Zero Waste: definition of the 5 R’s

Today a somewhat longer post where I would like to give the Zero Waste definition of the 5 R’s. But first I would like to explaint what a Zero Waste living means and what it means to us this month.


Zero Waste living, what does it mean? In short the definition of Zero Waste living is living your life producing zero or a minimum amount of waste.

Zero Waste living for us

For us, this month, Zero Waste living means that we are trying to produce as little waste as possible, or even more precisely, that we want to minimize our ecological footprint. Our focus is on our waste at home, but I definitely want to look beyond that. So also try to take into account the waste that we produce before a product ends up at our home. Think, for example, of all the “costs” that are incurred to get a foreign product to our home. Certainly not unimportant, for us a Zero Waste life also means that we just want to have and keep a nice life!

The 5R’s

What might be helpful in giving meaning to a Zero Waste life is the description of the 5 R’s: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Rot. Also in this order! These 5 R’s are described by Zero Waste guru Bea Johnson in her book Zero Waste Home. I myself would like to add another R: Rethink!

zero waste definition 5 R's


If you want to produce less waste, you will eventually have to buy less stuff, or at least have to buy more consciously. So before you buy, consider whether you really need it! This is not just about daily groceries, think of food waste, but also about clothing, appliances, etc. Is there an alternative that is more friendly for the environment or that you could possibly use for longer? Can I repair it (or have it repaired)? Can you maybe buy 2nd hand online or in a thrift store? Or perhaps you can borrow it from someone or maybe even share it with someone?


Zero Waste life starts with preventing waste from entering your household at all. What doesn’t come in doesn’t go out either. So refuse! Straws, plastic bags, unnecessary packaging material, etc. If you want to go even further, you also bring your own cutlery, cup and possibly a plate when you travel.


Buy less! When you buy less, you ultimately have to throw away less. And if you buy something, buy it of good quality. Maybe a little more expensive, but it will probably also last longer, so you end up saving money. Also consider organic products!


It is of course the challenge to (re) use a product as long as possible. As long as you still use it, you don’t have to buy a new one. Use leftovers for a soup or omelet instead of throwing them away. Make rags from old clothing, give it away or trade it. Make a bag from your old jeans. I myself have made hearts from old jeans, filled them up and given them away as a gift, very nice! Use glass jars as a storage jar or for homemade jams. In many places, including in our village, there is a repair cafe where you can have your broken device repaired for just a little bit of money. Another form of Reuse is that when you need something new you first go to the thrift store 🙂 Use your creativity (Upcycle).


If you really have to get rid of your product, make sure you recycle it as well as possible. Old paper in the paper bin, clothing in the clothing container, glass in the glass bin, you know what to do. Everything you can dispose of in this way does not end up in the garbage dump. Also think of the thrift store!


If you already have done all of the above, you may still have some organic waste, vegetable and fruit waste, perhaps garden waste. We have a green container for this, but you can also compost it yourself, even on a small balcony or in a kitchen cupboard with a compost bag. The moisture that you have left over can be used as plant food. Optionally give the compost away to someone with a garden. Note that not everything that says “compostable” can also be composted as home compost. Check it with the manufacturer!

Here you can find the previous blogpost about where we started

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