Sustainable Living Resources With the 4 R’s of Responsible Living

We’ve all heard the little chant of “reduce, reuse, recycle…” and as a kid, I was taught about this a ton in school. My family recycled and I was taught to do the basics. As an adult, I have to admit, I’m finding it a true battle to stick to these, but it’s such an important thing, especially in today’s culture. I’m not just following the Big “R’s” to help save the earth, but I’m finding that it helps make my life more simple and more fulfilling. I know it’s the responsible way of living, and so it’s worth fighting to do better each and every day.


When we recite the famous “R’s” we often jump through this first one. Reduce sounds good in theory, but that’s not meant for me, right? That was meant for someone else. It’s hard for us in our consumer-driven culture to take this first “R” seriously because everything around us is telling us to consume more and more. We’re surrounded by ads and they are all designed to tell us we NEED their product or service. It’s nearly impossible to avoid ads and it only drives mental messages to our brain that we need more stuff. 

But, what if we took this reduce concept seriously? What if we only drove one car? What if we had less clothes in our closet? What if we had less shoes? What if we used less makeup? What if we bought less ‘junk’ from Target? 


Is that item you need to get rid of really ready for the landfill? Is there another way you could use that product before it gets fully retired. Old shirts can be worn until they are truly not wearable. Friends, you don’t have to look like you hopped off a magazine ad every single day. Then, that shirt could become a rag to clean your kitchen counters off (thus, reducing the paper you use as well in paper towels). And, then, when the rag is just finally worn out to bits, what if it’s used (cleaned first of course) as stuffing in a dog bed.  We love the Molly Mutt pet duvet covers and inside of ours are old sheets, blankets, and even clothes that serve as stuffing for our dog beds.  

A lot of times, we throw things out because it’s easier than getting creative about what other ways we could use an item. Let’s take a look at the things we throw out and see if we could reuse any of those items a second or third time.


This “R” is a hard one these days. I’ll have to admit, we recycle about three times the amount of trash we create, but when I learned that most stateside recycling programs actually end up in the landfills anyway because of China raising their prices on buying our recycling, I got a little jaded on this concept of recycling. Sadly, I think a lot of us (myself included) give ourselves an atta boy because we’re recycling instead of just throwing away, but it’s still waste.  So, until things change with the big picture recycling situation, my focus is over on the other “R’s” for the time being. 


Refusing is the newest of the “R’s” and it goes along with the first one where we simply reduce what we use in the first place. This one is a little different, though. It is focused on saying no and being deliberate. You’re going to be offered free bottled water at places, straws in restaurants, cheap swag toys at events, and so much more. But, you have a choice to simply say no. By refusing these things in the first place, you have less clutter to deal with later, less waste YOU contributed to, and let’s be honest: you probably enjoyed the experience just as much. Sometimes we just don’t need the extras. 

Sometimes sustainable living resources start with a simple mindset shift and the four R’s help provide a good framework to start from.