Eco House Agent, United Kingdom

Take a Leaf from the Re-users Manual

'Mention the word 'reuse' and a vast number of associations spring to mind. The old raincoat in the back of the wardrobe donated to the Salvation Army, the two balding front tyres on the family car claimed by the local garage to be retreaded, the carrier bags from the local supermarket that are more than capable of carrying the groceries on the next visit. From these examples alone it is abundantly clear that many of us utilise this practice on a regular basis. It is an effective way of saving a few pounds, or our own personal way of donating to charity without the fuss of cold-callers or crippling direct-debit payments! But, and here's the fundamental point of this article, have you ever thought about how re-using can make you that little bit more environmentally friendly?

Reusing bottles

        Newspapers, carrier bags, old clothing, worn toothbrushes and jam jars - the weekly contents of our black bags right? “Yes”, is probably the answer for many of us. But why not take a leaf out of the 'reusers manual' and do something a little more meaningful with these apparently useless items. Take the old newspaper and use as padding to protect fragile items in transit. Use the carrier bag as a refuse bin for litter around the house. That toothbrush could be used as a cleaning tool for a bicycle chain. Maybe wash the jam jars and use as containers for spare change? The possibilities for reusing are really rather far reaching. Think of the glass milk bottles delivered to your door every morning that are reused every day, or the toner cartridges from your workplace that are sent away to be refurbished and used again.

    If everyone knew of the environmental implications of one small act of re-using, it would be something that we would do on a more frequent basis. If we take the example of a carrier bag we can really begin to see the advantages. Think about all those saved bags that would normally be seen as 'single-use' that could be saved by re-using for a couple of weeks. The average 'big shop' probably uses around eight carrier bags, so think of the multitude of bags that would be saved over a longer period. The costs of disposing of the item in landfills will also be driven down as there would be less to throw away, and once at the landfill there would be less matter to attribute to the high level of gases and chemicals already being released into the atmosphere by the mass of refuse.

    There are a number of external factors linked to this one act that have a positive impact on the environment. If we combine the weight of carrier bags saved by everyone in one year, it becomes a far more substantial amount. The number of tonnes diverted from the landfill becomes far greater and think of the amount of fuel saved that would have been consumed by refuse trucks transporting the waste to the landfill. This 'chain of environmentally friendly' is true of all reused items.

    Reusing is an environmentally friendly practice that should be utilised before recycling. Think of 'reusing' as the bigger more practical brother of 'recycling'. Sure, they are pretty much go hand in hand but whereas recycling involves breaking down an object into fewer materials to create a new entity, reusing takes an object that still has life in it and uses it again, whether it is for the same purpose or something slightly different.

    Reusing isn't just restricted to the home. Why not broaden your reusing horizon by getting rid of your junk at a car-boot sale? One man's junk is another man's treasure after all! Charity shops are another place where you can deposit your used items with the added bonus of helping the charity of your choice. Or why not reuse online? There are a number of sites dedicated to the practice of reusing such as 'Don''. A site that brings users together in a specially created forum where one can trade items for another. Ebay is another way of turning your junk into profit.

    In essence, reusing is a simple, yet extremely effective way of having a positive effect on the environment. It reduces your carbon footprint by lowering the amount of waste you throw away and creates a whole chain of factors you may not even be aware of that combine to turn your footprint from a hefty size twelve to a ballerina esque size four. So next time, why not try something a little different and take a leaf out of the reusers manual.

Barry Vinnicombe





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