The first and perhaps most important "R" is Reduce. The EPA explains in their website, http://www.epa.gov/waste/conserve/rrr/index.htm, that the use of the word "reduce" refers, in this context, to reducing both the "amount and toxicity of [the] trash you throw away."
Well, I agree with that idea wholeheartedly. But let's apply this concept to our faith lives by reducing our dependence on material goods as well. Detach from the material world a bit and recognize when you are purchasing for "retail therapy" reasons or to fulfill a need. Consider how blurred the line between want and need has become in your life. Do you always seem to "need" the latest gadget or yet another pair of shoes?
I'm not saying that all purchasing is bad. I've been known to shop a bit myself. I'm just saying that when you start to be controlled by your possessions, you've lost sight of what true need is.
Here are some great ways to reduce "the amount and toxicity of the trash you throw away".:
- Pack a waste free lunch for yourself or your children or spouse. Use all reusable containers (including a reusable water bottle), real utensils (not the good silver though!), and cloth napkins (which my children never seem to have a need for).
- Avoid anything disposable if you can. I know it's hard. So, make a goal for reducing the amount of disposable products you use. It does make a difference.
- Buy items such as chips or snacks in larger containers rather than single serve. You'll not only reduce the amount of packaging used but also the amount of fuel it takes to transport those items to your store.
- While we're on the subject of transport costs--Buy Local. Check out your local farmers market or log on to http://www.localharvest.com/ to find sources in your area. You can even sign up to join a CSA farm (there is a cost that varies among programs). CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farms enable you to "invest" in a local farm like buying stock shares. Your dividends are paid to you in the form of produce. Like the stock market, though, your dividends may be higher sometimes than others. If it's a tough year for your CSA farm, then your yields will be smaller.
- Plant a vegetable garden! That will cut down on transportation costs even more (unless you have to drive from one side of your yard to the other!).
- Compost your food waste! You'll reduce your waste and get great garden soil for those vegetables you are now growing.
- Track your spending patterns for one week or more, if you can. Note when what you were feeling when you made the purchase. Were you stressed, depressed, hurried, bored?
- The next time you make a large purchase, consider your needs and your wants. Get all of your needs and only some of your wants.
- Use Less Stuff (Need I say more?)
- Be content with what you have.