From childhood I have heard the mantra “Reduce Reuse Recycle”. So much so that I have almost forgotten the original three “R”s it is based upon – the Reading, Writing and Arithmetic of basic education.
“Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” – sometimes with the addition of “Refuse”, is used as if it is a summary of the entire thinking of the green movement, or at least of the actions that should be taken by ordinary people trying to “do their bit”. But I have realised two things: firstly that there are plenty of other “green” actions not covered by the three Rs , and secondly that too many people were assuming that if they were recycling and occasionally reusing a plastic carrier bag, that they were being pretty green.
So lets unpack the three Rs and add a few more.
What do we need to Reduce? We need to buy less, travel less, and probably do less. Reduce the pressure we put on the earth’s resources and reduce the pressure we put on our time-poor selves.
How can we Reuse more and bin less? By not buying anything that is intended to be used only once – packaging, coffee cups, paper plates, disposable nappies, batteries, tissues. Who dares use washable wipes instead of toilet paper?
Recycling involves a huge amount of energy for transporting and processing of the materials. It is important as it reduces the speed we are using up natural resources, but it should be the last resort. Recycling also means closing that loop by buying recycled things!
We can reduce our consumption is by Repairing as much as we can. Get the sewing kit out, have a go at fixing that toy instead of binning it, find that little workshop that’s been there for years where they might just be able to fix your old Hi-Fi. Look after your stuff!
How many things do you have in your house that you use only once or twice a year? Why do you and your neighbour/friend/father-in-law all need a power drill and a hedge trimmer and a pressure washer? Do I need to buy that book my friend recommended or shall I just borrow her copy? Many people are car-sharing now, especially in city centres where cars are not needed every day. My fifth R is Rent, boRRow and shaRe.
The Refuse I mentioned as the original fourth R, used to just mean Refusing plastic bags and the like. We don’t automatically get given plastic bags any more but we still need to Refuse: Refuse to believe the adverts. Refuse to believe that your life is lacking something because you don’t use a particular shampoo, have a particular electronic gadget, or you haven’t been to a particular sunny destination. Refuse to believe you are worth less because you have less.
My seventh R is really the first. Rejoice! Take delight in all the good things that God has given us for free. And again I say Rejoice!
The full list of seven Rs, in order of importance is:
Rent, borrow and share
The three Rs does have a ring to it. Three is some kind of magic number used by speech writers and poets since Biblical times. But the Bible also uses seven as a perfect number – as it was in seven days that God created the heaven and the earth. And perhaps the greatest thing that God created was Rest on the seventh day. Rest could be another of the Rs, but I rather think it sums up of all of them.
Be satisfied with all the good things you have, Rest in the Lord, and give the rest of creation a break!