Opinion Piece: Why We Shouldn’t Add To The Three Rs

Why We Shouldn’t Add To The Three Rs

by Leslie Watson of @LessHasteAndLessWaste 

“Reduce, reuse, recycle” is one of the original slogans of the 1970s environmental conservation movement. The waste hierarchy known as the three Rs is concise and memorable, making it an effective mantra. I believe addendums to this slogan could threaten the accessibility of our cause. 

Social media influencers are currently sharing valid and well-intentioned postscripts to the classic three Rs but I think we need to present a more user-friendly path to our general public audience. Psychologist Barry Schwartz studies the paradox of choice and warned that excessive options cause decision paralysis. In a state of information overload we’re more likely to freeze than take action. That’s how add-on Rs could potentially demotivate those in the early stages of transitioning to a low waste lifestyle.

By Daniel OlahPhoto Credit: Elena Mozhvilo via Adobe Spark.

I’ve also noticed that most new Rs fit neatly into the pre-established reduce and reuse categories. For example, refuse and rethink, which are listed as extra Rs in social media graphics, are components of the original first R: reduce. 

Reuse, the fundamental second R, appears to have the most connections in recent Instagram posts. The following are beneficial activities associated with reuse: repair, repurpose, refurbish, recover, regift, and rot (compost). 

By Elena Mozhvilo

Photo Credit: Daniel Olah via Adobe Spark

I maintain that all of these clever new Rs are valuable but better directed towards anyone already practicing the basic tenets of environmental sustainability. While lengthy new mantras risk overwhelming beginners, the classic three Rs slogan is persuasive in its simplicity. “Reduce, reuse, recycle” is an impactful call to action during any stage of an eco-friendly journey. 

Leslie Watson is an eco-minimalist who works as an elementary school teaching assistant. Her Instagram handle is @LessHasteAndLessWaste and she shares her articles on Linktree.

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