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Friday, August 6th, 2010

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle,… What Do They Really Mean???

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Recycle Defined

Reduce, reuse, recycle…  Reduce, reuse, recycle…  Reduce, reuse, recycle…

When you work in the field of sustainable design, you hear that set of words so often it becomes almost meditative.  Ohm…..

But what do those words really mean when it comes to sustainable interiors?  How do they differ from some of the other “re” words, such as reclaim, or re-purpose?  Why are some more important for one product, but practically meaningless for another?

Allow me to try to help you sort it out.  The following is a list of some of the most common “re” terms used to describe sustainable materials, along with my advice as to why and when it matters.  (All definitions are from Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary 11th ed., unless otherwise noted.)

Reduce - “to diminish in size, amount, extent or number”

There is a reason that ‘reduce’ is the first word of the holy trinity of green words.  It is, after all, the most basic and important concept.  Every time we remove something from it’s natural state of being, there is an impact on our planet.   The less we take, the more stable our planet becomes.

Although designers, by the very nature of what they do, must specify “stuff”, that stuff doesn’t have to be as resource intensive.  Imagine the difference in the amount of material used to make a simple, light weight, wall mounted shelf system, vs. a set of heavy, built-in bookshelves.  This principle applies to every imaginable product, but is often overlooked by both designers and manufacturers as an aspect of green. (more…)