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“…it’s just so last century”

29 May

For the last Wednesday in May we were inspired to share about a grocery store in London, UK that offers only reusable packaging!  It’s called Unpackaged and began as a London market stall in 2006.

unpackaged veggiesUnpackaged is a unique and brilliant concept that is so simple it hurts, especially considering the sheer amount of packaging waste that is ridiculously filling our planet’s landfill sites. Within the beautifully designed shop, organic whole foods, dried fruit, nuts and seeds, herbs and spices, even refillable oils, vinegars and wines are all available to place straight into your own containers, that you will have brought along with you … if you haven’t then reusable bags are available.” (

Unpackaged’s philosophy is really quite inspiring.  We’ve found many locally owned grocery stores are almost packaging-free but still use bulk bin plastic bags, disposable containers, single-use wrapping, etc.  Unpackaged has banned all packaging whatsoever!  In their own words..

The Problem with Packaging

Whilst some packaging is necessary in our modern industrialised food chain, unnecessary packaging is a waste:

Cost: It increases the price of the goods you buy. You are charged twice – first when you buy overpackaged products and then through council tax for disposing of your rubbish.

Waste: It wastes resources at every level: production, storage, transport and disposal.

Pollution: Landfill and incineration are the two main ways of dealing with un-recyclable packaging waste. These are major pollutants for people and the environment as they release greenhouse gases.

What about recycling? While some packaging is recycled, most ends up in landfill sites and some packaging is difficult and impossible to recycle. Recycling is certainly part of the solution, but it will only work if we use less packaging and adopt more ‘reusable’ ways of doing things – Unpackaged is based on this ethos.


Reduce by only buying what you need
Reuse by bringing your containers for a refill
Recycle what you can’t reuse

And… if you can’t reuse or recycle it then don’t buy it!

unpackaged bulk bins

“It’s hard to visit a landfill site without being struck by the craziness of taking very valuable minerals and resources out of the ground, using a lot of energy, turning them into short life products and then just dumping them back into the ground. It’s an absolutely monumental waste of energy and resources. As someone from the fashion industry might say, its just so last century.” (Michael Pawlyn, The Guardian, November 21 2005)



27 Feb

To close off the month of February and our theme of disposables, we wanted to leave you with a reflection on habits.  Many of us have great intentions of living with less waste however when we are confronted with a challenge it is difficult to live out our ideals.  In those moments we are more likely to make decisions based on our defaults, our habits – what we’ve always done or what seems most convenient.

One aspect to developing a life with less waste is to make a habit of reducing the number of disposable products we depend on.  Cultivating environmentally sustainable habits promotes new skills, resiliency, and reduces waste.

Susan Pokorny of pure home and body offers this reflection,

Ok, before I even begin this article, I’d like to set the record straight. I do not claim to be the Queen of Green. I’ve used plenty of disposable products: paper plates, baby wipes, utensils, and more. I even have a box of plastic straws in my cupboard… Just like you, I’m navigating through this process and trying to consume and throw out less. I’ve had seasons in my life where I’ve relied on disposables more than others, now much less than I used to.

Our culture is a disposable one, it’s convenient, and we are busy. The other weekend I saw The Lorax with one of my kids. It was colorful and lively and I was inspired. One thing that struck me was the “plastic world”. There was no grass, the trees were plastic and had to be blown up, not unlike those holiday yard displays. As I watched, I thought that we are not far from that.

What is our world made of?  Our society in general relies on a lot of man-made, synthetic, disposable, one-time use things: diapers, plates, wrapping paper, snack and food storage bags, water bottles, coffee machine singles, you name it, it’s probably been made into a single-use-plastic-synthetic-version.

We have too many choices   When something breaks, we change our minds, or we just tire of it, it can be easy to find a replacement. I’m going to sound old by saying this, but things just aren’t made the way they used to be. I could spend hours telling you about plastic toys for the kids that didn’t even hold up for an hour after they’ve begun to play with them. Yet, I still have some silk scarves all the kids have played with for 15 years.  They’ve been fashioned into skirts, ropes, gift wrappings, and most recently superhero capes. My point in all this is in our disposable world we do have many long lasting alternatives. Sometimes it just takes a little longer to find, but it’s worth the effort.
Read the full post here.

