Reducing, reusing and recycling are the three ‘R’s of sustainability. They go in that order.


When we reduce, it means that we only take what we need, and value what we take. So, for example, even though we give away free schwag at all our station appearances, if you don’t need a Frisbee, you shouldn’t take it just because it is free. If you take something just because it is free, it will probably soon be thrown away because of lack of use, indicating that you didn’t need it in the first place. So, think before you take…or buy.

Or, if you are at a fast food restaurant and you are filling up your disposable cup, you may not need the lid. If you have no plans to take the cup with you after you finish your meal, then there is no need to cap it with a plastic lid. The purpose of the lid is to make the cup portable, so it won’t spill in your car or on your walk. If you are sitting at a table in the establishment, the lid is not necessary. We are so accustomed to just taking things like this that it becomes a habit, but they are easy habits to break.

The main question to ask yourself to help you reduce your impact is, “Do I need this, or am I just taking it?”


Reusing is a wonderful way to have a positive impact on our Earth. It implies that even though an item may no longer to be useful to you, or is no longer being used for its primary intended purpose, it may be useful to someone else or in some other way. One of my favorites is to take an old toothbrush and repurpose it to become a cleaner for my electric shaver. Frankly, the little brushes they include in with the shaver are usually pretty flimsy, and I’ve been doing this for years. It’s small and simple, and these things add up. We also reuse the sturdy soup containers that Chinese restaurants bring us with our delivery. They are good for 10 more uses after we eat the Wontons from them, and then they can even be recycled after that.

The most common form of reusing an item rather than throwing it away is to donate it. Unless it is really in decrepit shape, a thrift store will take it and then someone will save their money buying it. This goes for old clothes, books, CD’s, furniture, kitchen equipment, and more. Many charities generate their revenue from these types of donations, so if you are interested in helping a certain cause, do a little research and take your old stuff there.

One thing they may not take is old or obsolete electronics like VCR’s and cassette players. In these cases they may charge a recycling fee in case they cannot sell it, and at last check this was about $.45 per pound.


Recycling is the third option. If materials haven't avoided becoming waste through the first two 'R's, Recycling is essential. Recent numbers from the City of Fort Collins showed that a waste diversion rate of 43% was reached, and the City is only striving to improve that. While sending more material to be recycled, much less is sent to the landfill. The City saw a 19% drop in the tons of garbage collected in Fort Collins, a decrease of 30,000 tons from 2009 to 2010.* While there are many factors that could contribute to this, it is hoped that recycling played a part, and many believe it did.

At this point, it is remarkable how little actually needs to becomes trash. Especially when the 'C' for composting is added to the three 'R's, your trash disposal and therefore how much you pay for it, can go down significantly. The payment for trash refers to the "Pay As You Throw" program that has been in effect in Fort Collins for some time. At this point in time, though, there is very little packaging or disposable material that is not made from and into recyclable materials.

In the case of recycling electronics, batteries, paint and other questionable materials, be exhaustive with the City of Fort Collins Recycling website, because if it’s free to recycle, they’ll let you know. If it is cheap and easy, they’ll let you know. They’ve got the Who, What, When, Where, Why and more on the City website, because they have made it a priority to facilitate and encourage recycling. Fort Collins is fully behind this effort, as evidenced by my interview with Caroline Mitchell, who is an Environmental Planner and handles Waste Reduction and Recycling. She relates that:

…recycling is easy, it’s available and it’s just kind of the norm of what we do here in Fort Collins and we really want to share resources to make it as easy as possible for folks.

*Source: City of Fort Collins Semi - Annual Solid Waste Report, August 8, 2011