5 R's of Sustainability, Day 1: Refuse

Do you want to learn more about what it means to be “green” or “eco-conscious”? To help us celebrate National Reuse Day on Friday, October 20, from Monday through Friday of this week, we will be sharing information about the “5 R’s of Sustainability”, how to be more eco-friendly, and Stardust’s role in the community.

Have you heard of the 5 R’s of Sustainability? If not, here’s a little history on them: Originally conceived of in 1970, the same year that Earth Day was first introduced in America, the 3 R’s (as it was back then) consisted of “Reduce”, “Recycle,” and “Reuse”. As time went on, these basic tenets were added to, so nowadays the 5 R’s are made up of “Refuse”, “Reduce”, “Rot”, “Recycle”, and “Reuse”. (You may see other versions including “Repair”, “Repurpose”, or “Reclaim”.)

The first R in the series, which we will talk about today, will be: “REFUSE”.

About Refuse

In this context, “Refuse” means refusing to create waste, or to support products/companies that create unnecessary waste. Some examples of this include: single-use plastic bags at the supermarket (and other stores); layers of ‘protective’ paper in packaging (especially new technology, appliances, or tools), or extra-large mailing boxes filled with packing peanuts; or even fruit that has a protective rind being wrapped in cellophane (bananas, watermelons, apples). In addition to the question of “too much” waste, there is also a separate-but-related issue of many of these not being recyclable.

This problem isn’t a new one, and is continuing to grow: in the EPA’s 2018 environmental report, it was reported that 28.1% of all municipal solid waste was generated from containers and packaging – that’s a total of 82.2million tons!

Changes You Can Make

In our society, where extra paper, packaging, etc, is often encouraged because it can help make the product feel “luxurious”, making the choice to cut down on the amount of waste you support can be very difficult. Here are some small changes you can make to help:

  • Switch out single-use plastic bags for reusable bags at supermarkets
  • Switch your daily Dasani/Aquafina/Smart Water to a reusable metal or glass water bottle (bonus: many distilleries & breweries give discounts if you bring your own glass growler/bottle!)
  • Say no to single-use paper straws, napkins, coffee pods, or tea bags
  • Look for products with recyclable packaging, or containers that can be kept & reused later

Ready for some bigger changes? Try these out:

  • Carry a camping kit of utensils + straw for big outings (you’ll never need to use plastic cutlery, paper plates, or paper straws ever again!)
  • Bring your own containers to the grocery store to buy dry goods in bulk
  • Look for water-based alternatives for cleaning instead of chemical solvents, and switch out plastic-coated cleaning supplies (for example, switching from Tide Pods to homemade dish detergent, which does not have a plastic coating)

How Is Stardust “Refusing”?

So, how does Stardust fit into all of this? One of our main goals is to create a zero-waste environment, and as such you will see us often talking about measures we’ve taken to help #StarveTheLandfill. While our focus is on reuse (another of the 5 R’s!), we do support and encourage refuse efforts in our community. If you’re signed up for our newsletters, you will have seen our most recent Monthly Impact Newsletter email which had an article about volunteers from our Gifts In Kind program re-assembling over 20,000 hygiene kits so they could be used (were originally going to be thrown away), and distributed to children and homeless adults in need. This is one of many ways Stardust tried to support our community, while helping the environment.

Want to learn more? Check out these resources: