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October 25, 2017
“Zero waste” is a buzz term that gets thrown around a lot - it’s also been a recurring topic of discussion around our office. Some of us have tried it, some of us are working towards it, and some of us had no idea what it meant! So, in an attempt to shed some light on what it really means to go zero waste, we decided to try our hand at it. Below is four accounts, from four different women, who went zero waste for 24hrs.
"I learned when I inevitably forgot my travel mug and was forced to sit down and stay at the cafe was just that; how nice it is to sit down, stay, and appreciate a moment with a good friend."
Name: Kendra Day you went zero waste: Saturday, October 21st What does “zero waste” mean to you?I used to think it meant that I had to literally create absolutely no waste, or at the very least an extremely infinitesimal amount. I’ve decided that zero waste, to me, means to strive to reduce the amount of recycling and trash I make down to as little as possible (keyword: strive. It’s a definite work in progress). What do you think you’ll have the most difficulty with?Remembering. I’m a pretty on-the-go person and I can see myself forgetting my produce bags and my travel mug constantly (because I already do both of those things). So, just remembering those and being really conscious of what I’m doing I think may be a little difficult for me. In which areas do you think you create the most waste?When I really think about it, I think it would be in my bathroom. Razors, toothpaste, shampoo bottles, q-tips… yeah, definitely the bathroom. Schedule Morning: I woke up and remembered that my toothbrush was plastic. After promptly making a mental note to look into some better bamboo alternatives, I was out the door. I walked to meet my friend for brunch at a cute little neighbourhood spot (Luna Cafe) - I had eggs and coffee and asked them to hold back the napkin. Everything else was served in dishware.
Noon: My brunch was quite late so I didn’t actually eat any lunch this day. Instead, we strolled around our neighbourhood exploring a bit before stopping for coffee #2. Naturally, I forgot my travel mug at work on Friday so I opted to have my cortado “for here” and we sat down in Crafted’s back patio.
Night: At night, I made a simple dish I like making in the fall: spaghetti squash with some marinara sauce from a glass jar. My spaghetti squash was delivered to me by Mama Earth Organics, which is a pretty great alternative if you’re unable to get to the grocery store every week like myself. They deliver your groceries in reusable containers that they pick up the next week when they deliver your next batch of organic goods! Major Take-Aways Leading up to this day I was getting pretty overwhelmed when I thought about how many things in my life are single use and really not reusable. I decided though to approach it with a certain level of pragmatism. This is mostly so that I can continue to use a lot of the things I still currently have left to use, and then just make better decisions going forward. It would be equally as ineffective and wasteful if I just did away with the things I still had that weren’t done being used in the name of going zero waste, right? Another thing I learned when I inevitably forgot my travel mug and was forced to sit down and stay at the cafe was just that; how nice it is to sit down, stay, and appreciate a moment with a good friend.
"I realized how much waste all these products will eventually leave behind."
Name: AngelaDay you went zero waste: Tuesday, October 16thWhat does “zero waste” mean to you?The definition of “zero waste” means exactly that, living a life creating “zero” waste! The thought of how I could even begin is daunting.What do you think you’ll have the most difficulty with?I think I’ll start doing something that’s in my habit or is so familiar to me that I won’t realize (until it’s too late) that I’ve created waste.In which areas do you think you create the most waste?Much of my waste likely comes from food. I notice how much waste that’s created even from produce that I buy from the grocery store (when there really shouldn’t be…?) But the pile of clear plastic bags that’s collected on my kitchen counter says otherwise.Schedule: Morning: My morning went on as usual. I skipped my morning shower, thought it was a good start until I got to the skincare and makeup part of my routine. I realized how much waste all these products will eventually leave behind.As a designer, I’ve previously worked in beauty and skincare packaging so I get very excited when I come across unique or beautiful packaging. I have a box full of inspiration that I’ve collected over the years (although to some, may be considered as waste).My collection of products have shrunk considerably, down to about 10 makeup products that I love. I own a pro palette by MAC Cosmetics that I’ve custom built with eyeshadow and blush “refills” that comes without the plastic packaging. These refills are minimally packaged in small paper sleeves and snap into the palette’s magnetic base. It’s perfect for travel and everyday because it’s so compact with all the products I need in one place. They also has a program called “Back to MAC” that takes back lipstick and gel eyeliner pots, etc. which are recycled and reused. Noon: I thought lunch would be a breeze. I like to pack hot lunches in glass Tupperware which was no different from a typical day. And then it happened. I grabbed a snack from the fridge and realized halfway through eating it that I’m left with it’s plastic wrapper. Night: I’m typically out for dinner. Sometimes at restaurants and other times with fast food where I’ve notice the amount of waste (napkins, cups, containers, etc) that’s created. Tonight I was home to cook a simple stir fry with zucchini and garlic. Thoughts: I imagine it might be difficult to explain or bring attention to servers this idea of “no waste”. What’s my alternative, will I have to bring reusable plates for my Mcnuggets to be served on or is Mcdonalds something I’m ready to give up?Major Take-AwaysI don’t see Zero Waste as something that I can commit my 100% to for the lifestyle I live. Perfection is not my goal, and I don’t think it’s attainable. I think to go zero waste overnight as a typical consumer is impossible, but making more conscious everyday decisions for sustainable improvement is key.
I found going “Zero Waste” for a day was fairly easy for me, as I am vegan and already eat loads of fresh produce.
