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Beyond Recycling: How Do You Lessen Your Environmental Impact?

(Via Flikr/Kate Ter Haar)

When it comes to the economy, a rise in consumer spending is seen as an indicator of  better times ahead. But when it comes to the environment, increased consumer spending can have a downside.

"Consumption is a problem because that's really the root driver of our environmental problems," said Madalyn Coici, waste prevention specialist with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

When people think about lessening their environmental footprint, they tend to think about the best way to dispose of products, but the greatest environmental impact actually comes with the original creation of the product, said Coici.

Coici's premise is that because manufacturing uses energy and resources and can cause pollution, people should take a closer look at their consumption habits.

Jean Ponzi, green resources manager at the Missouri Botanical Garden's Earthways Center, agreed.

"The three Rs are: reduce, do you need it in the first place? Reuse: get it fixed, pass it on. Is it something that you can pick up, that you can reuse? And then recycle. And they happen in that order for a very good reason," said Ponzi.

Coici recommended buying quality products to help prolong its use, and looking into fixing something before replacing it.

Beyond the environment, Ponzi said an over-emphasis on consumption has implications for quality of life.

"What are your values?" asked Ponzi. "Are you defining success and happiness and quality of life by the amount of stuff you can buy?"

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