5 R’s of zero wasteWiebke Venter
Bea Johnson, the queen of zero waste living, introduced the 5 R´s of zero waste back in 2013 with the launch of her book Zero Waste Home. Here’s the formula:
- Refuse what you don’t need
- Reduce what you have and rethink what you need
- Reuse and repair what you can
- Recycle what is recyclable
- Rot/compost the rest
The first step is to refuse what you do not necessarily need. For example, try and get into the habit of bringing your own reusable shopping bags so that you can learn to say “no” to plastic bags at the till. Say “no” to things such as pamphlets, flyers, business cards or maps and rather take a photo using your phone. Furthermore, try and refuse disposables in general. The more we accept and purchase these products, the higher the demand for it grows. Every purchase we make is either a vote for or against single-use plastic – there’s no in-between.
We recommend that you shop at local farmers markets or at small local stores. We often find that larger supermarkets have a lot of packaging, even in the produce area. Farmers and local shops are usually much more open to individual solutions like filling containers.
The bottom line is: The more you practice making conscious and healthy shopping decisions, the more successful you’ll become at refusing what you do not need, which in turn helps with you avoid making any pointless purchases.
During my pilgrimage in Spain and while relocating to Cape Town, I learned so much on how to reduce my belongings and how little I actually need to live a comfortable life. I experienced how liberating it is to live off the essentials, alone, and as Marie Kondo would say: “that sparks joy.”
We all have these items at home that seem too good to throw away, but we never really use them either. Each of which had to be produced at one point and has now become a waste of resources, because they are just lying around in our homes. We suggest that you rather donate or sell them. This way, someone else can reuse your things instead of buying new products, which would, ultimately, use more of our resources..
Also, try and reduce your overall consumption. Rethink your needs so that you can avoid making impulsive buying decisions. Otherwise, you end up with more items that will only clutter your home even further.
3. Reuse (and repair)
Disposables are items that we buy and throw away, over and over again, and they can be quite costly. If you really think about it, you’re not only throwing them away, but you are actually disposing of your money too, while there are so many healthy and smart alternatives for reusing that you can invest in. They may well be a bit more expensive than disposables but considering the time of use, it can be a huge relief for your wallet in the long run.
Here are just some examples:
- Cotton rounds – washable cotton rounds like these ones
- Paper towels – hemp or cotton cloths
- Dish sponge – cotton dish cloth, bamboo pot brush
- Tin foil/ cling film – put it in a food container or jar, or wrap it in wax wraps like these or use bowl covers
- Paper bags/ plastic bags – bring your own linen bag
- Disposable lunch bags – stainless steel food containers
- Bottled water – a good quality glass or stainless-steel water bottle like these ones and tap water
If anything breaks, you can fix them yourself or have them repaired. We also recommend buying second-hand items. There are lots of great groups on Facebook as well as second-hand markets (which make fun weekend trips) and there you tend to find unique items that you won’t necessarily find in a store.
After you have refused, reduced, and reused, you can recycle what is left. But be sure that the packaging or items are in fact recyclable. Paper (no plastic layer), tins and glass can be recycled and will become what they once were. Some plastics can be recycled, too. Just find the recycling symbol with the number in it. Check your municipality’s website to find out which plastics will be recycled in your area. Also, keep in mind that the recycling of plastic will only be partial, as it can never become what it once was. For instance, food packaging will never be recycled to food packaging, it’ll only become something less of value.
You can bring your rubbish to recycling depots. Alternatively, there are some recycling companies in Cape Town that will come to homes and businesses to collect recyclables; Dirty and wet items will, however, not be accepted. So please do ensure that you empty and clean the items you wish to recycle, properly, so that these resources stand the best chance of being reused. The benefit of cleaning rubbish to be recycled automatically cancels out the use of trash bags, which serves bullet point 2 “reduce”. How practical!
What is now still left is kitchen scraps and food waste. There are several methods of composting these things to turn them into fertile compost and juice to give nature all the nutrients back that she has given to us. We, for example, use a Bokashi Composting Bin (Bokashi meaning fermentation). Bokashi is macrobiotics that decomposes food waste. We fill the bin daily with our kitchen waste and put bokashi bran on it. For our 25 L bin, we need approximately 2 months to fill it, then it needs to stand for 2 weeks.
After that it is ready to go to a compost heap. We have a place where we can bring it to as we don’t have the garden for a compost heap. The advantage of bokashi is that you can even put dairies and bones in it. They say you can even put your Bokashi into a worm farm. We recently have started one but didn´t try to feed them with our Bokashi yet. We will report on this in another blog post.
Whether you are living in a small apartment with no outside area or in a big house with a huge garden, please take time to research your options as there are compost-solutions for every need.
For what cannot be refused, reused, recycled and rot, can be cut up and used in eco bricks, but still try and reduce wherever you possibly can.
Now enjoy your very own “Re-“Journey and Re-Store the World with us!