Reuse Before You Recycle

Reuse before you recycle

These words from Anne Marie Bonneau, the Zero-Waste Chef, have stuck with me since I read them the first time. I’m still relatively new to the zero waste movement and often feel guilty that I’m not doing enough or doing it right.

Yet, when I remind myself of this advice from the Zero-Waste Chef, I give myself grace and keep aiming to do better. If millions of people tried to reuse before they recycle, our planet would benefit tremendously!

  • What if millions of people brought reusable bags to the grocery store and we got rid of plastic bags altogether?
  • What if millions of people used a reusable straw each time they drank an iced coffee, iced tea or milkshake?
  • What if millions of people refused single-use plastic water bottles and had a reusable water bottle with them instead?

These are relatively simple switches that would greatly impact the well-being of our planet and wildlife. I remind myself of this daily.

Yet our family is certainly far from perfect! We definitely are not achieving a 100% zero-waste lifestyle at the moment, which you can read about more in my post, My Goal is Zero Waste, but I’m Failing.

{Are you ready to start going green and living clean? Get this FREE 3-Day mini workshop. Start today! Perfect for zero waste beginners and busy families! Get the video for Day 1 below!}

However, we are doing a lot to educate our daughters so that they grow up understanding why it’s important to be conscious of their purchases and regarding their waste. We are also doing our best to reduce our waste as much as possible. When I think back to Anne Marie Bonneau’s quote, I know the choices and changes we are making today make a difference.

To keep myself on track and to aim for the goal of being a zero-waste family, I ask myself these questions each time I purchase a new item, “Do I need this? Could I find a different way or different item that would reduce my ecological footprint?”

For example, when my 10-year old daughter’s medical supplies arrive each month, I feel pretty discouraged. You see, my daughter survived multiple organ failure last year, and her recovery has been long. She still depends on a lot of medical interventions and support. So as I receive medical supply shipments each month of Pedialyte (plastic) bottles, feeding tube bags, and plastic syringes, I feel like I’m failing in my mission to reduce plastic waste. Then I ask myself, “Do we need this?” The answer is YES, my daughter does need this! She needs it to stay healthy and to remain home with us and not in the hospital.

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So I then ask myself, “How can I reduce or reuse these items instead of recycling them?” Since many reports claim that 91% of all plastic never gets recycled, such as the one featured in this article by National Geographic, reducing or reusing items is the next best option. If you take a look at the 5 R’s, you’ll notice they are actually listed in order of importance when trying to reduce plastic waste.

  • Refuse 
  • Reduce 
  • Reuse
  • Recycle what you cannot refuse, reduce, or reuse.
  • Rot (compost) the rest.

Our family focuses on reducing and reusing items when refusing is not an option. For example, my husband and I reuse the plastic syringes used to administer medications via my daughter’s feeding tube by washing them daily until they are no longer usable. This reduces the number of plastic syringes we need to purchase and ultimately dispose of, which helps the planet and saves us money too.

As for all the plastic pill bottles, I was very excited when I found a program by Matthew 25: Ministries that accepts pill bottle donations for improving medical care in developing countries and shreds or recycles any bottles that can’t be used. I’ve been collecting all our empty pill bottles and plan to send them here soon. Find out all the details at the Matthew 25: Ministries website.

When it comes to the plastic Pedialyte bottles, I’ve started saving them so I can reuse and upcycle them, much to my husband’s dismay. While he does not like the box full of plastic bottles in the basement currently, I will upcycle them into several of these ideas that I’ve included here for you. Hopefully, it will inspire you to create and upcycle too!

Upcycled Rope Planter
Upcycled Rope Planter by A Charming Project
Plastic Bottle Zipper Container
Plastic Bottle Zipper Container by Sarah Lipoff
Hedgehog Planters from plastic bottles
Hedgehog Planters by Angel Swan

So don’t avoid making strides towards a zero waste lifestyle because you can’t do it perfectly. Instead, look to the 5 R’s — refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle, and rot — for direction and inspiration. Every step in the right direction is essential. Become one of the millions that is doing zero waste imperfectly!

I would love to hear from you! What changes or switches are you making to inch closer towards being zero waste? Please share your ideas, tips, and inspiration in the comments!


P.S. – Are you ready to start going green and living clean? Get this FREE 3-Day mini workshop. Start today! Perfect for zero waste beginners and busy families! Get the video for Day 1 below!

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