Bea Johnson is credited as the ‘mother’ of the zero waste movement. In 2013 Bea released her book Zero Waste Home. We are all familiar with the 3 R’s ‘Reduce, Reduce, Recycle.’ The 5 R’s of zero waste consists of Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Rot. Now let ‘s explore what those are!

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Text reads 'No thank you'
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This is the first step in zero waste which is to simply refuse items. When we refuse items we stop them from coming into our home. We say no to short-lived items that will essentially end up in landfill. A simple polite “No Thanks” is all it takes when someone offers you a plastic bag. When you make a purchase you are voting with your money.

Say no to:

  • Disposable bags
  • Straws
  • Plastic Cutlery
  • Cups
  • Junk Mail
  • Promotional material


A photo of a bucket filled with cleaning products.
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The 2nd step is to reduce what you use. To reduce items is to cut back on what you don’t need and shop with intend on what you do need. It’s so easy to start at home by getting rid of clutter in your home. Donate or sell and free up space in your home. Say no to impulse buying and random splurges! Turn your focus to necessary purchases which are of good quality and long lasting.

As consumers we are bombarded with sales and the media offering us products to solve everything. Do we really need 10 different products to clean our home? Do we need 10 different products for our face and body? What would happen if we cut down on both of these?


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The 3rd step is to reuse. Reusing items saves this item from ending up in landfills because it is reused again and again. It’s so easy to switch from disposable to reusable items. Are you worried about cost? Don’t worry! Try 2nd hand or homemade items! To learn more about 2nd hand shopping read: Money saving zero waste habits to start now.

Here’s what you can swap!

Disposable Item:Reusable Item:
Disposable Plastic RazorSafety razor, epilator, electric razor
Plastic water bottleGlass/stainless steel water bottle, jug of tap water in the fridge
Tampon or menstrual padMenstrual cup, cloth menstrual pads, period pants
Cotton pads or disposable makeup wipesCotton face cloths, muslin cloths or flannels
Paper towelsReusable cloths and rags
Facial tissuesCotton handkerchief
ClingfilmBeeswax wraps
Plastic bagsTote or cotton shopping bags, cotton produce bags
Plastic drinking strawsStainless steel/bamboo/glass reusable straw
Examples of disposable items which can be made reusable, saving both waste and money.


The 4th step is to recycle, which means to break something down so its raw material can be reused again and again. In zero waste recycling is seen a last resort. After we have refused, reduced, and reused do we then recycle. Here in the UK we have a curbside recycling bin. If you have one in your area make sure you are making the most out of it!

Don’t forget different councils will have different rules for what they can and can’t recycle. Check with your local councils website for a full list!

A table of items which can and can't be recycled.
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The 5th and final step is rot. Rotting is the process of something slowly breaking down over time. We can do this at home by composting. Composting helps reduce food waste, as well as greenhouse gas emissions. You can get started by using a curbside compost scheme, if you have one in your area. If you don’t have a curbside recycling scheme you can use a home compost. A home compost consists of using equal parts of brown and green ingredients. Visit this website to learn more about home composting.

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If your a fan of earth worms (personally I adore earth worms). You can also try vermicomposting (worm composting). This is the progress of worms turning food scraps into compost. Visit this website to start your own worm composting.

A photo of an earth worm on soil
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In this blog post we discussed the 5 R’s of zero waste, which consist of refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle and rot. We have learnt that refusing is as simple as saying no to a plastic bag. We can reuse what we bring into our home by shopping with intend and saying no to impulse buying. Reusable items don’t need to be expensive and we can buy 2nd hand items to cut down on costs! If you have a curbside recycling programme in your area; this makes recycling effortless! There are more more than way compost even with worms! Are you keen to start your zero waste journey?

Did I miss something? Are there any other reusable replacements for disposable items? Let me know.

This Weeks Challenge! This weeks I challenge you to pick one of the 5 R’s to make changes in your life. Let me know how you did in the comments below.

Sharing is caring! If you enjoyed reading this blog post please share it with a friend!

How Can I help? Is there a particular one of the 5R’s you are struggling with? Let me help you by commenting below!

Stay Safe,

Stacey @ The Green Sheep Blog

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