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WED 2013

5 Jun

Today mark’s our 3rd year anniversary of the No Waste Wednesdays Blog!  Happy 3rd birthday to us…   Fittingly it is also World Environment Day 2013 and we are excited to share the hype around this year’s theme –  Think Eat Save.


World Environment Day is an annual event that is aimed at being the biggest and most widely celebrated global day for positive environmental action. World Environment Day activities take place all year round and climax on 5 June every year, involving everyone from everywhere.

Days like WED fit in well with No Waste Wednesdays because they are about coming together to participate – if we start small and start together we can get somewhere.

 “Although individual decisions may seem small in the face of global threats and trends, when billions of people join forces in common purpose, we can make a tremendous difference.”- UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon

So if you have an event planned be sure to register your activity with WED and use #WED2013 to track them.  If you don’t, check out the activities in your area to attend.  For some inspiration today we wanted to share a few items from a post by Food Tank – 21 inspiring initiatives to reduce food waste around the world…

WED burgerThe U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that 1.3 billion tonnes of food are wasted annually. Some countries are, unfortunately, greater culprits than others; according to the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition (BCFN), the total amount of food wasted in the U.S. exceeds that of the United Kingdom, Italy, Sweden, France, and Germany combined. In addition, the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP) estimates that global food production accounts for 70 percent of fresh water use and 80 percent of deforestation. Food production is also the largest single driver of biodiversity loss and creates at least 30 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

5. Dickinson College Campus Farm (Pennsylvania, United States) – This student-run farm composts daily deliveries of salad bar scraps from the cafeteria. In 2005, Dickinson expanded the compost program into a campus-wide initiative with student farm workers, partnering with facilities management to ensure that campus food waste is composted.

12. Love Food, Hate Waste (United Kingdom) – This program teaches consumers about food waste and provides them with helpful portioning and planning tips, as well as an array of recipes to make sure food doesn’t go to waste.

WED chicken

13. The Postharvest Education Foundation (Oregon, United States) – This organization offers training materials, e-learning programs, and mentoring opportunities that help farmers around the world prevent food loss. Their postharvest management guide is available in 10 languages, featuring topics such as how to choose the best time for harvest and the advantages of different transportation methods.

16. Society of Saint Andrew (United States) – This national network connects volunteers with farms to glean produce that has been left unpicked after a harvest. The Society distributes the gleaned produce to food banks and other organizations serving marginalized communities. In 2012, the Society gleaned 10.4 million kilograms (23.7 million pounds) of produce across the United States.

These initiatives cover a wide range of sectors – private businesses, universities,and  nonprofit organizations – and illustrate the extent to which collaboration is the key to change.

WED apple

To read the full list see here..
Do you know of other initiatives to reduce food waste in your area?  Tell us about it – leave a comment.


Toy exchange

24 Apr

Anyone partake in an Earth Day activity?  Please leave us a comment – we’d love to hear about it!

Today we thought we’d re-share a helpful blog about hosting an exchange party for kids toys.  Many parents nowadays are trying to avoid plastics, and keep their children’s toy collections to a minimum but the pile inevitably grows.  We’ve blogged before about clothing exchanges so why not host a toy/book/child exchange – just kidding, don’t trade your children!

We came across this post from Dawn Friedman (shareable: Life & Art) here a few excerpts:

On the spur of the moment, I sent out an email inviting friends to a used toy exchange. I know my friends and I know that the siren song of de-cluttering and getting a deal was likely to lure most of them in.The basic details were this:

  • Bring your gently used toys, clothes and books to share out at my house the Saturday after Thanksgiving.
  • Expect to rummage through everyone else’s stuff, too.
  • Anything left behind would be donated to Goodwill.

As people began to leave (most of them loaded down with toys for their family and for friends who couldn’t make the exchange), they made me promise to have the exchange against next year. I promised to make it an annual tradition. Everyone agreed that a give away is about ten times more fun when you get to do it in person.

Once everyone was gone, I surveyed the room—we only had a single large box of toys to take to Goodwill. And me? I not only had cleaner closets and a stronger sense of holiday spirit, I also scored a fabulous bag of finger puppets to add to our collection.

