The Pains of Living Plastic Free and How to Fix It 0
Who likes the idea of living plastic free?
If you're here, it's likely that you do.
Plastic has an obvious detrimental effect on the environment, but also has been researched to have a negative influence on our health. It was seen as a "wonder product" when it was first discovered, and only now we are fully understanding the consequences of using it to the degree that we do.
However, getting rid of plastic in your life, or at least single-use plastic, is a much taller order than you would initially think. So many foods are packaged in plastic film, the entire frozen food aisle is covered in it, and even normal household products are most readily available in plastic from cleaners, to garden soil, even kids' toys.
While just making a conscious effort to choose plastic-free can make a big change in your lifestyle, there are lots of "sticking points" that are thorns in our sides. Here are some common problems we find that people struggle with and how we can get past that.
Plastic Packaging at Grocery Stores
This is one that we know is a killer for many, especially in seasons when farmers' markets and stalls are not an option. While in the harvest months, shopping package-free from farmers or producers can greatly decrease your plastic wrapping, there aren't as many options in conventional grocery stores. There's often one kind of cucumber and it comes in plastic, or the peppers on sale are the quad-pack that come in a plastic bag.
The most we can do in the winter is choose plastic-free when possible, or shop at smaller stores that make un-packaged goods available to their customers. In the warmer months, we can shop from producers, pick our own produce (berries, beans, fruit, etc.), or grow your own. Items like bread can be picked up from bakeries and many other pantry staples can be bought in bulk. Bring your clean jars and bulk bags to your local bulk or refill shop, or else Bulk Barn.
Of course, remember to bring your own produce and shopping bags to avoid the single-use plastic bags!
Meat and Deli
These usually come packaged in plastic for freshness, but you can ask for them to be put in your container if there is a designated counter at your store. Bring your own rezip bags or reusable containers, ask for them to be tared and then filled with the fresh meat or deli meat of your choice. The same goes for seafood and cheeses. Many farmers' market vendors will also allow you to do this, though they won't advertise it.
Take Out Meals
This takes some research- some restaurants won't put their meals in your containers for fear of "contamination" or some other legality. A lot of the time it's about the inconvenience on their end. If you don't want to be disappointed when you arrive, call before hand and ask this restaurant if they will use your containers as you are trying to minimize waste.
When they do allow it, make sure that you communicate your appreciation and support them on social media, within your friend circle, etc., so that more restaurants feel motivated to do the same. If you are feeling especially frustrated and know that this fast food restaurant serves their "for here" customers on reusable plates, order it that way and transfer it to your container yourself. Sure the plate is dirty, but it will get washed, not thrown into the landfill.
Though this is changing, even a lot of "natural" household cleaners and detergents come in plastic jugs, bottles, or containers. From dishwasher tabs, laundry detergent, to scouring powder, many of these are now available package free or as refills at specialized eco or "refillable" shops. Now you can reuse those containers hundreds of times or refill a dedicated glass one. Otherwise, make them yourself from bulk ingredients! Baking soda and vinegar can get you very far, are cheap, and readily available.
Body and Skin Care
You'll be surprised what you can refill on nowadays, from shampoo, body lotion, nail polish remover, witch hazel, oils, and more! Companies are starting to let their stockists offer refill options, and there is more interest in making your own clean options from simple ingredients. Others run their own container recycling programs where your product containers are sterilized and reused down the line. It takes some research and some time, but many find this switch very satisfying. If a refill center is not accessible to you or you are lacking in time, always choose glass or reusable containers over ones that cannot be repurposed in any way or properly recycled.
If we really want to see a shift in the way that plastic is used in our society we need to ask for it. Voice your displeasure, write letters to the store managers, support small businesses that are making the changes, and make those "strange requests" when ordering food, products online, and more. It will be uncomfortable, but it's what will make employees, owners, and policy makers stop and think.
At Mrs. Greenway we are increasing our refill options because we see that you are using them! For businesses, it's often a risk to make these changes, but seeing that people are voting with their dollars and voicing their appreciation, makes them more comfortable investing in a shift towards more sustainable living! Stay tuned on more news on our refillery, and in the meantime, if you have any specific requests, feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org.
What do you struggle with or what "hack" has helped you? Comment and let us know!
Easy Repurposing Projects for this Spring 0
In North America we have a very loose concept of what happens to our waste once it leaves our curb. We are lucky to have waste collection, but it also disconnects us from the truth behind the full impact of our wasteful habits. The current generation is growing up learning the importance of recycling and composting, while the focus should be on waste REDUCTION.
Did you know that less than 11 per cent of all plastics are recycled in Canada ? We have to get away from thinking that just because you put something in a special box, that it will be given a second life. The only one who has the power to do that is YOU!
The first step is to really evaluate what we bring into our homes in the first place. The item in its entirety will have to be disposed of later, and what will that look like?
