Tag Archives: Zero Waste Canada

Valentine ideas for kids that help teach Zero Waste living skills

Kids love to make things and the love to give gifts or cards on Valentine’s Day.  Learning skills and being creative help children to be family partners in a Zero Waste lifestyle.

Here are ten Valentine’s projects for kids and caregivers.

#1 Conservation, recycling and growing are great conversations to have while recycling used paper to make seed hearts to give to class mates that they can plant. When the paper hearts are planted in a pot of soil or garden, the seeds grow and the paper composts away.

#2 Using materials like newspaper for another use and using scraps (that often are tossed in bin) to make a new creation helps to teach repurposing skills. Paint newspaper and paper scraps to make hand painted Valentine post cards.

#3 Encouraging care of wildlife and an opportunity to learn about back yard birds helps kids to become better stewards of earth. Learning to measure ingredients also is a helpful skill to learn. Make bird seed hearts that can be hung on trees to feed birds.

#4 Looking for materials to repurpose, tracing and cutting while creating a garden gift that invites children to connect to the natural world through growing food. Children that grow their own food are more likely to eat fruit and vegetables. Make seed packages from magazines and fill with flowers or veggie seeds.

#5 Instead of discarding worn materials this project is about reusing materials, reusing and repurposing reduces waste. Repurpose those crayons stubs to make heart shaped crayons.

#6 Learning to cook including reading a recipe, measuring, learning how to use a stove safely are all skills that help children for the future but also allows them to contribute and be part of household activities. Bake cookies to give instead of cards.

#7 Making simple treats teaches how to use stovetop or microwave and reduces need to buy treats in excessive packaging. Give rice crispie hearts with icing message.

#8 Learning basic sewing skills helps children to have clothing repair skills. Make Lacing Valentine’s cards with ribbon scraps.

#9 An important food waste reduction lesson is learning that if fruit is marked or different looking, they are still good to eat. Are you bananas about someone? Give a message on a banana.

#10 Using a needle and thread and fabric scraps to make things allows kids to create. Sew felt hearts.

Clean teeth and less waste – Bam Brush

Balancing good health practises and waste reduction can be challenging. Many dental professionals recommend changing your toothbrush about every three months, and the American Dental Association (ADA) recommends that you replace your toothbrush approximately every three to four months, or sooner if the bristles are frayed. Changing a toothbrush every three months means lots of toothbrushes going to the landfill.


Many consumers are actively reducing the number of plastic products they use and most toothbrushes are made from plastics. A couple of friends in Victoria B.C. decided to create a solution for the problem by creating a subscription service offering bamboo toothbrushes.


In Zero Waste Canada’s continuing series on small businesses creating Zero Waste solutions, we speak with Craig Tessier owner of BamBrush , the bamboo toothbrush subscription service.

How did you decide to start a bamboo toothbrush subscription service?

I started Bambrush almost 3 years ago now (how time flys) with my friend while sitting in his small apartment. We were talking about how something as important as a toothbrush is thought about, but also how much plastic waste they much create (Over 4 billion plastic brushes a year are made, and never biodegrade!) We both had the passion to start something new but had no idea even where to start. So I got busy brainstorming, how we can help people not only think about replacing their toothbrushes more frequently, but also how to reduce the plastic that was entering the oceans, and landfills. We did some research and found someone to help us manufacture bamboo toothbrushes, and BamBoom, BamBrush was made!

Can you tell us about the products you offer?

BamBrush also offers more than just bamboo toothbrushes. We have started to think about more natural, and eco-friendly products we could offer our customers. About a year ago we came out with our charcoal based carbon tooth polish. Made with 3 ingredients, it’s a great way to get whiter teeth without harsh chemicals. Carbon is made from activated raw coconut shell, calcium bentonite clay, and organic mint extract. More recently we came out with our copper tongue scrapers. I’ve been using plastic tongue scrapers for years but these break over time and get pretty nasty. Copper is a naturally antibacterial metal, so there’s no need to worry but nasty germs building up.

What is Moso bamboo? Does it have any special properties?

Our brushes are made from a very interesting type of bamboo called Moso bamboo. Moso bamboo is one the quickest growing plants and often referred to as the Usain Bolt of plants, and grows about 4 feet in one day. Our bamboo also has a special attribute, its also naturally antimicrobial, and that’s the reason moso bamboo is used for cutting boards, and BamBrush toothbrushes.

