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.
Creating a Zero Waste Bathroom Routine 0We've addressed the zero-waste kitchen and talked about zero-waste generally, but what about our zero-waste bathroom swaps? Let's dive into some easy swaps we can make in our personal routines in morning and at night that can make them less wasteful!
- Get a Bamboo Toothbrush
Did you know that your typical plastic toothbrush will virtually never biodegrade and is very difficult to recycle? Even if you put it in the blue bin, your municipal waste management department will have trouble recycling it and will like pull it out. By getting a bamboo toothbrush, you're choosing a renewable material that is compostable. Just don't forget to pull out the bristles before you compost it!
- Get Zero-Waste Dental Floss
Flossing is a staple in our daily hygiene routine (at least that's what we tell our dental hygienist), but how to avoid the plastic dispenser that it comes in? Answer: go for one in glass! We were so excited to start carrying KMH Touches, where the dispenser looks like a micro mason jar. These can be recycled afterwards and the floss itself is made of silk, so completely biodegradable!
- Use a Soap Bar
- Toothpaste in Glass
Almost all toothpastes come in tubes, even the natural ones. Thankfully, companies are starting to come out with toothpowder that is packaged in little glass jars that you can either reuse or recycle.
- Refill Your Hair Products
While some people like to try to make their own hair care products, most of us don't have the time (or the courage!). Find a shop with a refill station that allows you to bring your own bottles with shampoo, conditioner, and even things like body wash and lotion. We're lucky to have Pure Anada all-natural products available for refill in amazing scents, but as demand grows, we are sure more brands will start making this an option for consumers.
- Use a Manual Exfoliator
Instead of using body scrubs that have microplastics or other pollutants in them, use "manual" buffers like brushes, agave soap "socks", or even abrasive soap with natural exfoliators like coffee or oatmeal. These get rid of dull, dry flakes and give you healthy, soft skin without negatively affecting the environment.
- Use Facial Rounds
How many cotton rounds do you use in your daily routine? These are just thrown in the trash after one use, something that can easily be "greened" by investing in some facial rounds that are washed after use. Buy a set, keep them in a glass jar in your washroom, and just continue washing them as they get dirty. We just got a shipment in from Marley's Monsters and they are key to decreasing the waste that shows up in the bathroom trash bin.
Going green in your bathroom doesn't have to be an overnight thing, but it WOULD be a great goal to set for #plasticfreeJuly, if you are looking for one. What are some of your #zerowaste switches for the bathroom and your personal hygiene routine?
Raising Environmentally Conscious Children- 5 Tips & Tricks 0
Many people find their children's future motivational when considering the impact that they are leaving on this planet. Though some environmental effects are more direct and immediate, others take time to compound and feel, creating the "out of sight, out of mind" mentality. However, when you put it into the perspective of the lifespan of your children and their children, many are willing to evaluate their footprint on the planet.
But apart as using our little ones as motivation, we should also be raising them to be environmentally responsible members of society. They are our future and our hope, and for now it's up to us to communicate all our knowledge and passion to them.
Though the topic can be a large one to address and pass on to our kids, there are some easy ways to incorporate environmental values to our kids through everyday habits and chores.
Here are just some ideas that we love and thought were worth sharing:
1. Sorting Duty
Taking out the garbage should be a "chore of the past", just like rewinding VCR tapes or churning butter. The chore of the present is "sorting duty". From a young age, kids should be taught how to properly sort the trash, adhering to the practises in your area. At first, it's important to watch and correct any mistakes, but after a while, it will become second nature to them. Afterwards you can branch out to taking the organics to the composter in the yard and the recycling into a bigger bin. But for now, teach them that this is "normal" and you'll find that they will be as (or even more) bewildered as you are when in a situation where there is only one bin for everything.
2. Instilling a Love of Nature
There's a lot of ethics involved with environmentalism, and it takes a certain level of maturity to be able to comprehend it all. But if from a young age we can pass on a love and appreciation of nature, it's easier to explain why we do things the way we do. Help them learn the local species in your region, explore all the different trees and plants, enroll them in programs where they can learn to love and protect nature. So next time they ask why you use special laundry detergent, you can reply, "because it's better for the frogs and their habitat." Kids will understand this logic much better.
