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Bankrate's 2007 Living Green, Saving Green Guide
Green today
Learn 153 ways to be eco-friendly while saving green.
Green today
Recycling's great -- reusing is better
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Reusing comes most easily to those from the Depression era. Baby boomers are buyers. "Advertising has trained us to believe new is better," Watkins adds.

Buying a refurbished computer instead of a new one would save the 139 pounds of waste, 7,300 gallons of water, and 2,300 kilowatt hours of energy required to manufacture a new one.

Mark Caserta, a former lobbyist for the New York League of Conservation Voters, can recall his grandmother saying of many items, "Can't we save and reuse it?" and his mother replying, "Why do that when you could just throw it out?"

Now Caserta is co-owner, with his wife, of the Brooklyn store 3r Living, which carries products aimed at reducing waste, reusing unwanted or discarded materials, and recycling. Yet, it's the recycling aspect of the business that gets people's attention most. "When people come to our store, almost universally they call it the recycling store," Caserta says.

Why reuse
Waste prevention, also known as source reduction, is a convincing reason to use and reuse products. "Preventing waste saves natural resources and the energy consumed to make new products. It also reduces greenhouse gases associated with manufacturing and waste disposal, and it saves disposal costs," reminds Roxanne Smith, a press officer for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Lynda Grose, an adjunct professor of sustainable fashion design at the California College of the Arts and a consultant on sustainable design issues for Gap and other companies, puts it like this: "There's no such thing as disposable. Everything goes somewhere." Not to mention, there are environmental stresses with each stage of the product life cycle, from pre-manufacturing and manufacturing to packaging and transport, she adds.

Between 2 percent and 5 percent of the waste stream is potentially reusable, according to the EPA. While reuse can mean keeping something with the same owner -- for its original or a new use -- it can also mean redistributing materials to those who would find a use for them.

Any form of reuse can mean saving money. Mihelcic has observed that people get excited about extra money in their pockets when politicians talk about tax breaks, yet don't tend to see reuse as a way of putting money in their pockets. "Reusing actually saves you more than a tax break," he points out.

In more than 6,000 communities nationwide, there's an added economic motivation to reuse: The less you throw away, the less you pay for waste removal. In these "pay-as-you-throw" towns and cities, residents pay for waste removal based on how much waste they produce.

Here's a closer look at the four major reuse practices:

1. Reuse it -- for its original purpose or a new purpose.
Many everyday items, such as bags and containers, can be used more than once, the EPA reminds.

Some examples:
Bring paper or plastic grocery store bags back to the store for the next trip.
Use both sides of paper and save scrap paper.
Save and reuse gift boxes, ribbons and larger pieces of wrapping and tissue paper.
Reuse boxes, packaging "peanuts" and bubble wrap for wrapping new parcels.

-- Posted: Oct. 4, 2007
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