"Reduce, Reuse, Recycle." It's a familiar phrase to most, but where did it come from?
We have certainly heard of the Three R's as they relate to sustainability – Reduce, Reuse and Recycle – but do you know where the slogan came from or why? Being green is definitely the norm nowadays, but the creation of this popular phrase, logo and practice can certainly be viewed as one of the main catalysts for the environmental movement as a whole. And while the Three R's have definitely influenced society to be more conscientious of our planet’s health, there is still much to be done.
Where did the Three R's come from?There tends to be bit of debate about the creation of the “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” slogan, but the practice of working towards reducing our waste output, reusing what we can and then recycling what we can’t has been around for centuries. Many in the pre-Baby Boomer generation remember needing to stockpile certain materials – or avoid using some altogether – in order to save resources for use in World War II. The economic boom in the 1950s did lead to an increase in the amount of trash – and litter – being produced by Americans due to the growing popularity of single use items. However, it was not long until people began to realize the environmental impact humans were having on the Earth’s eco-system.
Earth Day and the beginning of a movementInspired by the “teach-ins” held across the country to educate citizens on the Vietnam War, Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson spearheaded the first national Earth Day on April 22, 1970. Nearly 20 million Americans celebrated together at fairs, festivals and other community events organized to raise awareness of environmental issues. The holiday grew in popularity and is now celebrated in over 100 countries around the globe. As citizens continued to raise concerns about conservation, the federal government formed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Around the same time as the formation of the EPA came the passing of the Resource Recovery Act by Congress. This bill was created with the intention of shifting both federal and community attention to the practices of recycling, resource recovery and the conversion of wastes into energy. Throughout the 1970s, many different laws were enacted – both at the federal and state level – to promote conservation efforts and raise awareness of them to the general public. Thus, the Three R's were born.