3. Supply them with Their Tools
Kids love gadgets and tools, things which validate what they are doing. The more personal they are, the more exciting to the little person. By involving them with their own reusable bottles, straws, lunch bags, recycle bins and more, you make the process of being zero waste and environmentally friendly more exciting. It's even more exciting when they get to be part of the selection process!
4. Hanging Laundry
Summer is a great time to put this chore into rotation with the older kids. Now that the weather is better and the temperatures are higher, it's time to be more energy efficient and air-dry your laundry. Hanging, and then later taking down and folding, is a sustainable habit to instill into your children. Just make sure that you communicate the benefits, or else it will only just seem like a worthless hassle.
5. Cleaning with Natural Products
Whether you make your own or buy all-natural cleaning products, get your kids involved in household cleaning as early as possible. When the cleaners are non-toxic, there are no worries about negative effects on their little bodies, and they might even enjoy helping you bring your home to a sparkling clean condition!
Kids like mimicking the behaviour of adults they see. Take advantage of this phase to plant the seed of change in their minds. Later on, they will consider all the sustainable steps the status-quo, and hopefully integrate them into their own lives, building on it and in turn inspiring our generation.
Is Recycling Enough? Why the Zero Waste Lifestyle is the Real Goal 0
Just a few weeks ago, CBC published an article (available here) about how recycling is not all it is chalked up to be. The system is overwhelmed with materials that are difficult and expensive to recycle and reuse, such as plastics, metals lined with plastics or other materials, or dirty yogurt containers.
It confirmed my musings and reminded me why it is so important to go zero waste rather than just fall back on sorting the garbage that we do collect over the week.
While for years municipalities and green organizations have been pushing the "3 R's" of REDUCE, REUSE, & RECYCLE", it seems that people only really got into the last one since it is seemingly the easiest option. But the other two R's is really where we need to focus our efforts. The more we reduce, the less there is to reuse and recycle.
But what exactly are we reducing?
Sometimes it's easier to think backwards.
Picture your curb on garbage day. What's there? A black bag or two of landfill trash, a blue bin with plastics and a blue bin with papers, and finally a half-filled green bin? This will vary according to your sorting practises, but take a moment to account for the sheer volume of waste that your household produced that week.
Personally, I'm not comfortable with the amount that I have sitting there, but that's just motivation.
Then it's time to think about what you had to do or consume for that waste to find itself in your home. From plastic wrapping on the produce you bought, to the diapers you threw out, to the oil jugs you're recycling and the shampoo bottle you finished off this week, it has all made its way to your curb. From food, to clothing, toys, home goods, candles, decor, and more, these come in packaging that is taxing our system and polluting our earth.
Also, let's just think about buying less.Yes, things get used and need to be replaced. However, the less we consume in general, the less waste is produced in the process. The industry now is geared towards selling many items of low quality that need to be replaced over and over again. Remember that quality might be expensive, but it's also better for the planet as fewer items need to be produced and later disposed of. That's why thrifting and buying used items can also be a great way to get a deal while minimizing our impact on our planet.
So ask yourself a few questions before buying items:
- Do I need this?
- Will I consume this? Ex. like soap, shampoo, food
- Do I see myself using this for a long time? Ex. Toys, clothes, home goods, kitchen staples
- Can I responsibly dispose of this (and all the packaging) after its lifetime? Ex. Donate, repurpose, resell, etc.
Reusing is also a great way to bring things into our homes but keeping them there instead of putting them out as waste.
From glass jars, certain clothing items, furniture, and boxes, these items can all find a new use in your home. Creativity is key here, and thankfully the internet has really been an amazing resource for inspiration on how to make things new again, or at least usable in a different capacity.
Ok, so what now?
The zero waste world is a big one, and after some reflection, the enormity of the shift that we need to make can be daunting.
