10 Rs for the Environment

NOTE: This feature was first printed in HOME For Magazine's Summer 2016 issue, Home For Lebanon.

While Lebanon is facing its worst garbage crisis ever, most people are concerned with the garbage we have  - whether we recycle, compost, burn, or bury it, or dump it in the sea. Few people seriously consider how to reduce the amount of daily waste that is generated in the first place. While addressing that issue on a national scale needs the political will to enact and enforce appropriate laws, we as consumers bear primary responsibility for the amount of waste we generate as individuals and families. This list of 10 Rs for the Environment suggests ways we can do better.

1) Reduce consumption, especially consumption of plastics and other non-biodegradable waste. This is a simple call to consume less of most everything rather than be conditioned by the many ads that tell us more is better.

2) Reuse – Choose reusable plates, cups, water bottles, and shopping bags whenever possible. Ceramics, glass,  and stainless steel are healthier alternatives because they do not leach toxic chemicals into our food and water like plastic does. And reusable shopping bags reduce the huge number of plastic bags we accumulate.

3) Recycle – Even if we buy recyclables, the only way to be sure they don’t get into the garbage heaps is for us to sort and dispose of them properly. Recycle organic waste into compost. Sort and take paper, glass, metal, and recyclable plastics to recycling programs or arrange for them to be collected in your building.

4) Refuse single use plastics (straws, water bottles, food containers, tableware, plastic bags), freebees from hotel rooms and conferences, and products that are packaged with a lot of plastic. Do we really need straws? Can we refill our stainless steel water bottles from our filtered water or larger refillable containers? Can we refuse the tableware that comes with our fast food order when we’re going to eat it at home anyway?

5) Replace toxic, imported, non-biodegradable alternatives with non-toxic, locally produced, and biodegradable ones, whenever possible.  Buying locally produced items saves the energy of transport and supports the local economy. Non-toxics eliminate toxicity from our bodies, our soil, and our waterways. And biodegradeables reduce our garbage, but only if they are properly disposed of.

6) Repair things that are broken or torn rather than throw them away. As long as people consider it easier to buy something new rather than repair what they have, we will generate far more garbage than we need to.

7) Reflect on the waste you generate and think of creative ways to decrease it. We need to remember that plastics we use for minutes may last for thousands of years. While none of us is going to achieve zero waste, each of us can do better if we consciously choose to.

8) Remember to do all of those things above that you feel are doable. Remember to put the reusable bags and containers into your car, bring them into the store, and  give them to the person bagging your groceries. Remember when you place an order to tell them you don’t want a straw or a free packet of plastic tableware. 

9) Report your achievements and ways you have learned to reduce waste. Let others know, to encourage them to do likewise.

10) Rally others to join you in changing consumption patterns and advocating better waste policies.

The choices we make every day are important. We can choose to buy a falafel or shawarma in paper rather than other fast foods in plastic containers. We can buy an ice cream cone rather than a plastic cup of ice cream served with a plastic spoon. We can buy and wrap gifts with less packaging, or choose gifts that have little or no waste related to them (tickets to a performance, a donation to a cause, etc.). We can ALL reduce the garbage problem if we try.

Some Helpful Resources:
Your Recycling Directory in Lebanon: https://www.lebtivity.com/p/recycling-lebanon

Two Facebook pages: Don't Waste Lebanon  and  WasteLess in Lebanon

Two books:
Plastic Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too  by Beth Terry
Zero Waste Home by Béa Johnson