These three R's are probably familiar to you: reduce, reuse, and recycle. Despite our familiarity with the three R's and the fact that “zero waste” trends appear to be developing at breakneck pace, waste remains a major global issue that is only getting worse. Everyone should be doing their bit to help our beautiful green earth and while efforts have come on leaps and bounds over the past decade, it’s sadly not enough.
A zero waste lifestyle is exactly what it sounds like - and is totally possible too! However, did you know that there are in fact FIVE R’s that contribute to truly living a zero waste life? Today we’re going to look at the five R’s and how you can make a conscious change in your life.
Refusing from the start helps in reducing a lot of waste. It's about saying "no" to freebies that end up in the bin. Finding and actively incorporating reusable alternatives into your daily life takes some practice and preparation.
Here are a few things you can say no to on a regular basis: Disposable coffee cups, cutlery, and straws (if you don't need them to drink). Even bioplastic straws, which are supposedly compostable, sometimes end up in the bin because public composting facilities are unable to distinguish them as such.
Instead, you can use reusable coffee mugs, drink without a straw (or buy a reusable pack of straws and wash them at home), and take your own environmentally friendly bags with you to the store. The premise is simple, say no to things you don’t really need and realistically are going to end up being thrown into landfill. Because it's free, we've all been programmed to say yes and accept goodie bags, free coupons, magazines, fliers, and anything else. Accept what you need and refuse the rest. Let's face it, how many gift bags aren't stuffed with useless objects or promotional materials that you simply don’t need?
Examine what you're usually accepting to enable you to develop the habit of refusing. If it's coffee mugs, go for one that can be reused. Take a snap of the flyers using your phone and store it for later rather than accepting the flyer. There are ways to refuse that are both sustainable and do not need you to go without.
Simply cut down on what you buy by thinking about what you really need and want. Refusing goes hand in hand with this. Be honest with yourself about what you genuinely need. Before you go out and buy something, ask yourself if you truly need it. Look at the quality if you do. While cost is important, aim to get the highest quality within your budget. Products that are well-made will last longer, lowering the number of times you will need to repurchase. Another suggestion is to look after your belongings by following cleaning instructions and labelling to ensure that they last a long time. You should also strive to buy refills for certain items such as hand wash and body lotions. Many companies offer a refill version to prevent pump bottles ending up in landfill when they still work perfectly fine.
Alternatively, using all natural soaps is another route to explore. Not only is it environmentally friendly, but all natural is often much better for your skin in the long run.
Having a compost heap at home is a great way to prevent yet more produce heading to landfill. Food waste that’s composted can be reused in your garden for more nutritious soils, not to mention reducing the smell of rotting food waste in your bin at home. It’s really simple to create a compost heap and once it’s done, you don’t need to do much to it!
There are a variety of ways to compost now that make it a little easier than before. If you have little (or no) outside area, vermiculture composting is an excellent choice. Many cities and towns also have composting pick-up services and drop-off locations. Collect food waste from your refrigerator or freezer to avoid odours, and then make your weekly drop.
Arguably the most popular form of helping to save the environment is recycling. Recycling is one of the most common strategies to minimize waste, yet recycling is far from perfect.
When China stopped collecting recycled material in 2018, the world fell into a vortex, as recycling wasn’t available or in use everywhere on the planet. This isn't to say you shouldn't recycle— absolutely recycle! —but we need to think about techniques like avoiding plastic packaging (which reduces demand for plastics) and using compostable materials (driving up demand for alternative packaging).
You can easily do your bit by reusing anything that can’t be recycled too such as non-recyclable plastic bottles. There are also many reusable forms of products that you should consider switching to, such as this beeswax food wrap. When recycling, make sure you sort and clean your recyclables in accordance with local rules.
Last but not least, zero waste living involves reusing as much as possible too. Repairing and reusing are two concepts that go hand in hand. When determining whether to throw something out and buy something new, consider whether you can reuse or repair it. Clothing, furniture, and technology are all examples of this. If your phone or laptop breaks, instead of buying a new one right away, look into repair possibilities.
Reusing also entails selling or donating your used belongings so that they can find new homes rather than end up in a landfill. Have a yard sale, put anything on Craigslist, or ask your friends and family if they need something you don't. You can also reuse by purchasing old equipment. Yard sales and second-hand stores are great places to shop. You'll save a lot of money by repurposing something that someone else no longer needs.