Canada is too good to waste : 150 Zero Waste Tips

imgp4285Canada is just too good to waste

Canada is just too good to waste. Canada is big, bountiful and beautiful nation is turning 150 this year. All over the country there are celebrations of our history, our achievements our culture and our people.

Canada is creating way too much trash as well as consuming resources like they will last forever. As we celebrate Canada turning 150, we must also look towards the future and take steps to keep Canada beautiful and healthy.

Here are 150 Zero Waste tips to help you celebrate Canada every day by having a Zero Waste lifestyle.

150 Zero Waste Tips

1.       Drink tap water

2.       Use a reusable coffee cup at home, events, on-the-go, business and school

3.       Repair and refinish well-worn furniture

4.       Rent formal or special occasion wear

5.       Donate your old eyeglasses to service groups that forward them to people in need

6.       Replace disposable alkaline batteries with rechargeable batteries

7.       Make coffee with reusable coffee filters

8.       Maximize the life of appliances by doing routine maintenance

9.       Donate hearing aids to service groups that forward them to people in need

10.   Borrow instead of buy

11.   Break the paper towel habit instead use clothes

12.   Make your mattresses last by turning and reversing end to end twice a year

13.   Eat leftovers

14.   Share leftovers with friends and neighbours

15.   Take your own shopping bags to the market

16.   Carry a cloth hankerchief  for blowing nose

17.   Use cloth napkins at home and on- the –go

18.   Use cloth diapers

19.   Only buy items in packaging that you can recycle

20.   Use non-disposable feminine hygiene products

21.   Consider an electric razor or a straight razor for shaving

22.   Use both sides of a piece of paper before recycling

23.   Do your best to stop junk mail

24.   Buy e-books, unless it is a reference book you will use away from internet

25.   Purchase online magazine or newspaper subscriptions instead of paper copies

26.   Resist buying items that are packaged in single servings like coffee pods, granola bars and candy

27.   Return egg cartons and berry cartons to farm gate sales or farmers markets

28.   Pack a Zero waste lunch for school or work

29.   Store or carry foods in reusable wraps or containers. Mason jars, beeswax wraps and reusable glass or stainless steel or silicone containers reduce plastic wrap waste

30.   Say no to straws when ordering drinks

31.   Label children’s clothing, school supplies and other belongings that might find their way into school lost and found

32.    Have a swap meet or party to exchange children’s clothing, books and toys

33.   Start or use a toy library to borrow games and toys

34.   Choose loose fruits and vegetables instead of  packaged

35.   Shop at local farmers’ markets or farm gate sales to support local food that has less packaging

36.   Fill up on grains, cereals, nuts and other kitchen staples at the bulk bin. Be sure to bring your own containers or bags from home when purchasing items

37.   Grown your own food. Salad vegetables and herbs can be grown in gardens or window sills or in containers on a balcony.

38.   Instead of buying toxic cleaning products use vinegar, lemon juice and baking soda to do household cleaning tasks.

39.   Stop buying plastic garbage bags. Line your garbage bins with paper or biodegradable bags.

40.   Swap your synthetic sponge for a cotton cloth or use natural loofahs.

41.   Buy wine with cork stoppers. After using wine compost, recycle or use corks for crafts.

42.   Resist single-use coffee pods.

43.   Avoid cosmetic products with microbeads.

44.   Try to buy soaps and shampoos that come in solid bars without packaging.

45.   Cut down on unnecessary washing of fleece products and nylon, acrylic and polyester textiles that may cause micro fiber pollution.

46.   Invest in a refillable lighter or use matches.

47.   Burn candles or use essential oils or lavender from the garden instead of air fresheners in plastic holders.

48.   Buy candy that has foil wrap or no wrapping from the bulk food bins. Make sure you recycle the foil it you are eating chocolate kisses.

49.   Carry reusable utensils and straws. Consider keeping a kit in the car, briefcase, suitcase and purse for those unplanned events.

50.   When ordering pizza say no to the plastic package saver in the middle of the pizza box.

51.   Give up chewing gum.

52.   By –pass the frozen food section as most of the packaging cannot be recycled.

53.   Use your own reusable produce bags or don’t put stuff in bags.

54.   Read the labels of products and resist toxic or polluting ingredients

55.   Use soap instead of saving cream

56.   Avoid non-stick cookware

57.   Bring your own headphones or ear plugs on planes instead of using plastic packaged headphones offered by airline.

58.   Resist the mini bar in the hotel room. Instead bring your own healthy snacks in less packaging.

59.   Shop at thrift stores. If you need something new to you shop second hand.

60.   Learn to make basic clothing repairs like sewing buttons.

61.   Ask charities and thrift stores what they can use before donating or leaving items

62.   Make sure items donated to charities are reusable. It is best to think of acceptable donations as gently-worn and in good repair items. Do not donate garbage or use a thrift store as a dumping site

63.   Take responsibility for what you buy. It is your responsibility to recycle or dispose of properly and pay any costs of discarding or recycling.

