Sustainable Living Challenge

Week 15: Get to Know the 5 R’s of Green Living

It’s been another busy week!  So I am extremely grateful to have the Memorial Day Holiday.  As I write this, I’m riding the train down to Charlottesville to visit a friend for the weekend.  Since I have tons of leg space and a nice tray-table, I thought I would take the time to go over the 5 R’s of Green Living: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Rot (in that order!!)!  The 5 R’s are great keep in your mental tool-belt when making the change to an eco-friendly lifestyle.


Refusing wasteful items in the first place is the best place to get started if you want to reduce your impact on the planet.  This can be applied to extra packaging at the store, swag from events, or even flyers and cards!  Simply say no!  As consumers, many of us are drawn into accepting low-quality, high-impact items because they are free or cheap.  Whenever you have the option, question if you actually need these items.  If the answer is “no”, kindly refuse to purchase or accept them.  You can go a step further by communicating your green lifestyle to friends and family and asking that they make a donation to a charity you believe in instead of buying you gifts!


There are many people in this world that have more worldly possessions than they could ever need.  Myself included.  Living out of a backpack was EXTREMELY educational on that front. I carried everything I needed for the better part of a year on my back.  Yes, it is nice to have a closet and storage space for other things, but I don’t actually NEED more than what fit into that backpack.  Minimalism is a lifestyle that is getting a lot more attention nowadays, in part because it fits into the eco-friendly lifestyle.  So think about the things in your life that you could reduce.  Before you buy anything new, question the necessity of that purchase and see if you can reduce your overall consumption.  This can be applied to clothing, appliances, and even food!  This may honestly be the hardest step, but once you get in the practice, it becomes natural!  And if you are able to downsize your material possessions, make sure to donate them to places like Goodwill so that others can put them to good use!


I have seen this step go by several different names, including Repair and Repurpose.  However you look at it, the concept is the same.  We live in such a disposable society that we rarely think about how we could reuse items before they go to the landfill.  We need to first eliminate our consumption of these single-use items by investing in reusable items like safety razors instead of disposable razors or cloths instead of sponges, makeup wipes, and paper towels.  Before you purchase anything, ask yourself how many times your could use that item before you would have to dispose of it.

You can also embrace the concept of reusing by buying items second-hand before you head to the department stores.  I can’t say it enough, the thrift store is a GOLDMINE for awesome, cheap t-shirts!  Thanks to our consumer-driven society, people go through clothes and all kinds of items like water.  Take advantage of the system and check out places like Freecycle, Buy-nothing groups, or even Ebay.  I just got a pair of fantastic climbing shoes off of Ebay for $30!  Not only can you reuse items that may otherwise go to waste, but you can also save a TON of money!

And reusing is another great way to be creative with your eco-friendly lifestyle.  Reuse “single-use” items to make art!  One of my good friends uses old bottlecaps for decorations in her garden and other materials in her print-making!  All you have to do is think outside the box!


You may be wondering why recycling isn’t higher up on this list.  Sadly, recycling is not really the eco-friendly decision we were all led to believe.  As I have discussed previously, recycling consumes a good deal of energy and results in lower quality products.  Not to mention that the overwhelming majority of recyclable goods are not recycled.  That being said, if all else fails and you can’t avoid buying something that will later need to be thrown away, check to see if it can be recycled.  Recycling WILL get better as time goes on and technology improves.  But while recycling is definitely an option for disposing of items, make sure to go through the other R’s first.


Finally, don’t forget your good old friend, the compost bin!  If you have to throw something away, see if you can compost it.  If all of us put our kitchen scraps into the compost instead of the landfill, we could vastly reduce our impact on the planet!  You can compost at home or see if your local municipality will take your compostables.  If you are new to composting, make sure to check out my other blog post here!

So there you have it folks!  The 5 R’s for an eco-friendly lifestyle!  It’s not always easy to keep eco-friendly living in mind, but I hope this week the 5 R’s help keep you motivated to go green!


Leave a Reply