Some tips to pull off a toy exchange:

  • Invite a variety of ages. People with babies won’t have much to give and people with older kids might have more trouble finding stuff to get, but having a wide age range promises that most people will be able to find something.
  • Have bags and boxes available so that people can pack up easily.
  • It’s easier to exchange without kids, but it’s likely some children will be there, so have something for them to do elsewhere so their parents can “shop” more easily.
  • Don’t worry about one-to-one trades. The goal isn’t to barter so much as it is to get the goods out of your house and to the people who want them.
  • Be prepared to take care of the leftovers. One of the pluses for my guests was my promise that they wouldn’t have to take any of their old toys back home with them.
  • Don’t forget the tiniest toys, which seem to multiply at the bottom of toy boxes and underfoot. They make great stocking stuffers for someone else.
  • Baggies are useful for keeping toys with lots of parts together. Building toys like Legos or K’Nex especially are more appealing when packaged up, ready for the new owners to wrap.

You can read her full post here.

Not only does this provide helpful de-cluttering and re-distributing but also: puts less pressure on toy manufactures to make new toys, it minimizes the packaging, encourages the investment in high quality products that can be passed on instead of single use disposable toys, and hopefully it starts a trend of collaboration!  So get your exchange on this spring and host a gathering in your community.


You Light Up my LIfe

20 Feb


In the Spirit of a Belated Valentines Day, No Waste Wednesdays is looking at things that make our lives a little brighter.Those things that we love i.e a good laugh, good food and great wine are often done indoors-using some sort of light to brighten up the room. This week we’re looking at light bulbs as part of our month on disposables.

CFL (compact fluorescent light bulbs) light bulbs have come to replace the ordinary incandescent light bulbs that many of use grew up with. Why is there a shift to these as a lighting alternative?

More Light with Less Heat Emission

They produce more lumens (the technical term for light emission) than an incandescent. A 13 Watt CFL light bulb produces the same amount of light as a 60 Watt incandescent. This means they use less energy while putting out more light. They may cost more initially but end up saving you more in the end.

They are Better for the Environment because they lessen Household Energy Use.

Compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs use 75% less energy than old-fashioned incandescent light bulbs and last up to 10 times longer. For every bulb you swap, you will cut greenhouse gas emissions and save up to $50 on your energy bill over the lifetime of the bulb.

Not All Compact Fluorescent Bulbs Last a Long Time

Some discount brands of compact fluorescents have disappointed consumers with short lives and relatively poor light quality. It is true that rapid switching is especially hard on them, so they often aren’t good candidates for closets. Cold temperatures also decrease their lifespans.

But to ensure quality, look for Energy Star-certified models, since they must meet a range of criteria that go beyond energy efficiency. They must come with a two-year warranty, have a minimum rated lifespan of at least 6,000 hours and cannot emit an audible noise. They must turn on in less than one second and reach at least 80% of their output within three minutes. They can’t have more than five milligrams of mercury. (taken from the daily green

CFLs are Safe

Any CFL that carries the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) or Underwriters Laboratories (UL) safety certification has passed rigorous


testing for fire, electrical safety and shock hazard. They do however contain trace amounts of mercury. This has deterred some people from purchasing them but new studies have shown that the amount of mercury actually present is less than the amount found in mercury based thermometers.

 But this does mean that they require special disposal.

Five ways to stay safe from Mercury in CFLs

What to do if a Bulb Breaks?

Check out Project Porchlight for a list of how to best care for your CFLs, what to do if one breaks, where to go for recycling, information on UV ratings and CFLs, and mercury in CFLs among other things.

Recycling of CFLs can happen at most Home Depots as long as the bulb has not broken. Look for the orange recycling bins in the store.

Find a store with this option near you

Inside a CFL
Compact fluorescent lamps, or CFL’s, emit light when electricity excites the mix of gases inside the bulb, creating high energy, invisible, ultra-violet light, which is absorbed by the bulbs fluorescent coating and transformed into visible light.  They are sold in a variety of color temperatures, usually specified in Kelvin (K), providing a range of options to suit your specific lighting needs.
If you need clean, soft illumination for the kitchen or bathroom, a cool white 3500K– 4100K CFL is a good choice.  And for reading areas and work spaces that require more light, the daylight 5000K – 6500K CFL bulb cast a bright, cool glow that is ideal for detail oriented activities.
When choosing compact fluorescents, you should always look for bulbs that are ENERGY STAR® qualified because they have been tested to meet stringent performance criteria established by the U.S. Department of Energy and the EPA.

