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The Five Rs Of The Environment

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How often do you recycle or reuse items to help save the planet? It's OK if you are honest and say that you could do a lot more. Most people are probably in the same position. Recycling would be a lot easier with better access to deposit schemes, sustainable packaging, and other incentives. Reusing items requires the formation of habits that take time - especially after decades of bad habits. There is plenty more we can do to help reduce the impact of climate change and pollution across the world. The more we look into the 5 Rs of the environment and opportunities for growth there, the better our chances. But you might be asking why there are 5 Rs and not 3. What are you missing out on? This rundown will hopefully help.

5 RS Not 3?

You might be familiar with the 3 Rs of the environment, as these have been commonly used for a while now. The basic principles were to reduce, reuse, and recycle. However, there are two additional factors that we can't overlook. The first is to refuse, with the idea being that we can't adapt the way we use plastics and other materials if we never have them to begin with. The second is to rot. Essentially, this is all about looking at ways of cutting out the middle person with recycling. We can use more sustainable packaging to let safe natural materials return to the earth. Ideally, we want to implement as many of the 5 Rs of the environment as possible in our daily lives. So, let's take a look at all 5 and see what we can do to help.

1) Refuse

The first step is to get into the habit of refusing any excess package or single-use items. We don't need plastic bags for our groceries if we can bring our own tote. The same goes for plastic cutlery with takeout food, drinks straws, and takeaway cups. There are plenty of reusable options that you can bring with you. There was even a trend for a while of taking items out of the packaging in store and leaving it behind. That one is questionable because you're making work for cashiers that were just doing their job.

2) Reduce

This step is all about making things last longer to reduce the need to get more. For example, you can buy concentrated detergents, so you get more washes out of one bottle. You can ration your use of other items and make sure to use every last drop. You can also make a point of buying quality items that will last. This is a big deal in the fashion industry right now, where consumers are turning against fast fashion and seasonal trends.

3) Reuse

This one takes a lot more effort but can be very rewarding and help reduce unnecessary packaging. Some stores that specialize in greener living and eco-friendly products now offer refill stations. Once you have finished with a bottle of your favorite shampoo, shower gel, or laundry product - down to the last drop - you can get a refill. Just go into a participating store with your clean bottle, fill it up from one of their larger containers, and pay for the product. There are also produce stores that let you reuse old containers for things like grains, rice, and pasta.

4) Recycle

This is the one that gets the most press as a tool to save the earth. Yet, only 32% of America's waste is recycled. So, there's clearly a lot more that we can do to increase that number. This could mean doing more at home to make sure everything goes in the right container. Are recyclable plastics ending up in the trash by mistake? Are you making enough effort to recycle cans and bottles in the right receptacles when out in your community? Are there bottle deposit schemes near you?

5) Rot

This final step is the most interesting right now. We can all make the effort to take compostable materials and use them in our yards and vegetable patches. This could be scraps collected from food waste, or it could be other compostable materials and packaging. Emerging companies are filling that void in the search for eco-friendly packaging. It is possible to make food trays and other strong compostable containers out of corn pulp, and let that rot back into the earth after use. This is a great way to reduce the need for plastic and the energy used in recycling.

Educating America About The 5 Rs

There are so many different ways that we can make a positive impact on the planet rather than a negative one. The problem is that a lack of education limits our ability to help. You may have known about the existence of recycling schemes and reusable bags, but maybe not about the different refill stations or the compostable sustainable packaging. There are so many green companies and schemes out there that need a bigger voice and more advocates to extend their message and social reach.

Education also means getting the message into schools and teaching kids these habits from an early age. If we can make it the norm to have them eat meals from compostable packaging and bring personal water bottles to school, single-use products become less desirable. If we can get them to learn about composting and food waste, they are more likely to do this automatically in their homes as they get older.

Ultimately, it is all about making sure people take small steps in the right direction. You could do one small thing in all five of these categories or go all-in on one area and still make a big difference. So, take a moment to go through each of the 5Rs of the environment and be honest about where you can improve. Aim for small, realistic changes you can measure to see the difference. All these changes to our buying habits and use of materials will add up.


June 16, 2024
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