11 ways to shrink your footprint

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Whether you are at home, out shopping or at work, you can save the protect the environment by practicing the 3 Rs: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. Each of these eliminate waste, and ease up the pressure on precious natural resources. Waste is also the single biggest contributor to the pollution that clogs our cities and our lungs, and practicing the 3Rs helps us and our kids lead healthier lives.

Here are 11 ideas that you can implement. Choose 1, a few or all,  it’s entirely up to you.

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Reduce:

  1. Don’t judge every book by its cover: Everywhere you look, inexpensive, beautiful looking products are available, which seem like a steal and a must buy. Don’t go by looks and price only. Look for well-built, durable goods that will last longer, save money in the long run, and reduce the amount of waste that will have to be recycled or sent to landfills.
  2. Patronize a handy repairman: E-waste is a big issue today, and one reason for this is that electronic items have become extremely affordable. Every time something goes wrong with your TV or DVD, it just makes more sense to buy a new one because fixing the old one costs 70% of what the new one will cost. The math makes sense to most of us, but it’s killing the planet. Have you noticed how you don’t find a lot of electronic repair shops anymore? That’s because no one wants to get things repaired. Do service providers and the planet a favor, and get things fixed instead of buying new ones. The 30% saving you make can go into something else.
  3. Rely less on retail therapy: Let’s face it, this is probably the hardest thing to do. Buying new things is extremely gratifying, and shopping is the easiest cure for any dull day. So how do we do it? To begin with, take a look at your wardrobe or kitchen cabinet, and you’ll know that many of the things you have in your home are actually not needed. Impulse purchasing and effective marketing make us buy things we don’t need – and if we can cut impulse buying down, we will do much better. We would suggest that you subscribe to a daily alert from websites that talk about simplifying life and un-cluttering it. A little bit of daily inspiration can go a long way in helping us make everyday changes.
  4. Cut the obvious drains on energy: Look at sources of energy, and cut down what you know you do not need. Reduce electricity and water use by taking simple steps such as switching off appliances when not in use or reducing your shower time / taking a bucket bath instead. Reduce paper use in home and in office by printing only when necessary, or using eco-friendly fonts (if you must print!). Take a walk instead of taking the car to the nearby supermarket.
  5. Go for fresh foods instead of packaged ones: When buying personal care of household products, reduce pre-packaged foods (cardboard, plastic packaging). Most large grocery stores today have unpackaged food sections for stables in particular. Take your own bags from home and fill ‘em up!

Reuse

Instead of throwing things away, why not find ways to use them again? It makes economic and environmental sense to reuse things whenever possible.

  1. Think out of the box: Look for alternative uses after a product has served its purpose. Glass Mason Jars and plastic containers can be used to store groceries in the kitchen, and can also be great for home-made gifts.
  2. Donate or gift: One person’s trash is another person’s treasure – If you are upgrading a gadget, consider donating the old product to someone who can use it. Give away an old dress that you’ve worn only once to a friend (in another city works too J)
  3. Invest in a fabric tote that you can fold: The next time you go shopping, don’t ask for plastic bags. Carry tote bags that can be reused, are eco-friendly, and look stylish as well. They can also provide you cover from the Sun, help you organize the trash in your car, and come to your rescue in many other ways.
  4. Sign up for a course in craft: Unleash your creativity, by learning some basic techniques like Decoupage which can really make a difference in upcycling old products. Use the saris collecting dust to make stylish home furnishing, or wood from an old table to create photo frames, or a serving tray. You’ll pay a carpenter a little bit of money, avoid a trip the store (or online) and get a creative kick!

Recycle

A lot of daily use items such as paper bags, metal cans, glass bottles, and cardboard boxes are made from materials that can be recycled. Recycling basically breaks the product down to its original source form, and can then be used to fabricate entirely new products.

  1. Compost: You can recycle Organic waste at home by Composting, other things like plastics and metals are best left to experts.
  2. Promote recycling: Help develop the market for recycled products by buying products that contain recycled materials. For example, at office you can use recycled paper for the letterhead and copier. Look for the recycling symbol on the packaging to ensure that it’s made from recycled materials, or the product can be recycled. Check for service providers who do waste recycling – there must be at least a few where you live (E-waste recycling in particular is quite common).

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