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Chapter 5 - The R’s of Sustainability

Back when I was younger, we were taught the 3 R’s: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

I always preached these R’s to family and friends, but as I have grown, so have the number of R’s! Currently my list is at 11!


The first part of rethinking is considering the way things are different than what we were originally taught about recycling, doing research on it and being more diligent in our actions.

The second is rethinking BEFORE we decide to purchase an item.

Ask yourself:

Do I NEED this?

Is there an alternative that is a better choice?

I like to use the example of bottled water. I know plenty of people who only drink bottled water and they all seem to justify it different ways. They think it’s easy to transport or they think it tastes better. Whatever the reason we can rethink how we consume water.

More sustainable alternatives include:

· a large water cooler/jug

· a reusable water bottle.

· a purifying fridge pitcher

· installing an RO system in your home

Our family uses reusable water bottles, and we have an RO system. So, the water you get from the RO tap is the same as what is in that plastic water bottle. We also have a Soda Stream for when we want something a little more fun than plain water.


Not many people think of this option, but do you know that you can RENT many different things? Before purchasing something for a one time use or single project consider renting it instead. At Home Depot you can rent power tools, there are even large equipment rental companies. Our go to large equipment rental place happens to also have a party rental division where we rent tables, linens and even some décor. The rental industry is increasing as our awareness is increasing! Renting not just ecologically friendly, it is economically friendly too!


Reuse is part of the OG R’s and it is an important one. Consumerism has taught us that we live in a disposable world, where items get used once, or only used until something better comes along. This outdated model only helps corporations that base all their profits on manufacturing and sales.

The rest of us benefit from buying better quality products that last through many uses and reuses. This means less clutter, less money, and less time is spent.


This is where I put the straw and plastic bag. It is 100% to walk out of the store without your items in a bag, there is not rule that says it needs to be in a bag, and that makes it ok to refuse one. Just say, “No thank you, I don’t need a bag.” When they go to put your item in one at check out. This of course only works when you only have a few easy to manage items. I recommend bringing reusable bags for larger purchases.

TIP: I shop farmers markets and boutiques with a large tote as my purse so I can just add my purchased items to it.


Reduce is also an OG R. Reducing the amount that we consume is a wonderful thing to start doing, for the environment and out pockets! Do you really need a new pair of shoes? What about paper towels? We use rags for most cleaning and only use paper towels for things like puppy pee pick ups. Maybe start printing to PDF instead of on paper.

I have shared this example before but I cut our kitchen sponges in half, therefore we use half the amount that we would have before. And the best part is that no one seems to notice or care that our sponges are smaller.


One of my favorite things is the Buy Nothing Project. In the age of Facebook, you post an item you are getting rid of and see if anyone else could use it. Just today I gave away two nightstands (that I had originally purchased used from Craigslist) and a few months ago picked up a gas fire pit. Sometimes items need a bit of TLC, but some are great and just not serving their current owner any longer.

To find your local Buy Nothing Group head over to their website:

It is also 100% ok to regift an item that you don’t particularly care for. Maybe your Coworker gave you a holiday mug and you never drink hot things. Instead of chucking it into the trash maybe save it for a white elephant exchange at your partners holiday party.

Another example of regifting is when you know someone else could use what you have. Like when my sister brought my daughter all of her fall/winter coats before she moved to NY. This way my daughter saves money, and my sister has cleaned out her closet.


Have you ever seen my truck? It is a 1995 Chevy Pick Up. It is not new or shiny and I have to do regular maintenance on it, but it works great and there is no reason for me to “upgrade” to anything new. It is not broken, and when it has been I have just fixed it. Now, when my truck die dies, I will consider replacing it with something more environmentally conscious but until then I will keep repairing her.

We have been brainwashed into thinking that when something is broken, we just need to replace it with something new, but where is the fun in that? Repairing items crosses over to general sustainability too, knowing how to repair something or knowing someone who can is a very sustainable practice.

You can repair many things:

Tear in your jacket? Why not patch it?

Coffee table have a huge scratch? Paint over it!

There are so many things that we can repair! We repair things here on the ranch every day!


Repurposing is using an item for a different purpose than it was originally intended for. Almost all our glass jars are cleaned and repurposed into drink glasses and or containers to hold and organize things in. We have an old bathtub (you may have seen it in the pasture) that is uses as a feeding trough.

When you repurpose something, it doesn’t need to be for the same purpose as before. Get creative!


This is one of my favorites. When you are purchasing an item consider if it will rot. A great example I like to use is a fake Christmas tree. When I was younger, I thought that it was so sad that they would cut down trees for people’s decorations and that it was better to have a plastic one that would last “forever.” But, now that I am older and wiser, I know that when that fake tree’s lights don’t work any longer and it gets dumped in the landfill it will just sit there forever… In contrast a real tree, that usually supports a small business owner and farmer, will rot and turn back into the earth when it is thrown into the landfill.

You can also cut down on the amount of items that go to the landfill if you purposefully rot things in your compost to reuse for soil in your garden!

We wouldn’t have an issue with waste if everything we purchased broke down and turned back into the earth in a reasonable amount of time.

And the VERY LAST THING is Recycle

This is last on the list because it is the last R I think you should consider, you should go through all the other R’s first and treat this the same as going into the landfill. Unfortunately, we have learned more about how harmful plastics are, and that they cannot be recycled as originally promised. Sadly, recycling plastics is a scam.

Also, our municipal recycling programs are flawed, to where a single small contaminate can ruin a whole dump truck full of items sent for the recycling plant. Another thing to keep in mind is that as part of our recycling system the products we expect to be recycled here in the United States are actually shipped overseas and then sold back to us.

However, recycling metal and glass is still an option if you take it to a facility directly. This makes it less likely that it will end up in the landfill and one of the reasons that we opt for cans and glass bottles when we need something single serve. Just make sure you prep it properly!

Man that is a lot of R’s!!

I hope you took the time to read through it all but, if you are like me you read the bullet points and chose what paragraphs to read if you wanted more info… and that is OK! I hope that this blog post has made you more mindful of your purchases and what you do with an item that is not longer serving you, broken, or at the end of its life.

Oh! I just thought of more R’s… Rowell Ranch!

Follow us and come visit for more information and inspiration to becoming more sustainable.

Remember you don’t need to make all these changes all at once but start with trying one thing at a time. Small changes over time will create a large impact, and it’s a more sustainable approach too!

We appreciate you reading and be sure to subscribe and follow us on social media to be sure to keep up with all the goings on here at the ranch. And remember, one small step in the right direction is all it takes for you to make a difference!

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