Tag Archives: Waste Reduction

Waste-Less School Lunches

School lunches can generate lots of waste .Our friends at Recycling Council of Ontario state that the average student’s lunch generates a total of 30 kilograms of waste per school year, or an average school generates 8500 kilograms (18,700 lbs) of waste per school per year.

One of the greatest lessons we can teach our children is how to reduce waste. The lunch box is the perfect opportunity for parents, students and teachers to join together to instill Zero Waste values and habits.

As a classroom or school initiative, Recycling Council of Ontario has developed a program called The Waste-free Lunch Challenge, where students commit to bringing a waste-free lunch to school during Waste Reduction Week (Oct 19-Oct 23). Students compete with other classes and schools to reduce lunch waste with prizes and recognition is given classes or schools most successful at reducing lunchtime waste. The program has a selection of resource material to support the Challenge including videos, posters and sample newsletters.

According to a study by Minnesota Pollution Control Agency food waste makes up 23% of waste generated at school: there is a need for the impacts of food waste to be discussed both by teachers and parents. Perhaps parents or schools having policies that children bring home food they don’t eat would help with an awareness of changes required.

Disposable snack packaging is often not recyclable or it is contaminated with food contributes to even more waste generated at lunchtime.

This year encourage your school and child to make lunchtime a Waste- Free event.

Tips for Waste-Less Lunches

  • involve children in the waste-free lunch goal
  • plan lunches with kids
  • have a lunch kit or bag that is reusable
  • pack food and drinks in reusable containers
  • use cloth napkins and reusable cutlery
  • pack small portions
  • make your own granola bars, cookies, chips or fruit snacks and pack them in reusable wrap
  • buy bulk instead of single servings. Buy a large yogurt and put smaller portion in reusable container.
  • make sure all food and drink containers can be easily resealed to prevent leakage
  • make lunch fun and creative. Try making a bento box lunch or a mason jar lunches for older kids.
  • cut up fruit and veggies into small bite size pieces
  • to avoid morning rush pack lunches the night before and keep in refrigerator
  • give children responsibility. Children can learn food preparation by helping to make lunches and help clean reusable containers.


This school year make lunch waste-free.

From Curb to Compost… Striving for Zero Waste

Guest blog post: Bailey Rory

Bailey Rory has been working with municipalities and public works departments for several years, helping to manage waste treatment facilities. Currently she is a full-time student studying sustainable agriculture at the University of Colorado.

Did you know, on average, Americans throw away 250 million tons of garbage annually? According to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Urban Sustainability Project report from 2014, aimed at identifying effective urban sustainability initiatives, 183 communities in 18 different cities are now running a curb to compost program. These programs are aimed to increase recycling awareness and reduce waste sent to landfill facilities. While these programs benefit the environment, the biggest reason for the increase in recycling activity is simple: The landfills are full. Commercial properties and residents alike are sorting their wastes in order to generate new sources of power and reduce garbage costs.

What Can Be Composted?

As a guideline, compost is food scraps and food soiled paper products, including:

  • All food products including bones and meat
  • Broken egg shells
  • Fruit peels and inner cores
  • Tea bags and coffee filters
  • Soiled pizza boxes
  • Paper cups, plates and napkins
  • Soiled Paper towels

What Happens to Yard Waste?

Yard waste accounts for 20 percent of garbage collected in the United States. What could be returned to nature in a repeat fertilization cycle, turns into truly useless waste at landfill facilities. Composting is also available for large piles of leaves or tree and yard clippings. Of course, one must be careful not to put them into plastic bags as plastic cannot be composted.

  • Use biodegradable paper bags to collect leaves and branches.
  • Do not include dirt, gravel, rocks or concrete.
  • Arrange for a pick up by your local compost waste manager.

As organic materials, yard clippings are useful in landscape maintenance. Yard clippings usually create a more time-released fertilization, better for the root system, and reduce the need for excess fertilizer.

What Are Benefits of Composting?

For avid gardeners and small farm owners, composting offers solutions to growing problems and benefits you might not have considered. According to a study by Washington State University, dozens of farmers are already composting, and have been for years. The farms see crops that not only look stronger and healthier, but taste better, too! Additional benefits include:

  • Soil That Breathes Better – Combining organic materials with inorganic rocks and soil allows for more oxygen to flow through the soil and neutralize the pH levels. Water, energy, air and roots have room to move where they please.
  • Nutrients Galore – With composting food and yard waste you can expect many worms to crawl in and around your garden. These creepy crawlers thrive in environments that host a multitude of micro- and macronutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, magnesium and zinc.
  • Fewer Chemicals – By using organic compost solutions, farmers see fewer problems with pest infestations. Fewer pests in the garden or crop lead to fewer chemicals needed to ward them off. With a reduction in chemical usage, many farmers notice a positive impact on their crops.

Curb to Compost Solutions Where You Live

While the benefits are clear, not every town or city has a Curb to Compost program. Now is the time to reach out to your local waste management provider and find out what compost and recycling systems are in place or when you can expect to see them in the future.

How much garbage is enough?

