Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Rot – The Four Rs

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Rot – The Four Rs

Everything we use or consume takes energy to gather raw materials, produce and transport, which creates associated greenhouse gas emissions at each stage.

Therefore, an important part of protecting the climate is practicing the four Rs: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Rot (Compost). These four Rs represent a hierarchy. It is important first to reduce what we use in the first place, next reuse things, then to recycle and lastly to compost if appropriate. For example, it is great to recycle one’s junk mail, but even better to reduce the junk mail one receives in the first place by contacting businesses to be removed from their mailing list.

It’s great to recycle plastic water bottles, but it’s even better to not purchase bottled water and instead use a reusable water bottle with tap water. Other examples include reusing cloth napkins instead of composting used paper napkins, reusing dish cloths and mops instead of paper towels and other disposable cleaning items, buying and selling or donating used items instead of buying new, repairing items instead of replacing them, reuse a coffee travel mug instead of using disposable paper cups, shopping with cloth bags instead of using disposable bags, and to switching to paperless billing instead of recycling old bills.

As far as food consumption goes it’s best to buy locally grown, in-season fruits and vegetables to avoid transportation emissions. Avoiding food waste is also important. Roughly 40% of food is wasted in the United States. Buy what you only need and use up leftover vegetables by creating soups or stir fries. For more tips on avoiding food waste, visit

How is Alameda doing at reducing waste with our curbside recycling and composting pickup? According to the city’s Zero Waste Implementation Plan Update, dated July 30, 2018, we are diverting 79% of our waste. Not too bad but we could do better. One important tip when recycling is to rinse out jars and cans before recycling them, to avoid cross contamination of paper products.

The green bin not only takes food and yard waste but also takes food soiled paper products like pizza boxes, paper takeout containers and waxed paper. It’s critical to keep all of these compostable items out of the grey bin as when they decompose in a landfill they create methane gas, a powerful greenhouse gas.

For more information on what goes in which bin, check out Alameda County Industry’s website at