Tips to Reduce Plastics

  • halm-1633728_640Say no to straws at bars, restaurants, take-out food places and even home. If you must use a straw choose one that is reusable. McDonald’s alone provides single-use plastic straws through 36,000 restaurants in over 100 countries.
  • Encourage your local beverage establishments to have a no straw policy or to switch to paper straws.
  • Support coffee shops with your patronage that use reusable cups and dishes.
  • Carry reusable containers and cups for take-out food.
  • Carry your own reusable shopping bags. Choose bags that are fabric or a material at end of life that can be recycled or composted. Plastic bags now account for four out of every five bags handed out at the grocery store.
  • Forgone the produce bags instead buy loose veggies and fruit.
  • Know the plastics and packaging you can recycle in your local recycling programs. Resist purchasing products in packaging you cannot recycle locally.
  • Have a Zero Waste kit in car, briefcase, and purse or backpack so you always have reusable cutlery, cloth napkin, and water bottle or coffee cups.
  • Avoid sachets of mustard and relish at restaurants or take-out food places. Sachet packaging, normally made of a thin film of plastic and aluminum in a sandwich laminate form. Heinz sells 11 billion ketchup sachets a year.
  • Borrow, rent or buy from a thrift store stainless steel cutlery for parties or events. Six million tons of non-durable plastics are discarded every year. “Non-durable” means that the plastic has a useful life of less than three years. Other examples of non-durable plastics include plastic packaging, trash bags, cups, and more.
  • Use cloth diapers instead of disposable. For convenience check out if there is a local diaper service. More than four million disposable diapers are discarded in Canada each day.
  • Make waste-less lunches using reusable containers instead of individually wrapped convenience food.
  • Use matches instead of disposable plastic lighters or invest in a refillable metal lighter.
  • Shop at bulk food stores, refill stores and farmers markets to reduce the amount of items in packaging. Remember to take your own containers.
  • If you have garbage, line your garbage bin with newspaper.
  • Resist buying inexpensive plastic toys for children. Borrow toys from a toy library or invest in quality play things.
  • Refuse perfume samples and cosmetic samples at stores.
  • Invest in a fountain pen.
  • When shaving use a reusable razor instead of disposable. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), each year 2 billion disposable razors are thrown away in the USA: Canada probably has a similar total.
  • Take time to read labels so you avoid personal care products that contain plastic micro-beads.
  • Cut down of purchasing frozen foods or canned foods as you are buying packaging with plastics.
  • Ask the drycleaner to return your clothes without plastic wrap and take your won garment bag to keep clothes clean during transport.
  • Swap out your synthetic sponge with a cloth dish cloth or a real luffa.
  • Brew your morning coffee without single-use coffee pods. Canadians are big fans of single-serve brewers; 20 per cent of households own one, compared to 12 per cent of Americans.
  • Use paper tape instead of scotch tape for securing packages.
  • Use beeswax candles or incense instead air fresheners in plastic containers.

Today, an average person living in Western Europe or North America consumes 100 kilograms of plastic each year, mostly in the form of packaging. 

A report by Canadian Plastics Industry Association (CPIA) and Moore Recycling Associates, notes that in 2015 at least 322 million kilograms of post-consumer plastic packaging were collected in Canada for recycling.

Approximately 10–20 million tons of plastic end up in the oceans each year

Vinegar a versatile Zero Waste helper

Zero Waste helper

Vinegar is a versatile Zero Waste helper found in most households. The effectiveness and the multi-functionality of this product can help us to reduce our use of toxic products and certainly reduce the number of single function products we bring into our home.

Vinegar has mainly been used for cooking and pickling.

Vinegar is a liquid consisting of about 5- 20% acetic acid, water, and flavouring.  Vin aigre, meaning sour wine, points to the origins of this product; the discovery that a cask of wine gone past its time had turned to a wonderful new product. Through the centuries vinegar has been produced from many other materials including molasses, dates, sorghum, fruits, berries, melons, coconut, honey, beer, maple syrup, potatoes, beets, malt, grains and whey. But the principle remains unchanged – fermentation of natural sugars to alcohol and then secondary fermentation to vinegar.

The shelf life of vinegar is almost indefinite because the acidic nature acts to self-preserve. Vinegar needs no refrigeration.

It is the acidic nature of vinegar that makes it such a magically versatile product.

