The 5 R's of Zero Waste

5 “R’s” of Zero Waste

Here are the 5 “R’s” of zero waste.  It’s an excellent guide to help you start your journey.

Remeber it’s not about perfection, it’s about the progress!  Starting something is not easy nor is it a comfortable process.  Also, depending on where you live, you may have limited resources.  Just do the best you can do.

Oh, and don’t beat yourself up if you forget to say no to straws or can’t remember your reusable bag in the beginning.

Refuse

Refusing is one of the easiest ways to reduce your trash.

Refuse what you don’t need.  Say “no thank you” to swag bags, promotional pens, fliers, and other freebies.

At restaurants, say “no straw, please.”

Purchase food from bulk bins or at a farmer’s market if that option is available to you. Purchasing food at these places, help reduce the use of plastic packaging.

If you need something, such as a tool or machine, for a one time or two-time use, try renting or borrowing it from a friend.  Not only does it save you space since you’re not keeping it, but it also saves you some money.

Don’t buy things you don’t need – even if it’s on sale or a great price!

Reduce

Sell or donate things you don’t need.

Letting go of things (especially items you spent a lot of money on) can be difficult.  You can look up different ways of minimizing your stuff on the web.  Some say throw things (mainly clothes) in a box that you don’t use often.  Date the bin and if you don’t pull it out in a few months, donate or sell the items in the box.  There is also the Mari Kondo way – keep things that bring you joy.

You may be surprised how calming things can be when you don’t have so many stuff.  And you may find the process of letting go freeing.

Reuse

Pickle Jar Reused

Pickle jars are perfect for reusing!

Instead of using one-time use products.  Get things you can reuse.  An easy swap is from a plastic water bottle to a reusable water bottle or a to-go coffee container to a reusable to-go coffee cup.  There are reusable straws also if you tend to use them often. You can make reusable produce bags (if you’re handy like that) from old clothes or pillowcases.

Reuse the glass jars you bought with food in it!  Instead of purchasing new pretty mason jars for storage.  Save the jars and use that instead to store dried beans, berries, and leftover food. It may not be a cohesive look, but it’ll still look pretty in different types of jars.

Repair things you have! If you have a favorite pair of boots and they’re starting to look worn down, or the zipper is no longer working, find a shoe cobbler to fix it.  If things are not repairable, maybe you can find another use for it.

Also, part of reuse is repurposing the things you have.  You can make old towels and clothes into cleaning rags.  And if you’re crafty, you can make them into something else.  Pinterest has many great ideas!

Rot (Compost)

Worm Composting

If you’re not too disgusted by worms, worm composting is another excellent way to reduce food waste.

In the United States, over 20 million tons of food waste goes into the landfill.  Composting is the best way to give back to the earth.  There are many ways you can compost.  If you have a yard, you can just make a composting bin.  When you’re home composting, make sure you don’t put dairy or meat into it since it will attract pests you don’t want.

If you have no yard, here is a post that talks about indoor composting.

Some towns compost also!  But be sure to find out what your place can compost.  My hometown only composted food (all types of food including shellfish, meat, bones, etc.)  One area in the same state composts food and dirty paper towels and napkins, compostable to go container,  and bamboo products.  Anything that is labeled compost can go into the bin.

So be sure to do your research if your town composts.

Recycle

Zero waste isn’t about recycling more.  Some things are great to recycle like aluminum and glass because those materials can break down and used again without losing their integrity.  Plastic is a different story.

Recycling plastic doesn’t always mean it gets turned into another plastic bottle.  Most of the plastic go through a process called downcycling.  That means that the plastic will turn into something else such as carpet fibers, toys, car parts, parking lot bumpers, and other things.  The concern about this process is that the end life will eventually be at the landfill.

Again, recycling programs are different in other areas.  My hometown could not recycle milk cartons, ice cream cartons, or certain plastics because it did not have the machine for it.  All this time I put it in the recycling bin, it ended up in the landfill.  Some towns don’t recycle glasses because they don’t have a facility for it.  So you need to do your research and learn what options you have.

What questions do you have about zero waste and what will be your biggest obstacle?