Did you design the toothbrush and did you have any feedback from dentists?

The design of the brush did exist before we started BamBrush, but we have since added to the design but adding a waved style to the bristles to get those pesky hard to reach parts of your mouth. As for dentists, there has been a lot of interest from dental professionals all across Canada, and a few from the US. We recently made a sale to a dental office on Vancouver Island, and are excited to hear, and meet more dental professionals as the year progresses.

The tooth brush is not completely plastic –free as the bristles are made from nylon. Did you test alternative materials for the bristles? Will the toothbrush design be evolving if an alternative to nylon bristles can be found?

Correct, our brushes aren’t completely plastic free. We use top quality dental nylon for our bristles, for the simple reason we don’t want to sell a bad toothbrush. If the bristles fall apart in your mouth, then no one wins. As of right now, there is no biodegrade toothbrush bristle, except for boar hair. We are always working towards a completely plastic-free brush, but for now, 98% of a BamBrush will biodegrade and return to the earth.

Is the toothbrush manufactured in Canada?

Right now our brushes are manufactured in China, and made using bamboo from sustainable, and monitored bamboo grown just for products use. Once we grow bigger and can afford it we would love to start producing BamBrush in Victoria, BC. And not to worry, we are not taking away from the pandas.

At the end of the life of the tooth brush what can you do with it?

When you’re ready to replace your BamBrush you simple remove the bristles to be disposed of, and the handle can go directly into your compost. Some of our customers get creative with the handles and use them to mark plants, and vegetables in the garden. Your brush will last just as long as a regular plastic brush, but you should replace your brush every 2-3 months.

One of the concerns for many consumers is the amount of packaging for mail order products, how do you deal with this concern?

When we started BamBrush we noticed how much plastic they package a plastic toothbrush in. That completely seemed backward to us. We thought we can not only reduce the plastic used to make the brush but we can improve the packaging itself. We use a kraft paper package for our brushes. Super simple, and recyclable. I still cringe when I see all the plastic that regular toothbrushes wastes. As for mailing our brushes directly to our customer’s door, there are several benefits of this compared to buying a brush from a store. We don’t have big trucks driving inventory to big stores that use energy 24/7 365 days to run. We simply put a brush in an envelope and it arrives at your door. No need to get into the car to go to the store and pick up a toothbrush, we took care of that for you. We are also going to offer a year subscription of BamBrushes at once, so no need to have them sent every 2 months, but just once a year.

Zero Waste Canada, often receives questions from aspiring entrepreneurs in search of products for Zero Waste or environmentally conscious shops, are your toothbrushes available whole-sale or for stores?

We do offer wholesale and sell in stores all over Canada, and in an eco-resort in the Cook Islands! You can find BamBrushes in many stores around Victoria, BC, including West Coast Refill, Nezza Naturals, and The Copper Hat. All great shops run by great people that we are so happy to work with. For wholesale please feel free to send us an email at admin@bambrushes.com

Several of the small businesses that Zero Waste Canada has interviewed have used funding platforms like Kickstarter to help launch their products, did you do anything like this?

For funding, we completely bootstrapped the whole thing ourselves. When BamBrush was first started we had never run a business, and just went for it. We couldn’t have foreseen it becoming what it has. So we pooled our money together and made a budget, and have been steadily growing since then. We have talked about doing a Kickstarter campaign for future goals like going national, but we will see!

How have you been able to connect to customers? Has social media been important for your company creating brand recognition?

Social media has been a huge help for us building brand recognition! With such great apps like Instagram, its brought so many people together to share thoughts and experiences. To find like-minded people with ideologies, who care about similar things like dogs, home decor, bears on unicycles, to zero waste communities. As budding entrepreneurs, we are so lucky to have so many tools like Instagram to connect with people who care about what we stand for.

What challenges did you have taking your service and product from idea to an actuality?

So many challenges when starting off! The biggest one was I was working 2 full-time jobs when we started BamBrush. So being at work for 12 hours a day I would come home and reply to emails, and fulfill orders every day. This was very challenging, but this was something I wanted so bad. To start something from nothing, and become a real business, even if I didn’t know how I was going to do that. So finding time to run orders to stores, keep growing our social media, and balancing all the emails, I would say that was the hardest part of this journey so far.

