Reduce and Reuse
What is reduce and reuse?
The most effective way to manage our waste is to not create it in the first place. The act of reducing and reusing means consuming more responsibly and putting fewer materials in our trash, recycling, and compost carts, allowing us to save precious resources.
Why reduce waste?
Often, we think of recycling as the best option for disposing of our waste. But, recycling is not a perfect system. Many common waste items aren’t recyclable locally, for example, frozen food boxes and plastic clamshells, and the markets that accept certain items for recycling can change quickly making participating in recycling sometimes confusing.
Many of us are familiar with the “three Rs” – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – and how important each practice is in managing our waste and caring for our natural resources. What we may not remember is that the order of those “Rs” is intentional. One of the most environmentally responsible actions we can take as an individual is to reduce our consumption of materials and resources whenever possible, for example saying “No, thank you” when offered a plastic straw or stack of napkins you don’t really need. When that’s not possible, we can consider “Reuse” or reusing items we already have, like a reusable water bottle or grocery bag, or buying items used. When we can’t “Reduce” or “Reuse”, then we utilize our other Curb It Programs to responsibly manage our waste.
The Curb It Programs look toward the Waste Management Hierarchy when planning our current and future programs and initiatives. This hierarchy ranks waste management strategies and keeps us working towards the goal of sending less material to landfill.
As the Ada County Landfill continues to fill and our recycling markets continue to be volatile, the City of Boise is moving toward a “Reduce and Reuse” mindset and hopes our community will join us in doing what we can, when we can, to not generate waste in the first place. Reducing the total waste generated in our community is a primary focus of the Climate Action Roadmap. With a strong commitment from our community, Boise aims to see real results in achieving our goals now and for future generations.
What is the City of Boise doing?
Our goal is to become a role model for how organizations can reduce waste. Here are a few things we have completed or are working toward:
- Work one-on-one with City of Boise facilities to identify opportunities for reducing waste, including at facilities such as Zoo Boise, Warm Springs Golf Course, Quail Hollow Golf Course, City Hall, the Boise Library!, and the Boise Airport
- Offer paper-free hand driers in restrooms
- Offer refillable water stations
- Reduce single-use plastic where possible
- Go paperless. Encouraging employees to go digital, when possible.
- Develop guidance for event planners, businesses, and construction and demolition projects to reduce their waste
- Perform waste audits at city facilities
- Collaborate with Boise area grocery stores to help them identify low waste offerings for their customers
- Collaborate with the Boise area waste reduction community including several non-profits and local businesses
Through our work with City of Boise facilities, we’ve had successes in recycling as well as reduce and reuse efforts, including:
- Transitioning to aluminum bottled water at Zoo Boise, instead of using plastic single use bottled water
- Increasing recycling availability and participation at the City of Boise Golf Courses
- Using reusable plates, cups and utensils for city meetings
How can you become more mindful of the waste you generate?
We can all make changes to reduce the amount of waste we create every day. Whether you are new to reducing and reusing or you’re a low waste enthusiast, we have ideas that will inspire you to keep going on your waste reduction journey.
At the most basic level, you can use these questions to guide your decision making when it’s time to purchase or discard some items. These questions will help you reduce your waste and support the local reuse economy:
When you are done with an item, consider asking yourself the following:
- Can I repair it? – Not only does it save money to repair what you already own, it saves resources. The I fixit website has resources to help you repair just many items. Also, check other online video libraries to learn how to repair just about anything.
- Can I donate it or give it away? – Contact local charities to see if they will accept items you no longer need. Remember, only donate items in working order in a condition you’d be willing to buy used.
- Can I sell it? – Offer items for free or for sale online
When you need or want a new item, consider doing the following:
- Can you borrow it? – Do any of your local friends or family have the item you can borrow when you want it? For certain items, Boise libraries have many things for borrow, including more than just books. They have a variety of items that can be checked out. Just use your library card!
- Can you rent it? – Renting or leasing things that you don't foresee using on a regular basis is a good system of reuse, and can be less expensive than purchasing and maintaining them.
- Can you buy it used? – Support the local reuse economy by purchasing used items from online reuse resources or local thrift stores.
How can you reduce certain types of waste?
- Junk mail list removal − Many organizations can help you reduce the amount of unwanted mail you receive for free or a small fee.
- Paperless billing sign up − Many businesses offer paperless billing (or e-billing) to customers (including Utility Billing Services). Sign up to receive bills in your e-mail to eliminate extra paper and save resources.
- Use paper scraps destined for your recycling bin for making lists. Recycle the paper once you’re done.
- Use reusables instead of disposables − Bring your own reusable bag when you go shopping. Use your own water bottle or coffee mug.
- When ordering take-out, let the restaurant know if you don’t need the disposable serve ware and napkins.
- Buy in bulk to reduce packaging waste.
A few simple tips to reduce food waste will not only save you money, but also keep extra waste out of the landfill or curb-side compost program.
- Plan meals in advance and shop with a grocery list. Focus on recipes that use items you need consume before they expire or spoil.
- Check out U.S EPA’s helpful tips to reduce food waste at home.
- Planning a get-together? Use a Guest-imater to calculate how much food you’ll need to prepare for each guest.
- Take the celebration home. Encourage guests to bring containers so they can take leftovers when they leave.
When All Else Fails
Sometimes it isn’t possible to be completely waste-free, so we have created a digital sorting guide that tells you know where items go. Whether it is in a recycling cart, compost cart or EnergyBag, knowing where items belong will help keep extra waste out of the landfill.
© 2023 City of Boise. All rights reserved.
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