Government of New Brunswick

"Reduce" is clearly the first of the "Three Rs" because it's much better to stop waste at its source than it is to deal with it later. "Reduce" means to cut down on the amount of resources we use, and on the amount and toxicity of the garbage we produce.

The average North American sees 350,000 television commercials before leaving high school. Under a constant barrage of advertising, it's possible to lose track of what we really want and need. The key is to make conscious choices about what we bring into our homes, how we use what we have, and what we throw out.

Sometimes it makes sense to borrow or rent as a way of trying out an item before buying it, or when it's just for temporary use. New Brunswick rental companies offer everything from cement mixers to party supplies.

When you do go shopping, especially for big-ticket items, a little planning can help your bank account as well as the environment. Find out whether the products you're considering can be maintained and repaired locally. Choose durable goods that are built to last to keep them out of the landfill longer and delay the need to make another purchase. Choosing local goods will reduce the energy we use to bring in products from other places, while supporting New Brunswick's economy.

If a product is corrosive, flammable, explosive, or poisonous, it can be considered a household hazardous waste that needs special handling. Avoid buying them whenever possible, or check the labels for warning symbols that will tell you how to handle and store them.

Before you purchase a product that may be hazardous, consider some of the traditional homemade alternatives. Safe and simple substances like baking soda and vinegar can be remarkably effective as household cleaners, and soapy water can discourage many common garden pests.

Hazardous Product Symbols

Check for "greener" alternatives to traditional products, like solvent-free paints and citrus-based strippers. Thanks to growing consumer demand, there are more such products on the market all the time.

If you must buy a hazardous product, buy as little as you can, and use up or share any leftovers to avoid the need for storage and disposal. If you need to dispose of hazardous products, check with your Regional Solid Waste Commission for the next Household Hazardous Waste Day.

While you're at the store, here's something else to think about. One-third of our garbage comes from wrappers, containers, boxes, bags, and so on. Some packaging is needed to protect products from damage or keep them clean, but one third of all the plastic produced in North America is used only as packaging materials.

When you're shopping, avoid purchasing over-packaged products like toys in cardboard and plastic "blisterpacks" or fruit sold on shrinkwrapped trays. Buy non-perishable products in bulk or in large "economy size" packages that use less packaging, but don't buy more than you really need. Could you "go halves" with a friend?

Half of all the paper used in North America is for packaging, but that's only the beginning. Paper counts for more than half of office waste and about one-third of household waste, too - not counting the paper in the 1.7-billion disposable diapers Canadians use each year!

Many New Brunswick schools have been able to reduce their paper consumption and encourage recycling by placing boxes to collect reusable scrap paper in their classrooms.

Are there things you could do to reduce your paper consumption? Try proofreading your writing on the screen before you print it out, whether your computer is at home or at the office. Use both sides of the paper, and skip the cover page if you're sending a fax. Sometimes one copy of a document can be circulated in turn to all the people who need to see it.

Telephone calls and e-mail messages don't create paper waste. Look for paper-free ways to promote a special event you may be organizing. For example, most radio stations will put community notices on the air without charge.

You can reduce the amount of paper coming into your home by putting a sign on your mailbox saying "no flyers, please!" or you can write to companies that send you their catalogues, asking to be removed from their mailing list. Most will be happy not to waste a mail-out. You can also add your name to the "do not mail" list of the Canadian Marketing Association, so their members won't send you their advertising.


Other Things You Can Do

It's much better to stop waste at its source than it is to try and deal with it once it goes to the landfill. This means cutting down on the amount of resources we use, and on the amount and toxicity of the garbage we produce. Here are some suggestions:

Atlantic Canadians use 490 million plastic bags each year. Make a start on reducing that number by carrying your own cloth bags when you shop for groceries and other items.

Talk to your store manager or write to the manufacturer about excessive packaging. If enough of us refuse to accept unnecessary packaging, it won't stay on the market very long.

To reduce energy consumption, consider energy-saving features when shopping for vehicles, appliances, and electronics. Consider other product choices to save energy, too, like the new compact fluorescent light bulbs that take 75% less power and burn for 10 times longer than a regular incandescent bulb.

Choose toys that don't use batteries, and CD players that plug into an electrical outlet when you don't need to go portable. If you do use batteries, buy rechargeables that will last a long time.