Throughout history vinegar has had many uses. Roman legionnaires drank it, Cleopatra dissolved pearls in vinegar to win a wager that she could consume a fortune in a single meal, Hannibal crossing the Alps used vinegar with boiling water to break up boulders that blocked his route, during the American Civil War vinegar was used to treat scurvy and in World War 1 it was used to treat wounds.

Vinegar also has an incredible number of uses today from being the most effective treatment of Box Jellyfish stings by inactivating tentacles and the stinging cells that have been discharged but are left on the skin to making our pickles tart and safe to eat.


Renew paint brushes. To remove old paint, place brushes in a pot with vinegar. Soak for an hour, then turn on the stove and bring the vinegar to a simmer. Drain and rinse clean.

Wipe off a dirty faucet. To get rid of lime buildup, make a paste of 1 teaspoon vinegar and 2 tablespoons salt. Apply to sink fixtures and rub with a cloth.

Get Rid of Ants. To repel ants, mix equal amounts of water and vinegar (either white or apple cider) and spray the solution on the ant hills in your garden. In the home, look out for ant’s entry paths, counter tops, sink, and windows. The strong scent of vinegar will make the ants avoid the places sprayed with vinegar.

Feed acid-loving plants. You can give a quick acid boost to your rhododendrons, azaleas, and gardenias with vinegar. Mix cup of white vinegar to a gallon of water and water you acid loving plants with this solution.

Remove lint and pet hair. Just 1/2 cup of white distilled vinegar in the rinse cycle, will help prevent lint and pet hair from clinging to clothes.

Treat a carpet stain. Make a paste of 2 tablespoons white distilled vinegar and ¼ cup salt or baking soda. Rub into the stain and let dry. Vacuum the residue the next day. (Always test an out-of-sight part of the carpet first.)

Tidy the toilet bowl. Pour a cup or more of diluted white distilled vinegar into the bowl. Let sit several hours or overnight. Scrub well with a toilet brush and flush.

Stop itching. Dab a cotton ball soaked in white vinegar on mosquito bites and insect stings. It will stop them from itching and help disinfect the area so they heal faster.

Refresh leather shoes and handbags. Wipe white distilled vinegar on scuffed leather bags and shoes. It will restore their shine and help hide the marks.

Kill weeds. Pour white distilled vinegar on the weeds growing in the cracks of your walkway and driveway. Saturate the plant so the vinegar reaches the roots.vinegar-weeds

Keep cheese from getting mold. Wrap cheese in a vinegar-soaked cloth, then place in an airtight container and refrigerate.

De-ice car windows. Prevent car windows from frosting by coating them with a solution of three parts white distilled vinegar to one part water. The acidity hinders ice, so you won’t have to wake up early to scrape off your car.

Whiten teeth. Brush your teeth once a week with white distilled vinegar. Dip your toothbrush into the vinegar and brush thoroughly. It will also prevent bad breath.

Unclog drains. Pour one cup of baking soda, followed by one cup of white vinegar, down the drain. Let the products bubble and foam, then flush the pipes with a pot of boiling water.

Remove stickers. Instead of trying to scratch off stickers and price tags , apply vinegar to the gunk, let it sit for a few minutes, then wipe the glue away.

Erase crayon. . If your kids get crayon marks on the walls or floor, dip a toothbrush in white vinegar and gently scrub. The vinegar breaks down the wax, making for an inexpensive, nontoxic way to clean up after children.

There are many more uses for vinegar in the home from removing odours, disinfecting, cutting through grease and grime and even removing rust.

Having a bottle of distilled white vinegar in your cupboard can reduce the need for other products that create waste and are harmful to the environment.

Put vinegar on your Zero Waste helpers list.

A message to the G7 Heads of State meeting in Taormina, Sicily, May 26-27, 2017


This message is from citizens’ groups from at least 100 countries who are battling existing and proposed incinerators and are supporting positive steps towards Zero Waste.

Dear G7 Heads of State,

don’t just talk about the circular economy and sustainability, do it! Take active steps to support communities in your countries who are pioneering Zero Waste strategies.