64.   Before you buy something, ask yourself do you really need it and how long will you use it?

65.   Buy products that are durable and built to last.

66.   Research products, brands and items you would like to purchase before buying. Think environmental impact, is there recycling or take-back programs , repair programs, what do other consumers say about quality and function are some of the questions you may want answered.

67.   Shop the refrigerator before shopping the supermarket. Use food at home before buying more.

68.   Rotate food in cupboards and refrigerator so that you use older stock first.

69.   Designate one meal weekly as a use it up meal.

70.   Ask for a doggie bag at a restaurant if you cannot finish meal. Carry your own container if possible.

71.   If meals portions are too large at restaurants split dishes with your companion.

72.   Do not heap the plate at buffets, you can always return for more if you are still hungry.

73.   Freeze or preserve surplus produce from the garden.

74.   Forget about perfection. Buy misshapen fruits and vegetables.

75.   Donate safe and nutritious foods to food banks and food rescue programs. Remember they also need money to operate programs.

76.   Learn what you have in your pantry, refrigerator or freezer that could act as a substitute or alternative ingredient instead of buying new products for one use.

77.   Opt for electronic communication from banks and utilities instead of receiving paper bills and statements.

78.   Save vegetable peelings to make vegetable stock.

79.   Use a shopping list and stick to it.

80.   Learn how to store food properly as well as how long food lasts.

81.   Use your freezer to extend life of food.

82.   Plan meals by first taking inventory of current food stock. Also plan meals that may have use up food.

83.   Don’t dish out massive plates of food. There can always be second helpings.

84.   Offer guests “doggy bags” for unfinished meals or leftovers.

85.   Ditch the dryer sheets instead use wool dryer balls.

86.   Rent dishes and glasses for large events or mix and match using what you have

87.   Resist releasing inflated balloons to float away as they create litter and are a hazard to wildlife.

88.   Use over-ripe fruit to make smoothies

89.   Don’t assume you need to buy in mass quantities or larger sizes. Buy what you need and can use.

90.   Learn to re-portion food. Divide bread, meat and other products into manageable servings and freeze what you are not using immediately.

91.   Buy products with recycled content.

92.   If you don’t like to wash soiled diapers use a diaper service.

93.   Feed animals like chickens and pigs food scraps.

94.   Buy salads and fruit from salad bar if you only use small portions

95.   Handle produce with care at supermarkets. Don’t squeeze or drop what you do not buy.

96.   Return frozen goods, meat and produce to appropriate shelves in supermarket or give to staff if you change your mind while shopping. Don’t leave perishable products in aisles to be found.

97.   Understand the difference between best before and expiration dates on food labels.

98.   Do not open packages in stores unless you have permission from shop keeper or you are buying product.

99.   Keep a pantry and refrigerator inventory list so you know what you have at a glance.

100.       Encourage waste-free lunches for schools and promote students take home uneaten food.

101.       Do not sell potato chips, candy bars or bottled water at schools or government buildings.

102.       Simplify and minimize. Do you really need more that one kind of shampoo?

103.       Use and buy products that are refillable

104.       Reduce gift giving instead give the gift of togetherness and time

105.       Get crafty and learn how to upcycle and repurpose objects to give them a new life

106.       Read the manuals for appliances and use as directed. Follow care and maintenance guidelines.

107.       Invest in quality instead of quantity.

108.       Brew bones. Use bones to create broth or stocks for cooking.

109.       Sell the things you no longer want in garage sales, consignment stores or online sites.

110.       Take your shoes and hand bag for repair to a shoe repair business to extend life.

111.       Take your broken items to a Repair Cafe

112.       Use recycling Apps to learn about recycling opportunities in your area

113.       Rotate tires

114.       Learn and calculate how much paint you need. One gallon of paint covers an area of about 400sq.ft.

115.       Refuse promotional materials as they often are not good quality or they have little reuse demand. Refuse the cups, bags and other junk.

