Reduce, reuse, recycle. For years, we’ve heard that environmental mantra. And we follow it, more often than not. Companies cut down on their packaging so it costs less to ship, and we recycle our plastic bottles and cans. But what about reuse? How many of us put something to further use beyond its initial application?
The thing is, re-using can be much better than recycling. A perfectly good item can have its lifespan extended, even if it has served its purpose in your own home. It can go to someone else, for whom it is good as almost-new, and in the process we save the cost of producing brand-new goods that will also have limited lives.
Don’t know how to get your old goods into the hands of someone who can use them? Don’t worry, here are eight easy ways to inspire re-use in your community.
1. Don’t recycle, Freecycle — Freecycle is a great website that lets users (both individuals and businesses) post items they no longer need. The first person to respond to a message gets to pick up the item and keep it — for free. Freecycle is easy to use. Just visit their website, plug in your town or zip code, and every day you’ll get an email with the items available in your neck of the woods. You can also follow Freecycle and spread the word about it on Facebook.
2. Use Craigslist — Freecycle can be hit-or-miss, since your emails might not get answered right away. So post your perfectly good, pre-used items online at Craiglist or another local site. That way, you can leave the ad up until the right new owner comes around to take your old goods off your hands.
3. Start a magazine or book trade — I love magazines, but how many times am I going to read my copies of Newsweek or Entertainment Weekly? Instead of letting them pile up around the house or recycling them after just one read, I trade magazines with my neighbors. Each magazine gets read more than once, and we all save on buying more magazines than we need. (Don’t worry, you’re not cutting the magazines publishers out of any revenue by doing this. Magazines assume that their issues are going to be passed around, and they set their ad rates based on that higher number of eyeballs, not on subscriptions or newsstand sales.)
4. Be thrifty — We have three charity thrift shops in our town, and that doesn’t even count the Salvation Army and Goodwill stores a few miles away. Whenever I have something I no longer need — be it clothes or my recently replaced computer monitor — I take a load over to one of the thrift stores. The charities they serve get money when they sell the items, and someone else in the area gets a great bargain. And if you buy something at the thrift store, share the news with your friends. Or heck, bring ‘em along when you go shopping. Maybe they’ll find a great bargain there, too.