Name: Ashley Day you went zero waste: Saturday, October 14thWhat does “zero waste” mean to you? To me, Zero Waste means not using anything that is harmful to the earth-that you have to throw out. It also means, not wasting any food. Leftovers should be composted, eaten later or given away. Eating utensils should be able to be washed and reused. By going “Zero Waste”, you help the environment, yourself, and other humans/animals. What do you think you’ll have the most difficulty with?In my household, we tend to throw out a lot of food. There is only 2 of us, so we often make too much food and then don’t eat it all. We also have a tendency to buy too many groceries and have to throw out produce that goes bad. Eating take out is something else that we do a lot. This obviously causes extra waste. So making sure to eat at home, instead of ordering food or going out could also be a challenge. In which areas do you think you create the most waste?Eating takeout or fast food creates a lot of unnecessary waste because of the extra containers, napkins, utensils. So the restaurant/food industry definitely wastes a lot. The fashion industry is another big one. Especially in fast-fashion there is a lot of fabric waste, chemical waste etc. in the making of garments. When it comes to consumers, we tend to over buy and fill our wardrobe with low quality items that on average we don’t get a lot of wear from. Then we donate pieces we no longer want, or maybe even throw them out. These items often end up in waste sites, or are shipped off to 3rd world countries to sit and pollute their lands. Schedule Morning: My morning routine didn’t change that much. I tend to just have fruit in the morning, so there wasn’t much waste, except for orange peels and the apple core. We have a small compost at my house, so the peels went in there. The apple core was given to my dogs, after I removed the seeds and composted them as well. The only thing that really changed was my morning coffee. I usually have a cup of coffee every morning, but I couldn’t quite figure out how to make that zero waste. The beans come from a package, as does the almond milk. In the future I’d like to make my own almond milk, so that could care of the waste created from the milk box. For this particular morning, I skipped my coffee, and opted for water and fresh squeezed orange juice (thanks to my partner).
Noon: This is where things became a little more tricky. On weekends we are usually out wondering around Toronto, so we eat out. Instead we packed fruit and veggies in some portable, glass containers, and had them throughout the afternoon as a snack. I also made a huge vegetable soup we brought along and enjoyed when we became hungry for something more. I think thinking ahead and packing your own food is important when going “Zero Waste”.
Night: This evening we made a potato pizza. I used all produce, and disposed of peels etc. in our compost. The crust was made from potatoes, I made the tomato sauce from tomatoes from my mother's garden, and we piled on mushrooms, zucchini, more tomatoes, and onions. Major Take-AwaysI found going “Zero Waste” for a day was fairly easy for me, as I am vegan and already eat loads of fresh produce. However, I think it would be quite difficult for those who aren’t used to a vegan lifestyle. There is so much waste everywhere, it’s really hard to get away from. Doing this one day challenge really opened my eyes to the amount of waste each person contributes on a daily basis. It’s alarming to think about.
"I’ve also realized that it does take a bit of time to get into the rhythm of things, and not to give up just because I won’t be able to be perfectly zero waste."
Name: ClaireDay you went zero waste: Tuesday, October 10th
What does “zero waste” mean to you? My understanding of zero waste is something I learned from Bea Johnson of Zero Waste Home: refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle and rot (compost). I went zero-waste for a month last year and in doing so I learned that even if you’re recycling wherever possible, there is still a lot of waste being created in the recycling process and new, non-recycled plastic being used when recycling plastic. So if you reduce your consumption of throw-away and even recyclable goods like take-out containers, you can save more energy and reduce your waste even more significantly!
What do you think you’ll have the most difficulty with?Sticking to it. I gave up going zero waste because it’s very challenging to do everything perfectly and like most people, moderation is not my strong suit. Since stopping going zero waste, I’ve continued doing little things (I never use plastic bags anymore) but I sometimes (shamefully) put recyclables and compost in the trash and I don’t pack my portable utensils and napkin anymore.
In which areas do you think you create the most waste? I definitely create the most trash when eating take-out or to-go lunches during the workweek. I’m a terrible cook and tend to buy lunch, which results in a ton of wrappers and styrofoam boxes going to waste.
Schedule Morning: I woke up and left the house without eating breakfast (as per usual) no waste created there! I rode my bike to work, which I do nearly every day. I stopped by the cafe below our office, Hale, for a donut later that morning, which was served on a plate without any disposable utensils or napkins. Noon: For lunch, I went downstairs to Hale and had their daily soup and bread. It did come with a disposable piece of wax paper that I wasn’t expecting, but now I know for next time what to expect and I’ll see if they can prepare it without the wax paper. Night: For dinner, I made a very simple spaghetti using a glass jar of tomato-basil sauce (reusable!) and pasta that I had previously purchased in bulk from the health food store near my house. I also used spinach and mushrooms that I got from the regular grocery store using organic cotton produce bags that I purchased here.
Major Take-AwaysWhat I learned from going zero waste again (even if just for a day) is that there are so many little things that I can still be doing everyday to make a real difference. Just like I carry a reusable bag in my purse, I can easily carry my reusable utensils, napkins and a glass tupperware container with me to work so that I’m not unnecessary additional waste when I inevitably forget to pack a lunch. I’ve also realized that it does take a bit of time to get into the rhythm of things, and not to give up just because I won’t be able to be perfectly zero waste.
There you have it. We all felt a bit nervous, a bit unsure, but we all learned a lot about our habits and lifestyles that we may not have previously thought about had we not done this exercise. A recurring theme that appeared though was simple: progress over perfection. It’s important to not beat yourself up about not being able to be completely zero waste right now! It’s about educating yourself and making more conscious, earth-friendly decisions going forward. Rome wasn’t built in a day - so don’t expect to be completely zero-waste overnight.
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