Reduce, Reuse & Recycle? Aren’t there more to this?

Number of years ago, I had the pleasure of reading Salah El Haggar‘s book on cradle-to-cradle waste management.  You can find that book on Google here.  Dr. El Haggar works at the American University in Cairo and I am hoping that his family and him are safe throughout the Arab Spring.  In his book, he made mentions of the 7Rs for zero pollution – Regulations, Reducing, Reusing, Recycling, Recovering, Rethinking and Renovation.  The text is truly inspiring and I suggest everyone, LEED professionals or not, to pick this book up.

Having been reminded of that book caused me to make my first entry on this blog.  Where is the status of the 3Rs – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle?  I would imagine, upon questioning, many in the green industry agree that it’s high time for the 3Rs to be refreshed.  But how? For a hotel in Costa Rica, the answer is surprisingly simple – rethink the 3Rs.  Hotel Grano de Oro added Reject, Reflect, Redistribute and Reclaim to the traditional three.

Reject/Reflect – As globalization continue to change the way raw materials are procured and our products are manufactured, the choices faced by consumers has evolved to what I believe to be a sense of responsibility.  We have to accept that there maybe times we must reject a product based on the way the raw materials are gotten, or the way it’s manufactured.  I would point to hybrid cars’ batteries and Apple products as good examples of this (ed note: I will write an article on my views of the hybrid cars’ batteries in a short while).  Furthermore, we must reflect on our own believes and habits and how they drive us to make the purchases that we make.  If I were heavily into online publishing, reflections would perhaps entail looking at the way I submit my articles and adjust my schedule so that I can publish while sitting in front of a desktop computer, instead of with a laptop containing harmful metals and running on a rechargeable battery with a finite charge cycle.

Redistribute/Reclaim – My interpretation of this stems from Wallerstein World-System Analysis and the inequality created because of core nations’ affluence.  Here I am speaking about more than just economic inequality, though that plays a very large part, I am speaking also about environmental and social inequality.  Save for the ecological disaster that is Canada’s tar sands, affluent countries have exported to less economically developed countries (LEDC) undesirables such as, electronic waste, industrial waste and harmful raw materials.  Redistribution would most certainly contain some financial reimbursement but I think more importantly, our knowledge and technology would go a long away to helping various LEDCs combat the vast amount of crud that we have stuck them with.  I mentioned earlier that consumers need to develop a sense of responsibility, and I think reclaiming their voice in the circle of commerce is fundamental to that responsibility.  Much of my generation, and those that have come after, seem complacent to maintain the status quo and not say no or say that there has to be a better way to solve a problem.  Our desire for gadgets, technology and connectedness, buoyed by the financial freedoms of willing parents, put us in a supremely advantageous spot to dictate demands to those that manufacture gadgets, create technology and maintain connectedness.  We must unite and speak with one voice, when one product is manufactured in unfavourable working condition we must resolve to find other manufacturers willing to do it better.

And afterthought: so couple of hours after publishing this article, I found out that Nokia has publicly released a document on its commitment on ethical sourcing for minerals used in electronics.  You can read the article here.  I have attached an excellent post on other manufacturers’ status of conflict minerals here!  Thank you ValueStreaming!


About eatonkwan

Engineer by profession, interests lie in environmental development, LEED and sustainable development.
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