Check back to our posts in 2011 & 2012 for lots of ideas on how to reduce the number of disposable products you depend on.
Any new eco-habits you’re developing?  Leave us a comment and tell us about them!

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!

Disposable Fashion? Try Reusable Fashion

12 Feb

When I think of one thing that I unnecessarily consume of in excess amounts of it is clothing. As a girl I take pride in how I look and find joy in dressing well and challenging my creativity through my closet. I suppose this isn’t necessarily wrong, but since coming to college I have tried to explore different ways to keep my closet fresh without spending extra money or feeding consumer culture. The reality is that most people (especially women) get sick of their clothes before they grow out of them, or have worn them out. I mean, I have clothes in my closet still that I bought in grade 9 (so 7 years ago) that still fit me, but I always think I will want to wear again some day so I keep them.

I am going to suggest some ways to rotate your closet without spending lots of extra money Imageand consuming more! Also, there are other benefits with these options such as having fun, building community and blessing others.

One tradition we have adopted at the college I attend is doing a “Dorm Sale” every winter. This has been such a neat way to bring girls in our dorm together and to raise money for local organizations. The male dorm also participates, and we have students go through their closets and bring anything they no longer need or want to a designated area in our dorm. For about a month we have this set up and for $2 we can buy anything from the sale. It has been really freeing for me to see clothes I have neglected in my closet for a long time be worn proudly by other girls who make my “old” into something “new”. As we have done this event it has really challenged us to really take a look at the clothes we own and reevaluate if it is necessary to have as much as we do. At the end of the month the clothing that is not sold in dorm is donated to a local ministry in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan called the Bridge on 20th.

The Clothing Exchange in Australia is a clothing swap service that holds events where people Imagecome with up to 6 garments of clothing and leave with up to 6 garments of clothing in exchange. People buy tickets to these events and can attend to down size their closet and/or find some new items for free while getting rid or something old! Just like our dorm sale events, the left over clothing is donated to the Red Cross or another local charity.

The Clothing Exchange is building a sustainable fashion community, bringing like-minded people together and working positively towards the future of a greener world. The swaps are run by devoted little teams across Australia who host events with the intention to swap towards a greener future through the fun of swapping.

Another alternative to clothing exchange is bringing your clothes to your local Plato’s Closet. Here they will go through your clothing and take what they would like to sell and give you either money or store credit for what you have brought in. I have become somewhat ritualistic with bringing clothing, purses, jewelry and other accessories to Plato’s Closet on a regular basis that have been sitting around my house for too many years.

I cannot think of a better way to get rid of my clothes I do not appreciate as much anymore. This way someone else can appreciate what I don’t. Do you participate in any clothing swaps? Tell us what your look like and what your ideas for clothing exchanges are!

Plan a clothing exchange for your next get together with your friends. It’s like going shopping for free- you really can’t lose! (and you’re putting your foot down in the midst of our consumer culture) Go to it!

Greening your Tea Consumption

16 May

Happy Wednesday folks – we’ve added a new regular contributor to the No Waste Wednesdays blog!  Erin will be working with MCCS for the summer months and we are very excited to welcome her into this space.  And as always – if you have suggestions of ideas/products/campaigns you’d like us to explore leave us a comment or email us at …  For today here’s a few helpful thoughts for all you tea drinkers out there:

One of the first steps in cutting down on packaging waste is to look at the things you consume consistently on a daily basis. Looking at how you can cut back on packaging waste from these seemingly simple daily routines, moves towards being better aware of how much waste packaging really creates.As someone who drinks on average three cups of tea per day, if I use each tea bag only once and throw it out afterwards I have thrown out about 1095 tea bags, as well as individual tea packages each year (although the average person prImageobably doesn’t drink quite as much tea as myself).

Tea bags can always be used more than once, whether that be for a second cup of tea or by using it for numerous purposes around the home.

Chasing Green offers 25 different ways which tea bags can be reused:

…for health and beauty

…around the house

…in the kitchen

…and outdoors!

Who knew tea bags could be so multipurpose?

One of my favourite ways I found to reuse tea bags is for composting and gardening found on TLC’s How Stuff Works:

Lots of people add their used tea bags to a compost to help reduce garbage and cultivate their plants. If you don’t have a compost, you can just steep a tea bag in water until the water slightly changes colour, and then use it to water your plants. You could even just bury the tea bag outside to help your garden grow. Don’t worry- the tea bag will decompose.

