Bea Johnson, often considered the founder of the Zero Waste lifestyle and author of Zero Waste Home , has developed a system of Five R’s designed to help you think about every sustainable decision you make. By following this list, you will be reducing your waste in no time!
If you have already signed up for our email list, you know that one of the first and easiest shifts to make is refusing junk mail, catalogs, and credit card solicitations. OptOutPrescreen.com, CatalogChoice.org, and DMAchoice.org are all online tools that help you tackle this head on. And while you’re at it, switch over your statements to electronic billing.
Turn Down Freebies
Additionally, some people (*hands raised*) have difficulty saying “no” to free things, subconsciously assigning all items an intrinsic value. The thing is, bonus merchandise, branded freebies, and cheap plastic party favors rarely add to the overall quality of life. In fact, the clutter can start to weigh you down. If you can refuse these items when they are first presented, you can help keep clutter at bay while limiting the demand for more freebies in the future.
KonMari the Clutter
Once you start refusing the clutter, the next step is going through your personal belongings to pull out items you no longer use. KonMari Method’s Marie Kondo suggests that if something doesn’t “spark joy” when it’s touched, thank it for being a part of your life, then get rid of it. Donate gently used items to your local Buy Nothing Group or a thrift store, put nicer pieces up for consignment, and bring ruined clothes to a place that recycles fabric scraps.
Prep, Plan, and Pare Down
Minimize shopping trips by using things you already have, whether it’s food, clothing, office supplies, toiletries, etc. When you have to go shopping, keep a list and stick to it. Don’t be tempted by impulse buys. The more things you purchase, the more waste you will have.
Single-use items are a huge problem in our growing waste epidemic, but they’re also getting easier to avoid thanks to new bans. Plastic is a huge offender (think straws, takeout utensils, plastic bags), but single-use paper objects and packaging are also major contributors. Start using reusables instead of disposables to instantly divert waste from the landfill. Remember: “Seconds in your hand. Forever in the land.”
Start by carrying a water bottle or travel mug to swap out plastic bottles and coffee cups. Leave a tote in the car with all of your shopping reusables, like cloth bags and jars for bulk goods, so that you are always ready to shop sustainably. As you start to rethink your habits, you might be inspired to incorporate more shifts at home. Don’t forget to #shareyourshift with us!
If you have refused, reduced, and reused but still have waste, the next step is recycling. Since only a small percentage of recyclables are actually recycled, the system leaves a lot to be desired. Find local drop-offs and learn your city’s recycling policies so that you aren’t contaminating the process and causing an even bigger problem. Then question the need for your product, and ask yourself if there is a more sustainable option you can use in the future.
Most packaging can be avoided by shopping in bulk or at zero waste locations like SHIFT; but if you have to buy packaged items, opt for glass, metal, or cardboard that can be more easily recycled. Plastic should be avoided, since it can only be downcycled—and even then, it usually ends up as trash in our oceans. When possible, shop secondhand for clothing, toys, books, and more; and when purchasing new items, choose brands that prioritize sustainability.
There is a range of compost systems utilizing different receptacles, conditions, and processes. Some only digest vegetables, while others digest meat, nails, and hair. A few require worms, but others depend on heat and tumbling. Perhaps you live in an area with curbside composting, making the shift easy and mess-free. Find a system that works for you and your lifestyle, then start composting.
Trash to Treasure
As you reduce the amount of waste you send to the landfill, you can switch your trash can and kitchen compost collector. The bigger the compost receptacle, the more likely you will be to use it. Plus, a smaller trash can will act as a reminder of how far you have come!