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The 5R’s- Refuse Reduce Reuse Repurpose Recycle


The 5R’s have been around for a while although they originally started as the 3R’s they have changed slightly to incorporate 2 new ones.

There is an order to the 5R’s and it is there for a reason – They start in order of importance and work there way down. The idea is that they will help you on your way to reducing your waste, why not start at the top and work your way down and see if you can follow them all?

Refuse – First up on the list is refuse. Simply don’t take it… then it will never begin it’s product life cycle, the demand will fall and they will make less and hopefully none. There is often some mild confusion between refuse and reduce; I will help to clear that up. To refuse is to say no to things people offer you but you don’t need; things that you didn’t ask for or don’t really want. This also includes things that damage you, your family, the environment and that are unsustainable. Vote with your money and refuse to buy them, show the companies that their damaging products are of no interest and will not turn a profit, if the item or product does not turn a profit then it will not be made. Simple.

Refuse to use single use plastics of all varieties – plastic bags, straws, single use water bottles, plastic cutlery to make a start. This can take a little planning as if you don’t have your reusable water bottle or cutlery you may end up a little stuck.

This one may involve a little looking around but it is simple enough – refuse to buy harmful products such as chemical cleaning products, buy an Eco version which does the same job but without the damaging chemicals. Even better than purchasing cleaning products is to make your own. Decent well tested recipes for home made cleaning products can be found all over the web, we will soon add our favourites in an article.

If your country still uses plastic grocery bags – just say no. Refuse to take the plastic bag, they are terrible for both animals and the environment. Thankfully some countries have banned the use of plastic bags and replaced them with reusable bags or bags made of vegetable cellulose, which is better but still not as good as a truly reusable bag.

Something less common but still important is to think about those freebies that companies happily give away in order to remind you of them, that pen you’ll never use, the bag you don’t need etc. Just because it is free it doesn’t mean you need to take it. If it is of use to you then by all means take it but often it isn’t but the alluring fact that it is free is enough for us to take it.

Refuse to buy intensively farmed products that negatively impact the environment and health. Buy local produce if you can – farmers markets are a great direct line to the producer. You can ask direct questions about their produce without having to go through a middle man. When going to a farmers market be sure to bring your own reusable bags for all the tasty food you’ll get.

Plastic bags plight both the oceans and land, polluting the earth and killing countless animals.

Reduce – To simply use less. This means less energy, less heat, less water and maybe renewing your old phone or laptop. Think about what you buy and use, could you do with less of it or use it more efficiently?

Simple things like changing your light bulbs to energy efficient LED bulbs will not only reduce your electricity consumption and electricity bill but make your home more efficient and the LED bulbs will last for such a long time they will pay themselves back.

Another energy positive technique is the use of solar panels, this is more complex than simply changing a light bulb but should be a serious consideration for anyone looking to save some energy and become more eco-friendly. It is a great first step which may eventually lead to an off grid home if developed far enough.

Water consumption has some fairly easy ones to change for example turning the tap off while you brush your teeth or turning the shower off as you lather up. Perhaps less easy to follow for everyone but surprisingly your diet can have the biggest effect on your water consumption. We will explore that idea in a future post.

Heat usage and loss can be solved through insulation, insulation can be used to keep the house warmer or cooler depending on your climate needs. This will reduce your energy consumption and increase your overall house hold efficiency whilst also saving you money.

This house hold lost an incredible amount of heat through the roof due to poor insulation.

Other things such as not accepting junk mail through either a sticker on your mail box or by removing yourself from junk mail mailing lists is an simple way to reduce unnecessary use of paper, time and effort.

Sometimes keeping hold of an existing item will easily reduce your consumption and ecological footprint in the world. Do you really need that new phone or will you existing one do? Perhaps all you need to do is factory reset it and update it to get the performance back. Some brands are now moving to sustainable phones for example Fair Phone allow you to replace and upgrade each individual component as necessary.
Can you simply upgrade your laptop with a new harddrive, new RAM to give it a new lease of life rather than binning it?