Such active steps should include:

  1. Ending subsidies for new resources destroying incinerators (euphemistically described “waste to energy” facilities).
  2. Announcing a phase out plan for existing incinerators as zero waste plans progress.
  3. Setting up zero waste research facilities to help industry re-design. Products and packaging that cannot be reused, recycled or composted.
  4. Building separation facilities in front of all existing landfills for the current residual fractionin the waste stream which is not reusable, recyclable or compostable. From this should be removed more recyclables, more household toxics and the dirty organic fraction which can be stabilized either via composting or anaerobic digestion before going to an interim landfill.
  5. Providing positive incentives to industry to adopt zero waste strategies.
  6. Providing funding to help set up Reuse and Repair centers in communities. Once funded these operations are usually self-sustainable.
  7. Dramatically reduce the production and use of disposable plastic items which are unexpectedly ending up in the oceans and impacting seabirds and the aquatic food chains.

The Circular Economy is the only way to secure a future for our productive system. For example, Europe is importing 60% of primary raw materials and that simply cannot be sustained

Zero Waste practices are the perfect toolkit to turn the “dream” of a Circular Economy into reality,supplementing the traditional reduce/reuse/recycle strategy with the important additional tool of

redesigning for improved durability, repairability, recyclability.

In the words of the EU commissioner for the Environment Karmenu Vella, our “ZW communities are the living examples of Circular Economy and its viability and environmental, economic,

occupational benefits

Zero Waste not only provides sustainable waste management solutions but also offers deep, cross sectoral benefits to address some of the most pressing global problems related to social and

environmental justice and human rights.

As wars in the future, might well be caused by fights over limited resources, as they have been in the past, support for zero waste now may avoid incurring further international tensions over

resources amongst Nations and can be seen as part of a global peace movement.

We know how busy you are, but may we request that you get your appropriate advisers to acquaint themselves with the details of the zero waste strategy from this book, “The Zero Waste Solution:

Untrashing the Planet One Community at a Time” (Chelsea Green, 2013) and also from this movie“Trashed” hosted and co-produced by Jeremy Irons.


Signers include:

International groups

Biodigestion Latin american Network

Eco-Cycle International, Zero Waste Strategies Inc, Boulder, Colorado, USA

GAIA (Global Alliance for Incineration Alternatives)

IEN (Indigenous Environmental Network)

ZWIA (Zero Waste International Alliance)

Zero Waste Europe

Zero Waste Mediterranean

National, Regional and local Groups

Agro-ecology Centre , Wayanad, Kerala, India

Alliance for Zero Waste Indonesia (AZWI) Indonesia

WALHI/FoE, Indonesia

BaliFokus Foundation, Indonesia

Plastic Bag Diet Movement, Indonesia

Nol Sampah, Indonesia,

PPLH Bali, Indonesia

American Environmental Health Studies Project, Inc., USA

APROMAC Environment Protection Association, Brazil

Basura Zero, Chile

Coalición Ciudadana Antiincineración, Argentina

Conservation Action Trust, India

Consumers Association of Penang, Malaysia

Društvo Ekologi brez meja / Ecologists without Borders Association, Slovenia

Ecological Recycling Society, Greece

Ecowaste Coalition, Philippines

Environmental Health Trust, Berkeley, California, USA

Green Delaware, USA

Hnutí DUHA (Friends of the Earth) Czech Republic

Instituto Lexo Zero, Brazil

It’s Not Garbage Coalition, Nova Scotia, Canada

IRTECO, Tanzania

ISLR (Institute of Local Self Reliance), USA

Mother Earth Foundation, Philippines

National Toxics Network Australia, Australia

Pesticide Action Network India, Thrissur, Kerala, India

Polish Zero Waste Association, Poland

Rezero-Catalan Waste Prevention, Spain

Residuo Zero, Brazil

Sahabat Alam Malaysia (Friends of the Earth Malaysia), Malaysia

Sound Resource Management, Seattle, USA

Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), Pakistan

Texas Campaign for the Environment, USA

THANAL, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India

TOXISPHERA Environmental Health Association, Brazil

UKWIN (UK Without Incineration Network), UK

Work on Waste, USA

Zero Waste OZ, Australia

Zero Waste USA

Zero Waste BC, Canada

Zero Waste Canada

Zero Waste Catalan Strategy, Spain

Zero Waste Cyprus

Zero Waste Italy

Zero Waste Sicily

Zero Waste Slovenia

Zero Waste Spain

Zero Waste Tanzania

Zero Waste Tunisia

Zero Zbel, Morocco

Za Zemiata (Zero Waste Bulgaria)

