You may have heard about the 3 R’s, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. But the world is always changing, and now we have 5 Rs. That’s right. We added some more to the equation. Feel free to come up with your own R’s, and if you are a pirate, you will have plenty of Arrrs… Ohh, that was a bad one. Anyways let’s get into it:
The 5 R’s of Zero Waste start by refusing things. Whatever you still have, you can probably use and reduce to save resources. Substitute disposables for reusable options, and instead of chucking everything, see if you can repair it! If you still have rubbish leftover, separate what little trash you have left and make sure to recycle. Compost what’s left and let it rot.
Refusing is the first, and by far, the most effective step you can take. Now, that means if you are being offered promotional materials, say “no, thank you.” Luckily nowadays, we have the opportunity to select email instead of postal letters.
When you go shopping in your local supermarket, bring a reusable shopping bag, avoid buying fruit that is wrapped in excessive packaging. Just simply refuse it. I know it requires changing old habits, but that’s why you are here, right?
In most cases, you need to find a different supermarket and start shopping at your local grocer or in a bulk food store. It takes a little bit of preparation, but you got this.
- Not only are you supporting your community and putting your money where it helps.
- Improve your family’s health. Buying local foods has numerous health benefits for your family.
- Improve the local economy.
- Know the people behind the product.
- Keep your community unique.
- Better customer service.
A good question to ask yourself is, “Can I make this myself?”
I was surprised at how easy it is to make your own chocolate.
We are living in a throw-away society. Remember when your grandparents would hand you down their favorite watch? Those things had emotional value on top of a quality made product.
What happened? Everything is just designed to be thrown away.
Did you know that the first light bulb invented by Edison is still glowing!?! You can visit it in a museum. They employed 100’s of people to work on lightbulbs that break after a couple of months of usage. Surreal right?
Often products that are made from cheap materials don’t last very long. I remember the proud face on my grandpa when he handed me his favorite watch over. That was a special moment.
Now, most items are built for quick disposal, and they come with a significant environmental footprint. Buying better quality items makes more sense since you will look after it more. Yes, it might take a little more out of your pocket, but it will also last for life. The emotional value is what makes the pen or the watch more precious.
Reducing the amount of waste one creates is easier said than done. I used to look into my fridge and be shocked by the amount of plastic packaging in there. It took some real adjusting, but it worked. We had to do our shopping at the local bulk food store, and to my surprise, some of the items were even cheaper? The big win is that you are putting fewer chemicals into your system when you buy organic.
It comes down to the right questions that you need to ask yourself.
Do you really need three pairs of Nikes?
Do you need to buy a new set of skis every year?
We are producing around 340 million tons of plastic globally each year. That number is so huge it is hard to put into perspective. Sadly less than 10% is being recycled.
Perhaps the old sled in the shed can do with a little tweaking rather than buying a new one. It requires a little bit of creativity, and you realize that you can actually give a lot of items a second Life.
For example, I was planning on upgrading my computer because it was getting pretty slow, and the battery life wasn’t that great anymore. So I could have bought a brand new one, but ultimately there wasn’t much wrong with this one. It needed a new battery around $100, and it needed a bigger hard drive and some other disk thingy that I got of eBay for another $50. Now it’s like a new computer, a 2011 MacBook Pro, surely the latest model is quicker and better but mine is fabulous, and it runs again like a dream.
Or take your wardrobe, for example. Because I have moved around a fair bit, I only came to Canada with, two backpacks. Now, I own one big winter jacket, which is actually one of those rain jacket/winter jackets, and yes, it is made from synthetic fabric. Yeah, you can’t be perfect, but you can stop being wasteful. The rest of my wardrobe is a couple of jeans and a couple of jumpers. If I can, I buy items that are made from natural fibers and not synthetic ones. But it is bloody hard to find some decent rainjackets not made of synthetic fibers.
