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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)


May 30 x 30 Challenge – Spend 30 minutes outdoors for 30 days.

1 May

May 1st – it’s always nice when we get a month with 5 Wednesdays in it!  Our theme in May is on packaging – Check back to our posts in 2012 for info on food packaging, tea drinking habits, & plastic wrap alternatives AND 2011 for info on plastic consumption & creative ideas to waste less.


Today we wanted to point you towards a fantastic campaign from the David Suzuki Foundation called the 30 x 30 Challenge.  The David Suzuki Foundation is challenging Canadians to commit to spending 30 minutes in nature each day for 30 days, starting on May 1, 2013.

Ready to take the challenge?

Start by joining the challenge here. Then get out into nature for at least 30 minutes for 30 days in May. This year, you can sign up as an individual or challenge your entire workplace to join!.
There are lots of ways to green your daily routine. Along the way, we’ll be sending you fun daily challenges, tips and inspiration to help you out.
To add to the fun, you can submit photos from your time in nature for a chance to win weekly prizes.

One of the best ways to inspire yourself to build a more environmentally responsible lifestyle is to spend time in spaces that would be degraded if they were filled with trash.  Walk in parks, ride your bikes, garden in your yard and think about how important it is that these green spaces stay clean and protected!  Plus, as the 30 x 30 challenge is saying – you’ll feel better if you spend time outdoors!

Check out David Suzuki’s video message here.

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!

Rate Your Wrapping…

10 May

While doing our research on different issues surrounding packaging this month we came across a very helpful teaching resource to encourage critical thinking while shopping.

If you do have to buy something new (food, household items, books, stationary, clothes, etc.), clearly the best thing to do is to buy naked items.  Goods that are not wrapped, held or packaged in anything!  Really – does your pen need to be in between a plastic shield and a cardboard backing?
However, if you must purchase something that is contained in something else (hopefully at least recyclable!), see this handy sheet above to consider as you go.

And here’s the stellar student handout to accompany it:

Sayonara Saran-Wrap!

2 May

Welcome to May when our focus is on packaging.  Last year we wrote about disposable paper cups, The Clean Bin Project, a lenten plastic fast, and closed off with a great post on single-use plastic bags, a Ted Talk on the pacific garbage patch & living life without plastic… Check out May 2011‘s posts to catch up.

For today we want to encourage you to evict the plastic wrap that has been living in your kitchen drawers for far too long and welcome in some handy alternatives!

Why make the switch??   Yes plastic wrap (Saran, Ezeewrap) can be convenient to wrap up odd sized food items for storage, or to cover a dish missing its lid.  But plastic wrap  is rarely reused and is very difficult to recycle.

Plus – to make plastic so thin and pliable plasticizers are used which can leach harmful chemicals into  hot or fatty foods.  These chemicals are said only to be harmful when we’re exposed in large amounts, however we must consider the compound effect of how many times we’re exposed to harmful chemicals every day and how many toxic items we add to our landfills which in turn can pollute our soil, air and water…

It is true that both Glade and Saran make a PVC-free plastic wrap but it’s still a single-use plastic product.  Tin foil is considered a better alternative since most municipalities will accept it in their recycling.  Although it is incredibly resource-intensive to mine and refine putting it no further ahead than plastic wrap in terms of environmental impact.

So aside from the obvious solution of using reusable containers, here are a couple of reusable ‘wraps’ if you are still in desperate and immediate need to wrap something….

  1. Reusable storage container covers made from laminate cloth.  Apartment Therapy includes photos and a very handy DIY guide for making your own.  Check out these beauties:
  2. Abeego Flat Wraps – beeswax infused hemp cloths. Watch the video to learn how to use these genius things:

These wraps are especially awesome because Abeego is totally plastic free!  Their packaging includes: Glassine paper, labels printed with soy based ink.  Here’s a little blurb from their product:

Abeego products are inspired by nature and believe natural materials are ideal for keeping real food fresh. The blend of pure ingredients, known for their preservative properties is the essence of Abeego. Abeego crafts natural and original food storage, used multiple times and in many ways that you can feel good about whole-heartedly.
Abeego was created in 2008 as an alternative to plastic film for food storage. Plastic film has only existed for fifty odd years. The human race has been storing food for ages.
Roll or fold Abeego and keep it with your other food packaging or your linen drawer. Or layer between cutting boards to store flat.

Their website shows you how to use them, care for them and they even send you a stack of “Abeego Bits” which can be used as a replacement for tape when you order them.

Any other ideas on plastic wrap alternatives??  Leave us a comment!

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!