There is a huge movement right now to reduce the amount of waste we produce. You might be familiar with the #zerowaste movement where people strive to live a completely waste free life. I respect and admire those who do live a zero waste life as it takes a lot of planning especially in the early stages. I think any efforts to curb waste production should be celebrated whether you swap plastic wrap for beeswax wrap or trade your plastic straw for a metal one, you are doing your part to help the planet and our future generations.
In the city I live, as of October 1st 2019, each household will be allowed just one bag of garbage. We can have unlimited compost and recyclable products but just one bag of household waste. To some, this might seem like an unattainable feat. “How will I ever reduce my household garbage to one bag”. I’m here to tell you it is possible. It needs to be approached in steps, to make it manageable. One easy swap that will save you plenty of plastic/packaged waste is composting. If you are throwing produce waste/scraps into your regular garbage, STOP NOW.
To reduce waste, start composting…
Compost bins are readily available from your municipality or a local hardware store. Compostable and paper liners are also available for these bins. Any and all food waste can be thrown into these bins. Vegetable peelings, onion skins, strawberry tops etc. What I do, which actually even reduces my compost waste is save those veggie scraps for soup broths. Saving carrot peelings, ceelry tops, garlic skin, onion skin and putting them into the freezer. I then use these frozen scraps to make soup broths with. I get a meal out of the otherwise scraps.
Another easy way to reduce plastic waste is to buy your dry goods from a bulk food store.
To reduce waste on pakcaged items, buy from bulk food stores.
Bulk Barn Canada offers a reusable jar program at all their locations across the country. Bring in clean jars (can be a leftover salsa jar or pickle jar) or cloth bags and have the cashier weigh them for you once you arrive. The weight of the jar will be deducted from the final weight of the filled jar. That’s it! Once they are weighed, you are free to shop, filling the jars with any dried goods you would normally purchase in a package and check out as usual.
- Cereal and granola
- Beans and legumes
- Rice and other grains
- Dried fruits
- Baking needs
- Etc, etc, etc
To reduce waste when storing foods, use plastic alternatives.
Another easy swap is using beeswax wrap (cloth) to cover foods instead of plastic wrap and aluminum foil. There are many varieties of beeswax wraps available. You can also find local producers of the product at your local farmers market or downtown shops. I have been using this brand and find it works excellent. I’ve used it to wrap cheese, watermelons, sandwiches, vegetables and bowls and plates of leftover food.
Silicone zip bags are another alternative to replace buying plastic bags to pack kids lunches. They are washable and reusable and available in multiple sizes. This is one option available. In addition you can also find reusable and non-plastic versions of the below.
- Drink boxes
- Water bottles
- Coffee travel mugs
- Produce bags (for grocery shopping)
- Lunch containers
- Lunch bags
Well.ca actually has a section called “Kids Litterless Lunch Products” for shopping back-to-school waste free.
To reduce waste when buying groceries, bring reuseable bags.
Shopping at a big-box grocery store might appear challenging if you’re trying to reduce waste but it’s amount small actions having a big impact. First, bring your re-usable shopping bags with you. It’s handy to always keep a couple in the trunk of your vehicle in case you find yourself forgetting or making an unexpected trip. The second is to purchase mesh produce bags to take your fruits and veggies home in. There is no reason the plastic bags at the grocery store need to be used. Those are typically single use plastic meaning the sole job is to get your produce from the store to your fridge and then it is thrown away. Plastic doesn’t break down I might add. I have just been leaving my produce loose and so far so good. It makes no difference to the cashier when the produce is weighed (unless you have a dozen of something; harder to wrangle). I usually keep a separate reusable bag for my fruits and veggies to they don’t get squished but each time I do that, saves me at LEAST 5 plastic bags.
So, you’re composting, have your dried goods from your trip to bulk barn, you have all your produce and now the trickier part, your meat and dairy. Shopping waste reduced versions of meat and dairy can be tricky but can be done if you’re willing to try. First, lots of milk comes in glass especially when you shop at a health food store. This glass can typically be returned for a deposit or you can keep it and reuse it yourself for storage. Otherwise, be sure to check if the carton is recycable. Some have plastic coatings that make them waste.
Cheeses and meats would need to be purchased from a delicatessen as they are typically not packaged. Yes, they wrap the products in plastic once you make your purchase but if you have a relationship with you local deli, they may let you use your own container to bring the food home in. Now, if you don’t, don’t worry. Most deli counters use a paper that can actually be composted. If it has been waxed or oiled, it can be composted. Yes, I know the above are not waste free but they are waste reduced and remember, it’s about making small steps to reduce your overall production of garbage.
We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions people doing it imperfectly.Anne-Marie Bonneau, Zero Waste Chef
When you start actively reduicng your waste, you might notice you begin to eat healthier. The reason for this is just about all processed foods come in lots of plastic and excess packaging. When you reduce waste, you naturally begin to buy more whole foods to replace these (or buy wate-free versions from Bulk Barn).
A quick summary to reducing your waste…
Reduce food waste by:
- juicing (produce that might be on it’s way to the garbage in a day or two)
- making soups and broths
- not making more than you need
- not purchasing more than you will consume
- using produce storage bags to keep produce fresher longer
Reduce plastic waste by:
- using a reuseable waster bottle
- using a bamboo toothbrush
- using silicone storage bags
- using glass storage containers
- using glass or metal straws
- buying dry goods from bulk food stores
- avoding single use plastics
Reduce other waste by:
- using dryer balls instead of dryer sheets
- use fabric cloth to remove makeup instead of wipes
- continue rethinking your choices
- refuse single use plastics
- reuse everything you can
- refurbish and repair everything you can before buying new
- repurpose (fabrics, furniture etc)
Follow me on Instagram (@vibrancyhealthsolutions) and share how you reduce waste