Climate Connections: The new ‘Rs’ of recycling |

Climate Connections: The new ‘Rs’ of recycling

The purpose of this ongoing series of articles on Climate Connections is to move beyond the arguments around our climate chaos and to find area we can agree on. You may not believe in the climate issues of today … but you may be concerned about the use of plastics and the oceans. You may also be concerned about air and water quality. Whatever you want to call it, the planet needs our stewardship. The writers here will share their perspectives from many angles. Perhaps some or all will resonate with you, and bring to our awareness the necessary actions we can take. We will leave the arguments and differing beliefs to others.

— Marilyn Nyborg

Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle” replaced the former three Rs of “Readin’,‘Ritin’ and ‘Rithmatic.” Thirty years ago we learned about the need to pay attention to what we do with the mounting volumes of trash because California was running out of landfill space.

Our state, country and world economies were on a roll. We were the land of plenty for many people achieving the ‘American Dream’ so we bought plenty. We became the throwaway culture with the rise of plastics in everything. We just kept on rolling despite the warnings of some scientists and environmentalists, now with unintended and unfortunate consequences.

Have a look at “The Story of Stuff,” a short and to-the-point online movie about our consumption-crazed culture for free at It gives a quick story of the lifecycle of stuff from fossil fuels and other raw materials to manufacturing and to recyclers and then to the landfill — and how to change our ways. They are now starting a movement to stop plastic pollution by offering a documentary called “The Story of Plastic” to expose the true cost of plastic pollution to human health as well as that of the creatures of the Earth. We can do better, people.

Now it is becoming clear that we have over-extracted and overused our natural resources, to the point of threatening the continued condition of the world, as we have been fortunate to know it. Now we need to resist buying so much stuff made of those precious and becoming scarce natural resources in the first place — not starve our needs, just Resist our desires to have beyond the capacity of the Earth to replenish and give. We can Rethink before buying things in plastic containers, look for alternatives, and take reusable bags along to the store. Find ways to Repurpose and Reuse, which can be quite a creative project to find other ways to use things rather than pitching them. Put people to work to Repair or Recondition things.

There are lots of positive ideas coming on the scene to find ways to utilize our recycled materials, like TerraCycle, an online recycling company committed to zero waste. TerraCycle collects many types of materials, particularly plastics, and creates new products using the Circular Economy concept. Visit

Businesses especially need to Reframe and Redefine their missions to include honoring sustainability and Reduce the use of fossil fuels since they are large emitters of what causes the greenhouse effect that is slowly causing the warming of earth and oceans, which is in turn causing unfortunate effects that cause suffering and loss of life.

Right here, right now — we each can look again critically at our own consumption patterns so we are not just “wish-cyclers.” What would Redefining happiness look like in my life? What changes am I willing to make so the great nature can Renew itself given less demand?

ACTION: Answering these questions is a great way to start making a difference. Then choose one of these environmental Rs to focus on … and go for it. Every day is Earth Day. Enjoy.

Shirley Freriks is part of the new Elders Action Network/Elders Climate Action group in Nevada County. She is intimately connected to nature and holds its well being as a sacred responsibility. For more information, visit

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