Stems and All

My journey to buy less, consume smart, use what's there.

Sustainable “R” buzzwords beyond just “Recycle”

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Recycling is good, but it’s time to re-shape our consumer habits and beliefs further.

The universally recognized recycle symbol was born in 1970, at the hands of Gary Anderson. This is the same year that launched the first Earth Day, originally lauded as an “environmental teach-in day”, to help raise awareness and political support for various environmental initiatives (

Now, more than 40 years later, the recycle symbol – represented by three arrows chasing one another in a never-ending mobius strip – is still a relevant and recognized symbol. However, the “R” of recycle is really only the tip of the environmental iceberg, and while important, it’s only one part of a complex consumer ecosystem.

We often see ‘recycling’ as being the best way to support the earth and ‘do our part’. Is recycling a good thing? Of course. But it’s also one of the last actions that we should take when making a decision about something we possess.

When it comes to sustainable living, there are many other “R’s” to be considered before anything gets to the “recycle” stage.

As the awareness around sustainability grows, and more people have a desire to do more, new terms continue to emerge. Here are some of my personal favorites:

Re-shape – attitudes about what we ‘need’ in our lives to be fulfilled
Re-fuse – to bring anything non-essential into your life or home
Re-duce – the amount of ‘stuff’ you think you need
Re-fill – rather than buying packaged products
Re-pair – buy high quality items upfront, that are be repairable and fixable
Re-wear – think about re-wearing certain items of clothing more than once (vs. washing)
Re-use – support and buy items that are re-useable, not just disposable
Re-share – items within your network of family, friends and neighbors
Re-turn – items like computers and electronics to responsible manufacturers to recycle
Re-spond – to companies that aren’t being social and environmentally responsible
Re-purpose – items for different uses
Re-cycle – items responsibly that are at the end of their life cycle
Re-earth – anything that is compostable

Maybe it’s time to develop a new “R” symbol, that more completely represents these evolving ways of life and living!?!?

Embrace the “R” words that resonate most with you and your family’s lifestyle. If you can, stretch yourself beyond what’s known and see where it takes you!

Author: Jane Newcomb

“Stems and All” is my personal journey to become a more environmentally responsible human, live a more sustainable life, and practice sustainable consuming habits.

One Comment

  1. We try to Re- every thing we have or buy . . a good thing to do.

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