116.       Cut down on washing clothes instead wash when they are actually dirty.

117.       Surround yourself with items that serve multiple purposes to streamline clutter and waste.

118.       Beware of greenwashing, always question and research

119.       Vote with your dollars for sustainable products.

120.       Repurpose and upcycling instead of buying gift wrap. Wrap with materials that can be reused or recycled.

121.       Support your local seamstress or tailor by having clothing repaired.

122.       Pick up litter when you find it and dispose of it properly even when it is someone else’s.

123.       Ditch plastic q-tips for plastic-free or compostable.

124.       Thank and support with your dollars restaurants and supermarkets and businesses that support and accommodate your Zero Waste lifestyle. Leave a tip for the waitress that brings the drink sans straw.

125.       Feed the soil by composting at home.

126.       Slow down and enjoy the food experience. Make food preparation, eating and clean-up a relaxed family social routine

127.       Reduce fast food. Bring your own containers if grabbing a burger.

128.       Learn to make do with what you have.

129.       Buy binders second hand and recover.

130.       Learn a new craft or skill.

131.       Don’t be afraid to ask. Kindly ask local stores if you could use your own containers. Work with your local businesses and support them to making zero Waste changes.

132.       Make it easy for coffee take-out or bulk food stores to fill your containers by marking container weight or how many ounces cups hold on your cups and containers.

133.       Support start-ups who are launching Zero Waste products, services or businesses on crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter

134.       Make your compost and recycling bins more accessible that your garbage can

135.       Reduce the size of your garbage cans

136.       Stop smoking .

137.       Ask your local shops to carry Zero Waste products and make sure you buy them.

138.       Use a vacuum cleaner with reusable bags.

139.       Don’t dump garden waste in vacant lots. Invasive plants are a problem across Canada.

140.       Use an air popper instead of buying microwave popcorn.

141.       Donate to a charity instead of exchanging gifts.

142.       Send email invitations and greeting.

143.       Just because you get a big…you don’t need to fill it. Just because you get a large garbage can or recycling or compost bin does not mean that you have to fill it. Remember that you are using and discarding resources. That big dinner plate you don’t have to fill either. Use only what you really need.

144.       Compost your food scraps at home. There are lots of options for apartments, multi-dwelling, homes, and bear country available.

145.       Learn what recycling, disposal and compost options are available in your community and learn the items that are accepted. Do not assume you know. “Wishful” recycling cases lots of contamination.

146.       Learn the Zero Waste hierarchy and start by REDUCING.

147.       Do not want for government to save the planet. Everyone must create solutions and act.

148.       Start a Zero Waste Business.

149.       Do a waste audit in your home or office. Waste is about making bad choices.

150.       It is going to take effort but we each can make changes in our behaviours and actions to help create a Zero waste world. We just need to keep trying and learning as we go. Be mindful.

Waste is the sum of bad habits

Our lives are essentially the sum of our habits. It is important to remember that lasting change is a product of daily habits, not once-in-a-lifetime transformations.

Some of our habits are good and some could be called bad.

Creating waste can be the result of bad habits.

Good news that it is possible to change habits. You can kick the wasting habits. Creating a Zero Waste lifestyle does require forming some new habits that support creating less waste.

Identify those tiny daily habits that add up. Do you throw recycling in your waste bin in the bathroom? Do you regularly leave food on your plate?

Backtrack from the garbage bin.   The contents of your garbage can tell about habits you need to change.  Are the late night snacks of potato chips creating waste packaging in your bin?

Start with one habit you want to change or form.  Here’s your action step: Decide what you want your new habit to be. Now ask yourself, “How can I make this new behaviour so easy to do that I can’t say no?”

Say you want to take your own bags for shopping is the habit you want to form, ask yourself what routines  do you already do that could be a reminder to bring your shopping bags. Placing shopping bags with car keys at the door may help to remind you to take shopping bags.  Attaching a shopping list to the bags may be the reminder if you have a routine of taking shopping lists to stores.

Use shopping bags that you like and make you feel good using. We want to continue things that make us feel good. And because an action needs to be repeated for it to become a habit, it’s especially important that you reward yourself each time you practice your new habit.  Acknowledge each time you perform your new habit by congratulating yourself.

Make habits you want to perform more visible and the ones you want to change less visible. If you want to make it easier to break a bad habit, then you need to increase the number steps required to perform that habit.

Move the garbage can from the prime spot and replace it with a recycling bin and compost bin. Design your environment to make the reminders of your Zero Waste habits more visible and the reminders of your wasteful habits less visible.   This simple strategy makes change easier and is quick way to tailor your environment to support your goals.

