April 21, 2017

By Kristina Miller

As Earth Day approaches, it becomes increasingly important to spread awareness about our changing planet and how we as human beings can work together to preserve and protect it.

The words “reduce, reuse, recycle,” otherwise known as the three R’s, have echoed around the world with images of a blue and green planet surrounded by green arrows for decades. As the movement grows, so has the list to include words that promote a sustainability mindset as well as those original “Re-” actions.

One version of this updated list includes a fabulous fourteen R’s:

  1. Reduce: Reducing can mean anything from reducing the number of items we own, to reducing our waste and non-recyclable trash, to using less water and energy at home. Think of it as “living lightly.”
  2. Reuse: Reusing materials reduces the amount of energy expended for manufacture and production of goods. In addition, purchasing goods like furniture, cars, or clothes used can save you a significant amount of money. For college students, new residents, or any community member, local thrift stores, online sites, and surplus stores stock everything from flip flops to finger gloves.
  3. Recycle: Recycling capitalizes on already available resources and reduces the impact manufacturing has on our planet. When you recycle, you make more clean water available, you reduce air pollutants, you increase landfill space and energy supplies, and you preserve jobs.
  4. Rot: Rot, more commonly known as composting, refers to the natural, biological breakdown of items such as food scraps, plant trimmings, and a huge range of paper products. Composting is nature’s way of putting what might be considered waste back into the system. Composting and vermiculture keep materials out of our landfill and help lessen the release of very potent methane gas.
  5. Replant: Due to deforestation and the continual increase of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere, it is increasingly important to replant trees both locally and in areas affected by deforestation. Trees native to our ecosystem, not to mention home and community gardens can be extremely beneficial, both for your wallet and the environment.
  6. Respect: As advocates for sustainable living, we should have respect for the choices of others in our community. There should be no shaming as to how a person chooses to lead their life. Instead, we should strive to provide individuals with resources and create a welcoming feeling that fosters their desire to take sustainable actions.
  7. Refuse: By refusing items or materials, we are also reducing the strain on resources needed to produce goods. One example is refusing plastic bags and instead using handmade or reusable bags. Another is actively unsubscribing from unwanted paper mailings.
Picnic Day 2017 #5
Keeping cool things out of the landfill . . . Orion S rides cool with Cool Davis Communications Coordinator Leslie Crenna driving Rosie the Rickshaw at Picnic Day 2017. Photo credit: Yvonne Hunter.
  1. Replenish: Replenish is similar to regenerate where our actions actually serve to increase the supply of clean and useful resources rather than reducing them. When you use woodchips on your landscape, you replenish the soil. When you capture rainwater you create a supply of water that would have made its way into the stormdrain otherwise.
  2. Rethink: Sustainability is much more than a set of actions or even a change of lifestyle, it’s also a state of mind or way of thinking. By rethinking or changing our state of mind, we can inspire creativity in others and redirect ourselves towards our goals.
  3. Repair: Repairing an item and extending its useful life also aids in repairing the environment. Handy skills are important for everyone and using everyday tools is part of basic technological literacy.
  4. Reinvent: Reinventing applies to new methods or actions that make possible sustainable living. Solar power is an example of reinventing our fuel source and energy distribution paradigm.
  5. Recover: Recovering used materials, especially in the process of recycling, requires efficiency. The more efficiently materials are recovered, the more resources can be used for the actual process of turning recycled materials into usable products.
  6. Responsibility: The care and wellbeing of our planet is our responsibility as human beings. On an individual level, we must acknowledge that our actions affect the planet, whether they are positive or negative.
  7. Restore: Much like “replenish,” the goal of restoration is to fix or heal something that has been damaged. While we may not be able to return the Earth to its previous condition quickly, we must attempt to restore as much of its lifegiving habitat as we can if humans are to continue basking in its glory.

The more words we can gather to represent ideas and actions beneficial to the planet the better we illustrate the process of changing our mindset about sustainable living. And the more we consider alternative perspectives and adopt new mindsets about the environment and how we as humans impact it, the more likely we are to preserve our planet for future generations.

This Earth Day, take the time to consider what the fabulous fourteen R’s of sustainability mean to you and what words you would consider adding to the list, and don’t forget to share this list with a friend.

For more information visit: City of Davis Solid Waste and Recycling page and the Tree Davis website.

Picnic Day 2017 #3
Cool Davis crew marching for climate at Picnic Day 2017. Photo credit: Yvonne Hunter.


Kristina Miller is a fourth year student at UC Davis pursuing a B.A. in English with an emphasis in both Literary Theory and Creative Writing. She has undertaken a wide variety of jobs in the past four years including working in the laundry room of a hotel, as an administrative and research assistant, and interning as a writer at Cool Davis, a local organization promoting the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. In the near future, she plans on traveling to Japan to teach English Empowerment to youth and eventually to return to school in pursuit of a PhD.