Precycle vs. Recycle

Recycling is a wonderful activity as it allows for all sorts of energy savings– but it’s not a get out of jail free card for our waste. Resources areused, energy is consumed and a degree of pollution follows.

The 3R’s of going green – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – are in that order for a reason.

The greenest product is the one you don’t buy, but as we can’t live onair alone then we need to make more informed purchase choices andprecycling is related to “Reduce” – the most important of the 3R’s, andalso to”Reuse” which is sometimes referred to as “Repurposing”.

Precycling is about reducing waste by avoiding items that will generateit, or selecting certain items that will generate less, or acquiringitems that can be reused for something else.It’s just another way to lighten our environmental footprint thatcovers amyriad of possibilities, but being an avid precycler can also save youmoneytoo.

Here are a few examples:

Concentrated products

We’re brainwashed to think more is good, but sometimes less is better.Products such as washing detergents are widely available inconcentrated forms, packing as much punch as their water heavycounterparts. Concentrated products reduce packaging, weight and as a bonus – less transport related emissions.

Electronic vs. paper

So many magazines and newspapers are now online. While it takeselectricity to view them, the amount of energy involved is less thanthe paper based product, plus there’s nothing to throw out once you’redone reading.Make the Internet part of your paperreduction diet!


Plastic wrap is a great invention, but one that haunts us once we’redone with it. Some forms can be recycled, but others wind up inlandfill where they’ll slowly decompose for decades if not hundreds ofyears. A sturdy container with an airtight lid can take the place ofplastic wrap in some cases. 

Bags, cans and jars

Bags are everywhere – and not just disposable shopping bags. Many ofthe products we buy come in some sort of bag. While we can easilyobtain reusablebags, bagged products can be hard to avoid, but the bags can be used for other purposes – particularly breadbags.This also applies to jars and other containers which can be very usefulfor holding buttons, screws or any other small loose items where youmay usually buy a container dedicated to the task.

Stopping junk email

Our mailboxes tend to become the graveyard of many trees. The averageadult in the USA receives a whopping 41 pounds of junk mail a year.It’s such a waste. While it’s not your fault you’re bombarded with thestuff, there are some ways to stop junkmail. Personally, I’ve found the most effective way is to get a post officebox and rip the house mailbox out of the ground; but give it away or recycle itof course! 

Forward thinking

Related to the above points, when considering purchasing a product,think ahead to what it could be used for once it’s no longer suitablefor the original purpose. For example, instead of buying paper towel orpaper napkins, cloth napkins can be purchased then can then be used forgeneral cleanups once they get a little grotty, then as they becomeeven grottier, can be used for jobs such as wiping grease off carengines before they arefinally disposed of.

Just a few examples, but I’m sure you get the idea :). Even sharing can be considered a precycling activity!

When you think about it, between the concepts of precycle and recycle,there no longer needs to be the 3R’s of going green as it can all besummarised with two letters instead of three – PR.