Bill Mollison defines a pollutant as “an output of any system component that is not being
used productively by any other component of the system”
 
This encourages us to design systems that make use of all outputs to minimize pollution and waste. Pollution can be minimized by not using unsustainable products while waste is the usable byproducts of the products after we have used it for it’s primary purpose. An example would be our food. After we prepare and eat it, what’s left over is then relegated to the compost pile where it nourishes micro-biology with the finished product, compost.
 
The more diverse a system is, the more efficient it is in using “waste”. We can apply this principle more easily by remembering the 5Rs, “refuse, reduce, reuse, repair and recycle”
 
Refuse – Don’t buy what is unnecessary. Buy only what you truly need.
Reduce – Use less and design systems that are more efficient. Replace plastic with paper/cloth bags.
Reuse – Use those plastic bags for as many things as possible before discarding. Use them to store food or organise food staples in your cupboard.
Repair – When something breaks, fix it. Don’t throw it out. If it is unrepairable the reuse the component parts. For example, a blender may not work because of a broken part that can’t be replaced but the blender contains screws, washers, pins and wire that can be used for other things.
Recycle – This one is the least efficient way because for many items it uses more energy to turn it into something else. Plastic has to be cleaned, sorted, shredded and then heated in order to turn it into a usable product.
 
There are many more ways that you can apply the 5Rs, from simple examples I showed above or in a more expansive way in our lives, homes and communities.
 
How can you use the 5Rs?
 
At Pan Gaia Permaculture we have created a PDC (Permaculture Design Certification) course that reflects the above.
Join us on April 2, 2022, for an interactive, online Permaculture Design Certification course (PDC).

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