refuse, Reduce, reuse, rOT, and rECYCLE
Check out this collection of our favorite resources and ideas to reduce waste, help the planet, and live a healthier life.
"Every dollar you spend or don't spend is a vote you cast for the world you want." L.N. Smith
REFUSE plastic straws, drink lids, coffee cups, single-use utensils, and the like
REFUSE to buy or take free products you won't actually use
REFUSE to buy items that are packaged or overly packaged
REFUSE to buy, use, or invest in products created by the world's biggest polluters
PRO TIP: Look at the things you are always accepting to figure out what you can start refusing.
BYOB: bring your own bags, including bags for your produce
BYOU: bring your own utensils (and takeout containers)
BSH: buy second hand as much as possible
LTR: learn to repair or have items fixed instead of purchasing new items; borrow if you need to
PRO TIP: You don't have to go and buy fancy bags, storage containers, or other "zero waste" tools to reduce your waste. Look at what you already have and go from there!
reuse & upcycle
Upcycling is reusing something in such a way that it actually increases the item's aesthetic or financial value.
REUSE reusable items, like water bottles, straws, bags, mugs - including items that you purchase second-hand.
REUSE like your (great or great-great) grandparents did: track down a milk delivery service, diaper with cloth, sew your own clothes, rinse and reuse aluminum foil, or repurpose those food bits you normally toss out into new recipes. Here are some more ideas.
PRO TIP: You don't have to aim for "zero waste." It's much better if a lot of people try to reduce their waste a little bit than only a handful of people successfully living a zero waste lifestyle.
rOT (THE GOOD KIND)
Actually use your COMPOST or find someone to give it to. Unless you have a garden to mix compost in, it may seem pointless to do it. But a lot of people will take free compost if you post it on online marketplaces or simply put it out on your driveway.
PRO TIP: Bury your scraps if using an open pile (instead of a bin) to avoid attracting pests and rodents.
"If you're not buying recycled products, you're not really recycling." Ed Begley, Jr.
Check for the RECYCLE symbol (triangle made of three arrows) on plastic items. If it doesn't have the symbol, it can't be recycled. Plastic with numbers 1-5 in the triangle are the most likely to be recycled. Numbers 6 (foam products) and 7 (a mixture of different plastics) should be avoided, as it's unlikely they'll be accepted for recycling.
Collect and RECYCLE beverage containers that say CRV, CA Cash Refund, CA Cash Redemption Value or California Redemption Value at a Certified Recycling Center. You paid the price (5 or 10 cents) when you bought it, so why not get it back? Learn more from CalRecycle.
Cities and counties can have different requirements for RECYCLING (and for green waste). Do the research and follow the directions. Some of the most common mistakes people make are placing plastic bags and Styrofoam in their recycle bins.
There are a couple of reasons why RECYCLING is the last of the 5R's: 1) only ~9% of recyclable material in the US is actually recycled because most of it is contaminated with food, damaged by water, or mixed with something it shouldn't be; and 2) recycling uses energy and creates pollution and greenhouse gases. Recycling should always be the last resort - and that requires a serious investment in the other 4R's.
PRO TIP: In 2019, China stopped accepting nearly all recyclables from the U.S. due to its high contamination rate. This left U.S. recyclers and waste management services struggling to handle the stream, and a lot of recyclables have been sent to the landfill or incinerated. You can help increase the chance of something being recycled by removing labels, rinsing food or drink completely out of containers, and letting it dry before placing it with mixed recyclables (cardboard or paper).