Posted by Steve Lettau on Mar 05, 2020

The Five “R”s of sustainable living Part 1 of 4: REDUCE

Compiled by Carol Wessels, using excerpts from public domain information found at

Sustainable living is the practice of reducing the impact that each of us has on the earth’s natural resources. Some would call it reducing our “carbon footprint.” Living sustainably on the earth is something that each one of us can work towards. It is helpful to understand the five “R”s that are guideposts.

This series of articles will discuss each “R” in turn. You will want to read all of them to know what the R’s are! All of the “r’s are discussed in a great website called “Global Stewards.” This material is taken from the article “Green Eco Tips for Sustainable Living.” You can read the entire article, and find links to resources that help you put the tips into practice,  at

The first “R” of living sustainably is to “REDUCE” - by reducing what you use in the first place, you have already taken a step toward lowering your impact on earth’s resources.

Here are some ways you can “reduce.”

Simplify: Simplify your life as much as possible. Only keep belongings that you use/enjoy on a regular basis. By making the effort to reduce what you own, you will naturally purchase less/create less waste in the future.

Reduce Purchases: In general, think before you buy any product - do you really need it? How did the production of this product impact the environment and what further impacts will there be with the disposal of the product (and associated packaging materials)? When you are thinking about buying something, try the 30-Day Rule -- wait 30 days after the first time you decide you want a product to really make your decision. This will eliminate impulse buying.

Observe an Eco-Sabbath: For one day, afternoon or hour a week, don't buy anything, don't use machines, don't switch on anything electric, don't cook, don't answer your phone and, in general, don't use any resources.

Replace Disposables: Wherever possible, replace disposable products with reusable ones (i.e., razor, food storage, batteries, ink cartridges (buy refill ink), coffee filters, furnace or air conditioner filters, etc.).

Buy Used: Buy used products whenever possible. We have great second-hand stores in our area! Having a party? Instead of paper products, buy extra dishware from the local thrift store, then donate it back when you are done!

Make Your Own: Whenever possible, make your own products to cut down on waste and control the materials used.

Borrow From Friends: If you only need something temporarily, ask if a friend or neighbor would loan it to you.

Share With Friends: Share things like books, magazines, movies, games, and newspapers between friends and neighbors.

Bulk Purchases: Avoid products that are packaged for single use (i.e., drinks, school lunches, candy, cat and dog food, salad mixings, etc.). Instead, buy in bulk and transfer the products to your own reusable containers. Many health food stores (Such as Outpost in Mequon) have bulk bins where they sell everything from grains to cereal to cleaning products.

Buy Only What You Need: Buy only as much as you know you'll use for items such as food, cleaning supplies, and paint.

Avoid Creating Trash: Avoid creating trash wherever possible: when ordering food, avoid receiving any unnecessary plastic utensils, straws, etc. (ask in advance), buy ice cream in a cone instead of a cup, don't accept "free" promotional products, buy products with the least amount of packaging, etc. Every little bit of trash avoided does make a difference!

Shopping Bags: While shopping, if you only buy a few products skip the shopping bag. For larger purchases, bring your own eco-friendly bags.