Looking at the environment problem, it is easy to be discouraged and feel helpless, the problem is so big, what us as individual can we do to help? Well, it is clear that we cannot let our environment in the hands of politics, corporate and other organizations. Our biggest power is in our comsuption habits, we drive the market by what we consume, so if we consume only more environment friendly options then corporations will have to follow the market. And that’s where the 5 Rs come in.

The 5 Rs Philosophy: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Rot

Bea Johnson (author of the zero waste home book) has come with the 5Rs. Her youtube channel has many practical video guides to become as near as possible to a zero waster. But let’s get into the 5 Rs (the order is important).

Refuse:

The first step is to refuse what you do not need. We consume too much and many things are useless, not needed… so the first step is to just stop accepting freebies, gifts… that you have no use for and will only clutter your home or end up in your trash. It’s important to understand that a zero waste living style starts outside your home, shopping, participating in conference, friends and families, your mailbox… You can only target zero waste home by controlling what you allow in your house, so remember refuse what you do not need. Refusing may be difficult but you can always politely decline, by saying something like “I’m sorry but I don’t have a trash can”. Some of the first things you need to refuse are:
1 – Single-use plastics
2 – Freebies
3 – junk mail
4 – unsustainable practices (individually wrapped snacks, buying things excessively packed…).
When you cannot refuse or need something, then…

Reduce

Reduce what you do need: today we have become a consumer society and we just keep buying things in much bigger quantity that we actually need. This will help you live a  simplified lifestyle that allows you to focus on quality and experiences, rather than quantity and stuff. some steps to do that:
1 – Evaluate past consumption: pare down what you have (donate or sell what you do not need anymore).
2 – Curb consumption in amount and size (only buy what you need so you reduce what would have to be wasted).
3 – Decrease activities that support or lead to consumption (media exposure, leisure shopping…)
This is a very individual affair and you will need to determine how much you really need for you and your loved ones.

Reuse

Reuse what you consume and cannot refuse or reduce.
(don’t confuse the terms reuse – utilizing the product in its original forms several times and recycle – reprocessing the product to give it a new use). This will help you to:
1 – Eliminate wasteful consumption by shopping with reusables to replace disposables.
2 – Alleviate resource depletion: participate in collaborative consumption, buy used and buy smart.
3 – Extend the useful life of necessities through repairing, rethinking, returning and rescuing.

Recycle

Recycle what you cannot refuse, reduce or reuse. First of all it is important to understand that recycling still has a long way to go: recycling is handled differently in different places, with somethings which can be recycled in some places and cannot in others, some materials (plastic for example) cannot really be recycled but more downcycled and will finally have to end up in a landfill… Therefore recycling only arrives after the first 3 R and should be only be used when required. At least until recycling is done without material waste and handled properly with correct labelling of products, correct collection mechanisms… Apply the first 3 Rs well and you will only have little to nothing to recycle.

Rot

Rot (compost) the rest. organic waste can be composted and used for your garden. There are many different ways to compost such as:
– a pile in your garden
– finding an organization that will take care of your organic waste for you
– a commercial composter
– warm composting
Finding the best way to compost for you will depend on your location, your housing… (I have started a small DIY compost on my balcony, i’ll post about the results later). There are also many resources available on internet and i’ll look at composting in more details in a separate post.

Zero waste lifestyle has many benefits, helping the environment is only one of them. It will also help you spend less, have a healthier lifestyle, help you save time and enjoy more your experiences than the stuff you own. Please post your comment/questions below and i’ll get back to you quickly

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