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Paperless Trails:  Exploring the Environmental Impact of Recycling

Living the Luxe Life is more than enjoying wealth and leisure; it's about making a lasting impact on the earth, leaving it better for future generations. The sheer volume of daily materials often leads to unavoidable waste accumulation, and how we manage this waste directly affects the quality of the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the health of our land. Building a clean and sustainable community begins with the simple yet powerful principles of reducing, reusing, and recycling. 

According to the Northeast Recycling Council, recycling can be traced back to Ancient Japan in the 9th century. They began recycling paper as they learned to produce it. In what we know as the United States, in 1690, recycling started to trend in the New World with the repurposing of linen, cotton rags, and paper to help with the increased production of books and newspapers. The slogan, “reducing, reusing, and recycling” (also known as the Three R’s), gained popularity around World War II and into the 1950s, according to The economic boom increased trash and litter due to using and producing single-use items.  

To better understand different ways to reduce waste on your campus and beyond, it is essential to know the three R’s: reducing, reusing, and recycling.  


Reducing waste means cutting down on the trash we generate. Producing new items emits greenhouse gases and uses valuable resources. By reducing, we prevent pollution and conserve materials. 

Here are some easy ways to practice reducing every day, starting in the dining hall: - Only take what you need to avoid food waste. - When shopping for dorm essentials, buy only what you need and donate unused items to food banks, shelters, or churches. - Opt for used items, like shopping at thrift stores or buying used books for classes. 


Small changes can make a big difference in creating a sustainable future. 




Learning to reuse items benefits the environment in many ways. Reusing involves finding new uses for items instead of discarding them. Here are some simple ideas to help you get started: 


- Donate or repurpose items. For example, use an old cotton t-shirt as a hair towel or cut up an old towel to make washcloths or cleaning rags. - Save plastic containers from restaurant leftovers to store other food items. - Consider selling items you no longer need. What might be trash to you could be treasure to someone else. 


 By reusing, you not only help the environment but can also save money and even make a profit. Don't think of it as trash, but as multi-use treasure. 



Recycling is the last and most used process of waste management. Recycling consists of collecting and processing materials that would otherwise be thrown away as trash and turning them into new products. Cardboard boxes, milk jugs, aluminum, and newspapers are examples of items that can be disposed of in a recyclable bin. Plastic bags from your On The Go store on campus or take-out can be recycled and reused. Those same plastic bags can be recycled as shower caps or conditioning caps. Newspapers are one of the most recycled items. When you recycle newspapers, they are often transformed into egg cartons, kitty litter, construction paper, and even a newer newspaper. The more items are recycled, the more energy can be saved. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, also known as the EPA, recycling ten empty plastic bottles can save enough energy to power a laptop for more than 25 hours. 

Recycling is the final and often most used step in waste management. It involves collecting and processing materials that would otherwise be trash and turning them into new products. Items like cardboard boxes, milk jugs, aluminum cans, and newspapers can go in the recycling bin. 

Here’s a tip to make recycling more personal and effective:

  • Recycle plastic bags from campus stores or take-out by using them as shower caps or conditioning caps. 

  • Newspapers are highly recyclable and can be turned into egg cartons, kitty litter, construction paper, or new newspapers. 

Remember, the more we recycle, the more energy we save. For instance, recycling ten empty plastic bottles can save enough energy to power a laptop for over 25 hours. Small actions make a big difference! 

As you journey through campus, make it your mission to reduce, reuse, and recycle items. It makes a huge difference, and your campus community will thank you. You’re also doing your part to help sustain the environment for future generations. 



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