posted March 22, 2022
Have you heard about the Five Rs for waste management? These are the five most impactful steps in a journey to zero waste.
Get comfortable refusing things you don’t need or want. Is your neighbor offering you a portion of their bumper crop of okra but you hate okra and know it’s going to spoil in your fridge? Unless you know someone who loves it and will use it, it’s best to just refuse their offer.
The same goes for cheaply made giveaway reusable grocery bags. Chances are it won’t last for long and you’ll end up tossing it, defeating its purpose. Just say, “No, thank you,” and buy some quality bags that will last for years.
Before you go to the store to buy groceries, plan out your meals as much as possible. This will reduce the number of times you need to go to the store during the week, saving gas, as well as precious time. I’m a huge fan of Clean Food Dirty Girl for whole food, plant-based meal planning and you can’t beat their grocery lists for convenience.
As soon as you get home and unload your fresh produce, wash and dry your leafy greens. A salad spinner is wonderful, but ordinary clean dishtowels will work. By putting your greens away, cleaned and in a container, you’re more likely to use them before they spoil.
Hopefully you’ve invested in a reusable coffee filter or pod. If not, or if you have a lot to use before buying one, paper filters are compostable.
Are you a tea drinker? Use loose tea and a reusable infuser. If this isn’t practical, make sure the tea bags you’re buying are made of paper and can be composted.
Challenge yourself to reach for a rag instead of a paper towel and search garage sales and thrift stores for well-made cloth napkins. If you have a good supply of each, you’ll be less likely to use disposables.
Save those jars and bags. Did you know you can use your own containers when shopping in the bulk section of many grocery stores? Ask a clerk to show you how to get the tare weight of your receptacle so you’re getting an accurate weight. Yesterday’s empty jar can become tomorrow’s bulk food storage.
When thinking about recycling, keep in mind that even though something is recyclable doesn’t mean a lot of resources and effort aren’t used in its production and recycling. By EPA estimates only 8.7% of all plastics are actually recycled. This doesn’t mean you should start tossing your recyclables in the trash, but it does mean that reusing, repurposing, and refusing should be a higher priority.
Did you know that food waste produces methane when it’s left to rot in a landfill? As a vegan environmentalist, this was a wake-up call for me to be more mindful about what I toss in my trash. The best way to reduce the amount of food waste that goes to landfill is by letting it rot through composting.
Composting is easy and fun! You can go fancy and buy a small bucket especially made for kitchen waste like this one, or simply reuse an old container.
NPR recently did a story about a new law in California that requires households to compost food waste. Many cities now have food waste pickup and while this is an excellent solution for city dwellers, it’s always best to have your own pile.
This municipal initiative has merit but most people don’t think about the additional resources being used to transport, process, and store this waste.
Lots of things are compostable that you may not be aware of. Check out this list of 100 things you can compost for ideas.
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to ideas for utilizing the Five Rs. While you may think these small actions won’t make a big difference, it takes all of us being more mindful in our consumption to see change. It begins with you.
Chris Day, VLCE is a Main Street Vegan Academy Vegan Lifestyle Coach and Educator living in Costa Rica with her husband and five rescue dogs. She is a graduate of the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies, and holds certifications from Rouxbe Culinary School in both Professional Plant-Based Cooking and the Forks Over Knives programs. She can be found at www.anewdayvegan.net.