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Most of us understand the need to reduce, reuse and recycle. All in order to protect our environment and make the most of the limited resources available to us. We watch the news and so understand the issues of plastic oceans. We also appreciate that our individual actions have an impact on a global scale. This makes us more inclined to act. So start simple by applying the principles of the three Rs to our daily lives.
All the while as we know, some people have a much smaller view of the world. There seems to be an endless supply of new stuff to replace what they throw away. As well as the stuff they buy gets disposed of as it was never given a second thought. This “small-world perspective” makes it so much harder to spread the word about the 3Rs. Also, it get people to behave in an environmentally friendly way. That’s because people just don’t understand the consequences. Those people don’t even care.
Frankly, events such as Earth Day don’t even reach out to everyone. But there are three simple ways to explain the three Rs to our fellow humans. One that brings these ideas to life in a way that they can really get their heads around. We call them Spaceship Earth, Desert Island Earth and Aladdin’s Cave Earth.
It’s easy to just throw things away, but when it comes right down to it, there is no ‘away’. The Earth is a self-contained and limited environment. As well as everything that is thrown away has to go somewhere. Usually it’s landfill or gasification project where you burn the trash extremely efficiently.
So to get this idea over, try getting people to imagine the planet as a huge spaceship. I mean folks, it essentially is that. We are a giant spaceship hurtling through the cosmos. Plus we have a crew of around 7 billion.
Now if the crew of a spaceship threw away the same amount of rubbish and packaging that we do. That’s around 2,000lbs (0.9tonnes) of waste per person per year. So then their spaceship would fill up pretty quickly. That’s why packaging for stuff on the space station is kept to an absolute minimum. Now the Earth may be bigger than the space station, but there are a lot more of us. Therefore so the same idea applies. There is nowhere else for our rubbish to go, so it stays on Earth. The only way to cut down on this rubbish, is to reduce the amount of it we create in the first place.
In the same way that people think they can just throw things away without worrying about where it goes, they also think that they can just get more stuff without thinking about where it comes from. Resources can feel unlimited, and you never think that anything will run out. A good way to change this attitude is to picture the earth as a desert island.
If you were stranded on a desert island, like Robinson Crusoe, you would have to reuse and repurpose everything you had, because you wouldn’t be able to pop down to the shops to get more. People love to see shipwrecked characters building a house from the wreck of their ship and reusing everything that washes up on the shore to make something new. And we can all do the same, by finding new uses for things rather than throwing them away. Our desert island Earth only has limited resources, so we have to make the best use of everything we have.
The last of the three Rs is recycle, but to get people to understand why we recycle, you have to get them to see that everything is valuable in the first place. So get them to imagine the Earth as a giant Aladdin’s cave, where everything is valuable everywhere you look. If their drink can was made of gold, they would never dream of throw it away, yet the aluminium in the can is a valuable resource that can be recycled into artwork, bike parts or even their next drink can. Similarly, the plastic water bottle that keeps them cool in the summer can be recycled into a fleece to keep them warm in the winter. When you understand that everything has a value in our Aladdin’s cave, it’s easier to see the need to recycle these materials, rather than just throwing them away.
People love stories about spaceships, desert island adventures and Aladdin, so use these stories to communicate the three Rs. It will make the green agenda make sense and help to establish lifelong habits that can make a real difference to our world. Plus it’s lots of fun too!
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