Do you have any advice for individuals thinking about how they can take a great idea and make it a business?

For anyone wanting to start their own business, I say jump in! Make it happen, be passionate, do your research, and have fun. Fail learn fail learn, and don’t give up on the dream. If you truly believe you have a good idea, then go make it happen. There is no easy path, but you will find the way. Starting BamBrush has been the wildest rides of my life. People will tell you not to do it, people might think it is a stupid idea, but just keep making your dreams become a reality.

What is your background before BamBrush?

Before I started BamBrush I was a support worker. I worked 2 full-time jobs working with adults and children diagnosed with autism, and down syndrome. I was living in Europe before I started being a support worker, and had never thought about becoming one before. I was offered a job with a day program when I moved back to Canada, and that has played a huge part of who I am today. I’ve met some amazing people in that community and so glad to call them all my friends.

What are your goals for BamBrush?

Our goals are to reduce more and more plastic each year from entering the oceans, and landfills. To start up beach cleanups, raise awareness of plastic waste, become a worldwide brand, grow a better mustache, inspire more young entrepreneurs to start their journey, and remind people to brush responsibly.

BamBrush is another innovative company helping us to lead Zero Waste lifestyles.

Freezer is a lifeline to reduce food waste

In Canada, the average household wastes about 275 kilograms of food each year. Much of this waste is unnecessary. A better understanding of how to freeze foods safely could significantly help us to reduce our staggering amounts of discarded food.

Inaccurate portion sizes, confusion about safe consumption and sell-by dates, and the low cost to households of over-purchasing and wasting food are among factors blamed for our wasteful behaviour.

Our freezers can be a lifeline to rescue food and drink from being discarded.

Research published by the Food and Standards Agency in the UK identified a number of “myths” that prevent people from using their freezers to reduce food waste. Results of study showed that 43% of those interviewed think that food should only be frozen on the day of purchase to be safe; 38% incorrectly said it is dangerous to refreeze meat after it has been cooked; and 36% wrongly believe that food can become unsafe to eat while in the freezer. Their research also found that 90% of people said there are foods they would never freeze. Almost a quarter (23%) of those surveyed would never freeze meat that was cooked after defrosting, with 73% of these people said they had concerns about food poisoning.

Learning about using our freezers as an effective tool for reducing waste and preserving food will definitely expand the Zero Waste solutions we can enact at home.

The freezer is like a “time-out” for foods that may be discarded because the “use by” or “ best before dates” are approaching. Once the food if frozen it will not spoil, and then when you want to use it defrost in the fridge and use within 24 hours. It is a pretty simple lifeline to rescue food.

We can save all kinds of food in the freezer.

Zero Waste Canada - Freezing Blueberries

Here are some of the foods that can be frozen

Eggs: eggs can be frozen but not in shell

Potatoes: cooked potatoes work best for freezing ; you can boil for 5 minutes and freeze for later. You can also freeze left-over mashed potatoes and other cooked potato dishes.

Milk: remember that as a liquid milk expands when frozen  so it is important to make sure there is space in container for milk to expand. Shake well when thawed.

Cheese: all cheeses can be frozen, but do keep in mind that freezing can affect their texture and character. This is why thawed cheeses are best used for cooking. You can freeze cheeses, in pieces of 500 g or less, for up to two months. Make sure they are carefully wrapped in plastic wrap and place them in an airtight freezer bag. As with all types of cheeses, it is important to cool before freezing, and to allow the cheese to thaw slowly in the refrigerator, which allows it to regain the humidity lost while frozen.

Bread: wrap bread snugly to reduce air space.

Flour: freezing your whole grain flours greatly slows down how quickly these flours spoil, and protects them from pest infestation.

Spices: freeze fresh herbs

Left-over meat: leftover cooked beef, pork, or chicken can be frozen. Freezing can add up to three months to the safe storage life of most types of meat.

Rice: cooked rice is better frozen than stored in fridge.


Before tossing food consider throwing it a lifeline by freezing and rescuing for use.

Zero Waste Canada - Freezing Pumpkin Soup

10 Zero Waste Gifts for Kids

The global toy market has an estimated size of more than 87 billion U.S. dollars annually, of which about one quarter can be attributed to the North American marketThe average toy spend per child in Canada is $347 per year.

The average child in the developed world owns over 200 toys but only plays with 12 of them on average per day!

