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The Power of Saying No


Last Updated on November 18, 2022

We all know the mantra, “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” right? Well, I’d like to throw in another “R” word – Refuse. 

Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

It’s an amazingly simple concept to keep in mind:

 “What comes into your space must leave your space.” 

Only you can control what comes into your space (unless of course, it’s junk mail, but that’s a different war for a different story). 

You should be very calculated about what you let into your space. Your space should be a cohesive sanctuary, where everything is used or loved.

Repeat after me: “if you don’t use it or you don’t love it – you don’t need it.”

By keeping the word refuse in my mind, I’m able to keep myself from accumulating unwanted items. Saying “No,” to unnecessary materialistic items is one of the most powerful and freeing things you can do.  

You have dominance over your space, and you can control the quality, the ethics, and the end life of a product. Saying “No” is the easiest way I cut down on my waste stream.

I save money because I’m not accumulating unnecessary things. I save time by not dealing with cheap freebies at parades or events.

I save my sanity by not having to declutter and put away items that will never be touched and eventually tossed. 

Below there are 7 questions I like to ask myself: 

1.    Do I need it?

2.    Can I use something else?

3.    Do I have something similar used for a similar purpose? 

4.    Will this be used at least 5 times? 

5.    Is this good quality and will it last?

6.    Do I support how or where it’s made? 

7.    Will this bring joy to my life?

Saying “No” is the most powerful thing you can do to control your waste.

What do you think? Do you think you’ll turn down any free cups, t-shirts, or other event gear that’s usually thrown out? Do you think you’ll say no to unnecessary purchases.

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  1. It seems so easy yet is really hard sometimes. Saying No to some free stuff that someone wants to hand you in the city or at a fair? No problem.
    But go into a cafe or restaurant. zziiip, you’ve got a free plastic cup with straw on your table for the kid. I’ve started returning those, saying No, don’t need that. Zooom, you’ve got a complimentary bag of chips with what ever you ordered. Return those as well. And zaaap, there comes a free drawing sheet plus crayons for the kid. How can you return that?

    Another one that I find terribly hard is Gifts. Gifts from friends and family for Birthdays, Christmas, any other occasion. You know it was something they had really thought about for a while to find the perfect gift for you. How do you say No? Have you ever rejected a Gift?

    I think the only option here is to let people know BEFORE they even think about buying you a gift. I’m working on that but even find this really hard.
    How do you handle that?

    1. Oops! This was me, Inge from Was signed in with the Zero Waste Bloggers Network Twitter Account. Sorry for the confusion.

      1. Haha. Well, I don’t have kids so I’ve yet to cross that bridge. I’m only occasionally tempted to color at the table. As for gifts, I don’t count something that’s out of my control, and I won’t be rude and refuse it. But, my family and friends and coworkers all know. My mom sent me a credit card so she can gift us experiences. My Dad sends me goat cheese from Europe in little wax rounds. One was vacuum packed in plastic. My boyfriend will do something practical, buy me something I need or want or take me somewhere. For valentines he took me to a cafe where we had a waste free meal and bought me a shirt at a consignment shop I liked. He got one too! My grandma just sent me a house warming present of a 2nd hand book. It was perfect. Most people have been very understanding.

        I also don’t mind if we have a party where people bring in food in plastic… As long as they take it with them.

  2. I love this notion of rejection. I find myself struggling to even tell myself no to certain things that I know for a fact is wasteful but I trick myself anyway. I will take a stand and say NO!