Everyone knows the 3Rs: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. The order they are listed in is actually important.

Recycling seems to get the focus, but we would like to take a moment to focus on the first R – Reducing. Take bottled water for example. Even if the plastic bottle is recycled, resources have gone into making and shipping it to you. Processing recyclables also takes energy and resources. It’s better for the planet not to buy it in the first place.

With that in mind, reducing the creation of waste in the first place should be everyone’s top priority. Here are a few examples of practical ways you can reduce your waste footprint:

  • Compost! In Yellowknife we are fortunate to have a successful green cart program that recycles organic waste into valuable compost.
  • Refuse swag or free stuff that you won’t use and will end up being tossed. Saying no is a way to show you’re not interested in these items and hopefully they will carry less of them in the future.
  • Ask for compostable single-use products like cups, cutlery, straws, and take-out dishes, or better yet bring your own re-usable options.
  • Say no to junk mail.
  • Bring your own bags to the store.
  • Say no to excess plastic packaging. Consumers have power.

Doing your part to reduce waste is important, but it’s also important to recognize that as individual consumers, there are times when we are not in direct control of what we buy. Feasible sustainable alternatives don’t always exist! This is where retailers, suppliers, manufacturers and industry need to take more responsibility and do their part to reduce waste higher up in the supply chain. Consumers do have the power to ask retailers to stock more environmentally friendly products.

Let’s work collectively to shift our society away from a culture of disposal to one where we value using our resources efficiently. Together we can influence key decision-makers and tackle systemic issues. Ecology North’s Waste Reduction Volunteer Committee is a group of individuals working together towards these goals. Send us an email if you want to join!