It is the season where often there is a giant toy purge in households to make room for a mountain of new toys. Maybe this year Santa and other gift givers can consider gifts that create more memories and experiences for kids. 

Here are 10 Zero Waste Gifts Suggestions for Kids

1. Give the gift of learning a new skill

Many communities offer classes and camps for kids for a variety of new skills such a rock climbing, music lessons, and art. Skills that help equip kids that develop creativity and self-reliance can help children be an active participant in Zero Waste households.

MakerKids empowers children to be creators, not just consumers. We equip kids with the tools and mindsets to be leaders and inventors.

Seams So Easy offers kids and teens sewing classes by beginning with a sleep-over kit and then they progress to their own creations.

Nutrition Bites kids’ cooking classes give you a rest and your kids a chance to lead a healthy life by being able to cook for themselves.

Home Depot offers free workshops for kids for woodworking projects.

2. Give a gift of a new experience

Kids love exploring and experiencing new things. Think of those wish list experiences or experiences that encourage bonding, self-awareness or knowledge. Perhaps it is a visit to a new place, a ticket to a hockey game or ticket to play

Vancouver Aquarium offers sleep-overs that give kids a chance to explore the Aquarium.

Neptune Theatre offers ticket packages for their performances.

Prairie Dog Central Railway  kids can be an engineer for a day on a train.

3. Give the gift of time together

Everyone loves special time together. It does not have to be expensive, it just means shutting off the cell phone and focusing on being together. Perhaps it is giving coupons for “dates” or special time.

4. Give a gift of fun with friends and family

Movie and skating passes can help kids to organize social outings with friends. Build a backyard hockey rink as a gift or go visit family.

5. Give a membership as gift

Memberships to museums, art galleries and non-profit organizations are a great way for kids to get involved with their communities or causes. Students can become members of Zero Waste Canada and this membership is a great gift for the environment and the student.

Montreal Museum of Fine Arts  subscription gives special perks and access to exhibits.

Tool Library membership gives you access to Thousands of Tools for a loan period of 3 to 7 days. We have 4 membership options for individuals, please see the chart below. Combined memberships also offer access to the Sharing Depot, our Library of Things program. The Sharing Depot loans many more items you need just a few times per year including camping and sports equipment, board games, children’s toys and party supplies.

Thingery  membership gives access to lending library of things.

Surfrider Canada membership shows you care about our oceans.

6. Give a donation in lieu of gifts

Donate warm clothing to a homeless shelter or make a financial donation to a worthy cause in recipient’s name. Take a picture of what you donated or clip catalogue pictures to show donation as gift.

Plan Canada  give a goat because it is a way of improving the lives of children living in rural communities in developing countries.

Second Harvest   a donation that will help feed families and children.

Wildlife Rescue Association helps wildlife injured in wildfires.

Zero Waste Canada helps us expand our Zero Waste programs.

7. Pass down a gift

Pass down an object that has a special memory to you and share the memory. 

8. Give the gift of fixing

Give gifts for shoe repair or bike repair to encourage making things last. Perhaps give a coupon to help to repair special toys. iFixit has guides for fixing a variety of toys.

9. Give a previously loved toy or game a new home

Shop for gently used toys from second-hand and thrift shops. 

10. Give a gift of Zero Waste books

A zero waste holiday season can be a family affair. The more people you get involved, the more fun and creative it can be.

Think outside of the box this holiday season while going for zero waste!

West Coast Refill promoting “Refill not Landfill”

Buying products with less packaging is a goal for many consumers. Using refillable products is one way of significantly reducing waste. Refilling is essentially source reduction. Refill stores help us to reuse containers and bottles reducing the amount of packaging.

Zero Waste Canada recently visited Leanne Gallagher Allen owner of West Coast Refill in Victoria BC. Leanne who has been active in Victoria’s Zero Waste community opened her little shop in the city’s historic Chinatown in the summer.
Stores like West Coast Refill are helping to change the standards of consumerism by offering the alternative of “Refill not landfill”.

Here is our latest interview with a small business that is helping us reduce our impact as consumers.



What was your inspiration to open a retail shop in Victoria specializing in refillable products?

