Sustainability is meeting the current need without jeopardising that of our own or someone else’s future. This isn’t just our personal experiences but for all futures economically, socially and environmentally. Some of you may have heard of the ‘R’s’ of sustainability or at least the most common three reduce, reuse, recycling but to me there are a lot more than this. The ‘R’s are aspects to consider through your purchases and actions to make you think economically, socially and environmentally to have a minimal negative impact. They often have the additional benefit of saving you money, which again acts as another incentive to use this list. Below are the 9 ‘R’s in sustainability’ I believe you should use and how you can implement them:
Most of the R’s in the list all revolves around the mind-set of you as an individual and the company or business that create the products for the consumer. The aim is to think about how our actions and purchases affect others and our environment. This is to change our way of thinking to put this to the front of our decision making. This can be from rethinking your whole way of life and becoming a minimalist to being more considerate to where the products you use and purchase come from and their impacts on the environment and workers. To help you with this always think, Do I need this? Where does it come from (raw materials/ ethically produced)? What will happen at its end of life (go to landfill)? What could I do differently to lessen my negative impact?
Before you purchase or use anything always, aim to refuse. By refusing to accept the many poor practices by companies and the harmful & unethical products you will reduce their impact on our world. To know what to refuse, do some research on what you plan on doing, using, buying or creating and does it cause harm to yourself, someone else or the environment and wildlife on this planet. Ensure that any items or products have certification for welfare, equality and sustainable (recyclable) but be wary of these (as some can be misleading) and focus on what the actual impact they have is. Otherwise, refuse to purchase, do or participate in anything that could cause harm. Typically, the most sustainable item you have is the one you already have.
Quite simply try to reduce what you use, take and negatively put back into the environment. Natural resources are continuously depleting and even those that are renewable are struggling to keep up with the rapidly growing population. This is leading to humans further damaging the environment, beyond repair. Try to reduce many aspect of your life that has this negative impact. This can be having quicker showers, buying less processed products, get products with little to no packaging and living a minimalist lifestyle.
Before you think of buying anything new think can you reuse what you already have? Good products are often chucked away well before their end of life, leading to more waste and pollution. Always aim to reduce your waste by reusing and when buying new think about buying something that can be reused in the future. Consider cleaning up, refurbishing or repurposing old items to reuse. The most well-known item that people have started to reuse is shopping bags but this can be implemented to a lot more. This is one of the most prominent issues at the moment and the effect on the natural environment and wildlife. Get products that have more than one use, instead of their disposable counterparts that contribute to waste. Some things you can pick up to help with this are reusable bags, coffee cups, cutlery, straws and water bottles, just to name a few.
Even when you think the item is damaged, broken or beyond its use can it be repaired or rebuilt for use again, if not can it be repurposed to be useful in some way. Before you chuck it away, can you renew it to help reduce your waste and save you money? This may require you to learn about refurbishment and how to repair items but leads to less waste and less need to buy. Also, don’t be afraid to ask people how they have renewed or revitalised an old dilapidated item, as they can teach you how to do it yourself.
This is one everyone knows about but is still not done enough. The reason for recycling is to stop waste going to landfill or it finding its way to the environment harming animals, as again seen with the very recently attention to ocean plastic. It important to understand that many product still have its raw materials, which can be sent to factories where these can be obtained and reused. Some of the most common items that get recycled is paper/card, plastic (however, not all plastic can be recycled), glass and metal. All of which can be processed and reused in other products. Also look for additional schemes such as at your local supermarket, which might collect certain items that are not allowed in your local recycling such as batteries and some types of plastics.
Now it is easy to talk about the implications on the environment and the money you can save through implementing these thought processes but also consider moral, mental and legal accountability of your actions and purchases. How transparent is the company, individual or business? Many companies may seem ethical but source their materials in an unethical way. This can be anything from destroying habitats to having terrible working standards for the people producing them. Try not to endorse or support these companies by buying their products.
The rise in crowing crops and buildings has led to the removal of vegetation and deforestation around the globe. However, it is often overlooked that these environments contain many animals and provide the oxygen we breath. To combat the impact we might have to this we need to start replacing this vegetation and the resources it needs to survive (water, nutrients). Always look to companies that replace more than they take from our precious planet and support them instead of others.
This is a final step that highlights the importance of returning the damaged environments to its original state or one that is even better than it was. Humans have scarred the earth in many ways but we are able to revitalise these areas to become great ecosystems again. If you can contribute to or participate in reforestation, animal rehabilitation & protection, waste clean-ups and other environmental and ethical projects you are helping to give back what was taken and destroyed. When doing so ensure you do your research and contribute to a worthy course that is actually having an impact, so the environment and wildlife can grow and thrive without further harm or threat.
There are many activities and products that harm the environment or are disgustingly unethical. The R’s in this list aims to help highlight these issue and how they can begin to be mitigated. I always encourage people to look at the bigger picture and the motives of companies and products used and how a simple and easy change can stop the negative impacts you have. If you are passionate about making a change the R’s may even act as a way of life to fully incorporate in everything you do. However, even if you only implement some of these or implement them periodically it will help to reduce the negative impact we have on the world, so please always try to think of the R's of Sustainability.