Reuse, If you do purchase something make sure it is long lasting, reusable or both.

A reusable water bottle from a company such as HelloBottl is a great idea to allow you to have a long lasting water bottle that is both functional, environmentally friendly and looks cool.

If you are a coffee drinker then you should definitely get your self a reusable coffee cup, some companies will offer you a discount if you bring your own, if they don’t it is definitely worth asking and raising the question. The amount of single use coffee cups that are used everyday is simply staggering.

Some other simple yet effective way to remove harmful single use plastics consumption from your life is to use reusable shopping bags – make to sure to keep it some where so that you will think to take it every time. If you forget your bags then use a paper one or ask for one of their old cardboard boxes which are often found near the till for that exact purpose, if worst comes to worst carry your purchases in your hands and pockets.

It is always useful to keep a compact set of cutlery in your bag and a straw. Collapsible straws can be bought fairly cheaply and they take up next to no room in your bag.

The inital cost of purchasing a reusable waterbottle or coffee cup may seem out of proportion to the cost of the single use but it will quickly repay its self with self satisfaction as you do not through it away everyday.

Repurpose objects from one use to another. This requires some thinking and occasional craft but the internet is an abundant resource for repurposing ideas.

Repurposing an object can be rewarding as you give it a new life and it stays with you.

The first example that springs to my mind is the use of jam-jars. Jam-jars can be used to store food in the cupboard or fridge. Jam-jars are super useful. You can even comfortably use them as glasses to drink from. *
Another simple idea is to use old cardboard boxes to store unused household items – this is one people do without even thinking about it. A more unusable idea could be to use old foam mats for furniture foot pads to protect your floor from scratches, why not use that old foam mat as a tent door mat? The uses for old items is as large as your imagination allows.

The repurposing of jamjars is simple and easy to do.

Recycling – Coming in at the bottom but definitely still very important. If the other 4 options haven’t worked then recycle. Recycling is an important factor is sustainable living but it is not the solution to our problems. Recycling is good because it substantially reduces the energy involved with creating an object and stops it from going to landfill (for at least one product cycle) but it is less efficient than simply finding a new use for an item . Recycling is the most widely known but frustratingly it is still not followed everywhere.

When starting to use the 5R’s recycling is probably the easiest one to do and the others will come with a little time. Maybe you missed the opportunity to refuse or reduce because you weren’t there on your green journey just yet – once you start to notice the missed opportunities then that is half the battle to correcting the issue. Recycling is a great way to see all the things you toss and throw away and it gives you a chance to rethink your future purchases.

Most towns in Europe have reasonable recycling facilities but some better than others.

When looking to recycle it is important to make sure you place the right things in the right places – you’d be surprised at how many people place non biodegradable plastic bags into the compost….

Recycle all the basics you can, paper, cardboard, plastic, metal and glass.

Fabrics are an issue when it comes to disposal as we covered in this article, donating them to passing them on to friends or family is best but charity shops or recycling is better than landfill. Even old, holey and ripped clothing can be used as rags.

Taking your old electronics that can not be sold or refurbished to a recycling centre is important to ensure they are disposed of properly.

It is not simple when you start to think about all this but the sooner you do the better. When you realise all the things you use and throw away on a daily basis it is quite incredible but as you start to notice and build up awareness it all becomes easier and more manageable. All the best on your journey to minimise your waste through the 5R’s.

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Making a Difference Through Second Hand


If you want to make a difference in the world but don’t really know where to start; buying second hand can be an easy one. People have more power than they know, it is a powerful one and rather easy; it is to simply vote with your money. Voting with your money is a sure way to make companies listen and change their ways, if no one is buying their product then why would they continue to make it?

Our society in general is driven by consumerism, one of the best ways to benefit your own pocket, save the environment, and satisfy those shopping urges for unique and wonderful things is to shop second hand.