State and local groups

Neighbors Against the Burner and Airheads, Minnesota, USA

CHASE (Cork Harbour Alliance for a Safe Environment), Ireland

Cobh Zero Waste, Ireland

Green Delaware, Delaware, USA

NO Macrovertedero, SÍ Residuo 0, Madrid, Spain

San Francisco Department of the Environment, San Francisco, California, USA

Zero Waste Beijing, China

Zero Waste Capannori (the first town in Italy to adopt zero waste), Italy

Zero Waste San Francisco (the first major city in USA to adopt zero waste), USA

Zerowaste Centre, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India


Paul Connett, PhD (Work on Waste USA; director of the American Environmental Health Studies

Project, Inc, AEHSP)

Rossano Ercolini (Zero Waste Italy; Zero Waste Europe)

Enzo Favoino (Zero Waste Italy; Zero Waste Europe)

Paolo Guarnaccia (Zero Waste Italy)

Tom Goldtooth, Executive Director, Environmental Indigenous Network, USA

Asrul Hoesein, Green Indonesia Foundation Jakarta, Indonesia

Dr. Mahmood A. Khwaja, Ph.D. (Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI),

Islamabad, Pakistan)

Gary Liss, Gary Liss & Associates, San Jose, California, USA

Patrizia Lo Sciuto, Zero Waste Italy

Eric Lombardi, (Eco-Cycle International, Zero Waste Strategies Inc.), Boulder, Colorado, USA

Jack Macy, Commercial Zero Waste Senior Coordinator, San Francisco Department of the

Environment, San Francisco, California, USA

Dr. Jeffrey Morris, Sound Resource Management Group, Seattle, USA

Erika Oblak, Coordinator Zero Waste Slovenia

Stacy Savage, President, Zero Waste Strategies, LLC, Austin, Texas, USA

Helen Spiegelman, Vancouver, BC, Canada

Neil Seldman, President, ILSR, Washington, DC, USA

Antoinette “Toni” Stein, PhD, Environmental Health Trust, Berkeley, California, USA


How to repurpose Your Food Waste


There is a serious waste problem not only Canada, but throughout the world.  One of the main issues is that we as consumers are huge contributors.


It’s a fact that most households waste an entire bag of groceries worth of food for every five bags bought. That’s a huge percentage.


Maybe it’s the casserole you put in the back of the fridge and forgot about, or maybe it’s half a pack of mushrooms that look kind of shrivelled and dead.


Even if you’re generally good with your wastage and do your best to recycle and have a compost bin, before you toss those scraps, think about how you could really get the most out of them before you chuck ‘em.


Here are some handy tips on how you can repurpose your waste food:


#1 – Don’t Throw Away The Leaves


For many people, whenever they buy vegetables where the leaves aren’t the star of the show (think broccoli, beets, celery or cauliflower) the go-to action is to cut them off and throw them straight out.


But wait!


The leaves are just as edible as the main part of the veggie and are like any leafy green – incredibly nutritious!


Cook the leaves like you would cabbage our kale. They make a great addition to soups and smoothies too!



#2 – Scraps Equals Stock


Potato and carrot peels, chicken bones and onion skin all make the best flavorings for stock. Believe me, you will never use a stock cube again!


Do you know just how nutrient rich the skins of vegetables are? Yet many of us peel them and throw them away.


Whether you want to make a veggie stock from peels and ends, chicken stock from bones or a mixture of the two, just throw all the scraps into a slow cooker or pot filled with water, bring it to a heavy boil and then let it simmer for around eight hours. All you have to do is strain out the solids and it’s done.


The best part is, as soon as the stock is made you can freeze it for months, meaning you have delicious homemade stock on hand for anything.


My personal favorite thing to do is to freeze stock in ice cube trays. Then you can just pop a cube or two out any time you need one. Don’t be fooled into thinking this is just a base for soups or stews, you’d be amazed how tasty a spag bol can be with a homemade stock cube thrown in.


#3 – Tasty Baked Skins


One of my favorite, easiest and cheapest treats to make is baked potato skins. Considering you would otherwise be throwing the skins away, this is a super cheap treat!


Potato are the best from my personal opinion, but any of your favorite veggies will work (carrot taste great too).


Simply ensure you wash your veggies thoroughly before you peel them. Then take the peelings, drizzle them with some olive oil, salt and pepper and maybe some chilli flakes if you’re feeling feisty, then bake until crispy.


I make these with a garlic mayo and small side salad and you have a great starter for a dinner party you made with scraps!


#4 – Pet Popsicle


I have two very longhaired dogs and in the summer it gets pretty hot for them. One of their favorite all time summer treats is a meaty popsicle.


