Everyone agrees that ecological stewardship is a priority. In fact, it needs to be the highest priority for the government and business. Sadly, it is not. The original 3 r’s of environmental sustainability are not working. So, we propose an additional set of 3 r’s to augment the originals. The 3 r’s to save the environment are the foundation of a new strategy.
It’s time for new ideas when old strategies aren’t working. Look around at the world. Is the environment more or less healthy today than it was ten years ago? Most people would admit that it isn’t healthier. The problems of pollution and misuse of the environment, which existed ten or even fifty years ago, are still with us and have gotten worse.
“Climate change is happening, humans are causing it, and I think this is perhaps the most serious environmental issue facing us.” — Bill Nye
Three R’s of Ecological Stewardship
In most cases, leaving mother Earth alone is the best way to keep an ecosystem healthy. It requires monitoring to ensure non-indigenous plants and animals don’t encroach. Otherwise, most ecosystems, if left alone, will find balance. There are three important things to remember.
The Old 3 R’s of Environmental Sustainability
We can no longer treat the environment like an inexhaustible resource because we no longer live in the stone age. Everyone with common sense agrees the health of the planet is more important than the economy. The traditional way to solve this is by Reusing rather than discarding and Reducing the use of products and Recycling old products or packaging.
Too bad it doesn’t work. The 3 r’s to save the environment need an update. For example, the amount we recycle in the US has plateaued at 300 thousand tons. It has been at this level since 2010. Yet, the amount of waste materials we produce has continued to escalate to 286 million tons a year. (1) We recycle less than one percent of the waste we produce. Much of food packaging still use plastics which cannot be recycled. Many people don’t care about recycling.
The fashion industry used to produce clothing for the four seasons. Now, new fashions come out monthly. People in the US discard about 16 million tons of textiles a year, which is growing. The reason is cheap clothing imports give fashion brands access to cheap labor. (2)
The problem with this approach is that it assumes the greedy people abusing the resources will change their thinking. If we watch what’s happening worldwide, we see that isn’t the case. It calls for a new form of the 3 r’s.
The New 3 R’s of Environmental Sustainability
These are the tactics that work with old r’s but expand the scope of ecological stewardship to everyone. For example, we will need to reduce the amount of packaging that cannot be recycled. Most importantly, it gives people a way to take back control of policies driving most pollution and misuse. It means educating and creating incentives and penalties for people and corporations who choose not reduce their carbon footprint.
The 3 r’s to save the environment are: Re-prioritize, Re-distribute, and Radicalize. Let’s compare the old versions to the new ones.
The new way to rank things we buy and use should be based on their overall value, which includes their environmental impact. For example, when you buy yogurt, purchase only products in recyclable containers. If there aren’t any, don’t buy any because you are only encouraging the brand to use that packaging. Let your grocer know you want them to stock some; otherwise, you won’t buy any. Tell them to pass this along to the brands. The consumer has more power than you think.
“One of the most important lessons we can glean from the environmental movement is to think globally and act locally.” — Mike Love
The 3 r’s of environmental sustainability give us leverage to prioritize the planet’s health. We can all use these tools to unlock our power as consumers.
We can make companies more responsible. We can make them take responsibility for their role in ecological stewardship. For example, we speak up when companies use packaging that cannot be recycled. There are always better alternatives if the company is willing to change its processes.
Re-prioritizing is the first of the new 3 r’s, which takes place in the buying cycle before the old options of reducing, recycling, and reusing takes place. It puts the blame back on the company, making the product respond to the needs of customers and the environment.
You re-distribute things to make them balance or to solve an inequity. Corporations cause inequity in the ecological system. Energy companies lead the list. Energy companies use the hydraulic fracturing process to release natural gas and drill for oil to make lots of money, and they don’t want to stop. They know it is a limited resource, but they don’t care. They want their money now!
The home energy business has been using coal and other natural resources to turn a profit. Corporations, not the government, run both energy industries. They make billions in profits. Why? Because we allow them to change whatever they want.
Oil and gas companies don’t care if you boycott or stop driving so much. Your home energy company doesn’t care if you conserve; they will charge more for what you use.
There are two ways to solve this problem. We can take corporations out of the energy business. The power grid is something that needs oversight and protection by the government. Or, we can create laws that limit profits. Or, we can do both.
None of this will happen by accident. Please don’t leave it up to someone else. No one else is doing it. You need to find out who your congress is and let them know regulating energy and energy costs is needed. But here’s a caveat.
Find out if your congress representative is taking financial contributions from the energy industry because this is another problem. If they are taking contributions, they will not likely push for change. If they are taking energy money, let them know you won’t be voting for them, and you’ll let all your friends know they shouldn’t, either.
The environment needs to be a priority over profit. If we kill the Earth, you will not have customers. There isn’t a backup planet. The second of the new 3 r’s of environmental sustainability is to raise the priority level of ecological concerns above profit. We need to re-distribute the power for energy choices back to the people instead of corporations.
The terms ecological stewardship and radicalization in the sentence make some people nervous. Because when you motivate enough people behind a social issue, they must respond. The first response by the government and corporations is to keep the status quo in place. That is because somebody is making a lot of money to keep things as they are. Otherwise, they would have changed the direction of the energy and plastics industries long ago.
In the 1960s and 70s, people stood up to companies in the logging and mining industries. They were not called agents for preserving the environment. No, they got the name eco-terrorists. Not because they wanted to destroy the ecology but because they wanted to save it from those corporate terrorists who were destroying the environment. The logging and mining companies were the real eco-terrorists.
“Global warming may be a crisis, even the most pressing environmental problem of our time. … Indeed, it may ultimately affect nearly everyone on the planet in some potentially adverse way, and it may be that governments have done too little to address it. It is not a problem, however, that has escaped the attention of policymakers in the Executive and Legislative Branches of our Government, who continue to consider regulatory, legislative, and treaty-based means of addressing global climate change.” — John Roberts
You would think local governments would place the conservation of nature at the top of their lists, but the truth is conservation isn’t even on the list. The number one priority for most local municipalities is increasing the tax levy. They do this primarily by encouraging the development of businesses and housing. Both target the very resources that need to be conserved. Green space is something that can attract visitors and provide customers for businesses. Acquiring land to save the environment is not on the list.
“The two most important things to remember in business are: to be aware of the consequential impact on ecology, and a caring relationship between employer and employee.” — Dalai Lama
I do not know of any business with the same priorities as the Dalai Lama, even with the mounting evidence of global warming. The energy industry has known this domino effect for more than 40 years.
You are not alone if you are reading this and getting pissed off at what corporate greed has done to the world. You don’t have to be a full-time volunteer to make a difference. Many people doing little things can make a big difference. Do some things we mentioned earlier about giving feedback to merchants and manufacturers about using recyclable packaging.
Don’t stop doing the old r’s. Instead, add the new ones to your to-do list. Get behind and support people and organizations trying to make a positive impact.
Americans in Alliance is a good example. We are a non-profit organization saving the environment by acquiring land. We purchase undeveloped land, especially those sites with old-growth indigenous trees. Saving these ecosystems is the best way to fight climate change. It provides a home for many small animals we need for a healthy environment.
The 3 R’s to Save The Environment Are Here
We are not suggesting that the original three r’s should be replaced with these new r’s. These new strategies augment the originals. But, on their own, the original focus on individual behaviors left out those with the most power to make the biggest impact.
We need to prioritize ecological stewardship for business and government leaders. And we can do it too. We can use the power of consumers to give them reasons to change. It’s time for us to update the 3 r’s of environmental sustainability.
(1) Facts and Figures about Materials, Waste, and Recycling