Thanks for stopping by, see you next week!

Become a Waste Watcher

9 Jan

We stumbled upon an interesting story of collaboration this week – writers Jacquie Ottman and Jocelyn Deprez have gathered people together to share their stories of reducing waste in hopes that a shared story will inspire action.  Jacquie started a blog to create culture change around waste…

“Her goal is to empower ardent waste watchers to share the many ways they reduce waste in their lives, and to provide insights into new products, services and behaviors that can help all consumers use less waste.”

Jacquie writes about ways to reuse items, ideas for reducing waste through sharing, how less can really be more, travelling, conservation and many more topics.  We thought we’d share one story in hopes that you’ll go read more

Let’s Collaborate! Sharing as an Antidote to Waste

December 19, 2012 by Melissa OYoung

Lucy twirled around in a flamboyant red dress, struck a pose, and laughed. Lucy was new to London and was trying on a dress at a clothes swapping Swishing party. She loved these parties as she made new friends and could swap clothes she didn’t need anymore with other women. Little did she know she was helping reduce waste and part of a growing movement called collaborative consumption…

Introducing Collaborative Consumption – how wonderful!
Have a look around your home and think about all the things that are ‘wasted’ by not being used. In the US, 80% of items people own are used less than once a month. Waste isn’t just constrained to the garbage you might see on the street – think about the car which is sitting idle on average 23 hours a day or the power drill which is only used between 6-13 minutes of its lifetime. These items can definitely be used more – what a waste!

we hate to waste logo

Collaborative consumption is a term to describe the renting, sharing, and swapping of underutilized assets. The Internet has now allowed people to connect and collaborate in ways not possible before – ‘wasting assets’ can be used more efficiently by linking those who own things with those who want access to them.

Take for example, cars. If you don’t want the burden of owning a car, you can use a car-sharing service like Relayrides (every shared car equates to taking 20 off the road!). Do you ever look at the empty car seats you see on roads and wonder whether you could rideshare to your destination? helps facilitate 1 million rideshares per month.

Have clothes you don’t like anymore? Don’t throw them away! Use a clothes swapping site like ClosetDash which helps prevent clothes from ending up in landfill (and takes up to 400 years to decompose). Collaborative consumption isn’t constrained to just products – it can include things like time, space, skills, or money. Have amazing cooking skills that are just waiting to be shared? Don’t waste your talent! Teach a class on Skillshare and share your skills with your community.

Imagine a more Collaborative World
Imagine a future where sharing helps lead to a more sustainable world … Picture lawnmowers and tools being shared via a shared toolshed on each street or unwanted furniture reused and refurbished in new homes or offices. People having joint meals together through sites like Grub with us or using bike-sharing schemes to get to places instead of cars. There are many things that can be shared!

‘Lucy’ who is helping reduce waste by clothes swapping is actually a real person that I researched and represents many of the girls who are joining the clothes swapping movement today. I was fascinated with how these platforms could indirectly lead to people consuming more sustainably, which led to me writing my thesis on the topic.

My passion for collaborative consumption still remains and I’ve started Let’s Collaborate!, a collaborative consumption event series in New York to inspire and connect entrepreneurs, academics, VCs, and all people interested in the movement together. Through gathering people together, and raising thought-provoking debates, I hope to infect the greater community toward more collaborative, sustainable behaviors.

There is such delight from sharing, lending, or borrowing things – enjoyable experiences that can help reduce waste! Do you have ideas on how we can reduce waste by sharing? Please share your ideas in the comments below!

Open Source

4 Jan

Hello No Waste Wednesday-ers and welcome to 2013!
We’ve been on a little break in these parts but are eager to start up again for another year.

This month we are coming back to our January theme of collaboration and the many benefits associated with it, environmental and beyond…
Check back to our 2011 or 2012 series for posts on collaborative consumption, carrot mobs, skill sharing, etc.

