Following the 5 R’s of Zero Waste

“When I first started my zero waste journey, the 5 R’s were a lifesaver for me”


When starting on any new journey, it’s always nice to have a bit of an idea of where you’re going. Some general guidelines even. And zero waste is no different. In fact, when it comes to zero waste, trial and error is pretty much unavoidable but having information from current zero wasters to refer to will always make your path a little less rocky.

That’s why the 5 R’s are so important and also a lifesaver. They provide the perfect guidelines for any new and even seasoned zero wasters.




The pro-tip with the 5 R’s is to always remember to do them in the order listed –

1. Refuse

We live in an age of uber consumerism and overabundance. Most of the things we buy, we don’t need but marketing campaigns have convinced us we do.

Then there’s the free stuff. We see the word ‘free’ and we lose it (me included). But again, we don’t really need those 10 free pens or magnets or stickers or anything else that companies are trying to offload to promote their product.

Refusing single-use plastics is a given. Say no to plastic water and soft drink bottles and use your reusable bottle instead. Say no to plastic bags and use your reusable tote instead. Say no to straws full stop.

We don’t like to hear it but we have been conditioned to believe we need ALL the things but in reality, we just don’t. It definitely takes a little time to learn new behaviours, so it’s important to remember not to beat yourself up when you accidently forget your shopping bags.

2. Reduce

Reduce and refuse kind of go hand in hand. As you start to refuse more, you will notice that the amount of things you have and the waste you produce will automatically reduce in size.

Shopping smarter is a great way to reduce. Always take a shopping list of the things you need to the grocery store and stick to it. Don’t buy that dress if you can’t honestly say you’ll wear it more than 20 times. Do you really need that DVD? Can you just watch that movie online or on your TV?

This doesn’t just apply to the things you have, you can also apply it to what you use. Like energy and petrol. Stop using appliances that guzzle electricity and find ways to use your car less. Cycle or ride public transport to your destination.

A great personal project is to de-clutter your life. Clean out your wardrobe, your linen cupboard, your pots and pans cupboard, your bathroom cupboard, etc. Reduce your belongings to only what you really need and use often and give the rest to your local secondhand shop so that they may be reused by others. By de-cluttering your living spaces, you unconsciously de-clutter and de-stress your mind and soul.

3. Reuse (and Repurpose and Repair)

When I think of ‘reuse’, I automatically think of clothes and thrift store shopping. You can find so many gems at a fraction of the cost and buying secondhand prevents the clothing from ending up in the waste stream.

‘Reuse’ is probably my favourite R. I love reusing my water bottle, cutlery and takeaway container. I love refilling my coconut oil jar at the bulk food store. I love reusing envelopes and packaging I have recieved in the mail. I love swapping out all my disposables for reusables. Shopping totes, handkerchiefs, my tea infusor, etc.

One thing I have really noticed since going zero waste is nothing is built to last anymore. Once upon a time every electrical appliance was repairable. If your kettle broke, you took it to the repair man. If your TV or VCR broke, the repair man could come to you. Nowadays we live in such a throwaway society and it has not only increased the amount of waste we produce but it has decreased our social interactions and self worth.

If you have an appliance or a piece of clothing that is faulty but can be repaired, then find a way to do it! Or you could even find a new job for it by repurposing it. You can repurpose just about anything to avoid putting it in the waste stream. Using old jam jars as cups is a perfect example. Or you could get a lttle creative and turn an old t-shirt into a shopping bag or old glass bottles into light fixtures. The internet is swarming with ideas!

4. Recycle

Recycling is a last resort (except landfill ofcourse) when it comes to your waste management. It is defintely not intended as a loop hole of zero waste. It’s important to know that recycling systems are not always energy efficient, create a lot of emissions and can be quite costly.

However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t recycle, it just means to try and recycle as little as possible. And always educate yourself on what items can be recycled in your local area.

Zero waste doesn’t mean you can’t create any waste at all, it’s about reducing your waste to only what is absolutely necessary and then diverting it to the correct area.

5. Rot (Compost)

Ok, so I thought ‘Reuse’ was my favourite R but I actually think it may be ‘Rot’. Ok, it’s defintely rot. I love to compost!!! I love travelling so much but sometimes I really wish I was settled in one place so I could have my very own compost heap. It’s the small things…

So many things can be composted, not just food scraps. Grass clippings, dryer lint, wine corks, toothpicks, nail clippings, pencil shavings, dog and cat fur, the list goes on.

Keeping these items out of the waste stream cuts down the use of fossil fuels and production of toxic emissions in landfills. It builds healthy soil to grow delicious foods and pretty plants and it eliminates the need for chemical fertilisers.

Composting is a lot easier than it seems, fairly low maintenance and won’t create bad smells in your house (if you don’t let it). And best of all, it is repurposing a huge amount of waste for the greater good.


The 5 R's of Zero Waste Living-2


When I first started my zero waste journey, the 5 R’s were a lifesaver for me. Everytime I went to buy something, I went through the 5 R’s and without even realising it at first, my waste was drastically reduced due to the amount of things I just wasn’t buying in the first place. Now the 5 R’s come as second nature and I couldn’t imagine life any other way.

Going zero waste has not only helped me reduce the amount of waste I produce. It has also helped me to learn the value of my possessions so much more. I now value good quality items that are built to last and I am prepared to fix them if they become broken. I don’t appreciate anything disposable anymore. But it’s not only tangible possessions I value more now; I now notice and appreciate social interaction much more (with anyone) as well as making time for experience and engagement with the world around me.

There are definitely only positives when switching to the zero waste lifestyle!!

Love Kat xx




  • Jess

    March 19, 2018

    Great post, I have read like all of the 5 R’s zero waste articles on the front page of google since hearing Bea Johnson in a podcast the other day. Your post was helpful and touched on some stuff that others didn’t. I love that your blog is not only about zero waste but also about how you travel and still sustain a zero waste lifestyle. That should show any homebody reader that there is no excuse as to why they can’t go zero waste! Thanks for all the great info 🙂

    • Kat

      July 19, 2018

      Hi Jess, thanks so much for your kind words! I love that zero waste is achievable for everybody, good luck on your journey 🙂


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