I have always been very environmentally conscious. I have been making natural soaps, lotions, house hold cleaners and more for almost twenty years. More recently my husband and I have been intentionally reducing the amount of waste we create as a household and I have been diving deeper in reading and studying Minimalism and Zero Waste lifestyles. At home we grow a lot of our own food, compost everything, collect rain water and more, to the point we were able to cancel our monthly garbage and kitchen scraps pick up over two years ago.

At the same time when it came to needing the ingredients to make more cleaning products, there was very little I could find in bulk or package free. The “all natural” ingredients I needed such as beeswax or citric acid powder were only available in multi-layer plastic bags and in pre-set amounts of 500 grams or more, when all I really needed was two tablespoons. I was growing frustrated trying to reuse and refill bottles and having to visit four or five different shops to find what I needed and then being told they would only refill their own original bottle with their brand or logo on it with the identical product.  I realized if I wanted to be more than just a “drop in the bucket” and see real change I had to encourage others and if I made it very easy and convenient for them to avoid single use plastics and allow them to refill any clean empty bottle and save money in the process then maybe we could encourage enough people that together we could be more like a proper wave of change instead of just a drop in the bucket.


Leanne, what is your background and how did your experiences in your past employment influence your choice to open a refill store?

I have had many jobs in my life. Everything from running the mail order and retail store front of a botanicals shop, to managing chiropractic offices, to many years managing corporate coffee shops followed by freelance community events and marketing coordination while running my own house keeping business focused on all natural and waste free house cleaning. I’ve always been interested in natural health, in sustainability and natural living. I am naturally a very hands on person and a clean freak to top it all off. Unfortunately I got trapped into the corporate hamster wheel of depending on a steady pay cheque and medical/dental benefits that come with it. As frustrating as it was for me to be working in that environment I learned a lot about managing staff, profit and loss, brand recognition and more.


What kind of research did you do before opening the store?

I borrowed many books from the library on starting a retail business, green businesses, environmental issue, green marketing etc. I searched Google for every article I could find about Zero Waste and Refill Shops opening across Europe and Australia. At some point I discovered that Vancouver was home to the Soap Dispensary and I started reading every interview or article featuring Linh Truong, the owner. I joined several on line Zero Waste groups and even started my own group on Facebook called Zero Waste Living Victoria BC when I couldn’t find anything local and started a group on meetup.com. I asked questions to the group members about what sort of non-food items they had the most difficulty finding package free to get a sense of what the best items would be to carry in the store.


How effective has social media been to promote your shop?

Social Media has been absolutely key in promoting my shop. It is the modern “word of mouth” in a word where people don’t get to see as many friends and relatives face to face as they did a generation ago. Before the shop was open I was able to connect with people on Facebook like Buddy and Barb of Zero Waste Canada and Paula and Nairn of The Burlap Shoe. Instagram has allowed me to connect with various Zero Waste bloggers and writers, some of whom have made a point of coming to visit my shop in person such as @_wastelandrebel_, @50shadesofgreentoronto, @mindfully.sustainable who have helped to grow my following when they have shared photos of the store. The small post by Victoria Buzz’s Facebook page got over 600 shares and drew the attention of CBC Radio and Check News who visited the shop to do interviews with me.


Were there any health code issues for dispensing products that you had to work through?

I am not licensed to sell anything in my shop as a food item. I specifically focus on bulk body care and home cleaning items and very openly explain to customers that the “raw components” I carry such as baking soda, citric acid power or dried rose petals, are not intended for consumption. Instead they are intended to be ingredients for do-it-yourself body care products like lotions or bath bombs.

Before I opened I contacted the Vancouver Island Health Authority and asked what sort of regulations I would need to follow and the people I spoke to were incredibly confused by what I was doing. Because of my very small space I do not have room for a three compartment sink or commercial dishwasher to sanitize the glass jars and scoops to meet food safe regulations.


Did you find any problem finding suppliers of products that could be sold in a refillable or bulk model?

No, not at all. Since I focused on Canadian made brands that use natural ingredients and themselves have strong environmental commitments, they have been very supportive of their products being sold in bulk. These companies understand that the ingredients and performance of their product is what they want to share with the world, not how pretty their single use plastic bottle is or how great their logo looks on it. As “small manufacturers” they understand it is in their own best interest to offer their products in bulk as it save their company the cost of the individual packaging and labour of filling each bottle, while reducing their own environmental impact.


What has been the response of the community to West Coast Refill?