The second step is to breathe a second life into items that we already have around the place, and diverting them from the waste stream. Which is the creative bit that we have some ideas for:
While we are aiming to go plastic free, many of those with a zero waste mindset still end up buying some grocery essentials that are difficult to get container-less. Items like yogurt or cream cheese come in tubs that can easily be reused for storing foods, crafts, etc. We've used them to store leftovers or store little items like paper clips or safety pins. As you see, there's no need to buy specific organizational tubs when you have them already! In light of spring coming, save your plastic "clam shells" after fruits like berries for starting seeds. They make a natural "greenhouse" environment!
Towels do have a usable lifespan in your washroom, before they start looking worn, tired, and stained. However, they are never to be thrown out! From use as cleaning rags, to backseat covers after a muddy game of soccer, or even your own reusable Swiffer cover, towels' absorbency and durability make them a treasure in the field of repurposing.
Here's a bigger spring project for those who don't mind bring out their tool belt. Rather than buy new planters or spend money on a greenhouse, repurpose old windows into cold frames. These are "mini greenhouses" that were traditionally used to help start cool weather crops while protecting them from those fringe frosts and freezes. You can find a tutorial here.
Toilet Paper Rolls
While you might have replaced your papertowels with old cut up towels or maybe UnPaperTowels, you likely have not found an alternative to toilet paper. No fears, however, because the residual roll can be used for all kinds of projects, from organizing cords, protecting garden stems from insects, to making biodegradable pots.
Orange Juice Jugs
Those large plastic jugs can be used in so many different ways. Repurpose them into watering cans for house or outdoor plants, or better yet, turn them into a bird feeder for native species in your backyard. While they are recyclable, the longer you can keep them out of the waste system, the better.
Remember how you used to play with sock puppets as a kid? Well who says that your kids or grand kids can't enjoy them now! Sew on some button eyes, use some fabric scraps to add some pizzazz, or just use fabric markers! You don't even need to sew if you have a glue gun! If you don't have any kids around that would appreciate a puppet, use your lonely socks as dusters! Just slip one on your hand and start wiping away!
Rather than recycle them and just buy new ones, save your current spray bottles for your own DIY uses, be that making your homemade cleaner, an essential oil-based bug spray, misting your plants, or making a natural pesticide for your garden. Why go to the Dollar store and buy one there if you already have a bunch at home? Just remember to take extra precaution when reusing a container that had harsh chemicals in it. Rinse it out repeatedly to ensure that you don't have any traces left that could cause harm.
Cosmetic and Personal Care Containers
Save your containers from old lip balms, face creams, deodorants, and shampoo. These can easily be used for your own DIY projects or refilled at refill stations at some eco shops. They are also great for traveling and filling with just the right amount needed for your adventures, be that a morning at the gym or a week-long trip away.
If you make your cup of joe at home, there's the odd chance that you might be keeping a couple of those big Folgers containers or other coffee tins. While, again recyclable, it's more fun and ecofriendly to give them a new use within your home, from being a "hankie dispenser", to a toy drum for a little one, all it takes is some imagination and a coat of paint. These are big, air tight containers that can have infinite uses at home.
Which project are you most excited to try? Don't forget to comment and share your go-to repurposing projects around the home!
Why "Paper" Coffee Cups Aren't as Innocent as They Seem 1
"It's just a paper cup- it's no big deal!" is a phrase everyone has once said or at least thought at some point in their lives. We like to think of paper as a friend, eco-friendly and easily recyclable.
However, what most of us don't realize right away is that disposable paper cups traditionally used to "coffee to-go" are not just made of paper. To keep the cups from leaking and falling apart as they transport your hot beverages, they are coated on the inside with either a waxy or plastic substance, which makes recycling these cups very difficult.
Well how big of a problem is this?
With brands like Tim Hortons, Starbucks, and MacDonalds making coffee to-go an easy convenience, walking into work or school with a cup of hot joe (or tea) in your hand has become part of the identity of Canadians. It has been estimated that Canadians put between 1.6 and 2 BILLION coffee cups in landfills every year.
As mentioned, due to the addition of the waterproofing layer, the breakdown period of the cup (not to even start on the polystyrene lid) is more than just a few months. Now think of how many cups like that you see everyday.
The positive note is that bringing along your own mug or tumbler has never been easier. There are really high quality products that do a better job keeping your hot beverages warm and tasting great, and coffee vendors have started adapting as well. Some cafes (even Starbucks) will give you a discount on your purchase if you provide your own cup or mug!
Though we like to think that business is on our side in this eco-war, we can't expect them to change if we don't show them that it's important to us. Here are some ways that you can minimize your use of disposable cups and encourage the industry to shift their values.