But no one said that you had to do it all at once! A progressive shift towards a zero-waste lifestyle is easy to do, especially if you have the resources and the community (even if it's online) to support you in your journey.
We often suggest to start with just one aspect of your daily life, be it your personal care routine, kitchen essentials, or even just your lunch preparations. Once you get comfortable with that, you can tackle the next thing. Another idea is following along with our #zerowastelifestylechallenge that we post every week on Facebook. On Saturday mornings we announce the theme for the week, and we encourage our followers to integrate the following theme into their lifestyle. We invite you to follow along!
As for more ideas on how to go zero-waste, we are planning our next blog posts, full of tips and tricks that we have picked up over the last few years of this green living journey.
6 Easy Zero-Waste Kitchen Swaps 0
When thinking of sustainability in the kitchen, our thoughts quickly go to healthy, locally-grown foods. However, this is not the only lens we should be looking through when greening our kitchens. Apart from the food we store, prepare, and eat in it, there are other aspects that we should be practicing sustainability in, such as food storage and kitchen cleaning.
The goal is to be zero-waste in our lifestyle, and if we are already buying natural food with little or no packaging, and reusing or recycling what we can, we should be left only with organic waste which can either go in the backyard composter or in the green bin. However, even these can be minimized with easy swaps which are good for the environment (and for your wallet too!)
NO: Plastic Wrap
YES: Abeego Wrap
Plastic wrap cannot be recycled and therefore is something you want to avoid buying in the first place. Cling wrap can easily be replaced with Abeego Beeswax Wrap. Use it to cover bowls with left overs, store ends of fruits and vegetables, or to wrap your sandwiches with. It's waterproof and can be molded to fit the shape that you need, all the while safely and securely storing your food, just as cling wrap would have. Abeego sheets can last for months, if not years, making them a more sustainable alternative to the plastic that usually has to be thrown out after just one use.
NO: Wax Paper
YES: Baking Mat
Do you use wax paper to line your baking sheets when making your favourite cookies or pastries? You can easily eliminate the need for this difficult to dispose of paper by simply replacing it with a silicone baking mat. This mat can stand very high temperatures in the oven, is non-stick, and is easy to clean after each use. As a bonus, it can be used as a surface protector during the prep phase as well, protecting your counters and table from potential damage!
NO: Paper Towel
How many rolls of paper towel do you go through in a week? In a month? It might be time to ditch the addiction and adapt a more sustainable (not to mention affordable) way to deal with spills. For example, the euroScrubby dishcloth is a super absorbent little towel which can be used over and over again, reducing your household's need for disposable paper towels.
NO: Plastic Straws
YES: Metal Straws
Straws are a lot of fun do drink from, and if you don't think so, chances are your kids do! So whether you use them on a daily basis or for the occasional cocktail, metal straws are a classy and sustainable alternative to plastic ones. If cleaning them (there are brushes made for this) seems like too much of a hassle, old-school paper ones are still a better choice than plastic straws.
NO: Plastic Bag Lunch Bags
Yes: Cute Reusable Lunch Containers
Our society went from brown bagging to plastic bagging things. Though schools have smartened up and made parents think twice about the waste they were putting in kids' lunches, their own lunches often don't follow suit. There are so many options available for packing lunches, from stainless steel containers, to fun bento boxes, this is an easy way to eliminate a lot of plastic wrap, bags, ziplocks, and more.
NO: Dish Soap Bottles
YES: Refillable Dish Soap Bottles
It's true that you can recycle your dish soap container once it's empty, but it's better if you can eliminate that as well! When you refill your containers, it makes getting a new container unnecessary, as all you really need is the inside contents anyway, right? We love the idea of refilling dish soap pumps and we offer refill stations at our stores for especially this reason. And since you aren't getting a new bottle, we offer a discount as well!
As you can see, it doesn't take much to make your kitchen a lot closer to being zero-waste. Paired with conscious food buying and good sorting habits, you'll be on your way to leaving nothing but a green legacy on this planet!