I have only had positive comments so far! I get a lot of people who just happen to wander in telling me how beautiful my shop is and what a great idea it is and how refilling bottles “just makes sense” or that we should have refill shops everywhere. What really surprised me was how many people have made a point of actually thanking me for opening the shop!


Do most of your customers bring shopping bags and containers for refill?

People who come in specifically because they have heard of me before almost always have bottles or jars and reusable shopping bags with them. People who come in because they were walking by and my window caught their eye are not usually as prepared, but they will often buy one of the glass bottles I sell. I don’t make a point of asking people if they need a bag. The few who ask me for one are pretty much always American tourists. European tourists usually have a shoulder bag or some other bag with them. Locals living or working in the area usually tell me they don’t have far to go and don’t need a bag.


Many people have never shopped for products from dispensers; is there any information or changes in behaviour needed for shoppers?

The most difficult concept for people new to shopping in bulk is weight verse volume of liquids.  I often will get asked “how much will it cost to fill this bottle with XX?”. I will explain to them that liquids weight differently depending their thickness and ingredients. If I still get a blank stare I will suggest to them that I fill the bottle half way, put it on the scale and tell them what the price is and they can decide if they want to add more or not. I think we have been pre-conditioned to see a package on the shelf and the price being fixed, where as in bulk people need to get used to having to visualize how much of an item they will be getting and do a little mental math, and it can be intimidating for some.

The other question is “do you offer samples?” to which I reply, my focus is to eliminate single use packaging, so if you’d like to bring in a bottle I can add just a tiny amount for you to try or you can purchase enough for a few applications without being committed to a full bottle the way you might if you bought your shampoo or lotion at a drug store or salon. Bulk gives you a lot of options that pre-packaged purchases don’t.

So far what has been the most popular product you offer?

The Sapadilla dish soap and laundry soap are very popular, partly because they smell amazing and partly because they are super concentrated so a little goes a very long way and you really get your money’s worth. I was surprised at how excited people get to see the Witch Hazel in bulk and I have sold through quite a bit of it. The Abeego reusable food wraps are very popular with the tourists. I think they like the idea that it is made here in Victoria, it’s like a very functional and eco-friendly souvenir, and they don’t have to worry about carrying it on the plane they way they do with liquids.


A criticism that is sometimes heard of new “Zero Waste” stores is the amount or types of packaging from suppliers, how do you work with suppliers to reduce packaging or to make sure packaging is recyclable?

When possible, I will arrange to pick up items from the supplier myself, instead of having them shipped or couriered to avoid the excess boxes, tape and potential bubble wrap. Every once in a while my husband and I will go to Vancouver with our vehicle and hit up as many suppliers as we can in one trip. This saves the extra packaging and shipping costs of ordering from multiple locations and it allows us to return empty jugs and buckets to the manufacturers who are usually able to refill them again. For items that have to be shipped, I always ask the supplier to send them with as little plastic and packaging as possible. I’ve only had one place send something with styrofoam packing peanuts which I was able to take to the recycle depot and I wrote to them about it. The next order I received from that company used the type of packing peanuts that are made from potato starch and dissolve in hot water. Every box or bit of paper that comes into the shop gets reused, repurposed, and recycled as a last resort. In fact I now have neighbouring offices that will come and check with me to see if I have any boxes or extra packing paper they can use if they have to ship something out.


As a retail shop, how are you reducing waste from your establishment?

From the moment we first got the keys to the space we did our best to create as little waste as possible. The sales counter, the display table and benches that hold product were all built by my husband Chris out of reclaimed and salvaged wood. I bought things second-hand whenever possible, like our display case and cash drawer. The only thing bought new was the one wall shelf. There is no trash can in the shop. If I bring an apple or orange to work for lunch I take the core or peel back home to be composted. I use actual cloth towels in the restroom instead of paper towel and I keep a stack of cloths and tea towels in the shop for cleaning up any spills that may occur and just take them home to launder at the end of the week. We don’t print receipts at all to reduce paper consumption. Instead customers have their receipts sent to them by email. We even managed to set up the debt credit machine so that it only prints the merchant copy of the transaction receipt instead of one for the customer as well.

We have a large pickle jar that holds any trash I wasn’t able to recycle, such as the extra strip trimmed off the window lights, a few foam safety seals off jugs and other bits of plastic things I haven’t figured out how to recycle. So far it is less than two pounds of actual landfill trash in four months since we took over the space.


