When I first decided to live a plastic free lifestyle, it really stemmed from wanting less waste in my life, so everything disposable or single use had to go. It was a long process. I obviously didn’t want to start out by wasting what I already had so when a product came to its natural end, I replaced it with a plastic free alternative and this is still going on today. Three years later I still have products that I’m determined to replace for plastic free alternatives but only when it’s absolutely necessary. There is no sense in throwing away something that is still fulfilling its purpose, this just exasperates the environmental pollution problem! And it should be our goal, not to add to the problem that already exists.
So when I started out I saw articles and posts on social media talking about the 5 R’s for a zero waste lifestyle, and then it became the 6 R’s and so on. So today I’m going to discuss all the R’s;
Refuse - I actively refuse to use anything single use. I refuse plastic bags when they are offered to me, I ask the bartender to refrain from adding the plastic straw to my drink (I’m an adult I can drink from the glass!) I can’t even recall the last time I purchased a plastic bottled drink.
Reduce - Don’t consume what you don’t need, whether it be food, material objects or energy. When you are making a purchase always ask yourself, do I need it? And don’t confuse the feeling of need with the feeling of want. They are quite different and if I ever get confused, I use a follow up question; have I managed this long without it? If the answer is yes then I don’t really need it and it goes back on the shelf. Don’t waste valuable energy resources by having the central heating on if you’re only wearing shorts in the house, if you don’t like to wrap up then my advise to you is move to warmer climates. And if you’re not in the room, turn off the lights!
Reuse - Everything. When I am faced with anything that no longer fills its original purpose, I simply put it to good use elsewhere. I try to give everything a second and sometimes a third purpose in life. It’s remarkable what uses you can find for old items when you take away the option of just throwing them away.
Rot - This one is my favourites! I’m obsessed with my compost bins and everything that goes in them. I thoroughly enjoy the process of making my own compost at home. Not only does this save me so much money but it also prevents me having to buy plastic bags of compost from the garden centre. So if it says ‘compostable’ on the packaging, I give it a go! The good thing to come out of this plastic pollution crisis is the innovation it has encouraged. I think Two Farmers Crisps are a perfect example, they use 100% compostable packaging, which I can testify, does exactly what it says on the tin (packet) and the crisps taste pretty great too! But there are lots of other companies that are focusing on compostable materials like Vegware and Tea Pigs
Repair - Since moving into our new home I’ve had a string of bad luck with tools and equipment. First our vacuum cleaner stopped working and then I managed to break three hammers, a screwdriver and a garden fork. Most of which I’m happy to report I managed to fix with a little help from a chap, who I’m pretty sure can fix anything! I’ve torn holes in trousers, gloves and jumpers but each one gets sown up and continues to serve its purpose albeit with a bit of adjustment. We live in such a throw away culture that it’s almost always cheaper to buy a new one rather than have the existing one repaired. Quite often it still has a little life left in it or it can be Reused.
Re-Gift - One mans rubbish is another mans treasure, so the saying goes. I love nothing better than rescuing other peoples rubbish. I especially enjoy rescuing those discarded (probably used only once) plastic pots in the local garden centres recycling bin. I also enjoy trips to the recycling centre and salvage yards, you can pick up some real gems. There are many websites you can use for this purpose too, like freecycle.org or gumtree.com and many apps that help you to reach out to your community to see if there are any takers for items you no longer have a use for.
Recover - This is one to aim towards, certainly for most people. I know my personal aim is to become self-sufficient one day and I’m sure its something most people have thought about, and it is achievable. To harness the energy of wind, solar and potentially water (if you live in the right places) is a great way to become self-sufficient and live coherently with the planet. Using the natural resources the planet provides us, to enjoy a standard of living we have all become accustomed too, minus the pollution, nothing could be better.
Recycle - Most people would argue that this is the key to our pollution problem. We could all happily continue to use plastic however we chose if we had the infrastructure to recycle it all, right? Not so, frighteningly not all the plastic you put in your curb side recycling bin gets recycled. We can’t rely on this as a solution, which is why it is so low on my list. It should be treated as the last option! But there are places that do actively recycle. I have found organisations like TerraCycle that help you to find a home for your recycling when local authorities fail to include it in curb side collections, like plastic pens, crisp packets and plant pots. These are however, sponsored by manufacturers, BIC sponsors the recycling of pens (not just BIC), Walkers sponsors the recycling of crisp packets. The recycling of plants pots is yet to have a sponsor and therefore you have to pay for a recycling box. If only we could find a manufacturer that would sponsor the recycling of plant pots...
Rethink - Be mindful of your consumption, your relationship with ‘things’. If you take nothing else away from this blog just remember one thing, there is no ‘away’. Everything you bin, goes somewhere! Whether that is to landfill, industrial incinerator plants or heaven forbid, shipped to another country to dispose of. Its all pollution. Landfill ends up in our oceans, incinerator ends up in the air we breath...its up to you to be responsible for the footprint you leave behind.