Organic, green living and eco friendly products are great but they do still require new resources and energy to be used. One can beneficially impact the world around us – by following the 5 R’s – Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose and Recycle, following these will come at little to no cost to your self but benefits all around.

Car Boot Sales, Charity Shops, Second hand shops, and all other things used goods offer the chance to use items which no longer serve the initial buyer but are often in perfectly good working/ wearable order and just need a new home for another long life. By doing this it benefits you, your pocket and the environment

Much More Affordable

When you shop in second, charity shops, car boot sales and other second hand places your money stretches much farther. On average used products are generally around 50% cheaper and clothing even more so – a couple of pounds, dollars or the like will get you a new top, trousers or dress. This allows you to put your money in other places… extra fruit and veg perhaps, learning to surf, rock climb or another new skill! (Or as you prefer!)

Lean Green Bargain Hunting Machine

One major and hugely notable benefit of searching out the pre-owned and pre-loved is that all the energy necessary to create it has already been expended. It also keeps perfectly usable items out of landfill! These items will generally be cheap and can help even the slightest of budgets seem bountiful. Incredible amounts of perfectly good items are thrown away everyday which negatively impacts the environment and unnecessarily goes to landfill sites. When purchasing something from new make sure it is of high quality and will last – like this when you pass it on to a friend, family or charity shop then it can take on another life and serve them too.

Recycle and Reuse

The second hand giving goes both ways, it can come to you and it comes from you. You are not the end of the line and many people would be delighted to take ownership of the things you deem no longer necessary, beautiful or useful. Charity shops and second hand shops will happily receive items which are still usable/ wearable which they can then sell to further their causes and projects; The act of recycling supports a greener economy and a green movement.

The Thrill of The Hunt

At a charity shop who knows what hidden gems may be found hidden in the rack. Having a rough idea of what you want is great and then finding something suitable is truly excellent. Having found that fantastic item at an unbeatable price is a good feeling and then knowing that it will now have a new home and a new life is great. Second hand shopping is very rewarding and can be very productive. Second hand items are often under priced and finding yourself something that you love, supports the green economy and didn’t heavily impact the environment is wonderful.

Keeping Your Money In The Community

Generally speaking if you purchase local and you purchase second hand then your money won’t travel too far away and will stay within the local community. If you purchase from one of the larger charity shops (which some argue have lost their way a little) then it may go further afield but this is something to bare in mind but it still goes to a good cause. Keeping your money local benefits the local community, local businesses and local people. It is often genuinely appreciated as it goes towards helping somebodies way of life or supporting a project rather than travelling to an offshore bank account where it pays no tax and helps no one. They say when you buy from a local small business a real person smiles!

You Can Spot Quality

Since the majority of the merchandise you will come across has already had some use (sometimes brand new items can be found) you can see the quality, what lasts and what does not. This is practical and affordable and helps us stay away from fast fashion which should not be purchased in the first place.

Brand Names

Often as you search through the loved items brand name goods can be found, this is not important for everyone but it is important for many. Many people love an item dearly for a brief time then toss it away, this mentality needs to change but that is for a discussion another time! Brand name goods can be found cheaply at bargain prices, nobody knows you only paid £4 for it rather than the £60 normally asked for!

Consumer Driven Economy

Gratification though shopping is part of our current (Unsustainable) economy and will be for some time to come. Many companies offer cheap, unsustainable and environmentally damaging items to help us fulfil this need. Change is in the air and companies are starting to take note of the changing consumer mood and movement. As people become more aware of the difference they can make and the impact they themselves directly have on the environment companies will start to change with them. Some companies will be doing this because it is what they truly believe should be done and it is what will benefit the many and not the few. Then some companies will do it for to ensure their profit stays high and their share holders happy. As immoral companies shift be sure to watch out for “Green Washing” which can be found out about here.

The future will be green or not at all.

Bob Brown