Slow life

The 5R rule, or how to start living a zero waste life

Fot. Zdjęcie autorstwa Sarah Chai/
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The extreme simplicity of living a zero waste lifestyle is encapsulated in three English words. Because they all begin with the letter R, the name “The 5 R’s” was coined. They are: refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle, rot.

What is zero waste?

There are many definitions of what zero waste is. One can say that it is a kind of lifestyle which is at the same time a set of habits and views related to functioning within the environment, which may even take the form of an ideology. Its overriding aim is to reduce the amount of waste we produce, but also to recycle what we have already produced. Zero waste comes down to creating a space where we literally have ‘no waste’. This style is best defined by five English words beginning with the letter R, namely: refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle, rot. Collectively, these are referred to as the 5 R’s rule. What exactly does each of these words mean?


The zero waste principles should start with the word refuse, which means to refuse. In the spirit of caring for the environment, we should refuse to use things that have a negative impact on it. It is important to avoid anything that is problematic for both later processing and reuse. According to the zero waste style, we avoid using items whose overproduction can be observed. These include straws, packaging, brochures, foil or plastic plates. According to this principle, it is the refusal to use these objects that allows for a real reduction in their production, if, of course, more people adopt a similar attitude.


The next principle is based on reduction, limiting what we consume. Reduce leads us to implement minimalistic behaviors that will have minimal or even positive impact on the planet. The basis of this principle is to consider whether we really need what we are planning to buy. If not, instead of cluttering up our closet and creating unnecessary waste, we can consciously choose only the items we need. The principle of reduce is not only connected with clothes, but it also concerns the use of water, electricity, gas or food. By looking at the consumption of these goods, we can see how many spaces can be reduced by regularly turning off the water while brushing teeth, for example.

Read also: How to build a capsule closet? 5 golden rules


In this zero waste rule, we are supposed to focus on reuse. This means that instead of reaching for single-use products, we will do better by choosing reusable items, which are reusable in their essence. This includes glass or metal drinking straws, or cosmetics stored in refillable bottles. It is also worth stocking up on other products, among which we can list

  • reusable razors,
  • rag bags for shopping,
  • curtain bags for fruits and vegetables,
  • bottles with reusable filters.


Segregation is perhaps the best known environmental concept. Its idea is to reuse apparent garbage so that the raw materials obtained from it are returned to the useful cycle, thus relieving the already strained ecosystem. An example of this solution is also processing worn out clothes, e.g. into cloths or bags, so that there is no need to throw them into the garbage. It is worth looking at human ingenuity, which in the case of recycling is worth special attention.


The last principle is composting, which is supposed to be based on turning waste that undergoes a natural process of decomposition into natural fertilizer. This is an extremely ecological solution that will please especially those who have a garden. Building a composter allows us to better create a good fertilizer, which we can use to fertilize the earth. Thanks to this we will not need artificial fertilizers, which heavily pollute the groundwater.

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