“Reduce, reuse, recycle.”
We’ve all heard it. And sometimes, the tips we need to be more sustainable are right in front of us, said Jeremy Walters, the sustainability expert at Republic Services of Southern Nevada.
The instructions are listed in order of importance.
“Recycling is profoundly important for sustainability, but it’s your last line of defense,” Walters said. “We want to reuse our items as often as we can before we throw them into our recycling bins.”
One Las Vegas woman, Tara Pike, said she takes “reuse” to another level.
Pike, a recycling manager at UNLV, started her recycling journey 29 years ago. On a recent day at her 2½-acre farm, pigs sat out to sunbathe while spotted goats roamed around.
A tractor in her backyard shoveled compost from her 15-yard pile—a mix of her cow’s poop, banana peels from her kitchen, bruised apples and spinach straight from a produce donation box she picks up from a store near her, pieces of cardboard, and hay.
Then, it sits for a while. A 30-to-60-day process, she said, depending on the items she adds to the pile.
Her compost gets laid onto an open field, a field meant for growing vegetables to feed her animals and the community.
“I’ve had a pile for over a year once,” Pike told the Las Vegas Review-Journal as she sifted through a donation box brimming with bruised apples and broken-up lettuce. “If you keep adding to it, it’ll keep composting.”
In Pike’s world, almost anything can be reused.
Inside her greenhouse out back are hundreds of clean brown bottles that Pike saved from the landfill. She plans to use the bottles for craft projects for fundraisers to support farm animal rescue groups in Las Vegas.
“It’s a waste to recycle a brand new bottle,” Pike said. “Recycling bottles is energy intensive.”
She said all it takes is paying closer attention to items we already use in our day-to-day lives.
“Try to think about how you can reuse what you already have,” Pike said as she picked up one of her reused orange juice bottles that she fills with lemonade.
Pike reuses the tops of the powdered lemonade containers as measuring cups to feed her animals and also as bowls for food for chickens. She even skips the paper towels and uses rags for cleaning until they’re completely worn out.
“People think that recycling is all you need to do for the environment, but that’s not true,” Pike said. “Just because you’re a recycler, doesn’t mean you’re an environmentalist.”