A Zero Waste lifestyle can be achieved by creating good habits that are practiced on a daily basis.395501_167694413330563_100002700165297_219660_1335011411_n

Shopping and Waste


Women have consumer power. It is time to use it wisely.

Did you know that women control $20 trillion in annual spending in America and Fleishman-Hillard Inc. estimates that over the next decade women will control two-thirds of the consumer wealth in the U.S.  Women make the decision in the purchases of 94% of home furnishings, 92%of vacations, 91% of homes, 60% of automobiles, 51% of electronics purchases and make the majority of decisions of groceries and household products.

What we buy and how much stuff we buy is having a huge impact on the world.

Women are can make a difference. Women, as the dominant retail shoppers, need to realize that the choices being made impact the ability for our world to become a Zero Waste society. Self-awareness and change must be part of the increasing powers of the female consumer.

Here are some startling shopping and waste facts:

The average woman owns 20 pairs of shoes but only wears 5 pairs regularly

77% of women use less than 10% of beauty products they purchase (the average woman spends more than $15,000 on make-up in her lifetime)

The average woman buys more than 52 items of new clothing a year. (The average Canadian disposes of 14kg of textile waste per year)

One in three bags of groceries purchased is wasted

Women outspend males $10.31 per trip to grocery store

Almost 13,000 chemicals are used in cosmetics (women put 168 chemicals in their bodies daily)

The average woman throws away 300lbs of “pads, plugs and applicators” in her life-time

Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup collected 20,000 tampon applicators out of 4 million total pieces of reclaimed plastic.


10 THINGS WOMEN CAN DO TO REDUCE WASTE                   10176182_10152771413250884_1257293807216419278_n
  1. Avoid “retail therapy”: Try to find other activities to reduce stress or to create positive experiences. At very least just look.
  2. Use the buyerarchy for consumer decisions
  3. Make a shopping list for all household purchases and stick to the list.
  4. Plan meals so that you use food you have and are using leftovers.
  5. Avoid single-use disposable products: While they may seem convenient or time-saving single use disposable creates lots of waste. Lessen your impact by not using products like disposable razors, plastic straws, take-out disposable coffee cups, and convenience snack foods packaged in non-recyclable materials. Use alternatives to single-use.
  6. Stop trying to fill it up: Stop filling up your closet, your home and your shopping bag and the refrigerator with stuff. Think of minimizing first by changing shopping habits. Consider buying quality by quantity.
  7. Consider using less toxic, more eco-friendly hygiene products.
  8. Realize that beauty does come in a bottle. Reduce the amount of cosmetics purchased. Remember many cosmetics have toxin issues plus most of the packaging is not recyclable. Use products that are refillable or have packaging recycling programs, or make your own.
  9. Give love not stuff. Think about what you can give other than more stuff.
  10. Slow down and get organized: Sometimes our hectic lives create bad habits and waste. Take some time to create management systems that create efficiency and promoted waste reduction. Create systems that organize the refrigerator and cupboards, create compost and recycling opportunities in the kitchen, bathroom, home office and garden and enlist other family members to help.

Women have the power to create change by becoming conscious consumers.


“Women have an essential role to play in the development of sustainable and ecologically sound consumption and production patterns and approaches to natural resource management.”

The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development



Zero-Waste Erich blog post

Zero Waste Canada guest blogger :

Erich Schwartz – Founder and President of Greenomics
Erich is a consultant and entrepreneur focused in developing and implementing strategic plans and solutions for a variety of organizations globally and across industries. Specifically, he has been highly successful with sustainability programs, large scale information and educational technology projects, and telecommunications infrastructure integration projects for Fortune 500, Crown Corporations, Governments, and mid-size businesses throughout the world.



Now that the holiday season has passed wherein we generated more garbage than any other time of year, it is time to reflect. Many of us live in a place where the waste is taken to the magic land of “away”, and we don’t have to worry about it. However, as we shift toward a greener economy, this is not the best way to serve our communities and to stimulate local economic development. What if we looked at waste as a resource that can be mined to make products we want and create local jobs? By strategically rethinking the waste stream, politicians, governments, citizens, and businesses can work together to generate wealth from what is currently a financial, environmental, and social erosion.

