Last week’s post introduced Bea Johnson, a zero waste pioneer. She and her family have the remarkable goal of producing no more waste in one year than can fit in a large canning jar. She follows the 5Rs to help achieve this goal.

We’ve all heard of the 3Rs, so what are the 5Rs the Johnson family follows? Here they are in the order they follow them:

Refuse— Items Johnson refuses include single-use plastics, freebies, promotional items, individually-wrapped snacks, and other small gifts. She admits that “refusing is the most difficult to achieve socially, especially for households with children. Nobody wants to go against the grain or be rude when something is offered with no ill will.” However, she offers strategies to politely refuse these things and points out: “If we all refuse hotel freebies, then they will no longer be offered; if we all refuse receipts, then they will no longer need to be printed.”

Reduce—She distills reducing into three steps: evaluate past consumption; reduce future consumption; decrease your exposure to media and time spent leisure shopping, since these can lead to more consumption.

Reuse—This includes selling or donating usable items you no longer need, as well as shopping secondhand first, before investing in newly manufactured goods. She also discusses “collaborative consumption,” which is basically sharing. This applies to things which you do not use all the time, such as tools, lawn equipment, recreational vehicles, cars, and even homes and office space.

Recycle—This is a category she maintains for “what we cannot refuse, reduce, or reuse.” She advises knowing and understanding what your community can and cannot recycle. She couples this with the recommendation to select products with high post-consumer recycled content and choose those that are accepted in your local recycling programs.

Rot—or composting.

So, how about you? Ready to try a couple of new Rs? Or are you already following all five?

Photo courtesy of Bea Johnson, ZeroWasteHome.com

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