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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


We're a society filled with environmental do-gooders. Most of us have picked up the habit of collecting piles of newspapers and lugging them out to the curb and filling our blue recycling bins with plastics and glass.

Some of us go the extra green mile, always on the lookout for recycling drives and even paying to have old household appliances and technology recycled. Buying natural and organic items for our homes is a source of pride, as well.

We are doing our part to save the planet, and we're proud of it.

But the second of the "three R's" -- reduce, reuse, recycle -- doesn't seem to be getting its fair share of the action.

4 ways to reuse
Once an item is no longer new, there are several ways to either make money or save money:
1. Reuse it -- for its original purpose a new purpose.
2. Give it away -- to someone who can reuse it.
3. Sell it -- recoup original cost while reusing.
4. Buy it used -- reuse it and save money.

"Keeping up with the Joneses can influence how people want to be perceived. Recycling can be a good duty, while reusing is being cheap and maybe indicating that you don't have enough finances to buy new," says Donna Watkins, whose Web site TheFrugalLife.com and 13,400-circulation e-mail newsletter provide information on how to live frugally with the resources you have.

If 20 percent of U.S. households replaced one cordless phone with a corded model we would save 560 million kilowatt hours annually -- enough to power 130,000 phone conversations for every waking hour.

Recycling -- breaking down items into raw materials to be used again -- is important, but environmental experts know reusing is more important, notes Jim Mihelcic, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Michigan Technological University and past co-director of the institution's Sustainable Futures Institute.

Unfortunately, Mihelcic adds, most people see it the other way around. "Recycling is much cooler than reusing," Mihelcic says. "It's a more visual thing to do. It's an easy way for people to connect with environmental issues. Reuse is kind of lost."

Besides the "cheap" perception, the belief that it's too time-consuming also keeps people from reusing, Watkins says. "Although it saves time by reusing what you already have in the home, it takes a new lifestyle choice to organize the stuff you have and look around for an answer to your need before going shopping."

-- Posted: Oct. 4, 2007
 
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