If you are not into reusing your tea bag around the house each time you have a cup, or if you just want to cut out tea bag and packaging waste all together I suggest the best alternative is loose leaf tea. Loose leaf tea comes without individual packages and without the tea bag. It can be steeped through various ways, using different infusers and filters in a green way to meet all your tea needs!

If you would like tea on the go loose leaf tea can accommodate that as well without extra waste. David’s Tea makes travel mugs with built in infusers as well as an extra compartment to store extra loose leaf tea. 

Quite possible the best tea accessory is the hook handle infuser. I never use tea bags, or individual tea packages now thanks to this handy little thing.

Here are some other places you can find alternative ways to reuse your tea bags!

What are your favourite ways to reuse your tea bags? Any recommendations for eliminating tea packaging waste? Leave us a comment!

Eco-Event/Wedding Planning

29 Feb

This month we’ve learned about many innovative uses for disposable products as well as alternatives to single-use items.  To close off our focus on disposables today (and to say happy leap year) we thought we’d target all of you planning a wedding or big event in the near future and share a few handy web resource with TONS of creative ideas…

One idea we thought was particularly worth mentioning is “StikPics” – small cards with customized, removable decals that have your email or web address on them. People place them on their digital cameras and cell phones as a reminder for them to take pictures at the party, then email or upload their favorites to you. No harsh chemicals are used for developing film and there won’t be a bunch of “disposable” cameras ending up in the landfill! (taken from eco wedding)

See you back in March when our theme is water!


Easy Alternatives to Everyday Disposables

23 Feb

Seeing as today (Ash Wednesday) is the first day of lent and people all over the world are fasting from their own vices, we thought it would be appropriate to bring up another ‘bad habit’ to change…  Here is a list of common single-use items that are thrown away by the bag full and yet have fairly easy to find, long-lasting alternatives (taken from the good human):
Instead of…

  • Single use ballpoint pens, buy refillable pens.
  • Disposable razors and/or razor cartridges, try a straight razor…or just stop shaving your face.
  • A paper coffee cup, get yourself a reusable coffee mug or thermos.
  • Regular batteries, buy rechargeable ones and a charger.
  • Buying bottled water, get your own reusable bottle and never pay for plastic bottles again.
  • Disposable diapers, look into using unbleached cloth ones.
  • Using plastic wrap at home, get yourself some resealable glass containers.
  • Plastic straws, get your own glass one at GlassDharma.
  • Single-use sponges, buy some washable sponges – they are washing machine friendly.
  • Virgin plastic garbage bags, find ones made from recycled plastic.
  • Plastic utensils on a picnic, bring your metal ones from home.
  • Paper towels, buy some dish rags and keep them handy in a drawer.
  • Tissues, try out a handkerchief!
  • Paper or plastic, bring your own bag when you go shopping.
  • Using the produce bags, just put the produce in your cart. You’re gonna wash it before you eat it anyway!
  • Using plastic bags for bulk purchases, bring your own reusable container. The store will weigh it for you to get the tare weight (the weight of the empty container) before you use it.
  • Using paper coffee filters that get thrown away, get yourself a gold filter that you can wash each day.

Could you make a switch (or 2 or 7?) and shrink the number of garbage bags you put out every month?  If you haven’t already adopted a fast or challenge for this lent season, consider a fast from single-use products…

Plastic’s Days are Numbered

15 Feb

Looking back to our posts focused on disposables of the past we’ve covered event planning, plastic bottles, foam poison and introduced you to Janna who didn’t buy anything made in China for a year…

Today we are writing about the #s 1-7 which label every recyclable plastic and represents the chemical resin it is made from – these plastics are not intended to be single-use disposables but the numbers are often misunderstood and tossed in the garbage instead of sent to a recycling depot…

Sometimes it seems like modern America is one colossal plastic palace. The versatile material is in our cars, toys, packaging, clothing, home goods, food utensils, medical devices and so much more. It is also littering our streets, clogging our waterways and choking marine life. Many plastics can be readily recycled, but how do consumers make sense of all the different types and rules? (The Daily Green)

#1 Plastics PET or PETE (soft drinks, water bottles, mouthwash, etc)
Recycling:Picked up through most curbside recycling programs.