Bring Your Own Cup
This is the basics. By bringing your own cup, you're not just refusing to use a disposable one, and therefore minimizing waste. You are also signaling your values to the employees at the coffee shop, who sometimes are surprised, and other times actually excited to see someone caring this much. During the summer, when your order includes an ice coffee,, bringing your own tumbler and straw is key as well, just remember to tell them when you're ordering that you have your own cup (especially important when going through the Drive-Through).
Make Your Own Coffee
Support fair-trade coffee companies and save some money by brewing your own coffee at home or work. No paper cups, and the quality of your coffee will be likely higher than what you would get at many of the chain coffee joints anyway!
Lead by example and educate others as they ask. When doing a coffee run, ask people if they have cups that they want you to use, and insist on them using yours if others are offering to pick some up for you. Start a campaign at work, gift them to family and friends, or join a challenge like our #reusabletastesbetter week. When you share about it with others on social media and when interacting with them, it creates awareness and might spark something in someone you know.
So next time you are tempted to try your chances with Roll up the Rim, remember that the planet loses every time you play. A true win is stepping up to the counter with your Corkcicle tumbler or KeepCup and asking that your double double be poured in it.
Eco-Lover's Take on Greeting Cards 1
While you might feel like you can get away with just posting a cute family photo on Facebook rather than send a card to all your family and friends for Christmas, Valentine's Day still requires at least a few little notes, especially if you still have school aged children.
However, if you are striving towards the zero waste lifestyle, is buying a greeting card against your eco-morals?
Everyone has their own view on this topic, ranging from a strict ban and transition to digital e-cards, while others are willing to bend the rules to make a meaningful and timeless gesture.
I mean, all in all, it's just paper and totally recyclable, right?
Yes and no.
Many greeting card/envelope combos come wrapped in a plastic sleeve that is to protect them from getting dirty or separated. While practical, it's not a recyclable type of plastic, and it's better to stay away from this kind of card wrapping. Some companies offer a compostable sleeve, so look for that or nothing at all.
BLINGWhile some cards might capture your attention with cute addition of glitter, confetti, foil, or metallic writing, do your best to resist. These additions render your card non-recyclable and it will inevitably end up in the landfill.
All papers are not created equal. Look for stamps certifying that your card is made from sustainably farmed and harvested wood. This can put your mind at ease that you are not directly contributing to deforestation and biodiversity loss.
POST-CONSUMER RECYCLED PAPER
One step up is paper that is at least in part made of recycled paper. This uses fewer new resources and creates a market for recycled goods, giving them more value.
Some companies even go the extra mile and encourage people to compost the paper in their own gardens by using "seed paper", that you can bury and get plants out of. Or give something other than paper like with Gift-A-Green where you gift a package of microgreen seeds that can be directly sown in the pouch and then eaten!
Research your greeting card companies. Some of them have a pledge to plant a tree for every x number of cards they sell or do something else to offset the effect of their business on the environment. For example, Wilder, which we carry in stores, makes their cards using 100% renewable energy in addition to putting strict restraints on themselves in terms of sustainable paper, ink, and packaging.
Over the years you have surely collected enough cards and craft supplies that you can give a new life to items in your home and transform them into unique signature cards. This way, you avoid the plastic sleeves, you can control the "recyclability" of your creation, and you're already extending the time something stays out of the landfill.
So what are you doing this Valentine's Day and the sweet words you want to share with your love? Will you pen them down in a greeting card?
Happy Valentine's Day to all!
Traveling Zero Waste No Matter the Destination 0
The travel bug hits a lot of Canadians in the winter. After months of short days and cool temperatures, we feel the need to fly the coop and relieve some of the cabin fever (or frostbite) we have been experiencing at home. And while travel is a wonderful way to relax and gather inspiration, it's also poses it's own challenges when trying to maintain a #zerowaste lifestyle.
The real key to living zerowaste is 1) being aware and 2) being prepared. If you are reading this post, you have at least brushed on number 1, but remember that the place you are traveling tomight be lacking. And it's much easier to be prepared when you are living at home and have an orientation of your day to day. When you have limited baggage and living adventurously, it's not as easy.
So here are some of our tips for keeping #zerowaste in your travels!
Find "bar" alternatives for your toiletries.
Traveling with liquids like soaps, shampoos, toothpaste, etc., is not only precarious, but all come in containers (most of them plastic). Avoid issues at airport security and wet luggage by replacing what you can with bars and powders. There are now shampoo and conditioner bars, soap bars, toothpaste powder, and even solid colognes and lotions.
BYOC for Food & Drink
"Bring Your Own Containers" for food and drink for your travels. Some basics include a straw, cutlery, a drinking vessel, and some sort of container that could hold leftovers or street food to avoid using disposable plates and containers. Even if you are going to an all-inclusive resort, many of them offer plastic cups at certain bars, and a reusable cup would be a much more "earth-friendly" alternative, especially as you look out into the ocean. Maybe someone else will be inspired?!
