Shad got rid of his trash can one year ago, and he challenges you to #BanTheCan too! That’s right, his house has NO trash can! I got rid of my trash can about 3 years ago, and it totally changed the way that I looked at the world around me.
Here’s how you can say goodbye to the trash can it using the 5 R’s- refuse, reduce, reuse, repair, recycle.
You’ve probably heard of the 3 R’s, but the 5 R’s take earth friendly living up a few notches. The 5 R’s are in order of priority. First Refuse, then reduce, then reuse, then repair, and as a last resort recycle.
Refuse. Refusing can be a big challenge in a very consumerist society, but it really is an important step. It takes some time to get used to refusing unnecessary stuff, but once you wrap your head around it, it becomes your new norm. So what do I mean by refuse? When you go to a restaurant, and they are serving food on disposable plates, you can refuse that and have your own plate instead. When a bar wants to put a straw in your drink, you can refuse it. When people are passing out flyers you can refuse them. When people want to give you anything that you don’t actually need or want, just politely say that you don’t want it. Refusing may sound like a strong word, but you can be very gentle about it.
Reduce. Reducing comes down to reducing your needs and your wants in the first place. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t meet your basic needs and wants at all, simply reduce any excess in your life that is wasteful. Easy ways are to reduce are to spend less time shopping. Buying less stuff is also a simple way to reduce. When I got rid of my car, I drastically reduced the amount of unnecessary stuff in my life. You can reduce the amount of water and electricity you use, reduce the amount of packaged food that you buy, and buy unpackaged food instead. These are just a few ways to reduce, but you can fundamentally just think to yourself, “Do I really need this or do I just want it?”
Reuse. Reusing comes down to owning things that can be used time and time again. Carrying a reusable water bottle rather than buying plastic bottles, carrying your own dish and utensils so you aren’t forced to use disposable dishes, and using a reusable grocery bag are all easily adoptable ways to reuse. Reusing really isn’t about just reusing things a few times though. For example; getting plastic forks with your take out Chinese could be avoided completely rather than becoming a hoarder of plastic cutlery. By refusing and reducing, you’ll have a lot less build up of junk that you’ll have to figure out a way to reuse. Reusing means using things over and over again for years. But if you do end up with disposable things, then you can still find a way to reuse them, such as re-purposing (Re-purpose is another R-word) old t-shirts into grocery bags, making an old dresser into a raised garden bed, or turning trash into jewellery or art. There are so many fun ways to reuse! Reusing can also mean sharing, such as passing your children’s clothes or toys on to another family, going to the library rather than buying books, and buying things used at thrift stores, on craigslist, and eBay.
Repair. A lot of stuff made today is really cheap and breaks easily. Much of it is even designed for the dump. The key to truly embracing repair is to buy quality stuff that is less likely to break, and if it does, can be repaired. That might mean spending a little more on quality products upfront, but because they last much longer, and you won’t have to buy another one, you’ll likely save money in the long run. Simple ways to repair are patching bike tires, sewing clothes, or using wood-glue to fix furniture. Those are things that everyone can do. Some things you might not be able to do on your own, so you might have to find a skilled person who can repair it for you.
Recycle. Many people today think they are doing a good thing when they are putting their recyclables into the recycle bin. It is far better than throwing anything in the garbage, but the truth is that recycling is a high-resource and energy intensive process. So a lot is being wasted when you use something just one time and then send it off to be recycled. By following the previous 4 R’s, you’ll have way less to put in your recycling bin. If you want to live a really environmentally friendly lifestyle, your goal should be to NOT recycle! Again, recycling is better than trash, but see if you can follow the first 4 R’s so well that you don’t have much to recycle or put in the trash can. Composting is an excellent way to recycle, and one that everyone can do. Whether it’s in their backyard, with worms in their kitchen, at a nearby community garden, or through a municipal program.
(Watch The Story of Stuff to learn more about stuff, and the hidden destruction and pollution behind it!)
(See How to Live a Near Zero Waste Life for more tips and resources that will help you #BanTheCan)
Getting rid of your trash can is something that can’t really be done unless you adapt to a mostly waste-free way of living. Otherwise, you’ll just end up with piles of trash around your house, or in the streets. Using the 5 R’s both as a mindset, and as a set of actions, will set you up for success, and help you #BanTheCan! As Shad said, the more convenient it is to dispose of your trash, the easier it is to just keep on doing it. So, if you can’t get rid of every trash can today, start by just having one in the kitchen and bathroom, rather than one in every room. The more inconvenient it is, the more you’ll actually notice what you’re doing.
Let’s all come together and #BanTheCan!
Shad and Atitlan Organics are very passionate about spreading the word about permaculture. They offer Permaculture Design Certificate Courses, intro to Permaculture courses and also accept volunteers. I spent the last month down here, and it’s been a truly mind opening experience. I am so much more equipped to live an earth friendly life and to help others as well. I highly recommend coming down here. They are located in Tzunana, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala.
Subscribe to Atitlan Organics on Youtube, “like” them on Facebook, and visit their webpage at www.AtitlanOrganics.com