Are you looking for a way to do more to help the environment? Do you feel that no matter how many jars you recycle, it will never be enough to make that big of a difference? You could be right.
Despite our best efforts, recycling only plays a minimal role in the overall fight against climate change. In fact, a study undertaken by Project Drawdown, a not-for-profit group that conducts reviews of climate solutions, found that of 80 potential solutions to reducing global warming, the recycling industry’s projected contributions fell below the median, trailing forest protection, geothermal power and dozens of other actions.
That’s not to say we should be disheartened or stop recycling, but we can do more when it comes to sustainability - by turning our attention to the first of the Three R’s.
The Three R’s and What They Mean For Sustainability
The Brundtland Commission Report defines sustainability as "meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."
To put it simply, living sustainability is living in a way that doesn’t deplete our resources faster than we can replace them. This includes everything from air and water to food and energy.
The activities involved in sustainability are often referred to as the "Three R's": reduce, reuse, and recycle. But did you know that these three activities are listed in order of impact? Reducing our consumption is by far the most impactful way to help our planet while recycling packs a much smaller punch.
Why Is Reducing Better Than Recycling?
Don’t get us wrong; recycling is an essential step in our sustainability efforts. It has many benefits, creating new from old, reducing pollution and conserving resources. However, by reducing our buying habits, we avoid creating waste in the first place.
We all know that waste is one of the biggest problems our planet currently faces. The average person produces 399kg of waste each year in the UK alone! By reducing the amount of waste we produce, we can help mitigate some of the negative environmental impacts such as water and air pollution, overflowing landfills and climate change.
Take dog beds, for example. Based on our research, the average life of a dog bed is just seven months. In 2021, the UK population of dogs reached 12 million - if half of those dogs have their bed replaced annually, that’s 30,000 tonnes of synthetic waste going straight into landfills.
And it’s not only the impact on landfill that makes reducing such a beneficial activity. Here are a few more reasons to choose to reduce instead of only recycling:
Reducing uses fewer resources.
It takes a lot of energy to recycle materials into new products. In fact, the energy expenditure in recycling can be more than what it takes to produce products from scratch because the process is often more complex. For example, it takes more water to recycle one plastic bottle than it would to simply avoid buying bottled water altogether!
On the other hand, reducing requires no energy at all. All that’s needed is a mind shift and a change of consumption habits.
Reducing generates less pollution.
Not only does recycling require a lot of energy, but it can also create water and air pollution due to the chemicals used in the process. In the UK, our recycling is generally sent offshore to poorer nations, where the recycling industry and procedures used are less regulated, often with negative environmental results.
In contrast, reduction generates no pollution at all. Once again, all you have to do is change your consumption habits and avoid buying products that create waste. This not only helps the environment but also helps to preserve our natural resources.
Putting It Into Practice
At Taylor & Tails, we’ve integrated the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle model into our manufacturing process from the start. As a modern business, we feel it’s important to understand what materials are used in our products and where they fall on the sustainability scale.
For that reason, we invest in durable fabrics that prolong the life of your dog bed and use shredded memory foam from the offcuts of the mattress production industry, instead of adding to what is being produced.
Through our research and development, two overarching sustainability tips came up time and time again. We endeavour to use them in both our home and business and hope that by sharing them, you will too:
We’re all guilty of it, but these single-use plastics are easy to avoid with a bit of pre-planning. From coffee cups and plastic bottles to pre-wrapped vegetables at the supermarket, these items are often used for just a few minutes but take centuries to decompose. Instead, invest in reusable versions of these items that you can use over and over again.
Buy well, buy once. One of the most impactful ways to reduce your consumption is to invest in higher quality items. Although you will generally have to spend more upfront, you’ll often find that you save money overall as your items will last longer and be less likely to need replacing.
Creating a sustainable environment is everyone's responsibility. By making small changes in your consumption habits, you can make a big difference to our planet and help to create a more sustainable future.