The 5 Rs of Sustainability
Updated: Dec 1, 2023
We are all want to live more zero waste and are very aware of the importance of sustainability and wish to live in accordance with it. One of the postulates for sustainable living is the five Rs of sustainability. Let us talk about each of them to see why they are so important in reaching our sustainability goals and the easy ways to incorporate them into our daily routines.
Their primary focus of the five Rs is minimizing the amount of waste we make. Not all garbage is waste, and we need to train ourselves to start thinking about our actions and the many ways in how they affect the environment. The biggest issue today's population is facing is the items made of plastic, particularly those used only once. Single-use plastic items have created a "throw-away" culture that normalizes people's behavior of using things and materials one time only and then putting them away after we are done. The rate at which we consume plastics and natural resources has become unimaginable, and the pollution crisis has become one of the most significant global environmental challenges.
So, let us take a look at what we can do to fight it.
Refuse is the first element of this hierarchy and the most overseen one. If we refuse things we do not need in every segment of our life, we will drastically reduce the amount of waste we make. Learning to refuse takes some practice, but incorporating it is the best way to minimize waste. When in store, refuse to buy non-recyclable products or those in unnecessarily wasteful packaging and look for reusable or returnable items. When offered to take a freebie, unless you need it (in 99,95% of cases, you do not), refuse it.
Making smarter decisions and establishing standards and expectations when buying and bringing new items into your home makes it easier to "refuse" waste in the first place.
Reduce the use of non-recyclable products as well as those which are harmful and wasteful. When we reduce dependency on these kinds of things, it will lead to less waste ending up in landfills as well as the accompanying negative environmental impacts. If you need something, use the minimum amount needed to avoid unnecessary waste. For example, when buying an item of clothing, buy only one shirt, pants, or scarf. If you have fewer clothes, you will really use them to the fullest, and you will cut your waste output significantly (not to mention that your wallet will be grateful). You can focus as well on reducing the use of single-use plastics, plastic packaging, organic waste, and Styrofoam cups.
To reduce waste, reuse items you would typically throw away instead of buying new ones. Begin by focusing on one area in your home at a time, like the kitchen. Replace all the disposable eating utensils, cups, water bottles, food containers, and paper plates with reusable ones once you run out. Use cotton bags when going to the store. Once you master one area, try reusing other products in your home, like cardboard boxes and rechargeable batteries. In the bathroom, you can introduce safety razors and menstrual cups. If you look carefully, you will find objects in every corner of your home with a multi-use option. Maybe someone you know even has an old piece of furniture they do not need, and you need a writing desk. Find some sanding paper and paint and make yourself a desk. It is a beautiful weekend project which can quickly turn into a hobby.
For every item that can not be refused, reduced, or reused, try repurposing it; many people call this approach upcycling. You may be surprised to learn how many everyday products can have more than one purpose. Sometimes it requires us to be a little bit creative, but the possibilities are endless. When you need something, try to think about what you can use that you already have for that, instead of buying something new. If nothing comes to your mind, look for ideas online. Many people indeed had the same problem and found an innovative solution to it.
Try using cardboard boxes for storage; you can decorate them if you do not like that beige color of their, mason jars, coffee mugs, and tin cans for holding pens and pencils or various knick-knacks running all over the drawers. Encourage your friends and family to think of ideas on how to upcycle items before purchasing new ones.
Rot, or compost, is a truly fantastic approach to reducing waste and making the garbage environmentally friendly. You can compost even if you live in an apartment in a skyscraper, even more so if you live in a farmhouse. Once you start composting, you will be amazed at how much food scraps you produce. Also, at the same time, you will start paying more attention to the amount of fresh fruit and vegetables you buy and eat because every single non-eaten item that has gone bad will be looking at you every time you open your compost bin.
Last but definitely not least: recycle. Nowadays, we know very well that many of the things we do not see the purpose for can be recycled because they are made of that kind of material. If you do not do it already, start collecting cardboard and other paper products, plastics, metal, glass, and organics. Many people are surprised by the amount of waste they reduce by starting to recycle.
All examples mentioned above are just the tip of the iceberg; your imagination is the only limit.
If you pay attention to your actions, you will come to the conclusion that it is not all that impossible to follow the five Rs of sustainability.
The most significant part is that they do not cost you any money at all nor any additional resources; all they require is a little effort. Eventually, following the five Rs will improve the quality of your life because you will be living a healthier life due to the better choices you made and you will know you are doing the right thing for Mother Earth.