The 5Rs of sustainable living

Sustainability can be defined as "the avoidance of the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance." This helps us protect our world for future generations.

Have you heard of the "5Rs" of sustainable living? It is a framework which can help guide us to apply sustainable values to our everyday life. 

1. Refuse

If you don’t need it – don’t take it in the first place.  E.g. Refuse plastic bags in super-markets, or items which are unnecessarily wrapped in plastic.

If you accept products and practices which are not sustainable, then you are supporting companies to continue supplying those products. Pressure from consumers can drive companies to change their attitudes.

For example, the ‘Ban-the-bag’ movement has been on the rise, and now New Zealand has pledged to eliminate single-use plastic bags by the end of 2018. Many supermarkets are now in the process of banning the bag, but the convenience of plastic is difficult to replace.


2. Reduce

Reduce wastage (e.g. food wastage) and reduce buying items which are not sustainable, e.g. Reduce buying ‘single-use’ items, like disposable cutlery. If you have something you don't need, try sharing it with others! This could be food, or household items. Here are some stats:

The Love Food Hate Waste Campaign was launched in New Zealand in June 2016. The campaign supports families to waste less food by encouraging behaviours such as using leftovers and correct storage of food.


3. Recycle

Recycle, but only when necessary. Recycling helps reuse raw materials, thus reducing the energy needed to manufacture something new, and reducing overall waste.

Despite this, some things we throw away simply cannot be recycled – and just end up in landfills:

  • Some items that get contaminated with food waste don’t get recycled because it is not cost-efficient to do so, e.g. take-away food and drink containers.
  • There is low value in recovered plastics because they are harder to recycle and/or manufacturers struggle to make any profit from them.

For the above reasons, it may be better to refuse or reuse items in the first, place, before recycling them. 

Try and be aware of which options are recyclable and which aren’t. The mark on the items will give you a clue: some plastics (1, 2, and 4) are easier to recycle than others. Some types (3, 5, 6, and 7) are simply not worth recycling! (See


4. Repair

If something is broken, fix it instead of throwing it away. It is better to buy things which will last a long time and take good care of them, than to buy cheap things which do not last.

When you throw something away, it requires more energy to dispose of it and recycle it, provided it is recyclable in the first place. E.g. Think about the money you might spend on cheap or short-lasting clothes, shoes, or electronics.


5. Reuse

Try and get the most out of what you have and choose items which are multi-use and have a longer lifecycle. E.g. bring your own ‘keep-cup’ or lunch-box instead of using disposable ones.

Some forward-thinking businesses are actually rewarding customers or providing incentives for this kind of behaviour include:

Other NZ companies, which focus on sustainable alternatives include:

Up-cycling can add a new creative lease-of-life on items which may otherwise have been added to a landfill. Check out these creative ideas from this up-cycling gallery:


About Sakulab

SakuLab is a company that aims to facilitate the exchange of sustainable solutions (products and technologies) between Japan and New Zealand. We are focused on three main areas: Lifestyle, Environment, and Health.