**Please note that this text has been automatically translated and contains French/Quebec references.**
In fact, for Béa Johnson, the initiator of the zero waste movement, there are 5: Refuse | Reduce | Reus | Recycle | Burp
Some have even declined them into 7!
But to make it simple, we often group them into 4:
These are the foundations of zero waste. I'm talking to you about it today.
At first, refusing can be difficult, because it's not intuitive or common to say "no." Especially when someone hands us the thing with such a big smile! But maybe we don't really need that straw, even if it's made of cardboard. So why take it? Same thing for the flyer for this show, or for this business card when we all have a cell phone these days.
Pierre-Yves McSween's popular question arises for everything, even the little things in everyday life that we are given for free (e.g. free shampoo in small bottles in hotels (why not bring your own dry shampoo?) or even brown paper in the bathroom (why not bring a towel in your bag?).
Mélissa de La Fontaine, in her book which I spoke to you about in one of my previous articles, also refers to the idea of refusing to own a car! So it's not just about the little things.
You should be aware that any product has a long life cycle that begins long before you put it in the trash. For a plastic spoon, for example: we had to extract oil far away, transport it, transform it into plastic, transport it, mold it, transport it, package it, transport it, then it was bought and transported to new… and I'm sure I'm forgetting more steps. Then you used it for 5 minutes, then put it in the trash. From there, it will take years to disintegrate, polluting our soils and probably also our waterways. You have to think about all this when you say: YES, I really need this plastic spoon.
This single-use plastic is much worse than a cardboard business card, we agree... but the business card also had a life cycle before its creation, and will eventually end up in recycling and will use a lot energy to revalorize yourself. So why not take a photo of the person and scan their business card using your CamCard app on your phone? You will always have it with you.
Reducing is trendy. We talk a lot about minimalism, consuming less and better. That's not bad! In fact, it can mean limiting ourselves in our purchases (we ask ourselves the question “Do I really need it?”) as much as buying really just what we need at the grocery store for the week ( this avoids food waste).
Reducing can also mean no longer using! I really liked François Bellefeuille's adventure in his podcast: as the big consumer of net spray that he is, he went looking for DIY recipes to be more eco-friendly. Finally, he realized that not using it at all also did the job... he just changed his habit at the source and so he no longer makes this waste.
When we have to use, we then aim for reuse! I find that it's the most fun of the R's, because it takes advantage of our creativity and our resourcefulness! We must think, before throwing it away, how we can give this object a second life. There are a lot of things that we inevitably have to throw away, but if we can use it for something else in the meantime, we will at least have put it to good use!
Whether it's taking the carcasses of your whole chicken to make broth, reusing containers to purchase products in bulk, as bath toys or even as DIY supplies, taking an open envelope as a note paper, the mesh bag of clementines to make a scrubbing sponge, our orange scraps for a cleanser, or coffee grounds for an exfoliant… These are all examples of reuse that we will have done for a time before throwing them away. Besides, Pinterest is full of tips for reusing objects!
We can also think of more permanent and useful reuse! Like for example getting used items. Go shopping at thrift stores instead of buying new things at Walmart. Plus, it's super economical. But be careful not to fall into the trap of “buying too much”, think about the 2nd R!
In this “R”, there is also “Repair”. Because there are things that break but which can still be useful to us. A knife can be sharpened, a piece of clothing can be sewn back together, parts can be glued back together, a bike can be completely reassembled if its frame is still good... Resources exist to teach us how to repair (YouTube, Facebook groups or workshops repairs like Les Affûtés ).
RECYCLE / COMPOST
When there is nothing more to do with our object, or when we have extracted all the juice from our food, all that remains is to throw it away. But still, you have to throw it in the right place! There are a lot of things that go in the trash, but please try to recycle them if they can be recycled, compost them if they can be composted or even sell/donate them if they can still be used!
Recycling collection is done quite a bit everywhere in Quebec, we're lucky, so let's take advantage of it!
As for “How to sort” our recyclable materials, well that’s a whole subject! I think this will serve as a future article, because it's not easy. I myself am still learning about the subject day by day.
As for compost, if collection is not in place in your area, there are other possibilities available to you. It could be garden compost for example. Or, I have already done vermicomposting at home! It's easy and it doesn't smell anything. We have to be careful about what we feed our worms, but it is possible to greatly reduce the food we throw in the trash.
If you are in “Reduce/Minimalist” mode, also consider selling or donating your things: your clothes, old books or toys, your appliances or any other objects that still work. This is also what “Recycle” means! Tsé, question that others can “Reuse”
Then, finally, there are the batteries, the paint, the useless stuff. They don't go in the trash or your recycling bin! You must take them to a drop-off center provided for this purpose.
In short, this last R is the end of life of the things we have held in our hands. From a zero waste perspective, we try to ensure that there is as little waste as possible by using the other Rs.
When we know, we can then question ourselves. Looking at the things that are graciously given to you, the objects around you, the things you are about to buy or throw away… always try to think about the environmental impact of your choices, and think of ways to do better. If you can't right away, that's okay. Just keep it in mind for next time.
I will admit to you that for me, the R that poses the most challenge is the last one. I have a hard time letting go of my things, not necessarily because I care about them, but because I feel bad putting them in the trash or recycling. I feel like I failed the first Rs! Otherwise, these are items that I would like to repair or that I want to sell because they have a good value, but I have difficulty finding the time for all that! In short, I dream of minimalism, but I find that it's a lot of work. It's definitely easier for me to cut back at the source.
And you, which R is the most challenging for you?