Recently, I’ve been trying to make concrete changes to live a more sustainable life. I spend a lot of time thinking about environmental concerns, but I want to be even more intentional with my choices. Because I’m a writer, I’ve taken to writing about these experiences in order to reflect on this journey. Because I have a blog, you get to read about it.

Earlier this month, I wrote a blog post about my plastic use, which you can read here. Something I talked about a lot in that blog post is how I want to reduce my plastic waste. Reduce. That’s the magic word. We’re all familiar with the phrase reduce, reuse, recycle, but I think a lot of people, myself included, like to fall back on recycling. Don’t get me wrong, recycling is awesome! However, it’s actually meant to be the last line of defense in living a sustainable life. Your first goal should be to reduce your waste as much as possible, which is why I emphasized that so much in my plastic post. Next, you should reuse those items you would throw out (or recycle) when you can. Finally, you recycle items you can’t eliminate from your life or reuse.

If you think about it, this order of reduce, reuse, recycle makes sense. Recycling takes a lot more energy than the first two. Someone has to pick up all those recyclable materials. Someone else has to sort them into paper, glass, plastic, etc. and then it all actually has to go through the process of being converted to its raw state and then formed into a new product. If you want to read more about the recycling process, this How Stuff Works article is a good place to start. For me, I’m hesitant about recycling because even though many communities have recycling programs, they don’t always operate as efficiently as we’d like. For example, my apartment complex doesn’t have a place to dump my recycling, so I have to inconvenience friends by having them come pick up my recycling (or inconvenience myself by dropping it off where they live).

Please don’t misunderstand me. I still recycle all the time, but it would be nice if we all lived in places that made it as easy as possible. However, it makes sense that recycling programs are not always the most convenient because we still live in a disposable world. This is my dream: A world in which it’s more convenient to reduce, reuse, and recycle than to throw everything into a landfill.

Do you recycle? What’s the recycling program in your area look like? Have you been thinking about ways to reduce your waste and reuse certain items? I’d love to hear about what it’s like in your community!