5Rs of Zero Waste- Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot

    The 5Rs of Zero Waste were originally coined by Bea Johnson, widely known as the founder of the Zero Waste movement, in 2013.

    They are:






    (Some people also now include Repair in this list as the 6th R)

    The Ambitious Goal of a Zero Waste Life

    To make the transition to a life where we no longer create trash can take a lot of time and energy. But there are ways to make it simpler to achieve.

    Achieving a Zero Waste life requires some guidelines. These are things that you can do, and steps that you can follow to reach your goal and keep as much out of landfills and out of our oceans as possible.

    Our lives involve stuff. Lots of stuff. Some of it is unavoidable. But it can be managed with these 5Rs. 

    As you go through your day, be mindful of all the stuff that you want and need to live your life, and the life of your family. 

    If you want to achieve a Zero Waste life, go through the 5Rs to determine if those items will help you reach your goals, if you can find better replacements, or simply do without them.

    Let’s go through the 5Rs one at a time.

    Refuse – Just say no to anything that you will just have to throw away later. 

    You can refuse junk mail, or advertisements. You can refuse a bag for an item that you just purchased. You can refuse a straw at a restaurant. 

    Reduce – This can have two meanings- 1- Buy less of things that you don’t really need and 2- Donate or Sell items you no longer need.

    Take time to consider something before buying it. Oftentimes it is cheaper to buy items in bulk. But if it is an item that you really don’t need in bulk, it just creates more waste. Buy or consume only what you and your family needs.  

    Instead of collecting dust in the corner or taking up space in your basement, consider giving unused items a second life. Buying and selling things second hand keeps them out of the landfills.

    Reuse Repurposing items to give them a second life. 

    You can repurpose many items in your home that may no longer seem of use but might be difficult to donate or sell. The internet is full of craft ideas to reinvent common items that will surprise even the most creative minds. Or, there are simple ideas to reuse items, like reusing old prescription bottles to collect seeds for next season’s garden. 

    Recycle – Most municipalities accept paper, plastic, glass and metal for recycling.

    Unfortunately most of these items still end up in landfills. Check your local recycling guidelines to make sure your recycling doesn’t turn into trash. There are a lot of reasons that an item you think can be recycled can not be recycled.

    Recycling should be used as a last effort to reach zero waste. 

    Rot Most commonly known as composting.

    You can compost waste if you live in the city, the suburbs or the country. Some areas even have community composting. Basically, you can take any food waste and some other biodegradable items and let them rot in a bin. With the help of mother nature, these items will eventually turn back into fertile soil that can then be reused in a garden or other outdoor area.

    And Repair (the new 6th R)- making an effort to fix an item before replacing it.

    Attempt to fix an item before trying to recycle or making it trash. This will extend it’s life and keep it out of landfills that much longer. The internet is full of DIY videos of how to repair almost anything. 

    By following these guidelines you can dramatically reduce your personal waste.

    Remember that the changes will not take place overnight. It takes conscious effort on a daily basis. But even small changes can have a large impact on the future.

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