Thursday, June 29, 2006

Reduce and Reuse, or what happened to the other 'R's?

Over-consumption in our culture has been on my mind a lot lately. I've been reflecting on what and how much we buy, the energy needed to produce, package, sell and use what we buy, how much we waste, and what impact all this has on our environment, communities and our social relationships.

Previously, I have thought about how the choices I've made about my 'career', time, role as a father and my income relate to my consumption of 'stuff', but I have been more preoccupied about the impact our consumerist society has on energy and resource use and global warming.

I've been wondering a lot lately about what happened tothe other two 'R's of the environmental mantra of the 90s: 'Reduce,
Reuse and Recylce'. 'Recycle' has taken off in Australia, but there is less attention on 'reduce' and 'reuse'. I get the feeling that recycling has let us off the hook - we are not required to think about what we buy so long as we remember to carefully sort our metal cans, glass bottles, PET (plastic) containers, and paper from our rubbish and remember to wheel it out to the curb for collection.

Because of the greenhouse gas emissions from the energy we use – and waste – we must give more attention to our overall consumption habbits.

On WorldChanging recently, there was an interesting exchange triggered by WorldChanging contributor Vinay Gupta's reflections on how working less and getting the same amount of work done could translate into other ways of using our resources less or using them more intelligently - thus helping to reduce our energy consumption.

While the discussion there focussed on what to call such an initiative ('use less' vs 'use smarter'), it still boiled down to the idea that using less than we already do, including being smarter about our use to minimise waste, is something we must all do to respond to the crisis of energy and resource wastage and its impact on global warming. And I found myself asking about 'Reduce, Reuse, Recycle' there as well.

Of course, these aren't new ideas. People have been arguing over consumption and over consumption, consumerism and our preoccupation over 'stuff' for ages. But, I do think that the environmental problems
that put the 3Rs on the agenda in the late 80s-early 90s are now being focussed more and more around the crisis of global warming. And bringing a new urgency to our consideration of these changes to our relationship with 'stuff' in our lives.

I've pooled some interesting links I've come across lately that consider the over-consumption, 3R themes here:

Mike Bogle considers the 3Rs, e-Waste and computers

WorldChanging post again

ABC Radio National podcast on religious (Christian) responses to consumerism here (MP3 link)

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