Yes it’s true! There’s more than just “reduce, reuse, recycle”! While these are great actions to practice, there’s even more that you can do to reduce your impact on our planet. It is important to note that “the R’s” are a hierarchy and not interchangeable; there are some actions you should perform before other ones. The hierarchy of R’s was designed for consumers to reflect on their actions before purchasing and during disposal of products – so let’s help you become an eco-friendly conscious consumer! By cutting down on the resources you use, the emissions you can cause, and the waste you create by implementing these simple actions, you can set an example for others and make your lifestyle more sustainable.
Remember. The first step of sustainable living in general is to remember why sustainability is important to you and why you should do everything in your power to live in such a way. Remember the hierarchy of the R’s and share them with others. And remember simple sustainable actions in your everyday life, like bringing your reusable bags to the grocery store!
Remain. If you ever have the option to stay at home, whether it be working from home instead of driving to work, or staying domestic instead of travelling internationally, consider doing so! By limiting unnecessary travel, emissions produced by gas-run vehicles will be cut down, as will the resources needed to produce more cars and planes!
Respect. Respect can be interpreted in many different ways. Whether this means respecting local ecosystems you are visiting or respecting your items to make them last longer! Properly caring for your clothing items and properly storing your makeup and food items will make them last longer, deterring you from buying more!
Rethink. Before making any purchase or doing any action that might be harmful to the planet (like driving your car to work), consider rethinking your decision. Is there anything else you could be doing that is more sustainable? (Back to the car example – ride your bike instead!) Rethink if that new purchase is really something you need. Can the item that you’re buying new be thrifted or bought second-hand instead? How long will this item last and is it worth it? Can you buy this item with less packaging somewhere else or from a local source?
Refuse. Refuse any items you don’t need. This could be a coffee cup sleeve at a coffee shop, a straw at a restaurant, a freebie at a festival, or anything else that creates unnecessary waste. Simply say “no” when you’re given the option.
Reduce. Here is the first classic R that you’ve probably learned about in elementary school. Reduce refers to reducing your ecological footprint at large. These can be small changes like reducing the amount of paper you use by printing double-sided, for example. These can also be large changes like reducing your home energy usage by installing green energy in your home. Another R that can fit into reduce, is to rent. Instead of buying a new tuxedo for a wedding that you’re attending, rent one instead of buying new, for example.
Reuse. Yet another of the classic R’s! Anytime you finish a jar of pickles or jam is there a way that you can reuse the jar? Maybe for an art project or a container? If you ended up getting a plastic bag at the store because you forgot your cotton bag, can you reuse it again during your next shopping trip instead of throwing it away? Another R that can fit into reuse is to refill. If you ever have the option at any establishment to refill your previously bought containers, consider doing this! This will cut down the need for new packaging to be produced.
Repair. Before throwing away any “defective” or “broken” item in your possession, consider if you can repair it somehow. This might take some crafty DIYing on your part or the help of a professional.
Repurpose/Refurbish/Refashion. This is where you can start to get super creative. Maybe you have an old pair of jeans that are just too short now – cut them into shorts! Or maybe your couch is looking a little dirty, but don’t throw it away, give it some TLC and a deep cleaning! Or if you’re looking for some new artwork for your home because your old artwork isn’t cutting it anymore, paint over those canvases and create something new that you’ll love! There are never ending possibilities on ways to upcycle items around your home.
Regift/Rehome/Resell. Regifting can sometimes be frowned upon, but if something can be given a second life and loved by someone else, there’s no reason why you should feel guilty about it! Whether it’s a pair of earrings you’ll never wear or a shirt that doesn’t fit quite right, regift it to someone that you know will appreciate it. Regifting can also apply to beauty and hygiene products, if you got a foundation shade that doesn’t match your skintone or a shampoo you dislike the smell of, consider giving it to a women’s shelter, a hospice center, or an old folk’s home! Or if you have an old can of beans in your pantry that you’ll never eat, donate it to a food bank. In terms of rehoming, this can even be as simple as letting a friend borrow a dress in your closet for a fancy occasion that they’re attending once. If you’re looking for some extra cash, reselling items you don’t use anymore on Facebook Marketplace is yet another option.
Rot. This one in specific is for dealing with your food and organic wastes. Composting your food is a great way to give back to the environment. When you put food in the landfill, it doesn’t have a chance to decompose. There are plenty of simple composting options as well that can work for most people, and plenty of organics that you can compost.
Recycle. Recycling, one the last of the 3 classic R’s, should always be your last step in the R hierarchy. This is simply because not everything you put in the recycling bin will actually be recycled, no matter how much you hope it will be. And depending on the material being recycled, it may expend a fair amount of energy and water to be recycled (although, recycling always uses less energy and water than the extraction of virgin materials). So before you put that item in the blue bin, consider if there’s anything else you can do with it to give it a second life.
Recruit. Surely, your actions as an individual can make a difference. But to make even more of a positive impact, recruit others in your sustainable lifestyle. This can mean teaching your children about the hierarchy of R’s, sharing your sustainable lifestyle with coworkers and friends, or sharing your progress and tips on social media. Small actions when we all do them together will make the biggest difference!
Repeat. Finally, the last step of our newly adapted R hierarchy is to do it all over again!
This hierarchy should not limit you – there are plenty of other actions you can take if you think creatively! For a final R, consider reimaging the spectrum of the hierarchy and sustainable living. Maybe you will develop new hobbies, interests, and skills along the way!