The Five R's: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot

June 06, 2017

We're always learning more about how our waste impacts our planet. Waste contributes to the pollution of our oceans and lakes, and it increases the greenhouse gas effect that causes global warming. The three R's aren't cutting it, so now we have the five R's; Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Rot. Let's break them down.


Refusing will help you eliminate a lot of waste from the very beginning. It's simply about saying no and looking into reusable alternatives.

Refuse single use plastics, like disposable coffee cups, utensils, and straws. These materials are often made of plastic and thrown away after one use. While it may seem like just one fork, it adds up when everyone is doing the same. Look into reusable, well made alternatives like a coffee cup, bamboo utensil set, and reusable straw. Keep them in your bag, and you'll always be able to refuse the single use materials.

While we're all conditioned to say yes and accept swag bags, free coupons, flyers, and anything else because it's free, learn to refuse. Accept the things you need, and refuse the rest. Let's be honest, how many swag bags aren't filled with useful goodies? Or how many coupons have you accepted only to never use?

To help you get in the habit of refusing, look at what you're always accepting. If it's coffee cups, find a reusable one. If it's flyers, take a photo with your phone and save it for later. There are sustainable ways to refuse that don't mean you have to go without.


This is one of my favourite ways to help our environment. Simply reduce what you're purchasing by being mindful about what you need and want.

Be realistic about what you actually need. Before making purchases, ask yourself if you really need this item. If you do, look at the quality. While price is a huge factor, try to find the best quality in your budget. Well made products will last longer, reducing the times you'll need to repurchase. Another tip is to take care of your possessions by following cleaning instructions and labels so everything lasts a long time.


Reusing and repairing go hand in hand. When you're deciding whether to toss something and buy a new one, ask yourself if you can find a way to reuse or repair it. This applies to clothing, furniture, and technology. If your phone or laptop is broken, instead of immediately purchasing a new one, seek repair options first.

Reusing also means selling or donating your used items so they go to loving homes instead of the landfill. Have a yard sale, hop on Craigslist, or ask your friends and family if they have a need for things you don't.

You can also reuse by buying second hand. Shop at thrift and antique stores and go to yard sales. You'll save a lot of money and reuse something someone else didn't want. Don't forget a library card, which is a really great way to reuse books, music, and movies.


One of the easiest ways to reduce your waste is to recycle. Recycling is one way you can reduce landfill contributions. Look into the recycling process in your city and opt for materials that are easily recyclable.

Ensure that you're sorting properly (or not if you have single stream recycling) and ensure that you're cleaning packaging before recycling it, as it can't be properly recycled if it isn't cleaned of food and residue.


This was huge in reducing my own waste as I'm vegan and all of my food scraps can be composted. Look into composting (you can get started with one of our blog posts here) and start throwing food scraps into the bin instead of the trash. You'll save lots of waste and make a healthy, nutritious soil for your plants.

Putting the 5 R’s in Practice

We’re very excited about taking part in the Package Free Shop in Brooklyn, a shop that features package free options to make being zero waste a little more accessible. We’ve taken part by not only including our products, but by including a bulk section. You can purchase our castile soaps, deodorants, salts scrub, body oil, and facial toner without purchasing additional packaging. This allows you to refuse and reduce new packaging and reuse your beautiful Meow Meow Tweet jars and bottles. We’re proud to be a part of something that’s giving people the opportunity to take care of themselves and the environment.

Sarah Price is a green beauty and self care writer with an obsession with holistic skincare. She writes about natural beauty, DIY recipes, self care tips, and more on her self titled blog.

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