Every single product we use has an environmental cost. When you think about the journey a single item has gone through to get to you, and how much waste is scattered all along that journey, from mining/refining the raw material, to production, to transportation, all the way to you throwing it in the trash can, you realise how many points of waste creation there are.
So many of our daily products are designed for single use, after which they are simply thrown away and never thought of again. Unfortunately, these items often end up in landfill, or the oceans, where they can stick around forever, leaching harmful chemicals into the environment or harming wildlife. This is why it’s so important to consider what happens to each product that you use.
You’re probably familiar with the 3 Rs; Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. It’s a phrase that’s been around since the 1970’s when people started to become more environmentally conscious. These are still the core principals of the waste reduction movement, but a few other Rs have come along since then to help.
These 5 Rs are:
Refuse, Reduce, Reuse (and Repair), Rot and Recycle
The order of these words is important. The closer they are to the top of the funnel, the more essential they are to implement. Let’s go through them and how you can apply them in your daily life.
This our first line of defence against waste and plastic! It’s all about refusing the things that you don’t want. Think about asking for no straw with your drink, or saying “no, thank you” to that bottle of water on the plane or that bag of swag at a conference. It’s harder to do than you might think and takes a bit of practice to get comfortable with saying “no” to things. You might also find that it isn’t 100% effective, your drink might still arrive at your table with a straw, but that’s ok. You are still making a difference! And the more people who practice this, the quicker things will change for the better.
Something else you can refuse is excess packaging. You can choose products that don’t have packaging, avoiding those packaged fruit and vegetables at the grocery store, or buying grains in bulk. You can also choose to buy second-hand. These items often don’t come with packaging. Buying second-hand is always a great idea, and in fact it feeds into almost all of the Rs! You are saving the environment, and you are saving your money too.
As a consumer, you hold enormous power to vote with your wallet and tell companies and corporations about what you value and care about. Every time you make a purchase, you are sending a clear message to the world about what you want. So be sure to send the right message!
Reducing the amount of stuff you buy, or accumulate, is the second R. It’s incredibly important and has many added benefits. When you have less stuff, you have less clutter. This is helpful for your mental and emotional state as well!
Before making any new purchase, ask yourself these few simple questions.
- Do I really need it?
- Will I still need it 30 days from now?
- Do I already have something similar?
- Can I use anything else?
- Does it have at least three uses?
If the item passes through this checklist, the next thing to do is wait. Yep, don’t do anything yet. Sleep on it, preferably for a few days, and run through the list again. Do you still need it? Well then go ahead and make the purchase. You’ll find that you appreciate the items you do purchase more because you actually need them and aren’t just making impulse purchases. The less stuff you bring into your home means the less waste you will have to throw out!
Reuse (and Repair)
Before disposable products were the norm, things were actually made to be reused, and last a long time too! Can you imagine such a world? This means that for pretty much anything that is disposable in your day to day life, there is a reusable alternative. And there are some very easy swaps to reusable products that you can make in your life.
The big four swaps that you can make right now are: reusable water bottles, coffee cups, using your own bags at the grocery store and stainless steel or bamboo straws. But there are countless other swaps to make, you can check out our guide for our favorite eco-friendly swaps here.
The second important R here is Repair. If something is broken, often our first instinct is to throw it out. But a lot of broken things can be fixed and mended! Glue the handle back on your coffee mug, sew up holes in clothes, darn socks, reattach loose buttons. Many appliances can be repaired too. There are so many creative ways to fix things, just check out YouTube next time something you own breaks.
One of the keys to reusability is to buy products that are well made and are built to last. If you spend a little bit extra on a pair of shoes that are well made, they will last you much longer than those cheap fast fashion items. Well-made shoes can also be repaired by cobbler instead of having to be thrown away. Reusing also feeds back into the second-hand market. Why not reuse something that someone else doesn’t have a need for anymore. A great way to pick up vintage clothes and furniture!
Composting is a really crucial step in reducing your waste. You’re basically taking all your organic waste, like food scraps, paper and natural fibres, and turning them back into nutrients that can be used to make more of those products! It’s the very definition of the circle of life.
We’ve already covered why composting is so important, as well as some of your composting options, in this post, and we strongly encourage composting in any form.
The last R is for Recycling, and it is last on the list for a reason. Recycling really should be a last resort. Recycling comes at a high environmental cost. It’s very energy intensive, produces a lot of its own waste, and recycling waste is often shipped overseas to be dealt with in developing countries. Recycling is not the answer to our waste problem!
Two materials that can be infinitely recycled are glass and stainless steel (or aluminium and other metals). You can take these products and turn them into new products without losing anything. If you need to buy something, look for products made from glass or stainless steel (make sure its 304 18/8 grade stainless steel for food products!). That’s why Everusely products are made from these materials ????
Remember, plastic cannot be recycled! It can only be downcycled, which means it is turned into something like a bench, or it goes into making speed bumps. Once these products reach the end of their lifespan, they will be discarded into landfill. It’s also cheaper to just make new plastic than it is to recycle it. Plastic is an incredibly useful material, there is no doubt about that, and sometimes you are going to have to make purchases that contain plastic. Just be mindful of how much plastic you bring into your life.
So that’s it! If you remember these 5 Rs and apply them to your purchases, choices and lifestyle, you are going to go a LONG way in reducing your waste and your impact on the environment.