The 5 R’s Followup 1: Refuse

Several weeks ago I did an article that touched on living a zero-waste lifestyle. A comment asking for more details and perhaps some pointers made me want to do a followup article for each of the five points, the first one being “refuse.” I know to some, this might seem a bit silly and something to easily skip over onto the real “meat” of the message. To be honest, I’d started this article intending to combine the first and second points (refuse and reduce), but the more I thought about it, the more I understood that this step in the process is just as important as the others. Bear with me.

In her article in Sunset magazine, Béa Johnson (of says:

In a recession, people are inclined to keep things, but I feel the opposite. The less I have, the richer I feel. Stuff weighs you down. Photos are a good way to keep the memory of something without keeping it because of emotional attachment or the guilt of letting it go.

This idea might take some getting used to. As a society, we’re very much attached to things—especially if we claim sentimental value exists, but if we’re not actively using that item (old music box, heirloom stemware, etc) then it is not only not-benefiting us, but it’s also not benefiting someone out there who might actually use it. It’s basically a lose-lose situation.

Arguably, this first step is the hardest. I’m currently in the middle of a move which is forcing me to take stock of what I truly need and what I’m simply hanging on to. Old essays dating back to middle school (yes, I’m that girl); sketches I’ve done over the years which I have no intention to digitize any time soon; old, broken electronics I haven’t sold for parts in years, the list really can’t end. It’s hard to look at something and admit that it was either: a) a bad idea in the first place or b) no longer a good idea now.

The first of the five R’s goes beyond just this personal purging of stuff, though. It extends particularly into our lives as consumers. We must learn to refuse what we do not need. Let us collect moments, not things. Of course, this is easier said than done, but it can be done. It requires us being brutally honest with ourselves, and that’s not something we’re always prepared to do. Let’s not order random shit online that surprises us when it finally arrives because we’d already forgotten about it (possibly NSFW).

In the above article, the Johnsons use laundry mesh bags to buy their produce in (which is kind of a stroke of brilliance, in my opinion) which cuts down on those clear plastic baggies that seem to have no other purpose than that short trip between the store and your house. They also take glass jars (more on the awesomeness of glass in the next followup) to their grocery store for meats, cheeses and other deli items. This only works, however, if the scales at the deli have a tare function to deduct the weight of the jar. They have the food added to the jars upon cutting so there’s no excess wax paper waste, either.

Béa’s example is extreme, no doubt. There’s no getting around clamshell packaging for some things. Heck, even if you run out of paper clips or staples, you’re going to acquire more packaging in replenishing your supply. The Johnsons probably use a more eco-friendly alternative but for many of us, this isn’t really a viable option yet. I guess what I’m saying is, think three or four times before buying the glittery pink staples when you already have a drawer full of the regular ones—is it truly that important to match your Brony comforter?

References (Part 1 of this post)

Sunset magazine
South Park Studios – Insecurity (possibly NSFW)

2 thoughts on “The 5 R’s Followup 1: Refuse

  1. Pingback: Conservation Efforts of Earth's Seven Continents

  2. Pingback: Biggest Wastes of Money (Part 2): Bottled Water And Weddings - Wondergressive

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