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Economics of reduce, reuse and recycle

Aspen was the place to be this past weekend for Eco Fest, a gathering of food, festivities, new products and ideas. A beautiful venue to showcase the ongoing need to rethink the way we live our lives.

Zero waste is an innovative idea that not only makes environmental sense but has economic logic. Large businesses are achieving zero-waste goals. General Motors and Toyota factories send nothing to landfills. It is good business acumen to close production loops. While it is good environmental stewardship, it is even better for their bottom line. They make more money for their shareholders. If it is good for big business, it is good for our families.

For example, 40 percent of food ends up in landfills, creating methane, which is bad for the environment. It also hurts our wallets. We are throwing money away, which is bad for our families and futures. The opportunity cost of not setting aside resources for our benefit down the road is huge. What choices can we make within our households in how we buy and consume to start minimizing the amount of waste and maximizing the economic benefits?

Reduce: What is the difference is between a nicety and a necessity? Do we really need it? When we reduce the amount of our consumption, it brings freedom into our lives — freedom of time previously spent on taking care of stuff. It brings freedom to our finances. We will not be burdened with debt and thus will be able to save and invest. We have to envision the beneficial outcome of our choices before we are willing to take the tough steps in changing them. We have to let go of the false pretense that who we are is dictated by the stuff we own, the cars we drive and the clothes we wear. This is really hard because we live our days on autopilot, and we are easily influenced by the idea that “more is better.” We need to take back the controls and think about our choices. How can we support one another, start different conversations and try new ways of doing things? Every small step, if taken in the right direction, will lead us down the path of sustainability in our families, communities and economies.

Reuse: This is also known as “repurposing.” Let’s get creative and resourceful. What can you come up with to have the end result be less garbage in the trash and more green in your pocket? Making a purchase? Be intentional about how and where it was made. Look around — if you are not using it, sell it or give it away. One man’s trash is another’s treasure. Someone out there needs it. Look at the growing number of secondhand and thrift stores here in the valley. The “sharing economy” via the Internet includes the opportunity to share our homes, cars, bikes and beyond. Check out the new bike transit system in Aspen at http://www.we-cycle.org. Repurposing and sharing boosts the economy by creating secondary markets for sales as well as minimizing our financial output in areas that can be availed in other ways.

Recycle: According to the Environmental Protection Agency, nationwide, we have a 34 percent recycling rate. This sounds good, but because of increased production, we are actually consuming more and creating more trash. We have to put the first two R’s in place in order to get some traction on recycling. However, recycling has a huge economic impact. According to the EPA, for every one job you create at a landfill, you can create five to 10 by facilitating recycling — good for our economy! A report notes that by achieving 75 percent reduction in landfills by 2030, we will create 1.5 million new jobs.

It’s time to reevaluate our childhood mantra of “reduce, reuse and recycle.” Yes, it has the altruistic, feel-good component. The bottom line, though, is that dollars talk and the chatter is getting louder. Let’s start paying attention — we all win!

Danielle Howard is a certified financial planner practitioner. Her office is at 23300 Two Rivers Road in Basalt. Visit her at http://www.howardfinancialresources.com, or call 970-927-3909. Advisory services are offered through Lighthouse Financial LLC, a registered investment adviser. Securities are offered through Cambridge Investment Research Inc., a broker, dealer and member of FINRA/SIPC. Cambridge and Howard Financial Resources are not affiliated.


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