This week we wanted to draw your attention to an incredible initiative called open source ecology:

Open Source Ecology

Open Source Ecology

Open Source Ecology is a network of farmers, engineers, and supporters that for the last two years has been creating the Global Village Construction Set, an open source, low-cost, high performance technological platform that allows for the easy, DIY fabrication of the 50 different Industrial Machines that it takes to build a sustainable civilization with modern comforts.

The GVCS lowers the barriers to entry into farming,building, and manufacturing and can be seen as a life-size lego-like set of modular tools that can create entire economies, whether in rural Missouri, where the project was founded, in urban redevelopment, or in the developing world.


You can check out the TED Talk by founder and director, Marcin Jakubowski to hear more or head to their website to peruse the many design plans to build your own technologies that make small or large scale farming more accessible…

Considerate Gift Giving

5 Dec

December is here and 2013 is right around the corner!  This month we will revisit December’s theme of consumer habits.  Check back to 2010 and 2011 for posts about re-gifting, environmental benefits of fair trade, living more with less, reducing waste in the Christmas season, and much more.

This week we wanted to highlight alternative gift giving for any of you who are looking for fair trade, zero waste, ethical, alternative, make-a-difference type of gifts – good news there is something for everyone!

Check out Ten Thousand Villages for fairly traded gift items in store OR consider their Living Gifts campaign and choose from these amazing options:


Here’s the write up behind giving trees…

TTV Living Gifts

TTV Living Gifts

In Haiti’s Dezam region, trees are vital to life, providing fruit for healthy diets, protection from erosion and a source of income. Recently, however, a combined lack of awareness and an increased need for income have resulted in deforestation of the region. MCC’s tree planting program provides not only trees but also the instructional materials and professional support to help teachers in 15 schools teach students how to care for seedlings and improve the soil. Teachers work with students to create small tree nurseries, transplant seedlings near students’ homes, grow plots of trees near schools and organize trash cleanup days. “My family grows trees so we can pay for school and other things,” says 13-year-old Beethovens Jerôme. “Now I know to plant ten trees for every one we have to cut down.”Your gift of hope plants trees and educates students about the important role they play in protecting Haiti’s fragile environment.

$20 plant a seed for the future
Provides trees and environmental education to ensure a greener future for Haiti.

If you’re looking for a gift that offers a shared experience consider MCC’s Christmas Giving Catalogue which offers lots of alternative gift options as well as instructions for packing kits.  All you need to do is collect the contents from a list, assemble them together and bring them to a local MCC office to get sent to out to where they are needed most!

Kits for Christmas

Collect the contents and assemble. A fun activity for families, congregations, classrooms or offices. These kits provide people with basic necessities such as towels, bar soap, toothbrushes, towels and bandages in times of need.

MCC urgently needs

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31 Oct

Happy Halloween everyone!  As people across Canada and the US are getting costumed up today we got to thinking about our closets and the items in there that are the most versatile.    The skirt that doubles as a dress or a reversible sweater or that pair of jeans (not sandblasted of course) that you can wear with anything… As we know, over consumption and unethical production in the clothing industry has harmful implications both for the environment and for garment workers.
See Echo Verde’s write up on eco-clothing and ethics for more info…

One approach to this issue is clothing that is designed with versatility in mind – items that can be worn in multiple settings and are made to last through many seasons.

One idea we came across a few months ago was from Sheena Matheiken who developed The Uniform Project.

Uniform Project was born in May 2009, when one girl pledged to wear a Little Black Dress for 365 days as an exercise in sustainable fashion. Designed to also be a fundraiser for the education of underprivileged children in India, the project acquired millions of visitors worldwide and raised over $100k for the cause. U.P then continued into Year 2 with a monthly series of select Pilots taking on the 1-Dress challenge for causes of their choice.
(taken from


Many off shoots have been inspired through this project – watch Sheena’s TED Talk for her background story of how she grew this idea.

Other designers are purposefully creating versatile clothing to encourage the user’s ability to invest in quality made items that offer function as well as variety.  Check out Revolution Apparel, Echo Verde, and Loki.

versalette from Revolution Apparel

Do you have other ideas about versatility and how it relates to lessening waste?  Tell us about it!

