string bag with glass bottles and jars on green backdrop

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle (& Re-Love!)

Maintaining the three R’s: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle (& Re-love!) can be challenging. We’ve broken these key actions in low-waste living into their respective categories to give you some inspiration on living your best green life. 


Does it spark green joy?

If you are considering starting to downsize in an effort towards a greener Earth, you may very well be stuck at just where to start. Fear not, we have some insights to share that are guaranteed to spark your journey into reducing waste. 

One of the big topics under review in popular culture right now is apparel. From a resurgence in upcycled and DIY clothing and slow fashion to looking critically at the environmental cost of producing new garments, there’s a lot to consider when adding to your wardrobe. You may recall from the Clothes clothes clothes… blog entry from a few months back that I love clothes. Even though the majority of my closet is thrifted, I have been challenging myself to put a temporary freeze on acquiring any clothing. This has put welcome creative pressure on me to reincorporate the pieces that I already have into more innovative and interesting outfits. There are many apps on the market (I use Stylebook) that can help you create a digital log (reminiscent of Cher’s iconic computer program in Clueless) of your garments so that you can have fun “shopping” your own closet and keep your intention for reduction going strong.

Shopping bags are another great area to apply some thoughtful pruning. Whether they are made up of plastic, cotton, paper or a combination of synthetic fibers, does any one person, household or community space really need that many? If you have new or gently used tote bags that are no longer serving your needs, consider reducing your clutter and donating them to Green Life Trading Co. Your local thrift store, neighborhood center or food bank may be in need of bags, so check in with them to see how your collection could be useful.  If you have plastic bags that have seen better days, they can be taken to a drop off site where they can be made into things like park benches and playground equipment. Don’t know where to drop off your plastic bags? Check out this national directory of plastic bag, film and wrap recycling drop off sites. Be sure to read the guidelines posted outside your local pickup site carefully. 


Re-love your everyday items.

I find that this category requires the most imagination. It can take a bit of mental gymnastics to make something like an old candle jar into an inspiring organizer to tidy up a cluttered drawer or cabinet. Often when customers come into the shop, they are excited by our selection of jars displayed as part of our Container Collection Program. The main ingredient that makes these or any previously loved jars or bottles an aesthetic and desirable item rather than a ditchable one is elbow grease. Many jars and bottles that come to us at the shop once sat on a grocery store shelf holding common consumables such as pasta sauce, fruit juice or maple syrup. Once they have been taken home and used up, only a good scrub and label removal stand in the way of them becoming a shiny and beautiful vessel beaming with reusable and re-lovable potential. 

If you or a little one in your life is into crafting, there is so much potential waiting for you in items that commonly hit the trash and recycling bins. Check out this list to get inspiration for your next totally fun and totally green craft project.


The more you know…

Recycling is common enough, but are you really doing it correctly? If you are a resident of the city of Madison, it is worth taking a look at the Recyclopedia for a comprehensive guide. If you are a resident of the city of Milwaukee, check out this page for helpful information and downloadable graphics to print out and display in your home or workplace. If you live elsewhere, it is important to review your local recycling guidelines as they are subject to change according to your municipality. 

As much as it feels good to recycle, it’s important to stay informed about proper disposal of items to prevent wish-cycling or tossing something in the recycling bin with good intention hoping it will be recycled even if there is no evidence to support the assumption. No matter how good recycling might feel, wish-cycling can be a harmful practice when it comes to creating potentially hazardous situations for the people and machines at recycling processing facilities.

Loving the planet and living sustainably means taking small steps. We hope that during this season of love that you take some time to reflect on your long term relationship with the planet and rejoice in all the reducing, reusing, recycling (and re-loving!) that lies in the days to come.

Lots of love, 


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Hanna Kohn

Hanna Kohn is the Operations & Communications Manager with Green Life Trading Co. where she educates individuals and small businesses on accessible and sustainable products and solutions. She holds a BA in Communication Arts from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is a Sustain Dane Master Recycler. Hanna is always up for a chat about composting or the latest animal & nature emojis.