This is your page for all things reduction, reuse, repair, and upcycling. Here you will find resources and recommendations for how you can reduce waste.
These four steps are recommended and prioritized before recycling and composting, because they prevent waste from being formed in the first place.
Waste prevention saves energy and resources, preserves landfill space, and reduces our greenhouse gas emissions in Iowa City.
All of these efforts go towards our emissions reduction goals outlined in the Climate Action and Adaptation Plan.
What is reduction and reuse?
Reduction and reuse are simply about using less stuff.
The amount of stuff we use and buy tends to translate into the amount of trash we produce. For example, when we reduce the amount of disposable packaging we choose to buy, our trash production decreases.
Reuse involves using items again and again, such as a reusable shopping bag. Reusing items is an impactful way that each of us can reduce waste.
Reducing and reusing are all about our behaviors and habits. Changing behaviors can sometimes seem difficult, but the good news is that there are a lot of easy, simple steps you can take that make a big difference over time.
Here are environmentally-better alternatives to things you do regularly
Drinking water: choose a reusable water bottle
Drinking coffee or tea out: remember your reusable coffee mug
Shopping: Bring your reusable shopping bags the next time you head to the store.
Remember the importance of consumer choice. You make a vote for the products you want on the shelf with what you choose to spend money on. Choose products that are local, sustainably-made, Fair Trade, recycled content, recyclable, reusable, durable, or organic.
For grocery shopping, have a strategy in mind before walking in the store. Make a list, and only buy the food that you know you can eat. For more great tips on reducing food waste, check out our Food Waste webpage.
Drying freshly-washed hands: reach for a cloth towel at home the next time you wash your hands.
Meal time: opt for cloth napkins for your next meal; only plate what you know you can eat; save leftovers for later.
Reading: Check out a book from the library. Sharing, or reusing books is a great way to reduce environmental impact. Did you know that you can also check out movies, music, and artwork from the library? More information at the Library's website.
What is upcycling?
Upcycling is taking an item, that would have otherwise ended up in the trash or recycling bin, and giving it a new use or purpose. Upcycling oftentimes involves some creativity and craftiness, and in a lot of cases, can be quite simple.
Some examples include:
- Using an old mason jar as a drinking glass or pencil holder
- Collecting wine corks to make a bulletin board
- Transforming a t-shirt into a reusable bag
- Turning a plastic water bottle into a bird feeder
- Sewing old sweaters into mittens
Why repair things?
Making do with what we already have reduces waste and our overall environmental impact. Repairing clothing that is torn, adding a coat of paint on an old table to freshen it up, or replacing a tire on your bike are just a few examples of “making do” instead of buying new.
- Iowa City Resale and Consignment Directory: This guide provides a list of local secondhand and consignment stores in Iowa City and Coralville.
- Iowa City Bike Library: Check out bikes for a 6-month time period or borrow repair tools for personal bike repairs.
- Salvage Barn Tool Library: Embrace sharing and repairing with this local tool library where you can rent a wide variety of tools.
- Upcycle That: Visit this website for ideas on how and what to upcycle.
- Reclaim Your Holidays: Use these tips and resources to reduce clutter, while increasing meaning, during the holidays.
- New Dream: This organization provides resources on how we can improve well-being and decrease consumption.
- The Story of Stuff: Check out this website for information on current issues and resources on how to take action to reduce plastic pollution.
- 30 Day Unshopping Challenge: This challenge encourages us to take a break from shopping, and to use this time for more meaningful experiences that bring us joy.
- Holiday Waste Reduction Guides:
- Film Screening of "The True Cost": This film highlights the environmental and social impacts of the fashion industry. Free to attend, and complimentary popcorn included.
- Repair and Upcycle Series: This event series is held every January, February, and March. Stay tuned here for details about the upcoming events.
- Iowa City Fab Lab: This local maker-space has frequent events related to upcycling and reuse.
- Backyard Abundance: Check out this local non-profit's website for events related to gardening and caring for your outdoor landscape.
- Iowa City Bike Library: This organization offers classes and workshops related to bike maintenance and repair.