Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.  These are the fundamental concepts of environmental sustainability and are easy to understand. Yet, in practice, people often find it difficult to follow through with these basic tenets of sustainability. But why is that?

Let’s first examine recycling.


Recycling is the process of collecting and processing materials that would otherwise be thrown away as trash and turning them into new products.  

relan upcycle billboard bags

For the average person, recycling is as simple as sorting things before they’re thrown away.  Plastics, aluminum, and paper go in the blue bin, compost goes in the green bin, and trash goes in the black bin. Despite how easy it is for us to recycle, the EPA estimates that although 75% of America’s waste is recyclable, only 30% of it is recycled.  

Considering that each person generates close to 1.5 tons of solid waste per year, this is cause for concern. By being more mindful of recycling, and supporting recycling in our communities and businesses, we could recycle over a ton of waste per person per year.


Taking a look at another of the other R’s, reducing. We’re all empowered with the ability to take action to reduce our consumption.  To reduce, we can forgo consumption, choose more durable products, or engage in programs like tool libraries.  According to Minerals Education Coalition, the average American goes through 3.13 million pounds of minerals, metals, and fuels in their lifetime.

relan upcycling

This level of consumption has real impacts on the Earth where mining turns lush forest habitats into acidic moonscapes that pollute surrounding water. By choosing to reduce our consumption, we can minimize the impact it has on the planet on which we live.


The last ‘R,’ reusing, is often overlooked as a sustainability solution. Why is that?  While the solutions to reduce and recycle are fairly straightforward, reuse often requires some creativity.  One way we can all make reuse part of sustainability in our lives is through upcycling.


For those unfamiliar with upcycling, it is the reuse of discarded objects or materials in such a way as to create a product of higher quality or value than the original.  How is upcycling different than recycling?  When you recycle, raw materials, like plastics, are broken down using energy, chemicals, and resources such as water. The resulting product is something that is of lower quality than the original raw material.

When you upcycle, the materials you use are fused with human creativity to make something better than the original materials without the energy, chemicals, and resources that would have been used by recycling.  For Relan, this means taking your used marketing materials and, with our designers and craftspeople, turning them into products with purpose such as tote bags, coolers, and laptop cases that clearly communicate your dedication to sustainability.

To truly be sustainable, all three R’s are needed as part of a sustainability strategy.  We need to recycle, reduce, and reuse.  Let’s combine the marketing materials you already have with Relan’s creativity through upcycling to make it work for your business!  Contact us to start the conversation.


Get more ideas for your organization about the why you should use upcycled marketing products by subscribing to the Relan Blog!

Follow Relan on Twitter Facebook Instagram