Strategic thinking from a business perspective can be quite simple. Crystal ball future needs and get positioned to meet those needs. For example, a clear strategic decision was made by the Bush family (former US presidents) when they acquired approximately 100,000 acres of farm land on the border between Brazil and Paraguay. While running a ranch may be part of the plan, the purchase sits on top of significant natural gas reserves as well as one of the largest underground water resources in the world. It is projected that both will be in high demand in the coming years, and now the Bushes are positioned to provide those resources once the price point tips to profitability. Is it possible that garbage dumps can become strategic resources too? We think so, and it appears some businesses and governments are positioning themselves to be players in this emerging resource industry.

While buying a garbage dump will not be as lucrative as the above deal, it is still an opportunity for visionaries. Typical urban waste is around 50% organics, which if composted becomes soil enriching fertilizer. Given our need for rich soil to grow food, by extracting the organics out of the waste stream we enhance our food production capabilities, and reduce our ‘garbage’ and demand for landfills by 50%. We also save money by reducing how much we pay to have our waste removed and acquire fertilizer for our gardens. But what about the other 50% still being dumped in the landfill?

As we move into an increasingly resource constrained world, the solid waste stream will become more important as a source for resources to produce the various products we demand. In most cases, the current perspective is simply to get the waste out of sight and out of mind as quickly and as cheaply as possible. This view will change and savvy businesses are starting to lead the charge in mining the waste stream profitably. For example, there is Urban Ore in Berkeley, California, Gibsons Resource Recovery Centre in British Columbia, and Kretsloppsparken in Gothenburg, Sweden. And this is just the start of the “gold rush” since studies by the World Bank indicate the potential annual production of solid waste to reach 27 billion tons/year by 2050. This is roughly the equivalent of 50 times the number of passenger cars in the US, which means there are plenty of opportunities for other players to enter the arena. We know that some companies have already figured out how to “mine’ the marine plastic in the Pacific to make packaging.

To solve our current challenges related to waste diversion, we need to engage the business community, but the critical question is “What is the best way to achieve success”?

There is much discussion in the waste management industry about moving to an Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) model. The concept is to decrease the environmental impact of a product by making manufacturers responsible for the entire life-cycle of their products and packaging – including disposal. Given the costs of waste removal are covered through taxes, the idea of transferring those costs onto the producer and those who purchase their products sounds like a good idea. However, it is the implementation that will determine who benefits.

This brings us from thinking strategically to thinking tactically. EPR has been mandated in British Columbia by the Ministry of the Environment, and in response Multi-material British Columbia (MMBC) was formed as a not-for-profit organization to implement EPR across the province. Their mandate is to reclaim 75% of all packaging identified in the regulations. So, from a tactical business perspective, if something cannot be stopped, then it should be managed. A perspective that became clear when Alan Langdon, chair of the MMBC board, stated “From a producer point of view, if we’re going to have full financial responsibility, we want to have a say in how efficient it is.” So what changes are afoot?

First, there will be a management shift away from local governments and to a Command and Control model driven by producers and retailers through MMBC and the Recycling Council of British Columbia. This becomes a philosophical perspective with implications for the economy, society, and the environment. A shift to a command and control (CnC) structure for recycling can actually stymie local creativity in addressing waste issues because of the one model fits all approach. Meaning if an enterprising individual identifies a business opportunity that uses the waste stream as a resource, such as Eco-flex in Alberta, they would have to compete with the provincial entity for that resource. Such a scenario is likely and would lead to lost opportunities for local economic development.

Second, there will be a financial infusion from industry into recycling. BC’s Ministry of Environment claims the EPR program will reduce the financial burden to general taxpayers by $60-million to $100-million a year. However, the costs of an EPR would still be passed on to the consumer and most likely disproportionately given many of the products and packaging we get comes from outside of BC. Further, additional environmental issues are likely to arise as the waste that was distributed through the province would then have to be centralized for processing, which will increase transportation costs and associated greenhouse gas emissions.

The third big shift will be the management of waste from government (i.e. municipalities) to Producer Responsibility Organizations such as MMBC. While the stated intention is to increase recycling rates, it also undermines a local community’s abilities to use the waste stream as a resource for local job creation and economic stimuli.

As an advocate for cultivating the green economy and having the private sector provide the products and services we want and need, I am not suggesting we prevent the private sector from taking over the management of the waste stream. However, the old management style of CnC that is being developed for managing the EPR program is more likely to damage the emerging green economy as it is to address our waste stream challenges.

Waste streams are one of many topics on every municipality’s plate and generally seen as a problem rather than an opportunity. However, from the perspective of seeing the waste stream as a resource rather than a problem, local authorities appear to be unknowingly giving up local autonomy and the opportunity to cultivate a greener economy.

We need to be more creative by developing a grass roots distributed solution.