Know when I look into my bathroom, it used to be all plastic bottles with shampoo and body wash, and I’m only a man, so imagine a woman’s bathroom with creams and the things they slap on their faces. Everything needs to be packaged in a beautiful Pinky freaking package…
Reusing things is also in the category of repairing something. Like I mentioned earlier, why don’t just fix your old sled or, you know, that old surfboard that’s in the corner. It may just need a little bit of ding repair, and it’s all good again.
What about disposables? You buy items where you throw half of them away. You might as well throw your money away because at least then your impact on the environment will be small unless it’s plastic money…
Here’s the list of reusable things that are easily replaceable:
- The biggest offender, the water bottle, PET bottle. Not only are you paying four times the price for what is in most cases, normal tap water. But you are also putting yourself at risk of drinking water that contains microplastic. Plastic leaches into water, especially when it has been warmed up by the sun or been sitting on the shelf for an extended period. It really is a no brainer to have a high-quality water bottle made from stainless steel or glass.
- Plastic bags — bring a tote bag with you when you go shopping, it’s that simple. Just throw a couple in your car and a tiny one like this in your handbag.
- Have an alternative straw to the plastic straws, if you still need to suck…
- Disposable razors — have an electric shaver or my favorite a safety razor in the bathroom.
- Tissues – cotton handkerchiefs.
- Paper towels — use cotton cloths or towels can be chopped up and repurposed
- Tea Bags can be made from nylon (which is a form of plastic). Use loose tea and a strainer or a french press instead.
- Don’t buy one of those silly willy coffee pad machines, yes they are convenient. But each brew also releases the chemicals from the plastic pod into your coffee. Mmmh and the waste — use a stovetop espresso machine, way better.
- Cling wrap can easily be replaced by beeswax wraps. Make them yourself by clicking here.
Buying reusable products is more sensible in many terms. It is what the ZeroWasteMan stands for and the most fun one of the 5r’s.
This is the last option. Like I said, less than 10% is actually being recycled. Recycling is mainly too expensive. Filtering through all this mess is costly, and then you need to clean it and sort it and grind it and heat it and and and. It is way cheaper just to make virgin plastic, sadly. This is where our society has failed the planet, but we are changing that here, right?
The story about recycling,
To stop the littering from happening the recycling scheme was born. Rather than making the company responsible for the “trash” they were producing, blame it on the consumer, to clean their act up. As we know today, it didn’t work.
“Recycling is a failing business”says Tom Szaky from TerraCycle
Glass and metal can be melted and reused over and over without
Meaning a plastic bottle that used to be clear and pretty. Is now been turned into a sweater or a shoe. Often recycled plastic is used to make park benches and floor mats. This is clearly not the solution to recycling. We are producing too much of this stuff every day.
More than 60 million plastic bottles end up in landfills and incinerators every day – a total of about 22 billion last year – container-recycling
They don’t biodegrade there, they only break down into smaller and smaller pieces called microplastic.
Have you heard the term microplastics? Well, I’ll explain all about it in this article.
And last but not least, we have rot. Food scraps and biowaste goes here, into your compost bin. Now what if you live in the city, you may not have a garden or a compost. Most municipalities have green waste bins, but some don’t.
Check for local compost places and perhaps make some new friends too. No, not with the worms, real people. Make sure you don’t throw peel off the little stickers from the fruit. They are most likely from plastic and shouldn’t end up in your compost.
If you have a garden, then a worm farm is an excellent way of dealing with your food waste. Not only do these little critters help you get rid of your food waste quickly, but they also produce worm juice (what they pee and poop), which is an exceptional fertilizer for your garden.
Tip: Don’t overdo it on the fertilizer it’s pretty potent stuff.
Then I have just come across this cool way of composting if you live in an apartment. It’s called Bokashi composting. Read it here👇
I hope you learned something new today. This should cover most of the stuff I know about the 5 R’s, and if you have any more ideas or suggestions, don’t hesitate and leave me a comment below.