Reduce first and then recycle. That’s what we are taught. If you don’t need it to start with, the chances of it not ending up in the landfill are much better. Point taken. But when you get praise for the amount you reuse or recycle, it is often difficult to tell the less obvious story of reduction. For example, if you donate 325 leftover conference bags to a local charity after an event, that is great. But what could you have saved both economically and environmentally if you never ordered those extra 325 bags?
Now thanks to the UUA General Assembly (and MeetGreen’s Data Poet Shawna McKinley) there is data to show how impressive reduction really can be.
According to Shawna, “Dramatic reduction in materials brought to and disposed of onsite at the General Assembly is a testament to source reduction by the UUA and the benefits of working with more green-minded suppliers that purchase things with less packaging and reuse more of their materials:
• 53% reduction in total materials disposed of between 2008 and 2009.
• 46% reduction in total materials disposed of between 2009 and 2010.
• 20% reduction in materials shipped to show site by UUA between 2009 and 2010.”
Less materials purchased, less freight costs, less production costs, less handling by staff during the General Assembly and less to be disposed of. The environmental savings are usually matched by the economic savings—in this case alone, $1,200 in shipping costs in 2010.
If you need help with your reduction plan, start by asking yourself these questions…
• Is it necessary to do this?
• Is there a better way to achieve the same objective?
• Have we reviewed our options in the last six months?
• How can we get better information to decrease our order and prevent leftover items?