Tag Archives: Waste

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.

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

  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

Command and Control – The Coming Garbage Gold Rush

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.