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5 R’s of Zero Waste (Refuse, Recycle, Reuse, Reduce, Rot)


We’ve all heard of the 3 R’s: reduce, reuse, and recycle, but how about the 5 R’s of zero waste? Refuse, recycle, reuse/repair, reduce and rot are a few additional components to help us aim for a zero waste lifestyle.


  1. Refuse

Refuse can take on many forms, but the bottom line is refusing to purchase anything that uses plastic. Whether that’s asking for no plastic straw with your drink (bonus points if you bring your reusable cup and straw), avoiding plastic produce bags at the grocery store, eliminating foods packaged in plastics from your diet, saying no to plastic freebies, etc. Although there are incentives to be reduce plastics, such as charging for plastic bags at grocery stores, the nominal price that is charged often outweighs the inconvenience of carrying all of your items without a bag. Regardless, learning to refuse helps businesses create more sustainable options. When we support businesses that use sustainable practices, their competition often adopts these sustainable practices as to not lose out on their market share.

  1. Recycle

This may seem like an easy one, but it’s still relevant. Ensuring that all of your recyclable products are placed into the correct bin helps to cut down on what ends up in the landfill that could have been avoided. Often many plastics that can be recycled end up in the landfill, so be sure you’re checking for recyclable symbols before choosing which bin you place the item in. When out in public, although recycling bins may not be as convenient as regular garbage bins, be sure to hold onto your items for the few extra steps until you find one to avoid putting recyclable products in the garbage.

  1. Reuse + Repair

With such a materialistic lifestyle that many of us have grown up in, it can often be hard to want to reuse something. Especially when that something may need fixing, when we could just as easily go out and buy a new and possibly better version of what we currently have, hence where the repair comes in. So many of our items that we no longer use could become a useful item once again if we simply took the time to repair whatever may have gone wrong. Switching from a materialistic to minimalist lifestyle can really help shape this R. Additionally, if what you currently have is feeling drab, maybe set aside a weekend for some DIY projects to give your items an uplift, without having to purchase entirely new goods. Opting for sustainable products within this category can also help eliminate disposable products that you are using, when reusable options are available. Check out the list below for our “instead of that, use this” feature.

  1. Reduce

In line with reuse and repair, this R can be tough due to the convenience of purchasing the newest and shiniest item that is for sale, but the impact on the environment of this mindset is detrimental. Yet, there’s so many items throughout our house: in our closets, in our cupboards, in our drawers, that we think we absolutely need, but another year has gone by without them being used. Take the time and go through your items, donate what you truly don’t use and then next time you go to purchase a new product, think of its useful life. When we begin to reduce the number of items we buy, we help to eliminate the negative environmental impacts that are caused in the making of that item and save ourselves a few bucks while we’re at it.

  1. Rot

The last R, can take on various forms. Whether this is ensuring your kitchen and garden scraps are placed in compost bins, or creating a worm farm within your backyard, you get to choose how far you want to take the concept. Worms can turn your scraps into high quality fertilizers, creating further benefits for your garden. If you’re living in an apartment and don’t have a backyard or enough space, talk to your neighbours and see if they wouldn’t mind creating a neighbourly composting area. This R really helps to eliminate what may get trapped within a plastic bag and slow down the degrading process if these items can be properly composted.