The five Rs of green living

[This post has been written with ESL/EFL students in mind, levels B2/C1. Please scroll down for the accompanying exercises and additional resources.]

Each year, April 22 is marked as Earth Day. First introduced in 1970, it’s an international event aimed at raising awareness of environmental concerns. It originated in the eco-activism of the 1960s, a decade of major cultural and political changes that, apart from environmentalism, also gave rise to peace activism, renewed struggle for women’s rights and various other liberation movements. 

Half a century later, in spite of great progress in many areas, there are still daunting problems that haven’t been resolved. When it comes to the environment, it seems our planet has never been more polluted and our lifestyles more out of touch with nature. Many don’t even care especially for these issues, enjoying the comforts of consumerism far too much to notice the destruction it inflicts on our planet.

Even those who do care often feel helpless and discouraged from doing anything, convinced that their individual efforts are probably too small and insignificant to make a real, visible change. But, to paraphrase a popular quote (often misattributed to Mahatma Gandhi), each of us has to be the change we want to see in the world. On occasion of this year’s Earth Day, let’s think about what kind of adjustments each of us can make.

One thing that can guide us are the ‘five Rs’ – the five keywords of green living:


Rubbish that we throw in the dustbin doesn’t magically disappear – it ends up in landfills that continue to pollute and endanger the natural world. However, we have control over what gets bought and eventually disposed of. Think about all the products you can refuse to buy because you don’t actually need them, or because their packaging would leave too much needless waste.

Photo by Tom Fisk on


The logic behind this principle is similar to that of ‘refuse’, but instead of flat out refusing certain products, you can minimise their use and thus their harmful environmental impact. Think of something you use or buy a lot; anything from office supplies to food products. What kind of changes can you make that would reduce the total amount of waste?


Speaking of waste reduction, one obvious way is through reusing things instead of just throwing them away. For instance, use reusable grocery bags instead of buying new single-use plastic ones each time you go shopping. You can also eliminate waste by buying goods that come in returnable packaging that can be used over and over again.

Photo by Michael Burrows on


Repurposing is probably the most creative of the five Rs. Also known as upcycling, it’s about giving a new life to items that would otherwise be discarded. Repurposing has been very popular with people who have an artistic vein: at the end of this post you’ll find links with some interesting projects you can try yourself.


This is the final option, the last one in our attempt to cut down waste. To recycle means to turn waste into reusable material. The trouble with recycling is that not everyone lives close to a recycling facility or has easy access to recycle bins in the areas where they live. If recycling isn’t possible for you, at least make an effort to buy products already made of recycled materials. You’ll recognise them by this well known symbol:

People often think that leading a green lifestyle is ultimately more expensive for an average consumer, but the great thing about it is that it’s actually a huge money-saver. So, even if you couldn’t care less about the environment, you would want to have a little extra cash at the end of the month, wouldn’t you? The fact is, green living is good for all: it helps heal our planet, it makes us more mindful, ethical and frugal in our choices, and it contributes to a better life for all. Think of that on this Earth Day.


Earth Day: The Official Site

The Green Living board on the Grammaticus Pinterest


Match the words and phrases highlighted in the article above with these definitions:

  • setting someone free (noun)
  • a small change (noun)
  • too small, meaningless (adjective)
  • large amounts of buried rubbish (noun)
  • living without waste, thrifty and economical (adj.)
  • having no awareness of / no sympathy for something (phrase)
  • aware, conscious of something (adjective)
  • directly, simply, with no hesitation (phrase)
  • to try / attempt to do something (phrase)
  • something designed to be used only once (adjective)
  • to get rid of something, to throw away (verb)
  • basically, fundamentally (adverb)
  • to get rid of something you no longer need or want (verb)
  • with no confidence or enthusiasm (adjective) 
  • to cause something unpleasant or painful on someone (verb)
  • things that make life easier and more pleasant (noun)
  • to find a solution to a problem (verb)
  • a special talent or ability (noun)
  • extremely difficult and overwhelming (adjective)


Write a paragraph on how you can make your life a bit greener and share it in the comments section below.

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