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The 6 Rs of sustainability: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repair, Recycle, Rot 

Posted By DEV on April 17, 2023

The Cambridge dictionary defines sustainability as the quality of causing little or no damage to the environment and therefore able to continue for a long time. Likewise, throughout the years, we have all been taught the three main Rs sustainability; reduce, reuse and recycle. However, in the most recent years, environmentalists have campaigned for the addition of a few other significant Rs including refuse, repair and rot.  

So, while the 3 Rs have been a valuable motto for consuming in a more environmentally conscious way, the 6 Rs go a step further towards living zero-waste to limit our impact on planet earth and its resources.  Now, let’s go through each R one by one to understand why it is important to RE-think sustainability.  


6 R's of sustainability  upside down pyramid graph

  1. Refuse
    The first step is to Rethink and Refuse from purchasing things you do not need or single-use products.
  2. Reduce
    The Second step is to Reduce your use of the things you do need. and/or find a product with a lower carbon footprint
  3. Reuse 
    The Third step is to Reuse. Similar to the next step, reusing is often the easiest and most efficient way to reduce your carbon footprint
  4. Repurpose
    The Fourth step is Repurposing what you already own is also likely to save you money in the long term, as well as doing your bit for the environment.
  5. Recycle
    The Fith step is probably the most well-known, Recycling means an item can be reused or reconstructed into something else.
  6. Rot
    The last step Rot which is more commonly known as composting, utilising nature's ability to brake things down is the oldest form of recycling, turning food and off-cutting (and now biodegradable products) into fertile soil.

Now we have the basics let's take a deeper dive into each step

  1. Refuce

 Say no to single-use bags, packaging, cups, straws and so on, and get into the habit of bringing along your own reusable replacements. In addition, refusing products such as straws or single-use plastic bags sends a message to shops, restaurants and businesses that fewer of these items need to manufacture altogether. By refusing items, the demand for certain material goods will decrease. Moreover, it is vital to establish some key considerations before purchasing a product such as the quality, the packing, the company’s ethics, environmental and social effects etc. 

Another big issue is impulse buying. Putting an end to impulse buying is very difficult and requires a lot of self-discipline and self-control. Nevertheless, a good tactic is to ask yourself “Do I really need this?”. This tactic usually helps consumers to stop buying things they don’t need. Basically, refuse to pay money for something that would end up generating more waste. 


  1. Reduce

The next step is to reduce your consumption! From fashion to food, slowing down our pace of consumption, and buying and using only what we need to reduce our carbon footprint. Plastic is a material that is difficult to recycle and for that reason, consumers are switching to a low waste lifestyle. Your carbon footprint is measured by your lifestyle and regular activities that result in greenhouse gas emissions. Some of the most common examples of these lifestyle factors and activities include: 

  • Transport use 
  • Electricity use 
  • Dietary choices 
  • Purchasing habits 
  • General waste 

The idea is simple: consume less, waste less. 

scrabble blocks spelling out "consume less image"

  1. Reuse

The third step of the 6Rs is about reusing what you’ve already got rather than buying new items straightaway. This R is coined with another sustainability term defined as upcycling.  

Upcycling essentially means recycling (something) in such a way that the resulting product is of a higher value than the original item. Thus, any product you purchase should be reused as much as possible, even after its intended life. Ask yourself if the item can be reused in a new way. Instead of buying a replacement, reinvent it and find an alternative use.  For example, you can Use washed-out glass jars for a pen pot or to store dry food in your kitchen cupboards or wash old clothes and sheets, then cut them up and use them as cleaning rags or dusters. 

Here’s a comprehensive list of upcycling ideas to get you started.  

upcycled pots hanging on a wall

  1. Repurpose

 The next step requires putting on your handyman hat and repairing any broken items. Repairing what you already own is also likely to save you money in the long term, as well as doing your bit for the environment. Things like clothes are easily mended and repaired as well as everyday items around the house so you can help extend their lifespan.  

Here are five easy mending tips to help you kickstart your mending journey!  


  1. Recycle

Recycling means an item can be reused or reconstructed into something else. When an item can no longer be used and needs to be disposed of, always consider if the item can be recycled first. But before throwing anything away to the landfill, check this handy list to see if an item can be recycled, and where.  

Furthermore, If the item can only be recycled at the tip or a recycling bank, put it to one side and then when you have a few items ready to be recycled, take them all at once. Since recycling is a process that consumes energy, it’s further down the list of the 6Rs but is still preferable to sending items directly to landfills.   

  recycle bins for compost, recycling, and general waste

  1. Rot 

The final stage of the 6Rs to prevent is composting. You may have heard of the term ‘biodegradable’ which means being able to decay naturally and in a way that is not harmful to the environment. The easiest thing that can be composed is food and to some extent food waste. However, nowadays more and more packaging and some products are becoming biodegradable in order to minimise the negative impact on the environment. Interestingly, composting food scraps turns them into nutrient-rich soil which you can use in your garden to make your plants thrive. 

If you have a garden, setting up a compost heap is easy enough – follow this guide to find out how.  

If you don’t have a garden, check here to see if your local council collects food waste from your area. 

 man holding compost

And that’s a wRap! The 6 Rs of sustainability! Which R's are you going to incorporate into your lifestyle this year? We would love to hear your thoughts below.  

Even reusing your cotton tote bag from Doodle Bag is a great way to start your sustainability journey!