There is more to "reduce, reuse, recycle" than taking empty plastic bottles to the nearest recycling center.  Here are some tips on how to do more with what is already being done.

do it yourself, family photo album

Reusing everyday household products can help reduce the need to build landfills and incinerators.

Reusing a product means less energy and raw materials will be used to create new products. Producing new products require energy which uses up valuable resources like oil, coal, timber and so on.

Reuse plastic and paper bags by turning them into trash bags and book covers. Donate old clothes to charities. Newspaper, interesting magazines, and other paper products can be repurposed into wrapping paper or placemats during meals.

When you need to buy something new, go to estate sales, auctions, antique, surplus, and thrift stores. Things like furniture or appliances can be found at a fraction of the cost of buying new at retail stores.

creative chandelier made from recycled glass bottles

Through repurposing, people can combine vintage styles with the modern and create something new out of something old. Repurposing allows people to use their imagination to create something that fits their personality.

There are many ways to repurpose old fixtures and furniture that are no longer in use. For instance, empty toilet paper rolls that would normally end up in the trash are great for helping to organize loose wires, cords, headphones and more. For small jewelry items and hair clips, try using an ice cube tray as a handy organizer for the dresser. Each cube is a perfect size for small odds and ends, like hair elastics and rings. The tray's rectangular shape will also help it fit nicely in a drawer. These are just a few great ways to reuse common items that you might otherwise throw away.

bio degradable material ready to compost

Composting is nature's process of recycling decomposed organic materials into a rich soil known as compost. Anything that was once living will decompose. Finished compost looks like soil–dark brown, crumbly and smells like a forest floor.

Composting organic products helps reduce landfills and methane gas, one of the most harmful greenhouse gases. Using compost as a soil amendment helps minimize erosion often caused by wind and water run-off. Compost helps increase soil structure and improves nutrient availability to plants. It also supports strong plant growth and is especially beneficial in areas prone to erosion. Composting improves soil porosity and inhibits the spread of plant diseases. It also saves water by helping soil hold moisture and reduces water runoff.

close up of a watch being repaired

Repair is a method of taking an item, which may appear to have lived its useful life, and fixing it so that it can still be productive. Keeping household goods working is an opportunity to keep products out of the waste stream. The longer a product is kept in working condition, the fewer times it needs to be replaced and the precious resources needed to manufacture a new product are conserved.

Other benefits to fixing things include learning more about how things work, gaining a sense of accomplishment, spending more time bonding with children and family members, and preserving heirloom and unique items. This will help people gain more confidence in repairing higher priced items in the future.

Before purchasing a product, consult reviews from other buyers. Check with the retailer and manufacturer if the warranty includes parts and labor if an item needs repairs.

Things to repair: shoes, clothes, furniture, electronics, appliances, floors, leaky faucets, and toilets.

Ribbon that reads, 100% Satisfaction Guaranteed

Return – Avoid buying products with vague or complicated return policies. Buying from companies with a take-back program is extremely important, especially if they have recycling programs. Check with a store’s return policy before purchasing an item.

Some groceries and farmers markets allow refills for customers who want to reuse their jars or containers.

Companies in industries with high product turnover (think electronics and gadgets) often offer return policies that help increase producer responsibility and cut down on e-waste.

reusable water bottles

Refill – Instead of using single-use and disposable products like plastic water bottles, use refillable items such as beverage containers, printer ink and toner cartridges.

Washing and reusing plastic water bottles reduces waste and landfill crowding, minimizes pollution, and conserves energy. Refilling your plastic water bottle with drinking water is considerably less resource intensive than purchasing commercially purified and bottled water.

Reusing bottles without cleaning them encourages the growth of potentially harmful bacteria. It is essential to clean all plastic water bottles between uses, just like any other food or beverage container.

recycled printer toner

Purchasing recycled printer toner and ink cartridges reduces air and water pollution associated with landfilling and the incineration or the manufacturing of new cartridges. Makers of remanufactured laser toners usually provide a list of all the benefits that their products can give. Some of these high quality print cartridges are comparable to OEM (original equipment manufacturer) cartridges. Savings on the printing costs are passed down to the consumer and are usually significantly less expensive when compared to newly manufactured products.

series of water bottles at different sizes

Refuse to buy over-packaged, disposable, single-use products. This includes disposable cups, silverware, plastic bags, bottled water, contact lenses, disposable cameras, and more.

To lower the use of plastic waste, carry reusable shopping bags and give up bottled water.

Farmers markets are a great way to buy fresh, local produce without plastic, as long as you remember to bring your own bags. Return containers for berries, cherry tomatoes, etc. to the farmer’s market to be reused.

Buy from bulk food stores where you can get most dry foods as well as some personal care products from bulk bins. This includes grains, pasta, beans, seeds, nuts, all kinds of flour, baking soda, and other dry baking ingredients.

Cut out sodas, juices, and all other plastic-bottled beverages.

Also, avoid frozen convenience foods. This will be the most difficult, but the more we limit our consumption of frozen convenience foods, the less plastic we’ll generate and the healthier we’ll be.