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The 3 New Rs: Shifting from Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

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Quick recap: What is a handprint? A handprint is the sum of positive actions an individual or a company takes to improve life on the planet. Unlike footprints that only measure the negative activities that damage the planet, handprints are forward-looking and impact-driven actions. Handprints for individuals can mean working actively for climate action or being a changemaker in society. While for corporations, handprints can include aligning your balance sheet with positive impact or sponsoring reforestation projects that plant trees right.

To be realistic, the concept of footprints is not the only one that belongs in the past. We also need to retire some slogans that were made popular like the 3 Rs of sustainability: “Reduce Reuse Recycle”.  These words stand for three questions that can be summarized;

  1. What can we do to reduce our waste?
  2. What can we do to reuse products and services?
  3. How can we make our products easier to recycle?

While these slogans are of themselves important and positive for the planet, they are incomplete. For example, it is easy to understand why a manufacturer or construction company should reduce waste, conserve energy, or work with recyclable materials.

But the same is not obvious for other business sectors especially, service industries like banking, marketing, software, advertising, consulting, etc. The one-dimensional approach of the “Reduce Reuse Recycle” perspective excludes service industries and the people who work in them from the broad mandate of making our planet a better place.

Therefore, it is a good thing that we have the regenerative paradigm as a better alternative to sustainability. The regeneration mindset urges us to shift our actions, moving us away from a reactive approach (Reduce Reuse Recycle) to a proactive one (Reserve Restore Rewild).

Free Download: Read more about Reserve Restore and Rewild in the Regeneration First Manifesto

Shifting from Reduce Reuse Recycle to Restore Reserve Rewild

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From Reduce to Reserve

Reduction is the first step of the waste hierarchy (also known as Lansink’s ladder). The idea is to prevent and avoid waste as much as we can.  However, this approach is similar to putting a band-aid on a bullet wound. Earth Overshoot Day 2022 coming a day earlier than last year is a reminder that reducing consumption is not enough.

A feasible option we have is to maintain or even increase the nature reserves that we own. The recent initiative to expand nature reserves to cover 30% of the planet by 2030 is an example of what we can achieve if we aim higher than harm reduction.

From Reuse to Restore

Reuse means extending the life of products so that they can serve multiple purposes before depletion. It sounds like a noble idea, but degeneration is a much faster process than regeneration. Therefore, the positive results we can achieve from reusing will only be marginal.

Restore, on the other hand, calls for an active return of the planet to what it used to be. Yagasu, one of our impact partners is doing excellent restoration work. They have over two decades of experience in mangrove restoration and have engaged local communities to plant more than 30 million new trees.

From Recycle to Rewild

Some people believe that environmentalism means separating the waste into the right bins. But reports like this from CBS News suggest that successful recycling might be more hype than fact.

While rewilding might be a loftier goal than recycling, it is more permanent. And that makes it worthwhile. Rewilding is a process by which lost ecosystems and species can be reborn to maintain planetary balance. Pleistocene Park is a project that is rewilding parts of the Arctic by settling thousands of animals in grazing areas.

Want to know more about these shifts in action? Check out this episode of Ask the Digital Sustainability Expert! 

Conclusion

Reserve Restore Rewild” might be a new approach but it is catching up and many stakeholders are noticing. A growing number of companies are prioritizing climate, impact, and regeneration as top items on their corporate agenda. People are also departing from the “sin-restitution” cycle that sustainability is modeled on. Slowly, footprints are becoming handprints, reactions are turning into fruitful actions.

Handprint (the company) is making it easier for firms to link their business performance to regenerative targets. Organizations with a desire to do good on the planet now can easily sponsor a project that aligns with their core values. It is a win-win relationship, for us, our impact partners, and their sponsors. Book a demo call today with Handprint to know how you can reserve, restore and rewild natural ecosystems.