The Five R’s of Living a Zero-Waste Life

The ways to live a zero-waste life are evolving as the concern for the environment becomes a normal part of our discourse and reality. This conversation is still in its nascence in South Africa, which provides an opportunity to educate and empower ourselves about how we can live conscious lives without compromising on our lifestyles or wallets.

Here are the five practical ways of living a zero-waste life.


In an eco-friendly sense, rot can be defined as natural materials that do not have have the lifespan of man-made products and are quick to break down and degrade. Examples of these are food scraps, used water, garden debris such as leaves, grass, plants and bushes. In a degradable state, these natural materials are good for creating compost for which can strengthen the qualities and abilities of soil. Making our own compost is also a good way save on on gardening maintenance costs. Making compost also creates an opportunity and space to learn more intimately about the ways which the environments works and supports our lives.


Reduction simply refers to cutting down on unnecessary waste or the items and processes that causes unnecessary waste. An example of reducing waste is printing on both sides of the paper (if not doing things digitally) instead of printing on one side. Another example of reducing is simply taking our own bottle of water around with us instead of buying bottled water everywhere we go.


Reuse can be defined as the repeated use of a recyclable material for the same or a different aim. Reuse can also be synonymous with repurposing. A classic example of this practice is using an ice-cream tub to story left-over food or to keep personal belongings. Another example of reuse is the popular way of shopping called thrifting. This method of shopping involves the selling off of items of fashion, lifestyle products and home decor that have been used by someone else before.


Repairing can be simply defined as the fixing of things before replacing them or throwing them away. We may not realise it, but there are many ways to save items we may perceive as useless or broken. An example of this is sowing back clothes that have been torn, or even sketching or painting over stubborn stains on clothes. Another example of repair can be made with home furniture. We regard much of what we have old, worn and useless simply because they appear that way. Couches can be reupholstered, tables and stands can be refinished, and cutting tools such as knives can be resharpened. In a world of options, we can opt to either use our time productively and perform these activities ourselves, or rely on the many businesses and organisations that perform these tasks for a living.


Recycling is often confused with reusing. What differentiates recycling form reusing is that recycling is considered as a last resort of all the 5 R’s of zero-waste living. Recycling can be broken into two process. The first part of the process of recycling involves the safe disposal of waste that can be sent to a place with resources to facilitate and manage how it will be broken down. The second part of the process involves breaking down these recyclable items into raw materials so that they can be used again as completely new or different products. An important note to remember about recycling is that it does matter who/where you recycle to as some places or organisations provide rewards for recycling.

Living a zero-waste life is an easy and very achievable feat. The benefits of living a zero-waste life include an improvement on spending, heathy modifications to habits and lifestyle, as well as improving the environment while educating and empowering yourself and others to do the same.

It starts with us all

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1 thought on “The Five R’s of Living a Zero-Waste Life”

  1. Thank you for this helpful information.

    I’m just at the beginning of my journey and I’ll definitely take this into account.

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