#2 Plastics  HDPE (milk jugs, household cleaners, shampoo bottles, etc)
Recycling:Picked up through most curbside recycling programs, although some allow only those containers with necks.

#3 Plastics  V (Vinyl) or PVC (detergent bottles, cooking oils, clear food packaging, etc)
Recycling: Rarely recycled; accepted by some plastic lumber makers.

#4 Plastics  LDPE (squeezable bottles, bread, frozen food, shopping bags, carpet, etc)
Recycling: LDPE is not often recycled through curbside programs, but some communities will accept it. Plastic shopping bags can be returned to many stores for recycling.

#5 Plastics  PP-polypropylene (yogurt containers, syrup/ketchup bottles, straws, caps, etc)
Recycling: Number 5 plastics can be recycled through some curbside programs.

#6 Plastics  PS-polystyrene (disposable plates/cups, meat trays, egg cartons, take-away containers, etc)
Recycling: Number 6 plastics can be recycled through some curbside programs.

#7 Plastics  Miscellaneous (3-5 gallon water bottles, sunglasses, DVDs, ipod cases, nylon, etc)
Recycling: Number 7 plastics have traditionally not been recycled, though some curbside programs now take them.

For more info visit the Daily Green or Green Guide for helpful tips on managing your plastic use…

Now that you know a little more about your plastics, stay away from #s  3, 4, 6, & 7  which are more difficult to recycle or stay away from plastic entirely and stick with glass!

The tragic marriage of last minute planning and single-use disposables.

8 Feb

Why is it that styrofoam cups, plastic cutlery and bottled water can be found in abundance at conferences, meetings and special events? We choose to believe that the planners are not intentionally buying single-use disposables out of a desire to grow the landfills but rather out of a lack of preparation and thought.
It’s true that picking up a box of bottled water, a bag full of disposable cutlery and stacks of styrofoams cups is possible an hour before your event. However it is also true that those things, for the most part, do not biodegrade and in the end will pollute your water, soil and air.

So what are the alternatives?  The good news is that there are many – all it takes is proper planning!

Finding green products is easier than ever and getting easier all the time… many earth-friendly products are as economical, or more so, as their conventional counterparts because they often utilize recycled or reclaimed materials, require less processing and output less waste than would otherwise have to be managed. (Crissy Trask, “It’s Easy Being Green”)

Check out the following links for information on dinnerware made from plants, reusable materials and tips for eco-friendly event planning:

Be encouraged and hold your event planners accountable. Next time you attend a meeting/conference/potluck where the organizers have used single-use disposables, tell them there is a better way!

Have other event-planning tips to share?  Please leave us a comment with your creative strategies to make your events earth-friendly!

The 2nd life of plastic bottles

1 Feb

Welcome to February – our theme this month is on disposables and we’ll be focusing on some impressive options. Today we wanted to highlight a few alternative uses for plastic bottles – a very popular item in our garbage cans…

Garbage disposal is a problem everywhere in our Insta-Life society. There are things we simply can’t throw away (the radioactive stuff), things we shouldn’t throw away (the toxic stuff), and lots of stuff we probably should never have made or purchased in the first place. No worries for us because we can just toss our trash away, out of sight and out of mind, while we go about the business of accruing more stuff we don’t really need…right? Wrong. Sadly, we cannot mindlessly toss the trash out of reality, because trash doesn’t magically disappear after it’s been picked up by the collectors.

Our gigantic garbage pits are full to overflowing, mostly with leftover building materials, disposable diapers, and appliances. In the developed countries of the world, each human uses an average 200 pounds of plastic annually. While a tiny amount of the garbage is recycled into durable goods, about half the plastic we produce ends up in the landfills, and the rest of it becomes lost in the environment and ultimately washes out to the sea, to become trapped in a swelling, swirling limbo of heavily polluted ocean gyres, negatively affecting ocean health and, ultimately, every person and being on the entire earth. (Lisa McBride and Paul Richard Harris, Axis of Logic)

So what else can you do with your plastic??  Check out these incredibly creative creations:

Click here or here for more ideas of things you can do with old plastic bottles…
With all these ideas we can surely Reduce, Reuse, Re-purpose and Recycle our plastic and keep it out of the landfills, oceans and parks!!