The 6 R's of Zero Waste

You've likely been taught the 3 R's: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Now it's time to add three more to the mix: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose, Rot and Recycle (and only in that order).  

You may be wondering why does the order of the R's matter and how do I incorporate each R into my life? Well, in this blog post we will answer all of your questions and more. Read until the end, and if you still have questions be sure to leave it in the comments section below!

Let's start with the first R and go from there.

First, Refuse.

The first and most important R is Refuse. This R can be the most difficult to embrace, especially when it challenges habits that we've formed over a lifetime. As the saying goes, practice makes permanent. You have to start somewhere, so start with an easy exercise like this.

The next time you go to a restaurant, coffee shop or bar ask for no straw. That's it. It's that easy. Those few extra seconds you take to refuse a single-use disposable will help you keep waste out of the landfill or from ending up in our beautiful oceans. #missionaccomplished 

Now repeat this exercise for other occasions in your life, such as while you are shopping, hosting a party, traveling, hiking, or even going to work. Find our top tips for refusing waste like a #ZeroWasteBadass in our How to Go Zero Waste | 5 Simple Steps blog post here. Additional tips which aren't mentioned in that blog post can be found below.

  • Go paperless. With your bills, your junk mail, your boarding passes for flights, your train tickets, etc. 
  • Take photos of business cards, pamphlets, recipes, etc. rather than taking physical copies which usually end up in the trash or recycling bin. 

Next, Reduce.

Are you ready to feel a deeper sense of freedom that you (likely) haven't experienced before? Here's your magical word: reduce. Reduce the amount of things you buy and own by asking yourself the following questions:

  • Do I really need this?
  • Does this item improve my quality of life?
  • Have I used this item at least once in the last two weeks?

If there is one thing that living zero waste teaches you, it is the beauty of simplicity. Reducing in every aspect of your life not only simplifies your life, but it also helps you save money and identify what's important to you.

Third, Reuse.

You've probably done this one without even identifying it as eco-fab living. Whether reusing jars, a zero waste lifestyle essential like a safety razor, or stretching the life of your Dr. Bronner's soap by adding some water to it (that's reusing... right?), the zero waste lifestyle is all about ditching disposables. Check out our blog post Zero Waste Swaps | The Ultimate List here for ideas on where, how and why you should start reusing like it's nobody's business. 

Fourth, Repurpose.

Arguably one of the most fun R's: repurpose. Simply take something you are no longer using and alter it for another more practical use (aka: upcycling). Think, mason jar into toothbrush holder or old shoe into flowerpot holder. 

Next, Rot.

Ahhh... there's nothing quite like the sweet smell of rotting food with a purpose, are we right!? Before throwing away those kitchen scraps, lawn clippings or dead leaves in your yard, consider adopting a compost pile. If you do not have a yard, consider a worm bin or freezing your food scraps until you can make it to the farmer's market where you can donate your compost.

Lastly, Recycle. 

Heather Charles / Chicago Tribune

We hate to even include this R on here, as it has become quite the controversial topic over the past year. Between China no longer taking our recyclables, policies differing from state to state, and the lack of  transparency in the industry overall, it's difficult to even label recycling as a "green" form of waste disposal. Nonetheless, it exists and we are here to help you utilize it in the most efficient and eco-conscious way.

1. Twist off the cap and ring of your plastic water bottle before recycling. These two water bottle components aren’t recyclable. In fact, bottles that arrive at recycling centers with the caps still on often are sent to the landfill. Ditch plastic water bottles all together by adopting a reusable. Example brand we love here.


2. Remove all food residue before recycling. This goes for paper towels, paper plates, pizza boxes, food containers, etc. Food waste impurities is one of the main reasons China stopped taking our recyclables. Contaminated recyclables are rendered useless, so do you best to clean them to the best of your abilities. Better yet, use containers you can reuse over and over again, like glass jars and metal food containers. Consider your Zero Waste Kit or a lunch box style bento box for storing foods or liquids on-the-go.


3. Find out what types of plastic your local recycling center accepts. Not all plastic is created equal; therefore, not all plastic can be recycled the same way. Look for the number inside the recycling symbol — the three arrows that form a triangle — and make sure you only put the right types into your bin. 

4. Learn how to recycle paper. Did you know you can't recycle shredded paper? The long fibers cannot easily be used to make good recycled paper products, so this is a good example of a paper product you'd be better off composting than putting in the recycling bin. To learn more about paper and what can and cannot be recycled, visit this helpful guide by Waste Management. 

5. Never, never, never put plastic grocery bags into your recycling bin. Plastic bags often get tangled in the recycling center machines and damage them. Avoid them entirely by bringing your own Zero Waste Kit tote bags to shop. For the plastic bags you do have, bring them back to the store to recycle them. If there isn't a bin to collect bags, encourage the store manager to provide one. 

6. When in doubt, call your local recycling center. While we wish we could tell you otherwise, the truth is every community recycles differently. If you cannot find the answer to your recycling questions online, consider calling your local recycling center. 

Thanks for tuning in for another blog post on the Zero Waste Kit blog! We hope these 6 R's help you on your journey to reducing your ecological footprint. If you have any comments or questions, be sure to leave them below. Lastly, don't forget to share this blog post with someone who you think would appreciate it!

Until next time, badasses.


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