Have you ever heard the term the "3Rs"? If you have, you might have wondered what it meant. 3Rs refers to three terms often used when talking about waste: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.

Reducing is cutting back on the amount of trash we make, reusing is finding a new way to use trash so that we don't have to throw it out, and recycling is using trash to remake new goods that can be sold again.

Why should we use the 3Rs? It's not like we need to worry about what happens to our trash after we put it in the trashcan, right? Wrong! Think about how much you toss out each day. If you multiply that by the 6.7 billion people on our planet... That's a lot of trash! Our landfills can only hold so much garbage. If we keep producing so much waste, we'll run out of room. Using the 3Rs will help us cut back the amount of trash we throw away.

Reducing is simply creating less waste. It's also the best method for keeping our earth clean. Why? Because it stops the problem at the source. By making less waste in the first place, there's less mess to clean up.

Here are a few ways you can help reduce the amount of waste you make:

Pack your lunch in a lunchbox instead of a disposable bag. Although it might be easier to throw away a paper or plastic bag than to carry around a lunchbox, disposable bags create much more trash. If you attend a regular American school that meets 180 days a year, and bring your lunch every day in a reusable lunchbox, you could save 180 bags. If all kids did that, think of how many less bags there would be in landfills!

Also, pack your lunch items in reusable containers instead of disposable ones. Instead of putting your peanut butter and jelly sandwich in a plastic bag, try using some Tupperware that you can use again and again.

Ask your parents to bring their own bags when shopping. Many grocery stores now sell canvas bags that can be brought and reused over and over when shopping. Think about all the plastic or paper grocery bags that could be saved if everyone reused the same canvas bags to carry their groceries in!

Turn off lights when you're not using them. Even though you might not be able to see the waste made from leaving on the lights, it wastes electricity and energy. Cutting back on the amount of electricity you use will not only help the environment, but it will save your parents money too.

Make sure your faucets aren't dripping. After you wash your hands, brush your teeth, or get out of the bath, make sure there's no water dripping from your faucets. Fresh water is a very precious resource, and dripping faucets waste water.

Reusing is taking old items that you might consider throwing away and finding a new use for them. Reusing helps in situations where it isn't possible to reduce.

Here are ways you can reuse items to prevent trash from being created:

Donate clothes that no longer fit you. Instead of throwing away clothes that don't fit, or that you don't like anymore, give them to someone who will want them. Your friends may have younger brothers or sisters who would be able to fit things you've outgrown, or maybe your parents have friends with children who could use them. Even if you don't know anyone who needs your old clothes, you could donate them to a consignment store or a charity so that your clothes will find a home.

You can also donate toys you no longer want. Just like with clothes, unwanted toys can be donated to charities or friends who could use them.

Use plastic groceries bags as trash bags. If your parents often bring home bags from the grocery store, you can ask them to save them instead of throwing them away. Grocery bags can be used as trash bags for small trashcans instead of being thrown away.

Have your parents use worn clothing as cleaning rags. For old clothes that may be too ripped or worn to give away, ask your parents to use those to clean up the house instead of buying cleaning rags. Old t-shirts work well for dusting.

Recycling is the most often advertised of the 3Rs, so it's likely you've heard of it before. Recycling is changing old products into new ones so they can be resold. For example, when you set out bottles and cans to be recycled, they are taken to a plant where they can be reprocessed into many new things. They may be changed in to new bottles or cans, or they could be changed into things like bicycles or asphalt.

The most well-known recycled materials are glass, paper, plastic, and aluminum. Other recyclable materials include batteries, biodegradable waste (like plants and kitchen waste), concrete, electronics, ferrous metals (like steel and iron), textiles (materials like cotton), and timber.

The recycling loop describes the entire recycling process.

First, recycling starts when you or your parents drop materials to be recycled, like bottles and cans, on the curb.
Secondly, collectors come to pick up the materials and take them to a processing plant where they are sorted and processed into raw materials (or materials that can be used to make new items.)
Next, the materials from the plant are sold to manufacturers, or people who make the things you buy. These manufacturers make new items from them.
Finally, you or your parents buy items made from recycled materials, so the process can start all over again.

Learn more about the 3Rs!