Bring Your Own Bag
You might want to do some shopping while you're out exploring. And that's when a string bag, or a tote that folds small, really shines. You can fit a lot inside, it's light, and when you aren't using it, it doesn't take up much room or weight in your suitcase. It can also double up as a beach bag or even something for gathering sea shells during the low tide.
Look Up Sorting Policies Before You Go
Before you leave for your destination, research the policies about garbage disposal. Take pictures of the different signs and explanations so that you will know how to sort garbage at your destination. If you are visiting a place that doesn't seem to have developed policies, make a point of suggesting it at your hotel or place of lodging. You never know, maybe your concern will spark an internal program.
When choosing souvenirs to bring back home, continue to look through the zerowaste lens. Is it repurposed? Second-hand? Is it something that supports the zerowaste life? How is it packaged? What is it made of?
If you challenge yourself this way, you're more likely to end up with something that you will actually like and use, not something that will eventually end up at a dump?
When traveling, there's a good chance that you'll be offered some "offenders", be that on the trip or at your destination. From airplane food wrapped in plastic through little shampoo bottles at your hotel, remember that you have the right to refuse these. This of course is easier to do when you come with your own zero waste alternatives, like snacks packed in stainless steel containers or your own reusable cutlery.
In addition to these tips, there are others that are location-specific, and depend on the method of transportation. Remember that waste is in part the legacy that you leave, so think again before traveling the world and leaving a negative impact on the places you visit.
How are you planning to travel this year? How are you going to keep it zerowaste?
Image via: The Rogue Ginger
Checking All the Christmas List Boxes with Sustainable Gifts 0
It's that time of the year again, but this time you want to do it differently. Instead of giving gifts that may or may not be useful or valuable to the recipient, let's be more intentional with our holiday gifting generosity.
And while we think about the person receiving the gift, also consider those who make the gift, sell it, and of course, the earth which gave us the natural resources and to which it will return.
This all sounds very serious, but holiday gift giving in a sustainable manner is actually a very fun and fulfilling process. Here are a few gifts that we especially like for our loved ones which also happen to check all the "green boxes".
ZUM Christmas Collection Spa Bag
ZUM's Christmas collection seems to have a cult following, as many wait impatiently for its release. This year we're making an easy-to-gift spa bag with a selection of goat milk soaps, a room spray, and lip balm, all packaged in an organic cotton reusable spa bag from ECOBAG. Perfect for teacher's gifts or a lovely "thank you" to a deserving host.
A candle is a wonderful hostess gift to give, but also one to keep for evenings when you're entertaining. This Christmas we recommend our fundraising candle called "Hope" which was made in memory of Stan Miszuk, who passed away this year from cancer. All funds collected will be going to Juravinski Hospital and Cancer Centre, while the owner of the candle benefits from the uplifting scent of this all-natural candle.
All-Natural Spa Gift Box
Bring the spa to your loved ones with a spa box that will transform more than one evening into pure bliss. BONUS: This year we have cut out the plastic cellophane and replaced it with reusable tulle to repurpose in your holiday decor. It includes lotion, oil, mist, two bath bombs, ZUM rub, lip balm, and a bar of soap. There's a choice of three scents: Frankincense & Myrrh, Sea Salt, or Lavender.
Our selection of wooden toys has grown tremendously over the last year as we stock brands like Hape, Grimm's, Grappat, Goose Grease, PLAN toys, TEGU and more! Wood is a renewable resource and is compostable, unlike plastic which is not biodegradable and can only be recycled a finite number of times. There are toys to choose from for every stage of childhood, from small toys for infants and creative sets for school-aged children.
For the Man in Your Life
For men, we have learned that consumables do best. They're useful, and they don't stick around forever! Our Everyman's Jack Gift Basket comes in two amazing scents, Sandalwood, or Cedar Wood, and includes deodorant, shampoo, body wash, and an unscented shave cream.
LEKKO Life Goods Bento Bag
This locally made linen bento is the perfect zero-waste wrapping! Just tie it close, add some foraged greenery, and you have a beautiful gift to put under the tree. Later, it can be reused as a bread bag or simply for any role in which a bag is needed. No more heaping recycling bins on Boxing Day, and we have also added value to the wrapping, no longer seeing it as disposable, but instead, as reusable.
Avocado Sock + Vejibags
For the foodies in your life, grab some zero waste options to help them indulge in their passion (and taste buds!) The Avocado sock perfectly ripens your avocado for optimum deliciousness, and the vejibag keeps vegetables and greens fresh for longer than in plastic. They will be so grateful for you catering to their interests.
These are all just some of the many options that we carry online and instore. We encourage you all to shop small and local when possible this Christmas season. It makes all the difference to businesses like ours and others that we are proud to work with and next to on a day to day basis.
We hope that you all have a wonderful holiday season, and wishing you all a very happy new year.