Use the Five R’s to Do a Waste Audit


We’re guessing that you’ve probably heard a lot about the importance of recycling. But the truth is that recycling should be a LAST RESORT. The best and first option should always be to REFUSE. Today we will review the Five R’s in our journey to recycle as little as possible by refusing as much as we can. Sounds weird right? Well sometimes weird is wonderful – let’s find out more! 

Review the Five R’s above, then explore your space and take an assessment of all the disposable items you have purchased that can be replaced by a REUSABLE option or can be REPURPOSED to meet your needs.

  • REFUSE means being considerate of what you consume/buy and not getting new unnecessary items. 
  • REDUCE means limiting the amount you consume/buy.
  • REUSE means making old things new to cover for the functions of things you would ordinarily buy new.
  • RECYCLE means turning old things into new things by properly recycling used goods.
  • ROT means turning your food scraps and other waste into soil through composting! 

The planet will thank you, and so will your pockets (this will help you save lots of $$$)! These options should take into consideration the needs of every individual – for hygienic, personal and other reasons, feel confident only adapting reusable options to more sustainable options wherever is appropriate or comfortable for you. Also make sure to SAFELY DONATE any single use items you no longer need. 


Take a tour of your space to take the following inventory. 

  1. List all the disposable items you have in your kitchen/space. Example:
  • Paper towels 
  • Plastic zip lock bags 
  • Paper plates  
  • Plastic/paper cups

2. Next, review your list and get creative. Are there alternatives that you can think of to replace your need to buy each these single-use items in the future?  Example: 

  • Paper towels could be replaced with cloth rags.  
  • Plastic zip lock bags could be replaced with reusable containers 

3. Finally, brainstorm where you can REPURPOSE things you already have to fill your reusable alternative list. 

  • Paper towels > cloth rags > old cotton t-shirts 
  • Plastic zip lock bags > reusable containers > glass jam jars from the recycling bin 

>> Lastly, what can you do with the single use items (such as paper towels) that you now realize you no longer need? 

  • Consider donating anything sealed to first responders, hospitals or other community serving individuals or groups during this time. 

*During the Covid-19 crisis, we want everyone to follow the strict CDC guidelines and keep themselves as safe as possible by practicing excellent hygiene and health safety. Apply the Five R’s whenever possible while you do it! *  


The Jane Goodall Institute is a global community conservation organization that advances the vision and work of Dr. Jane Goodall. By protecting chimpanzees and inspiring people to conserve the natural world we all share, we improve the lives of people, animals and the environment. Everything is connected—everyone can make a difference.

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About Author

Ashley Sullivan is the Director of Storytelling & Marketing for Communications & Partnerships at the Jane Goodall Institute USA, where she works to connect individuals with Dr. Jane Goodall's vision, and the JGI mission to create a better world for all by protecting the interconnections between people, other animals, and the environment. Ashley graduated Stony Brook University with a Bachelor's Degree in Anthropology and a minor in Biology, and is pursuing a Master's of Science in Environmental Science & Policy at Johns Hopkins University with a focus on Environmental Justice. Originally from Brooklyn, New York, now a D.C. resident, she has a varied background including 10+ years of expert communications and digital marketing in the social and environmental non-profit sector. Her intersectional approach to this work has been shaped by a holistic world-view, having traveled to Madagascar and Ecuador for conservation research projects, leading communications for youth social justice filmmaking organizations, and as a part of several professional groups advancing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in environmental spaces including Greens REALIGN. With skills ranging from conservation fieldwork, policy and advocacy campaigns, strategic communications, art, digital media, and design, Ashley believes in sharing information to empower and in the magic of storytelling to transform hearts and minds. Through growing understanding, empathy, and justice, she is igniting positive change to create that better, more equitable world, every day.