| Environmental Columns

The third R: reuse/repair

Written in collaboration with Coopérative Incita

The zero-waste movement is based on the 5Rs: refuse, reduce, reuse/repair, recycle and rot. These few words help to guide our actions with the goal of consuming less and better.

The 5Rs are not listed randomly, but rather in order of importance. The first step is to refuse what we do not need. By refusing something, the waste associated with the item is completely eliminated. What could be more effective!

The second R, reduce, is along the same lines: rethinking our consumption so that it is aligned with our environmental objectives. The goal is to avoid overconsuming and to be satisfied with what we actually need.

These first two Rs are the most important, but what do we do when we really need something? How do we consume responsibly? This is where the third R comes in.

It can be broken down into two words: reuse and repair. Unlike the first two Rs that provide direction, the third R is much more tangible. It means taking action to extend the life of an object. The objective is to avoid creating demand for new resources when the object we need already exists.

Reuse means using something you already have!

When we need something, most of us automatically go out and buy it. But if you look around your home, you may find many clever ways to meet this need. With a little ingenuity, an object can serve multiple purposes. For instance, a book can be used to raise your computer, or a plate and a bowl can become a container for leftovers in your fridge.

In recent years, the number of “Do It Yourself” (DIY) and “Make It Yourself” tutorials has exploded. Although it may take more time, making something with your own hands is often much more gratifying than buying it already made. For example, why not use an old sheet to make reusable handkerchiefs or bulk bags? Or save citrus peels to make your own cleaning products? The hard part is getting started, but after you’ve mastered a few techniques, you can let your imagination be your guide.

Reuse: Second-hand markets

If you can’t find anything at home to replace an object, second-hand stores or other people’s treasures are the solution!

While buying new saves time, manufacturing a new object requires actions that are all too often harmful to the environment. By turning to second-hand markets, an object can get a new lease on life. If the object you need already exists and no one is using it, why produce a new one?

There are many options when buying second hand: thrift shops, for instance, but also many websites and groups on social networks. And don’t forget to ask around, you could be pleasantly surprised!


Giving an object a new lease on life means having the reflex to repair it instead of replacing it with something brand new.

This applies to electronic devices and appliances, but also to clothes and shoes! Shoemakers still exist and are often right in your neighbourhood. Bringing in a used pair of shoes for repair is a great way to save money and support the local economy.

Just like reusing, you can also learn how to repair. There are countless how-to videos and support groups on social networks.

There are many benefits to reusing and repairing. Once it becomes a habit, it will save you time and money, while supporting local businesses.

Recycle and rot

When an object can no longer be reused or repaired, it’s time to recycle or compost it. Participating in the City’s various collections allows for certain materials to be reused to make new objects.

Household composting is a way to turn your organic waste into compost to nourish your flowers and trees or your vegetable garden.


Keep in mind that reducing waste at the source is a gradual process. Take it one step at a time without putting pressure on yourself and you’ll soon realize that it really can be done!