Rethink – the Fourth R

Recently I have been thinking about the traditional “Three R’s” – reduce, reuse, and recycle.  These R’s are important ways to decrease our impact on God’s earth, but it seems to me that they do not get at the root of sustainability.  At a recent earth care gathering in Kansas, I was talking with Jo, a member at Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church in Overland Park about this, and she said that when she talks about the “Three R’s” she adds a fourth – “rethink.”  With this comment, Jo hit the nail on the head.  If I rethink what my needs really are, I might find that I don’t need an extra item in the first place.  Or if I rethink, I might find that there is another use for something that I was about to recycle.  There are endless possibilities with rethinking.

Jo told me about a project that embodies this idea of rethinking.  The KAIROS group (which focuses on Justice, Peace, and Environment) at Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church in Overland Park, Kansas recently held an Eco-Challenge: small groups in the congregation were challenged to collect items that could be repurposed.  The items weren’t recycled in the tradition sense – sent off to an out-of-sight factory or another country to be recycled – they were sent to organizations that would find second uses for them.  Here are some of the examples:

• 82 gently read & new books and over 23 hats and scarves from scarps of yarns and fleece went to the Johnson County Christmas Bureau, which provides free holiday shopping to families in need
• 18 pairs of eyeglasses went to the Lions Club International 
• Over 500 instruments have gone to deserving youth interested in music
• 62 wine bottles went to a vintner who is developing a sustainable/organic winery
• More than 6 dozen pairs of shoes went to Soles4Souls, which sends shoes to people in need throughout the country and abroad

The KAIROS Eco-Challenge is an exciting idea and a wonderful way to think keep things out of the landfill, and reduce energy required for recycling.  Thank you to the KAIROS group at Grace Covenant for sharing this story.  Let’s all think of ways that we can rethink what we truly need, and repurpose what we have used. 

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