What are your dreams for West Coast Refill?

I have so many ideas of where I’d like to see this company go! I would love to have a larger space where I can host larger workshops or documentary nights, bring in different speakers on various sustainability topics, hold more product selection and possibly start carrying bulk food products. For me, having the business involved in the community is very important. I also had a thought that maybe several small locations throughout various communities would make it more convenient for people to shop this way on a regular basis. We have even discussed the viability of a home delivery service. It all depends on if we are successful enough in this tiny space hidden away in Dragon Alley to actually expand one way or another.


Do you think entrepreneurs can be leaders in the environmental movement?

Absolutely! I think we will see more positive momentum in the environmental movement the more we can prove that focusing on green energy, green products and sustainability is economically sound. Entrepreneurs are more often than not people who are willing to try doing things in a new or different way. If we are going to change society from supporting individually packaged, chemically laden, fossil fuelled products that have been mass produced by giant corporations where the bottom line is the only important factor, then we need more inventors, more small manufacturers and more diverse businesses to pave the way and prove it can be done and done successfully.


How do you think you can help to educate consumers to adopt a Zero Waste lifestyle?

I am hoping to educate consumers primarily by showing them how easy it actually is to live without waste and how much time and money they can save by not purchasing a product in a plastic container every time they run out of something. Daily conversations in the shop and outside of it, social media and print to keep driving home the point, networking in the community will all contribute to this as well. I will soon be hosting a few workshops in my little space, and if I am able, I will be hosting some speakers and workshops in other larger venues as well that will cover everything from composting to making your own beauty products to avoiding waste during holidays and celebrations.


What are the benefits to using products that you can buy at West Coast Refill?

Aside from the fact that the products we carry work really well, smell amazing and will save you money, there is a much wider ripple effect people don’t realize they contribute to by choosing to buy bulk from a local small business instead of supporting a large corporation that mass produces products and uses synthetic ingredients. Buying products made in Canada means jobs are being created in Canada, working conditions and labour laws are being met and the profits stay local as opposed to going into a corporate shareholder’s pocket in a different country. When a person chooses to use a biodegradable, plant based cleaning product or body care product they are choosing to support sustainable ingredients. By choosing to refill their own clean, empty bottles or containers, they are keeping that many single use plastic containers out of the landfill or the inefficient recycling system. It also means plastic packages doesn’t to be replaced with more newly produced plastic, which means more fossil fuels need to be extracted to produce it an so on and so on. The same is true if a person chooses to buy a reusable glass straw or beeswax food wrap from us as opposed to a single use plastic straw or plastic food wrap. It is the epitome of “vote with your dollar”.

Burlap Shoe stepping up to Zero Waste

Shops are popping up across Canada encouraging consumers to reduce packaging and changing the way we shop, The Burlap Shoe in Victoria is an example of the new model of environmentally conscious businesses.

Victoria couple, Paula Romogosa and Nairn Flucker have created The Burlap Shoe to help others reduce their environmental footprint. The Burlap Shoe is primarily an on-line business offering products to aid individuals to reduce packaging and live a more sustainable lifestyle.

Recently the Burlap Shoe also brought Bea Johnson to Victoria for two very successful speaking engagements.

Zero Waste Canada was honoured to visit with Paula and Nairn, to learn more about their business.

Burlap shoe 3

How did you come up with the name of your on-line business?

Paula and I needed to come up with something that represented an eco-friendly attitude. It all came together while we were hunting for good quality coffee beans that didn’t come in plastic packaging. We had visited some of the local coffee roasters and had seen the large burlap bags they import the green beans in. Burlap, is made from the Jute plant and is sustainable, compostable and biodegradable. Anything eco-friendly oriented is all about reducing consumption and impact on the planet. The Shoe represents the ecological footprint we leave in this world.

A Burlap Shoe would return to the earth if left to its own devices, leaving little to no impact on the earth.

When did you start your on-line Zero Waste shop, The Burlap Shoe and did you think it was a niche that needed to be filled?

