Precycling: The Essence of Conservation
As we shift into a new millennium, our society must face the pressing environmental issues that we have ignored for so long. The earth’s resources have dwindled tremendously and unnecessarily in recent years. People need to start saving our precious resources through precycling.
Precycling, a fancy word for waste reduction, is any activity that prevents or minimizes the toxicity or quantity of waste. This would include product reuse, increased product life, reduced material and energy use in product design, and changing purchasing and waste producing habits.
Toxicity reduction includes changes in product and packaging designs, and purchasing reusable toxic items rather than disposable ones.
Precycling should be a higher priority than any of the other waste management methods, including recycling. Waste reduction is the most environmentally friendly form of waste management because, unlike other methods, there is no need to process or transport materials. As a result energy and resources are saved. Source reduction is hardly an issue with companies and consumers. It seems like a contest of who can put the most excessive packaging on their products.
The good news is that the decisions we make every day can support precycling in a big way.
Schools can be role models for precycling and plant a seed for students to take action. At Ashland High School, the back side of paper should never be wasted. Printers (with available technology) should print on both sides as well. On assignments done at home, homework could be put on a disk and given to the teacher to view, rather than be printed out for one-time viewing. Reusable plates and utensils should be used in the cafeteria rather than wasting hundreds of paper plates every lunch hour.
While precycling can be accomplished at AHS, students need to be informed on what they can do in their own lives to save our resources. It’s surprising how ignorant most people are to the trashing of our planet that is going on around us. People want to save the earth. However, they need to know what’s going on, and what can be done to stop it. A 20 minute lecture from a qualified environmentalist is a great start. D.
A.R.E. is now mandatory at Ashland Middle School. Why not make a C.P.
R. (David Brower’s acronym: conservation, preservation, and restoration of the Earth) course required at the high school? Or why not have an assembly once a year to get the wheels turning for precycling and CPR of the environment.
These informative classes or assemblies could include numerous positive ideas for students to grasp. The session could start by presenting facts like these from The World Watch Institute: “packaging makes up 1/3 of all garbage, and although the U.S. only makes up 5% of the world’s population, we use 40% of the world’s resources.
” The session could end with “Five Ideas of Precycling” that they can apply to their lives: 1) buy reusable or refillable products instead of disposable ones; 2) buy products in bulk or concentrate; 3) buy products with reduced packaging; 4) buy products that are grown or manufactured locally; 5) buy long lasting and durable products. Examples that relate to each of the five points could help students become active immediately. An example for idea #1 would be to recommend that students bring a plastic mug to coffee shops instead of using a paper cup every morning.
We can’t wait any longer, and nobody else will do it for us. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe proclaimed years ago, “Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.