“Make disposable an obscene word and favour the reusable over the recyclable.” is one of my favourite quote by David Suzuki.
Zero waste may sound intimidating but no matter how you call it, the point is to try, collectively, to reduce the amount of waste we produce.
I wanted to share with you the basic first steps that I have been taking in that journey. Let’s hit the (waste-free) road!
In the kitchen:
food packaging → to bulk and non-processed food
Buying in bulk is synonymous with buying raw, non-processed food. It’s the best thing you can do for your body, for the environment and for your budget without a doubt. I am still dreaming of a well thought-out grocery store where everything could be bought in bulk at the same place: rice, olive oil, tea, coffee, laundry detergent etc…
kitchen foil → to plates and reusable clothes
I cover my leftovers in the fridge with a simple plate. I wrap my sandwiches in a clean cloth, or in plastic boxes (I still have plenty). And I recently discovered a great brand called Abeego. They produce reusable beeswax wrap that replaces kitchen foil perfectly.
absorbing paper → to sponge and cotton towels
It can be replaced more easily than I thought, with small towels and a sponge. If I need to grease a pan (which has been a problem for me until I read a blogger’s idea), I now grab a stale piece of bread or a leftover vegetable to do the job. Creativity at all levels!
plastic plates and cutlery → to napkins and hands
When I have a party at home, I’ll have my guests use napkins instead of disposable plates and make sure they can eat with their hands. No plates and plastic knives, glasses, forks and spoons. Gross? Less than throwing everything away the next day. Even if this kind of plastic can be recycled, the best waste is the one that you don’t create in the first place.
chewing gums → to cloves
This one is anecdotal: when my Indian in-law gave me cloves to freshen up after lunch, I knew I could immediately add “Chewing gums” to the “don’t buy again” list. I love to find solution from unexpected sources.
In the bathroom:
shower creams → to bars of soaps
Shower creams are expensive, their plastic packaging is completely useless (in regards of the final use), they contain weird chemicals. There are plenty of places in Toronto where we can buy nude bars of soap. And for the most adventurous makers, why not try to make your own soap?
liquid shampoos → to solid bars of shampoo
Same as above. Solid versions come in recyclable card or better, naked. Lush has some solid bars that work well. They have very flashy colours, which first made be cringe, but the brand displays its ingredients in a way that is rather transparent. Better yet, Sudsatorium is a Toronto-based cosmetic company that also sells solid shampoo bars.
disposable makeup-remover cottons → to reusable cotton towels
There are many options here too. I bought some very soft mini towels that I wash at the end of the week. (from Logan and Finley, on Queen West). Some of my friends are huge fans of Konjac sponges.
tampons and pads → to menstrual cups
How many discussions with my girl friends did the cup bring about! Obvious, economical and convenient, they just require a little practice to overcome the prejudice we can have towards them. DivaCup, Mooncup and the like can be bought online. If you are not convinced yet, look at a rubbish ad for tampons and raise a finger at how they talk to women. (These ads infuriate me…)
Q-tips → to bamboo sticks
Simple as a soft stick collecting earwax without damaging the eardrum. I haven’t found that in Toronto but I brought one from France. You can take a look at it here.
plastic toothbrush → to recyclable toothbrush
Bamboo is a good solution. I use a Woobamboo! one, they (or equivalent) can be found in any organic store. This will still be a waste, but a recyclable one.
-(My next challenge) From
tissues → to handkerchiefs
This one I haven’t done yet, as I still have plenty of Kleenex at home. But don’t say yuck. We should only yuck at our useless waste. We just have to do it cleanly with a minimum of hygienic common sense.
I can’t help adding that reducing is also key in the bathroom. Just came back from my bathroom to check on the toothbrush’s brand, and sighed at the quantity of things I still have.
plastic bags → to reusable bags
Not that I don’t like the poetry of plastic bags floating in front of my 20th floor-window, but seriously, let’s all say no to plastic bags. There are too many of them in the ocean, the trees, and birds’ stomachs and the solution is too easy. Bring your reusable bag with you everywhere, period.
coffee cups → to refillable mugs
Your coffee cups are not recyclable. Only their lids are, provided they are not black. I know, this sounds esoteric. Check Ask the wizard for more information. This is an online tool provided by the City of Toronto with a simple concept: type the name of the item you don’t know how to recycle, and the Wizard will give you the answer.
Bringing your own mug with you when you go out is really not that hard. I have found a refillable one at home, but there are several other options, one being the JOCO cup. Starbucks and Tim Hortons will even redeem you 10 cents if you bring a travel mug.
plastic bottles → to reusable bottles
I came to the conclusion that I should always leave home with 3 things … my coffee mug, a bottle of water and some nuts (to avoid buying compulsively expensive plastic junk food) … in a reusable bag. To remember myself of doing so, I just stuck a note to my door. Sometimes the dumbiest tips are the best.
To go further:
This is the state-of-the art of my zero waste efforts as per May, 30th, 2016. I have loved writing it, and I hope you did too. Reducing one’s waste is a journey, it requires organization and perseverance.
But more than everything, it’s fun! And visualize the amount of trash we can all avoid with these simple and economical alternatives. Here are two additional resources that I find interesting.
Toronto Environmental Alliance launched a project called The Waste Free Project. It sets challenges for all Torontonians to reduce their waste in several areas. It’s community-based and people can share their experience and upload pictures of how they succeeded in taking the challenge.
Lastly, you can also take a look at US-based Lauren Singer’s blog, Trash is for tossers. Her Zero Waste Alternatives is a very complete article.
More than ever, let’s go Green TO!