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Keys to Green Living: Helping the Environment by Following the 3 R’s

Written by: Nicole Castilla

You may have heard the term “the 3 R’s” before, but what exactly do those three R’s mean? Reduce, reuse, and recycle! These three factors are important to consider when thinking about helping the environment and simply enough, you can do these three things pretty much anywhere. Let’s break down these three terms and learn how you can incorporate each one into your daily life.

Reduce: By reducing things such as plastic and paper, you can help the planet tremendously. Plastic pollution is a huge problem in the environment, especially in our oceans with single-use plastic waste becoming an increasingly big issue. According to the Smithsonian magazine, 40 million tons of plastic was wasted in 2021 and only around 5% to 6% was recycled. The vast majority, or 85% went right into landfills. By limiting our use of plastic, especially single-use plastic, we become better stewards of Planet Earth. 

reduce CO2, Reduce carbon emissions, reduce carbon footprint
Reducing your CO2 footprint is one of the most important ways to live green.

Reducing carbon emissions is another great way in which we can help the planet and reduce the effects of climate change. Whenever possible, elect to carpool, walk, or ride a bike. An even greener alternative would be switching to an electric car instead of driving a gas-powered vehicle. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a gas-powered car releases around 8,887 grams of carbon dioxide per gallon and around 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year! Meanwhile, electric vehicles do not have tailpipe carbon emissions. However, some carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere as a result of charging the electric car. Depending on how the electricity for the charger is generated, this number can vary. Although this might create slight carbon emissions, it is still a lot less than gas-powered vehicles. When making a purchase regarding automobiles, consider how much carbon dioxide can be kept from entering the environment and make an eco-friendly decision. 

Reuse: Reusing as many things as you can helps the environment. By choosing to utilize reusable items such as bags, cutlery, and water bottles, our planet will thank us. Opt for reusable products wherever you go and refuse single-use plastics. Bring reusable bags with you when you go shopping. Use a refillable water bottle instead of plastic bottles. If an occasion arises in which you have no choice but using plastic, make sure to use recyclable plastics. These are just some examples of the many steps you can take toward living a greener lifestyle. 

stop single use plastic, reusable water bottles, no plastic bottles
Reusable bottles made from metal or glass can save thousands of single use water bottles.

Also, refusing said items can also make a huge difference. Saying no to single-use plastics or plastic bags at the grocery store or plastic utensils at a restaurant might sound trivial to some, the environmentally conscious decisions we make today will have a lasting impact on the health of mother Earth.

Recycle: Recycling is a key method of protecting our planet and one of the best ways of reducing trash pollution. Each year, tons of waste unfortunately end up in the ocean and in landfills. In 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency conducted a study that found approximately 146 million tons of solid waste entered landfills, and over 30% of it could have been recycled, including paper and plastics. 

recycle, reduce, reuse, recycle correct items
Recycling is a key method of protecting our planet.

If everyone engaged in recycling, there would be a lot less waste entering landfills which in turn pollutes the environment in which we live. If you are unsure of what can and cannot be recycled, check the product labels or do some research via Google. When presented with options, make the most sustainable choices and the planet will thank you.

By following these simple “3 R’s,” you can play an important part in protecting our planet while becoming a better steward of the environment. Now that you’ve learned all about the keys to green living, you can educate others on the topic and make waves of positive change. Whether it be a five minute conversation about environmental sustainability, a post on social media, or sharing your newfound knowledge with a friend or family member, you have the power to make a difference. 

For more information, follow Youth Environmental Alliance, a nonprofit organization, on Facebook and Instagram or signup for our newsletter at


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