An Introduction to the Three R’s of Sustainability

By Colleen Beaty, Manager, Conservation Content and Partnerships|March 5, 2013

At one point or another we’ve all heard about the “three R’s” of sustainability: reduce, reuse and recycle. The goal of the three R’s is to prevent waste and conserve natural resources. Implementing such “green” practices as the three R’s at a facility or corporate-wide level is an excellent start at profitable corporate responsibility.

So what do we mean when we talk about reduce, reuse, and recycle anyway?

  • Reduce: to use fewer resources in the first place. It takes resources to manufacture, transport, and dispose of products, so reduction minimizes the use of new resources.
  • Reuse: Use materials more than once in their original form instead of throwing them away after each use. Reuse keeps new resources from being used for a while longer, and old resources from entering the waste stream.
  • Recycle: Converting waste materials into new products, changing them from their original form by physical and chemical processes. Although recycling uses energy, it helps to prevent new resources from being used and old materials from entering the waste stream.
  • Re-think: The fourth R?

Although these “three R’s” of sustainability are traditionally discussed in relation to consumer products (e.g., reducing the amount of packaging, reusable water bottles, recycling aluminum cans), they can also be applied to the context of habitat enhancement and environmental education. In this series on the three R’s, I will discuss how each of these points in this waste reduction hierarchy is applicable to habitat and education projects. You’ll also find out how to go one step further in this sustainability cycle with your habitat and education projects. Stay tuned!

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