Waste! It has become such an integral and seemingly natural part of our daily lives that we rarely stop to think about it. We toss the empty salad container into the trash can. We bring out the trash. The moment the bag filled with waste leaves our home, it is out of sight, out of mind. It is estimated that the average American makes 4.4 pounds of trash per day. That’s 1,600 pounds of waste per year!
Beyond our overconsumption problem, landfills are toxic, responsible for 11 per cent of the global methane emissions. Toxins from our daily waste leach into the soil and pollute our oceans and groundwater. A lot of trash doesn’t even make it to the landfill. Instead, it clutters the sides of roads and swirls in the ocean. Plastic is especially dangerous to the ocean, marine life, and our health. It doesn’t biodegrade, it photodegrades which means it only gets smaller and smaller. Plastic breaks down so small that it’s in 90 per cent of drinking water both bottled and tap worldwide.
I believe that we deserve better. You. Me. We are the solution. We have all of the power within us to create a healthier planet for us, and our future generations.
WHAT IS ZERO-WASTE?
The simple answer: We aim to send nothing to a landfill. We rethink our relationship with resources. We begin to change our lifestyle in a way that we produce a minimal amount of waste.
HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE?
It comes down to these five Rs!
• REFUSE what you do not need
• REDUCE what you do need
• REUSE what you consume
• RECYCLE what you cannot refuse
• REDUCE or REUSE, and ROT (compost) the rest
WHAT CAN I DO?
What follows is a list of small but impactful changes you can do right now to begin your journey to minimize waste. I am intentionally offering simple changes, so they don’t seem out of reach. The key point here is don’t feel like you must do everything all at once. Implement one idea and when that feels like second nature, go to the next and so on.
In the wise words of the zero-waste chef Anne-Marie Bonneau: “We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.”
SIMPLE HABITS YOU CAN INCORPORATE INTO EACH DAY
• Buy whole fruits and vegetables instead of prepackaged varieties: pre-packaged apple slices, baby carrots or salad mixes may be convenient, but they are expensive and create a lot of unnecessary trash. Instead, cut your own apples or mix your own salad.
• Eliminate paper towels: this may seem drastic, but it’s not difficult. Replace paper towels with rags for cleaning counters, mirrors and other household surfaces. Cloth napkins can be used in place of the paper variety, too.
• Swap sandwich bags with kitchen towels or stainless containers.
• Buy in bulk and bring your reusable bags to the store.
• If you cannot find it in bulk, find an online supplier, also experiment with bringing your jar to the ice cream shop, a pillowcase to the bakery for your bread, or your bottles to the winery/brewery… or make things from scratch (mustard, salad dressing, hot sauce, jams, orange juice, hummus, cookies, tomatoes sauce).
• Shop the farmer’s market: they’ll take the berry baskets back for reuse. Your veggies will also most likely be free of plastic and stickers.
• Ditch the bottled water. Instead learn to filter your tap water or better yet, find a local natural spring.
• Pack your reusable coffee mug and stainless steel straw when you leave the house. Turning down single-use plastic and disposable cups has never been easier.
• Buy a set of inexpensive silverware, plates, bowls and cups and stop using plastic ones.
• Favour whole plant foods! Not only is a plant-based diet better for both your health and for animals, but it also has the lowest carbon footprint of any dietary lifestyle.
ZERO-WASTE GROCERY SHOPPING
If you don’t have access to a local farmer’s market, I encourage you to take some zero-waste action steps in your local grocery stores. Some things to consider:
• Take reusable produce and grocery bags to the store. Pro tip: keep a few in your day bag so when you decide last-minute to get groceries on your way home, you’re stocked and ready to go.
• If you forget or don’t have reusable bags, use the paper or compostable bags provided and reuse them at home for composting.
• Bring your glass jars to fill with different dry goods, nut butter etc.
• Use mesh produce bags for fruits, veggies, beans, nuts, etc.
• Avoid buying single-serve items (individually packaged) – sure it’s convenient, but it’s also more plastic.
• For the olive bar, salad bar, or hot food bar – bring your containers (ask to have them weighed by an employee beforehand).
I dare you to care! Your health and the health of our planet depend on your daily choices. Together let’s set ourselves and younger generations up for success.
Zero-Waste Store Listing
Did you know that there’s tons of local stores catering to zero-waste lifestyles? Check out some of these businesses for your zero-waste needs.
The Lower Mainland
The Soap Dispensary and Kitchen Staples, 3718 Main Street, Vancouver
NADA., 675 E. Broadway, Vancouver
Livlite, 807 Powell Street, Vancouver
Unmediocre, 229 Newport Drive, Port Moody
Refill Road, Pop Ups at various locations in the Lower Mainland
Without Co., 2115 4 Street SW, Unit 103, Calgary
Canary, 1225A Kenzington Road NW, Calgary
The Apothecary, 921 9th Avenue SW, Calgary
Unboxed Market, 1263 Dundas Street W, Toronto
Bare Market, 1480 Danforth Avenue, Toronto
Pretty Clean Shop, 3072 Dundas Street W, Toronto
Logan and Finley, 670 Queen Street W, Toronto
The Green Jar Shop, 1061 St. Clair Avenue W, Toronto
Ecotique, 191 Roncesvalles Avenue, Toronto
Lead image by Todd Duncan
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