Zero waste 5Rs is a lifestyle in which individual waste is prevented and managed in order to emulate sustainable natural cycles where all discarded materials are utilized to the end of their life cycles or designed to become resources for other uses so that ideally, nothing is sent to landfills or our beautiful oceans.
Zero waste also strives for reduced resource use, use of recycled or less impactful materials, longer product lives, reparability, product sharing, and recovery of materials from products reaching end of life. Contrary to popular belief, zero waste is more of a goal or an ideal than a hard target and it is in fact gaining a wide popularity among individuals as well as industries, communities, and businesses.
According to Bea Johnson of Zero Waste Home, the Zero Waste 5Rs principle behind zero waste are:
Refuse – Reduce – Reuse – Recycle – Rot
Table of Contents
1. Zero Waste 5Rs – Refuse
Since with every purchasing choice one makes, he is casting one vote for the world he wants to live in, it is therefore of great importance that we take into account the environmental impacts of our actions in everyday life.
This explains why the very first of the Zero Waste 5Rs is “Refuse.”. Refusing things you don’t need or haven’t asked for is the first step to adopting this new lifestyle that would benefit both you and our planet. These simple ideas will help:
- Say “No, thank you” to freebies you are offered that you don’t really need to bring back to your home.
- Avoid produce wrapped in plastic at stores or supermarkets, opt for produce that are packed in reusable or biodegradable packaging or using your own produce bags.
- In case you need to exchange business cards or save information on flyers, simply ask to use your phone to take a picture.
- Ask the person behind a coffee counter or juice stall to not put a straw in your drink if you do not need it. You know, most of us don’t really need one anyway.
- Say bye-bye to plastic shopping bags and prepare yourself a reusable cloth or canvas tote bag which is easily foldable and carry everywhere for your shopping.
- Bring your own bottles/cups for water or take away drinks instead of taking single-use plastic cups or free water bottles at events or seminars.
2. Zero Waste 5Rs – Reduce
The second of the Zero Waste 5Rs is to reduce. Reducing your consumption is the second best way of avoiding excessive and unnecessary trash to enter your home and your life. Ask yourself what can be changed about your current lifestyle that would make a positive impact on the environment as well as your physical and mental health. Aim for durability and quality instead of quantity.
For clothes, reduce shopping for new clothes from the fast fashion industry and make use of anything you own, repair, repurpose old clothes, shop for second-hand but still-in-good-use items, swap, give away, choose fashion brands that is environmentally-aware and have repair/mending/guarantee programs and natural/no bleach materials such as cotton, linen.
Know where and who and what your clothes come from, that is the stories that you might want to have a look into to get a better view of the fashion industry and how your actions might help a great deal.
Reduce the amount of plastic products you purchase: It’s time to ditch the plastic packaging that is choking up life in the oceans and instead swap for products that are packaged in reusable/recyclable materials such as aluminum cans, glass bottles, bamboo toothbrushes, wooden/stainless steel household appliances, skincare products in glass/aluminum/paper packaging.
Opt for multipurpose products: Vinegar can be used as a general cleaner, as a fabric softener and to neutralize odors. Have you ever heard of the amazing soap nuts and their enzyme solution? You will be surprise to find out how it can replace every specialized cleaning product you might have had in your home.
In addition, for personal care, natural oil like coconut, olive or jojoba oil can be used as make up remover, or moisturize and treat both skin and hair, disposable razor can be replaced by a stainless steel safety razor in which the blades can be recycled, switch to soap bars for your body/hair/face wash.
In the kitchen, reusable beeswax or silicone wraps can be used to cover left-over food, cloth towels or folded pouch or glass jars can be used to wrap sandwiches or store snacks.
Take your own lunch box to work instead of buying takeaway. This is not only good for your health but also contributes to the reduction in the great amount of single-used plastic items that would ultimately find their way to landfills or the ocean and damage the health of our planet.
Join a local buy, swap, sell group such as the Free cycle community, Less Waste community on Facebook. You can not only make tons of new and lovely friends with the same love and care towards life on this planet but also contribute to help your community save money and resources and reduce waste.
Join us: Zero Waste Initiaitve
3. Zero Waste 5Rs – Reuse
The third of the Zero Waste 5Rs is to reuse. Instead of buying brand new product every time, try opt for durable and reusable items for your daily use. Repair or mending broken household items can also help you save money and reduce a big amount of waste.
Say reusable water bottle, reusable straw (or no straw), reusable coffee cup, reusable shopping bags, reusable produce bags, and reusable food wraps or pouches!
- Menstrual products: A menstrual cup and reusable pads and liners are going to be a life-changer for our wonderful women out there. They will help you reduce a great amount of monthly waste and plastic packaging.
- Reusable cloths: Single use paper towels no more! Reusable cloths repurposed from old clothes or towels can do the job just fine, or even better.
- Reusable containers: A lightweight stainless steel or glass container with leak proofs are perfect for your packed lunch or take-away food.
- Tea and coffee: Think loose leaf tea, cloth/paper or stainless steel filter!
- Batteries: Choose rechargeable batteries over single use batteries to reduce waste.
4. Zero Waste 5Rs – Recycle
The fourth of the Zero Waste 5Rs is to recycle. The aim of zero waste is actually not to recycle more, but less. So little as 9% of plastic waste is recycled in the world, therefore recycling should be considered as a last resort after the above three R cannot be done anymore.
Know what is recyclable and keep a close contact with several nearby trustworthy and effective recycling programs or companies around your area. Did you know that your child’s milk pouch can be turned into a locker or a roof? That right there is the magic of recycling!
5. Zero Waste 5Rs – Rot
And the final step in the Zero Waste 5Rs of zero waste is to rot (compost). Composting your food scraps to make fertilizer for your home garden and reduce greenhouse gas emissions produced by landfill.
A compost heap, bin or worm farm is the final step of repurposing your organic waste and is indeed a very fun activity for your family to spend time together making your garden more green and sustainable!
Now you know what the Zero Waste 5Rs are, you can make better choices. Remember that they go in order. Refusing and reducing means you’re bringing less into your home. Reusing means you’re keeping new things from being made and old things from being wasted. Practice the first three R’s and you’ll automatically have less stuff to recycle and rot.