The first time I made this, it was as a kind of birthday cake for my dog and it was not only a hit with her but all the cats in the neighbourhood!


In the same way you would make stock, boil meat and or chicken bones – you can throw in some veggie skins for some added nutrition but let’s face it, the meaty flavor is what they are going for – then once you strain off the bones put some in small bowls and freeze.


One of the things I do is throw in some dog treats or if I have any scraps of meat or liver. Once frozen you just tip them out and watch your pet go crazy!


Not only is it super tasty and nutritious, it’s a great cool treat on a hot day and the little treats the find inside now and again make a welcome surprise.


#5 – Pack Your Scraps as You Go


Many times you may not have enough scraps from one meal to make a stock smoothie or pesto, but the great thing is, you can save any off cuts, peels, leaves or bones and bag them and freeze them.


Then when you have enough, simply toss them straight in a pot of water.


This week’s guest blogger is Helen Sanders.helenHelen Sanders is chief editor at Established in 2012, Health Ambition has grown rapidly in recent years. Our goal is to provide easy-to-understand health and nutrition advice that makes a real impact. We pride ourselves on making sure our actionable advice can be followed by regular people with busy lives.

HandyGirlsYYC making a difference



HandyGirlsYYC is making a difference. This Calgary based group believes in giving back to the community. With group motto of living a simple life, using your imagination and building your future, this group of empowered young women are using “Handy person skills” to build  furniture from recycled materials for newcomers to Canada.

This week Zero Waste Canada speaks with Riti Leon about HandyGirlsYYC.

How did you decide on the name HandyGirlsYYC?

It just came to me and I thought it was cute since most of my team leaders are women, however we do have men helping in the project as well, so don’t let the name deter any men from volunteering with us!

Why did you decide to form HandyGirlsYYC?

Creating handcrafted items was part of my childhood back in Venezuela.  My grandma, my mom, and a few of my aunts are skilled in sewing and knitting, so I grew up seeing this as a part of our life, and I experienced how it brings a sense of joy and satisfaction to create something for yourself or others.  As for myself, I’ve made my own clothing, and little dolls made out of cornstarch dough.

The reason I created HandyGirlsYYC was to feel connected again with a community like that, and to provide an example to others of being able to have nice things in your home without a lot of money.  Also to feel inspired, have a sense of pride, and to pay it forward to new Canadians and low income families by provide simple and repurposed items for their homes.

As friends did you know each other before coming to Canada?

No, we all met through the downtown community and mutual friends.

What countries are the HandyGirlsYYC members from?

Venezuela, Mexico, Thailand, Eretria, China, and Canada

How did you decide to build pallet furniture?

Pallets are everywhere and using recycle materials as much as possible is part of our mission.

You have a goal to build 10 couches and bed frames for recycled materials.  Have you been able to find the recycled materials that you need for the project?  If not what do you need?

Yes, I got a sponsor, Re-Matt Calgary (, who recycles mattresses throughout Alberta.  The foam and the cotton for the couch cushions come from the mattresses and the pallets (Box spring base) are for the couch and bed frames.  We still need fabric (which needs to be new/unused), as well as paint.

We are also moving into making coffee tables with old tires and pallets; we are in need of glass for the coffee table tops (preferably recycled glass) and old rope and additional power tools, gloves, safety glasses.


Your goal to build furniture allows families to choose their own designs and even help with the building if they want to, do you see this as empowering people and would help build community?

Yes, the intention is to get the families involved in the process, learn a new skill, meet new people and contribute to their new community.  Building not only your own furniture, but also to help build furniture for others can help people feel purposeful and have a sense of belonging to something bigger than themselves.

How do you plan to reach families or people who may need furniture?

Currently I have been in meetings with the Syrian Refugee Support Group (, ), specifically with Sam Nammoura (the group leader) and a few other volunteers in the group.  We are working together to understand the needs of new immigrants, who are living in small spaces and in rental properties, so that HandyGirlsYYC are able to meet their needs with our projects.

What skills and crafts did you learn growing up?

I learned resourcefulness, as well as sewing and cooking.

As someone growing up in another country do you see things you learned about as a child that you could teach people who have grown up in Calgary?

Sewing is one of the skills I bring to this project.  I am also learning to use power tools and how to work with wood, but I would love to find some people that could bring their expertise in woodworking to HandyGirlsYYC.  The idea is to help each other and exchange skills within the community.

Handy Girls