The 5 R’s of Zero Waste

In my earlier posts, I had capitalized on a couple of R-words, namely Refuse and Reuse because these two words are part of the pillars of zero waste living. The 5 R’s of zero waste are: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Rot, and Recycle. When facing waste in your home, you should move through these 5 R’s in this order and here’s why.

Refuse

“The easiest way to prevent waste from leaving your home is to keep it from entering your home.” – Kathryn K.

If it doesn’t come into your home, it can’t be waste that you and your family have produced. No will become your most difficult and yet somehow easiest word to use. At first, it will be difficult to tell your family or even yourself NO. But think about it for a few minutes. Where did this product come from? How much plastic packaging is coming home with you if you buy this? Do you really need this now? Will you need this 30 days from now?

Where did this product come from? How much plastic packaging is coming home with you if you buy this? Do you really need this now? Will you need this 30 days from now?

Don’t be afraid of the negative connotation that comes with the word No. Let your family and friends know about your zero waste lifestyle and why you’re going through with it. Encourage them to be mindful of packaging and wrappings of gifts. Explain to them why you want to avoid trash and plastic in your life.

Be conscious of what you’re buying and have a gentle conversation with the ones you love to support you. They don’t have to switch over to zero waste, but if they could remember that you don’t want to bring trash into your life.

Reduce

By having less, you will create less waste. The more stuff you have, the easier it is to accumulate more stuff. Clutter attracts clutter.

By reducing the amount of stuff you have, you’ll have less stuff to take care of, less stuff to store, and less stuff to worry about; keeping you mentally at peace.

One key aspect of zero waste is to measure life, not by how many things we own, but by the experiences we have with ourselves and our loved ones. Reducing will help us to focus our attention and efforts on those experiences in life. We will also be able to put value back into our possessions and make them meaningful to us again.

Reuse

“Disposables are only appropriate in medical and scientific fields and times of disaster.” – Kathryn K.

Here is where we will refuse disposables and use items that can be reused. No more disposable coffee cups, use mugs. No more disposable tissues, use handkerchiefs. Here are simple alternatives for disposable products.

Plastic water bottle → Reusable water bottle
Toilet paper → A bidet attachment
Paper towels → Rags
Takeout trays → Reusable Tupperware
Plastic straw → Glass or stainless steel straw

You have a lot of reusable versions of the disposables in your home, you just have to remember to bring them with you when you’re out. There is no need to go out and buy new stuff.

Along with reusables, you can also shop at Goodwill, Salvation Army, or other secondhand stores for cheaper used items.

Rotcompost vs avoid guide

Composting is one of the key aspects of zero waste. Composting allows you to return resources to the earth. You can compost food scraps, natural fabric, hair, cardboard, paper, and other organic substances.

Composting is the epitome of a circular economy as composting organic matter will eventually turn into dirt which ca be used to grow more organic matter. I found a resource for vermicompost bins, using worms to compost organic matter, I have yet to check it out, I’ll update you when I do.

You can also get backyard composters and kitchen composters (mostly for green waste). Vermicomposting is good for apartment living.

Recycle

Recycling should be a last resort. It’s energy intensive, an imperfect system, and not be viewed as our savior. Two things that can be recycled indefinitely are glass and aluminum, plastic cannot be recycled, it can only be downcycled.

Water bottles can’t be recycled back into bottles, they get downcycled to park benches or speed humps and when those items reach the end of their life cycles, it will be sent to a landfill.

It’s better to first refuse, then reduce, then reuse before we get to recycle. By following those steps, you shouldn’t have much left to recycle.

 

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