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Climate Education Series: Our Needs Versus Our Wants-Learning to Reduce, Repair, Reuse, Repurpose, Recycle, Rot

Updated: Jan 15

Climate Education for Students Assignment 4:

In this assignment, students will create a list of product categories of importance to their families. For example, food, books, toys, school supplies, electronics, paper-based products, toiletries, kitchen items, furniture, clothes, shoes, bedding. Students will then consider what items can be recycled, reused and repaired, repurposed, be part of rotting, reduced, or refused. Specific products should be assessed across the relevant product categories. The discussion should continue at home, as students determine new R opportunities across the selected product categories. Students should create a poster, outlining the 5 R strategies, and what products can be recycled, reused and repaired, repurposed, be part of rotting, reduced, or refused. Each student should share their family’s achievements, in a selected category, through a 5 minute presentation, bringing in items to demonstrate how a specific R opportunity, was utilized.

The R Opportunities (Reduce, Repair, Reuse, Repurpose, Rot): In this module, we will learn about the R opportunities. Beyond recycling our products, we can also repair broken items, reuse or repurpose what we have in new ways, rot or practice composting, reduce what we buy, and even refuse to buy what we don't need. Have you ever thought about what you will do with the items you buy, once you are done using them, or at the end of the product's life? Try using the acronym DWHW

  • Do I need this?

  • Why do I need this?

  • How many items or how much do I need?

  • What will I do with this once I am done?

The Linear Design Model: In the linear design model, raw materials are used to create a product. People use the product, and then throw it away. When they want the latest item, or want to replace a damaged item, people may throw away their old, or damaged product, and buy a new one.

The Circular Design Model: In the circular design model, raw materials are used to create a product. And then the materials are recycled, and reused continuously, (until the materials can no longer be reused). In other cases, old or damaged products may be repaired, and reused until it is no longer possible to use the items; at this point, the materials are recycled and reused.

The Right to Repair: Products need to be better designed, to use less materials, as well as designed to last longer, or be repaired. People should have the right to repair, and reuse their damaged products. In some cases, products can be upgraded, that is made better, and repaired at the same time. Do you have a tool shop in your home? What items have you repaired and reused in your home?

An Inventory Across your Home: Take an inventory across the various rooms in your home. How can you reuse the items in your home including: storage items and containers, furniture, clothing, towels and bedding, cleaning tools, office supplies, and bags. Share your strategies for reusing household items with friends and family members. It's always fun when you compare and create together.

Repurposing: Repurposing can also be used, when products are transformed into something else. Upcycling takes a product, and creates something different, but even better. For example, old clothing can be transformed into beautiful napkins, table cloths, pillows, hand bags, even new clothing pieces. Resource: Redesigning the future of fashion

Rotting: Many of us collect organic waste, in organic bins to compost at home, or at central facilities. Composting is a process that speeds up the natural decay of organic material, by ensuring the best conditions are provided for natural microorganisms, (that break down organic material), to thrive. As the organic material is broken down, it eventually turns into nutrients, that can be used to enhance soil fertility to grow plants.

Reducing and Refusing: The best R opportunities, are in fact reducing and refusing to buy, what you don't need. Think carefully about what you already have in your home, what can be repaired, reused, or repurposed. Use the acronym DWHW to brainstorm, what you will actually do with the items when you are done using them, or when they no longer can be used. These strategies will encourage you to stop and think, before you buy.

Where items are just not needed, or will be used for a limited amount of time, either refuse to buy these items, or borrow them. Refusing to buy unnecessary items, not only reduces your footprint, but also reduces the clutter that may exist around you. With less clutter, and a more simple life, we can live a healthier and less stressful life, not having to keep cleaning, and organizing our homes, and even better, managing our finances.

Ultimately, we need to reduce the waste that we send to the landfill. The R opportunities can be used, to not only reduce what we buy, but repair, reuse, and repurpose what we already own. In some cases, people might choose to resell, donate, or share their products with others, as part of the sharing economy.

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