your other trash.
- You can save up aluminum cans and actually get paid for them at an
aluminum recycling facility.
Please consider the forgotten two "Rís"
whenever you see the symbol. Donít let the corporate world fool you into
believing that it only means recycling. Itís very important to Reduce
and Re-Use and once you've done that, then Recycle.
You can reprint articles on the Zenzibar web site for free.
I am happy to help provide content for
your publication as long as I get credit.
To use an article in a print
publication you must credit the author and Zenzibar Alternative
Culture as the source, and include the web site address.
To republish a Zenzibar article on
your web site you must credit the author and Zenzibar Alternative
Culture as the source and include a clickable link to Zenzibar at http://zenzibar.com Please tell
me if you are going to
reprint an article by e-mailing me
and mentioning the name of the article and where and when it will be
To link to the article on
Zenzibar's site you can do a text link without any restrictions (you
don't even have to tell me, but it would be nice to know).
If you want to use the image
associated with the article you are welcome to use it as long as you
don't change it or use it in any way other than to link to the article
at Zenzibar. Also, please tell me if you are going to use the graphic. If you have any questions, please