Reusing is Becoming Increasingly Popular. And So it Should Be!
Reusing is often confused with recycling, but they are really quite different. Recycling means taking an item and either reprocessing it (for instance grinding tires to use in road surfacing), or reducing it back to raw materials – both of which take a significant amount of energy and cost money. The raw material from recycled goods will then be used to manufacture another item – which takes yet more energy, and often the additional use of more material. Reusing is drastically different. Reusing, simply put, means extending the useful lifespan of a given item.
Reusing is not new; neither is the need to reuse. It could be said, though, that reusing as a necessity is making its comeback.
Years and years of cheaper and cheaper manufacturing methods, and increasingly low-cost, disposable imports, led us to a place where the attitude of “it’s cheaper to just replace it every few years” had come to be the norm. To a great many of us, longevity barely seemed like something that needed to be considered – disposability seemed to have won.
Lately, however, things have turned around. We’ve come to realize that cost shouldn’t be the only consideration when making our purchases. In our homes, our businesses, our hobbies, our lives… sustainability has come to matter to us.
For a while, we could ease our increasingly guilty consciences by sending recyclable items for processing. Latterly, however, since we’ve learned how far from sustainability we still are – and since banking crises and falling oil prices have negatively affected the thickness of our wallets – we have begun to look harder at what we consume. Now, we are starting to remember just how beneficial reusing is. In all but a few rare cases, reusing is drastically more efficient than recycling; wherever it can be achieved, it is almost always the more beneficial option.
Reusing is accomplished and encouraged through many different methods: purchasing durable goods, whether new or pre-owned; buying and selling in the used marketplace as much as reasonably possible; borrowing (and therefore also lending, which is a very healthy thing when done well, within healthy relationships!); renting rather than buying where it makes sense; donating, giving, etc.
It is also achieved by attending to routine maintenance and repair – items don’t so easily reach the uneconomical state that sees them committed to the dump when they’re kept in good condition.
We can also make a huge difference by designing in relation to reuse. This can be on a large scale – looking to utilize salvaged material in building projects – or creatively refashioning used items or “repurposing”, using a little imagination and artistic flare.
Reusing can help us all in so many ways: It confronts the challenges of waste reduction, while helping people achieve a good quality of life at sensible cost. It also helps give us a strong, productive economy, reducing the burdens of waste disposal and inefficient recycling practices.
Reusing keeps goods and materials out of the waste stream and reduces energy consumption; it preserves natural resources, and therefore safeguards areas of natural wonder or importance to wildlife; it saves money, creates jobs, and encourages the purchase of better quality products; it also makes those higher quality goods available to people and businesses to whom brand new versions might be unaffordable.
So fall in love with re-using, facilitate and encourage it from either end – buy used, sell or give away. Most people who re-use find in increasingly enjoyable and satisfying, as well as discovering that it’s a route to a better quality of life. And a better future for all.