This winter we took part in a challenge to reduce our waste production that we called Waste Free Winter. Inspired by a visit to the local waste management site, and with both of us moving to new homes, we were determined to spend the colder season cutting back on the garbage. Here is a breakdown of our experience and tips we’ve picked up along the way.
Where to Start
The best place we’ve found to start is by actually doing a little digging into your garbage. Ask yourself: What are you throwing out? What items do you continuously use? What can be replaced with a reusable option? What am I buying that’s wrapped in “garbage”? Can I transition to buying those items without all the packaging?
After asking yourself those questions, we have some tips on how to take the next steps:
Ditch the Plastic
Single use plastic items such as bags, straws and take out containers are so commonly used. Although some of these plastics make it into the recycle bin, a lot of energy is then used to collect, sort and transform those items. Often, plastic also finds it’s way into the trash, or becomes litter in our communities and waterways!
Ways to ditch the plastic:
- Grocery shopping: use cloth reusable bags, mesh bags for produce and glass jars for bulk items
- Storing food: store food in Abeego food wrap, glass containers, or reusable cloth bags
- Packaging: try to use brands that store their products such as makeup, food or cleaners in glass or paper. Avoid buying things that are wrapped in unnecessary packaging. You can also cut down on packaging by growing your own produce and then freezing or fermenting it for the winter
- Eating out: Carry a bamboo or metal spork, glass or metal straw, and mason jar which can be filled with a drink or leftovers!
Use What You Have
A lot of waste is created because of the fast pace at which we consume things. I started by putting a freeze on shopping for things unless I actually needed them. This went for clothing, beauty, kitchen etc..
Ways to decrease consumption:
- Repair instead of re-buy: this goes for clothing, electronics, furniture, and anything else that annoyingly breaks. Many items can be fixed with little effort or money
- Re-purpose: when you’re done using something the way it is intended, try to to find a different use! For example, old t-shirts can be cut into cleaning cloths or handkerchiefs; glass food containers (e.g. salsa jar) can be used to store your lunch; old toothbrushes can be used to clean small areas in your home
- Quit the “one-and-done”: decrease consumption of single use products by swapping them for reusable products. For example use dryer balls instead of dryer sheets; reusable tray liner instead of tin foil; cloth napkins and cleaning rags instead of paper towel
- Slow fashion: cut down on all of the waste associated with fashion by buying good quality, ethically made staples that can be mixed and matched to make multiple outfits. Pieces that are well made and timeless can be enjoyed for years, rather than one season. You can also shop at thrift or vintage stores!
Buy In Bulk
Decrease the packaging waste by purchasing items in bulk! Some bulk retailers even allow you to bring reusable containers to store your bulk products in, avoiding packaging altogether.
Here are some places where you can buy in bulk and save some moo-lah ($$):
- Farmers Markets or a local food share/co-op
- Bulk Barn (you can now take reusable containers to their Canadian locations!)
- Look at your trash and see what you use a lot of each month. If you can’t get that item in a reusable form, can you start to buy those items in bulk to cut down on waste (think nut butters, berries, shampoo, face wash, cream, detergent etc.)
- DIY: you can also buy ingredients for body care products or cleaning supplies and then make them yourself!
- Life Without Plastic (A personal favourite!! Great information and alternatives to plastics) – https://www.lifewithoutplastic.com/store/ca/
- Zero Waste Home – http://www.zerowastehome.com/
- Trash is for Tossers – http://www.trashisfortossers.com/
- PAREdown Home (this link will take you to a post on how you can get started and their site includes Toronto shops that have zero waste options ) – http://www.paredownhome.com/best-ideas-getting-started/