Wet Cleaning

3 Oct

Happy Wednesday No-Waste-Wednesdays-ers!  We wanted to remind you that we are always looking for suggestions from our readers of new topics to explore each week.  Please send us an email at or leave us a comment on any post with your ideas.

This week we will launch into our month’s theme of apparel by investigating the environmental impacts of dry cleaning and a recommended alternative…

Some of the chemicals used in the dry cleaning process can be quite toxic for the people working with them. Perchloroethylene is a highly effective cleaning agent, although it has been identified as extremely toxic for the dry cleaners to work with causing a variety of fertility complications and is linked to cancer causing agents.  Not to mention that danger of it seeping into our water systems.

In response to customer complaints about the dangers of perchloroethylene, many dry cleaners have begun to investigate alternative cleaning methods. Wet cleaning, a system that uses water and biodegradable soap, is an environmentally-friendly process that works well for silk, rayon, leather, suede, and wool garments.(

Does it work just as well?

It’s been shown that wet cleaning removes all stains as well as dry cleaning but is actually more effective for certain tough stains, like red wine. Some wet cleaning machines also disinfect hard-to-clean items like handbags, shoes, and stuffed animals.

If you have an item that says dry-clean only do some research to see what other options are out there for you.  And perhaps we can eventually have those pesky tags changed!

Changes from the inside out

20 Sep

We recently happened upon an article reporting on PETA buying stocks in make-up giant, Revlon.  In terms of keeping the companies that are making the products we use – keeping them accountable is just part of the challenge.  Here’s the write-up from PETA’s website:

For more than two decades, Revlon was a member of PETA’s Caring Consumer program and refused to allow animals to be poisoned, burned, and blinded in tests of its products. But the company is now on the “Do Test” list after Revlon started selling products in China where animal tests are required for most cosmetics. Although PETA has asked Revlon numerous times to come clean about whether it is paying for animal tests overseas, the company won’t say—which, to us, says it all. We are now stepping up our involvement with Revlon in a very different way—we’re headed to the company’s boardroom.

We bought stock in the company because as shareholders, we can demand transparency about animal testing activity and also work in yet another way to get the tests stopped.

We’ve also set up an action alert that our supporters can use to e-mail Revlon and tell the company that consumers have a right to know whether its makeup is being tested on animals. Supporters can then tell everyone they know not to buy Revlon products until the company cleans up its act.


Many compassionate companies, including Paul Mitchell and Urban Decay, have held true to their cruelty-free principles and will not sell their products in China because they do not believe in funding animal tests. PETA is helping to fund scientists working with China to help the country institute non-animal tests, and until those tests are available, Revlon should pull its cosmetics off Chinese shelves, too. In the meantime, conscientious consumers can shop from a long list of companies on PETA’s cruelty-free list that don’t harm animals at home or abroad.

What do you think about PETA’s move?  Should similar actions be taken to guarantee fewer toxic chemicals are used in deodorant, cleaning supplies, or toothpaste?

If you are specifically concerned with products dedicated to animal free testing, check out some of these campaigns (be warned though that some photos associated with these organizations can be very graphic):

Lush     PETA     ASPCA

More of What Matters

14 Dec

Happy Wednesday!  After today, there are only 2 more Wednesdays left in 2011 and we are feeling pretty excited to start 2012 with lots of new ideas, more information and a couple of local events in the works.  If you have suggestions of issues you’d like to read more about or suggestions of what to highlight on this blog please drop us a note at or leave us a comment.

For today we wanted to steer your attention towards a very neat video with a powerful message created by the The Center for a New American Dream, which focuses on helping Americans reduce and shift their consumption to improve quality of life, protect the environment, and promote social justice.  Sounds like our kind of dream! 

In this short animation, psychologist Tim Kasser discusses how America’s culture of consumerism undermines our well-being. When people buy into the ever-present marketing messages that “the good life” is “the goods life,” they not only use up Earth’s limited resources, but they are less happy and less inclined toward helping others.

The animation both lays out the problems of excess materialism and points toward solutions that promise a healthier, more just, and more sustainable life.