Building Green Habits: Being a Reuse pro

In my last column, we looked at a simple but effective approach to embracing green habits and a sustainable lifestyle when you are unsure where to start and are overwhelmed with the information around.

Embracing the 5Rs (coined by Bea Johnson in the 2013 book ‘Zero Waste Home’) of Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Rot, along with two additional Rs of my choosing, Research & Relearn, is a great way to get started.

In this column, we’re going to focus on Reuse. On my own journey of embracing greener habits, reusing has helped me tremendously to reduce my consumption of unnecessary materials as well as waste generation. So, let’s look at some ‘whys’ and ‘hows’ to embed reusing as a habit.

Reusing is not a new trend, but something our grandparents and parents have been practising as part of their culture or love of nature, or purely from an economic point of view. But somewhere in the middle of booming consumerism and ‘single-use and throw’ culture, many of us have distanced ourselves from it.

Relearning old habits
It’s time to embrace ‘reusing’ better, so here are just a few examples of how we can change our habits and make a difference.

Quality over quantity – I was someone who loved buying dozens of items from fast fashion stores on sale. They gave me the immediate gratification of having lots of new items for a reduced price. But they would tear or turn old so fast that I’d end up buying new ones sooner. Today, I have learned to invest instead in fewer items with a better quality and durability. And when you do get tired of it, make sure you pass it on or give it to a second-hand shop.

Learning to fix and maintain – Somewhere along the line, consumerism has made us get used to throwing away stuff as soon as there is a minor defect. Let us relearn how to fix items like sewing up torn clothes and repairing small defects. Also, just learning to maintain stuff can prolong their lifespan. Sometimes it’s as simple as reading the washing instructions on the label of your clothing.

Get creative – Ascertain how you can reuse/repurpose/upcycle something once it is not fit for purpose. If you are unsure, there are tons of creative people out there sharing their knowledge on the internet. It is just a Google search away.

Impact we create
Don’t forget: when we reuse, there are two ways we are making a major contribution! 

Reducing the usage of new resources – to produce any new product, resources are used (from nature) and energy is spent during their production.  We have subjected many natural resources, once considered renewable, to extreme duress during these times of increased affluence and overconsumption. 

Reducing waste generation – by choosing to reuse, we are making a stand to not create waste. Remember – as long as we are reusing and prolonging its life, the item is not a waste. Waste management is a huge problem around the world – particularly in overpopulated areas where the systems in place are ineffective.

So, let’s go back to basics and relearn how we used to live in simpler times. 

Check out @greenbyhabit on Instagram for short videos and fun reels discussing these topics in detail.

Different ways to reuse 

Reusing packaging – Do you, like me, love to reuse sauce bottles for pantry storage? Great! Even if the packaging is recyclable, reusing it is the best choice, as recycling tends to use plenty of resources.

Repeating outfits – do we really need a new outfit for that party? Let us all be proud outfit repeaters.

Repurposing – get creative and give a second life to that discarded box as a storage solution. Maybe decorate and transform them.

Buying second-hand/thrifting – locate your nearest Genbrugsbutik (thrift store) or apps like DBA, Tise or Facebook Marketplace, next time you want to buy something.

Repairing – can we repair that phone or fix the zip on that bag, before discarding it?