It’s a safe bet to wager many Canadians think of Canada as an environmental leader, but despite our image as a country of natural wonder on strong ecological footing we actually lead the developed world in garbage production. We produce twice — TWICE — as much waste as Japan, and — shockingly — 7 percent more (per capita) than the United States!
On average, every Canadian throws away 720 kilos of trash each year. When you multiply that by 39 million or so, you can imagine the staggering impact on our overburdened landfills. But individual Canadians — like me and you — can make a difference if we make the choice to create less waste in our own homes. And these days with work and parenting a busy teen taking up most of my time I often feel guilty for not doing more for the earth. Making small changes like the ones below are a great way to make a positive impact. I feel more a part of the solution than the problem. So check out the ways I’m striving to produce less waste in my own home. Which ones might work for you?
Before you head to the register to buy your next new toy or tool be sure to consider if it’s a necessity. Do you already own something that can do the job? Could you borrow one from a friend or maybe your local tool library or lending service? Is what you need available second hand? The more we buy, the more trash gets tossed. So if you can cut back on what you bring in you’ll minimize what’s going out. You may even save a few dollars too.
Pack It In
These days almost everything comes over packaged — almost 35% of municipal solid waste has been attributed to packaging alone. Not too long ago I got a new pair of scissors that came in a hard plastic pack. After fighting to free them for far too long and without success, I resorted to borrowing another pair to snip them out. I don’t know about you, but needing scissors to open scissors seems downright ridiculous to me. And don’t even get me started on those grocery store bananas wrapped in plastic — who thought that would be a good idea? If you can avoid buying prepackaged items, especially those packaged individually, and buy in bulk instead you’ll find yourself throwing out a lot less.
Kill The Bills
According to Environment Canada about one third of the waste Canadians send to landfills is paper or paperboard, so cutting back on the amount of paper we toss can have quite an impact. It’s easy to request to receive bills, bank statements, pay stubs, and other documents electronically, and only print paper copies when necessary. Newspapers and magazines can be read online, and you can request that Canada Post stop leaving junk mail in your letterbox.
Making cleaning products and beauty supplies at home will not only reduce the amount of packaging you contribute to the landfill, but it limits exposure (for you and the earth) to the chemicals they’re made from. There are tonnes of resources online to show you — step-by-step — how you can make everything from tub and toilet bowl cleaner to detergents, bleach, glass cleaners, and more. And if you want to give DIY beauty a go there’s even more to explore, like our recent post on homemade skincare recipes.
Bottles, that is. These days shampoo bars last longer (up to 80 washes) and provide quality care and cleaning for your hair. You can also find solid conditioners and bar soaps that on-top of being a treat for your hair, skin, and scalp, are sold in minimal packaging, which ensures you’re throwing out less unnecessary trash.
Bag It Up
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch — the largest plastic accumulation zone in the world’s oceans is located in the waters between Hawaii and California. Covering an estimated area of 1.6 million square kilometers — making it twice the size of Texas — the GPGP contains approximately 80,000 tonnes of plastic, much of which is plastic bags. So foregoing plastic grocery bags, snack bags, and produce bags in favour of reusable options is a great way to lower your impact on the earth.
Modern society has really become a disposable one, with many things we use on a daily basis getting thrown out when we’re done with them. Instead we could be choosing reusable alternatives, and shrinking our environmental footprint with every choice. Consciously choosing to avoid plastic straws, takeout cups and containers, plastic water bottles and cutlery, and disposable coffee cups and using their reusable counterparts instead can make a huge impact. And ditching your disposable razor for a safety razor, paper napkins for cloth, handkerchiefs for tissues, soap nuts or dryer balls for dryer sheets, menstrual cups or period proof undies over pads and tampons, and food safe bowl covers and beeswax wraps in lieu of Saran wrap are all relatively inexpensive ways to make sure you’re sending fewer bags to the landfill.
Give It Up, Turn It Loose
Before you send things you’re getting rid of to the curb make sure you sell or donate anything still useful. Have a yard sale, or post the things you’re ready to pass on to kijiji, or Bunz if you’re looking for a trade. Anything left you don’t sell that’s still in good shape can be donated, making sure only true garbage
Robyn McNeil is a Nova Scotia-based freelance writer, bartender, and writer/editor of the Whole Family Happiness Project. She lives in Halifax, with her son and a penchant for really strong tea, yoga, hammocks, and hoppy beer.
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