  • Canada ranks in last place out of 17 countries and gets a “D” grade on the municipal waste generation report card.

  • Canada produced 777 kg per capita of municipal waste in 2008, twice as much as the best performer, Japan.

  • Canada’s municipal waste generated per capita has been steadily increasing since 1990.

An adult polar bear weighs 300 – 700 kg

Canadians are producing more garbage than we should and some municipalities may be aiding our addiction to discarding.

How much garbage does an average single family residence really need to set out for collection at the curb?

Municipalities across Canada have widely varying standards on what is the allowable amount of garbage that will be collected at the curb on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. There is no common standard for weight, size of container, or volume for residential collected. There are no provincial standards instead each municipality sets the “level of service”.

Imagine a family that moves across the country, residing in different cities, it would probably be safe to speculate that their buying patterns and consumption patterns would not change significantly with each move to a new city. Does that family use up to 6 garbage bags weighing up to 25kg in Halifax and in Red Deer use 3 units (bag or can) with a 100 litre capacity each? Does that same family in Nanaimo use one 77 litre can?

Many of the cities have curbside recycling and organics pick up, but they still allow for large quantities of garbage to be discarded at the curb. There seems to be little correlation to the availability of alternative diversion services with how much residential garbage is allowable for curbside pick up in a community.

In some cities residents can buy garbage tags so they may include additional garbage to the weekly pick up. The price of these tags varies per city. Simcoe Ontario offers garbage tags for $3 each and a maximum 7 tagged bags may be included with one untagged for collection. In Halton Ontario  garbage tags are $2; you may place up to 3 additional garbage bags/cans with a garbage tag for a total of 6 bags/can maximum (3 untagged plus 3 tagged).

Certainly municipalities are setting the guidelines for residents on allowable waste and yet landfills are rapidly filling up. Are municipalities allowing too much garbage?

Do local governments need to be talking to each other about setting a national standard that would align each community, each household with a benchmark for waste generation?

It is very difficult to give a clear message of the need to “REDUCE” when 7 garbage bags are allowable at the curb.

Like the bartender offering the alcoholic another round, we have municipalities offering a means to continue our addiction. It is time to send a message and set a standard.

We need to curb our addiction to discarding.

Rethink Valentine’s Day – Make Love Not Waste

Make Love not Waste!   Valentine’s Day express your love and admiration with less stuff and more caring gestures and thoughtful words. Reduce the amount of stuff you buy and gift.

Sometimes when we give gifts we inadvertently give packaging and and other materials that creates garbage for the recipient. Garbage is not the gift of love.

What do we really, really want?

We want to know that someone cares about us. We want to be with special loved ones. We want to express our love or admiration to another.

What do we really, really want?

We want to know that someone cares about us. We want to be with special loved ones. We want to express our love or admiration to another.


Instead of Saying it with Stuff, Say it with words and thoughtful gestures.


Attention, shared experiences, caring and consideration are special gifts to give. It is the expression of our love that makes us happy.

“They invented hugs to let people know you love them without saying anything.” Bill Keane

Did you know?

Ready- made Valentine’s Day cards came into vogue in the 19oo’s, because cards were an easy way for people to express their emotions in a time when direct expression of one’s feelings were discouraged.

Today, over 1 billion cards are purchased for this single day.

Did you know?

85% of Valentine’s Day cards are purchased by women

200 million flowers are sold and delivered

73% of flowers are purchased by men

36 million heart shaped boxes of chocolate are sold

10 Tips to Reduce Valentine's Day Waste

  • Give your special message verbally or send an e-card
  • Instead of buying valentines to give out in the classroom, repurpose children’s art work into unique valentines hearts with a special ‘ what I like about you” message for each student
  • Wrap treats in repurposed vintage hankies, bits of scrap material or second-hand containers
  • Spent time not money. Togetherness does not have to cost. Do something with your loved one, that you know your special person enjoys.
  • If you are decorating a special event use materials that can be recycled or used again.
  • If you are cooking a special meal, plan your meal to reduce waste. Start by taking an inventory of what foods you have in stock  and next plan your  menu, write a shopping list and plan to use left-overs.
  • Avoid single-use products. Ask yourself how can I use this again? Use cloth napkins, reusable dishes and glasses and reusable gifts bags.
  • Share ingredients. Share with a friend or neighbours products you may only use a portion of.
  • Just ask. Ask the florist if you can buy flowers without cellophane. Ask for a doggy bag if you do not finish a restaurant meal.
  • Be mindful. Be conscious of the choices you make as a consumer. Have an action plan to reduce,reuse, recycle and compost. Learn what you can recycle in your community.


Make your own preservation to keep flowers fresh longer. Dissolve 3 tablespoons sugar and 2 tablespoons vinegar per quart of warm water. When you fill the vase, make sure cut stems are covered are by 3 to 4 inches of prepared water. The sugar nourishes the plants, whilw the vinegar inhibits bacterial growth.


Make it Yourself

Nutty Banana Chocolate Fudge (uses up ripe banana)

Miniature Tea Cup Garden  (Repurpose Tea Cups)