An all to common reaction to hearing/reading the phase ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ is to have our brain shut down since we all hear it about 1000+ times by now. Yet the advice is actually on of the few pieces that works perfectly for being green or keeping more green (money).
- Reduce your consumption. Fairly simple, don’t waste your money. Don’t pay for power you don’t need or natural gas to heat a water tank hotter than you need it. Also consider do you even need to buy the newest dohicky or thingamabob in the first place. Less stuff, less garbage and more money in your savings account. How you you not LOVE reducing your consumption? This is really the first step in being green or personal finance.
- Reuse things. I rather like to reuse things just to come up with new ways to use the same old things you already own. It’s rather like a giant game of ‘what else can this be?’. I’ll give you an example, I recently had a wind storm turn my new $200 gazebo into a large pile of junk. Rather than sigh in disgust and dump it all I inspected the junk and found about 6 of the side panels were still in fairly good shape. So now I’m reusing two of them as some yard art since they are actually have a nice details on the side and then I’m going to convert the other four panels into a arch entrance into the backyard. This also means thinking about things and not using something new when you’ve got something that will already do the job. For example, plastic shopping bags are completely useless and you should just use a reusable bag instead (read this post for 50 reasons if you don’t believe me). The idea in the end is similar to Reduce, saving money rather then buying more stuff.
- Recycle. This is really the last resort, in case you can’t avoid buying the item in question. If you can recycle it at least you keep something that still useful out of the garbage dump. It isn’t always a perfect solution, since often the material can only be recycled so many times (such as paper fibers). In the personal finance world I tend to look at this as pay yourself first. Recycle your own money internally first to generate more money and then go buy something with the investment proceeds.
- The Unspoken Rule. Last, but not least there is the unspoken rule which people tend to forget. Do what works for you, but do something. Being green or getting green is all rather personal. Find out what works for you and try new things, but don’t feel guilty about every little thing. I don’t make compost with my veggie scraps in the winter for example. Why? I just find it too much of an effort to dig out the snow to get to my pile to add new items, so I just don’t bother once the snow if a foot or two deep by the fence.