5R — The bite-sized way

I only feel angry when I see waste. When I see people throwing away things we could use.

– Mother Teresa, Indian Roman Catholic nun

Bite-size. If you describe something as bite-sized, it means it is small enough to be considered or dealt with easily, meaning one bite at a time.

Why is this term important?

Well, we are often faced with tasks that we would like to do but keep putting them off because it seems to be a large or time-consuming task to complete.

However, if we break the challenging task down into its component parts, it becomes easier to do in stages and minimises the chances of procrastination and therefore enables us to complete the challenging task in stages.

We can apply this bite-sized approach to the environmental 5R concept.

Over the years while discussing with people about ‘Going Green’, many expressed that they do not have the time to practise the 5R concepts and that they feel it is time consuming or challenging to incorporate them into their daily lives.

However, we don’t have to become a full-blown ‘Eco-Warrior’ to start becoming environmentally friendly.

We can become part of the solution to better our environment by taking small steps or bite-sized actions.

You could start by ‘Going Green’ by picking one aspect of the 5R that is most convenient to you and build up from there onwards in stages.

Collectively if each and every one of us in Sarawak picks up even one component of ‘Going Green’ and implements it in our daily lives, there will be a major positive impact on our environment here.

Therefore, just to recap, here are the terms that the 5R concept stands for — Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose and Recycle.

It is the updated version of the previously used term 3R (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle) that I am sure you are more familiar with.

Here are some basic details or explanations about each one of the 5R initiatives.

Keep in mind also that the correct order of each ‘R’ — Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose and Recycle — is also very important.

The emphasis here is that if you practise the ‘R’ that is first in the ranking order, you will make a stronger positive impact on our environment in Sarawak.

The first R is to Refuse. This R encourages us to reject environmentally harmful items.

An example would be saying ‘No’ to non-biodegradable items, such as drinks in plastic bottles and plastic straws.

It can be difficult to apply at times but it is the most effective way to drastically cut down on waste.

The next most effective ‘R’ is, Reduce, meaning to use less or reduce your consumption.

The easiest many could find is to reduce the use of electricity and it saves you money in the process.

Another example would be to reduce your purchases, especially impulse purchases and this also saves you money.

The next down the line is ‘Reuse’, meaning to continuously use an item. An example would be to reuse printer cartridges by refilling them.

This initiative also discourages the use of single-use items with reusable ones such as reusable water bottles.

Now moving on to ‘Repurpose’, meaning to make use of an item once used for another purpose. An example is to repurpose a ‘single use’ plastic container as a flower pot.

There is no limit to this R if you use your creativity and it could be applied to many items around your home.

Lastly, this is the most common R we have come across — Recycle. This is the process of making new products from another product that has already served its original purpose.

There are some NGOs and now businesses actively managing recycling centres dealing with many items such as paper, plastic, metal, fabric and electronics that can all be recycled. Do make use of them to pass on your unwanted items.

One recycling effort that you could do immediately would be to recycle your food waste by composting it. My family has completely eliminated food waste being thrown into the dustbin — it is all composted.

I am certainly not in the Eco-Warrior category but do make continuous efforts to be more environmentally responsible.

There are various environmental initiatives, and one such being clean energy that has been rolled out by our Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg.

The Sarawak government’s efforts to improve and protect the environment on land and sea are ongoing and are making an impact.

As Sarawakians, we too have a responsibility to protect our environment and let us all start off with at least bite-sized efforts and commitment to a safer environment.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the New Sarawak Tribune.