The whole business simply snowballed quickly into itself. We have been operating the online business and resource page since April of this year. The very reason we felt passionate about sharing everything online grew out of our own frustrations of not having the resources available in town to successfully achieve a Zero Waste lifestyle. There are a couple stores that have some items, but don’t fit fully into our ethos. There were no true Zero Waste stores on Vancouver Island yet, we are so pleased to be the first. We knew we couldn’t simply provide products to people without giving them ways to start and places to go in the city, where they can go to shop Zero Waste. We feel very strongly about making this a collective community venture. The easier we can make Zero Waste, the more people will stick with it.

How were you able to connect with the Zero Waste community in Victoria?

This summer we started participating in the Sidney Night Markets and Saanich Farmers Market. The feedback and response from people has been overwhelmingly positive and encouraging.

The markets provided us with the opportunity to engage people one on one, and provide products and ideas that can make the transition into Zero Waste living simple.

Social media in this age, has a resource for everything. Victoria has several Facebook pages for Zero Waste minded people to gather and chat about ideas and solutions to refuse and reduce waste. Through the Zero Waste Victoria, Victoria Zero Waste Living, and The Burlap Shoe Facebook pages we are able to reach out and connect with the community. Despite our resilience against it, we both started hashtaging through Instagram to reach more people.

The Burlap Shoe website is more than an on-line shop. Much information on the Burlap Shoe website is community education and support for those wanting to learn how to make better choices.

Was it important for you as part of your business plan to offer this support?

When Paula and I first started, it was hard to find all the basic items and resources we needed to succeed. It took some time to find the tins for purchasing meat from the butcher, bamboo toothbrushes were hard to come by, and all the produce bags we saw were all made from polyester based materials. So when we launched the business, we wanted to ensure people were able to start and not get discouraged or overwhelmed while trying to shop Zero Waste.

By providing people with the resources, ideas, and products we made it convenient for people to get everything they needed to succeed all in one place.

We had seen a lot of people that had decided to do a one year Zero Waste challenge, but we didn’t see that as a positive enough change. We believe that this should be a lifestyle change not a temporary challenge.

On your website you have a list of businesses that that allow customers to bring their own containers, how has the response been from shops that you have approached?

The Zero Waste movement is still very underground here, but it’s growing fast.

While out shopping we have received mixed reviews, from praise to fear, from those on the other side of the counters. Through persistence we have managed to convince some business to allow Zero Waste shopping in their establishments. The businesses that already embrace Zero Waste policies are always receptive and happy to be included in our list of Zero Waste businesses around town.

We have found that in Victoria, most shops are already making small changes to reduce the amount of plastic waste produced.

Do you think that entrepreneurs can create positive environmental change?

We always say that the smallest ripples can have the largest effect. By encouraging and helping people make simple and small changes we believe we can generate a positive environmental change. It’s not about perfection either; it’s about making better choices. For every metal straw we sell, we perhaps save dozens of plastic straws from ever being used. This movement is growing and now that we have joined it, we are seeing more and more waste reduction and prevention efforts all around us.

Passionate leadership from a few entrepreneurs can inspire change in the community by empowering individuals to embark on their own Zero Waste project.

You describe your on-line company as a Zero Waste project, how do you envision this project growing.

We decided to call it a project simply because we knew it would be forever evolving. Everyone that has adopted a Zero Waste lifestyle, including us, needs to start small and allow the experience to grow as we learn and develop new ways of achieving Zero Waste goals. Nothing happens overnight, and the small changes we make today will fortify decisions we make tomorrow. We have designed the website to be community oriented, by requesting feedback and suggestions on where people have gone and found Zero Waste solutions. We have received many good suggestions from the community on new places to visit and shop. Due to the positive response and enthusiasm we have received thus far, it’s not too farfetched to say that we hope this will evolve into a store front location in the future.

How does your work in the marine environmental field influence your work creating The
Burlap Shoe?

The oceans are of vital importance to protect and both of our passions and livelihoods revolve around protection and education of the world’s oceans. It all seemed like a seamless fit.

One major consideration that Paula and I are were set on, when deciding the direction we wanted the company to move in, was ensuring that the majority of products we carry had to return to the earth once they reached the end of their lifecycle. Knowing that so much waste ends up in landfills and worse yet, the ocean, it was crucial that the products we supply be at the very least recyclable, or better yet biodegrade or compostable. We strive to bring local products, and the goods we use and sell are primarily bamboo, wool, unbleached cotton, and plant based materials.

We don’t want to bring in reusable items just simply for the sake of selling products; we want the products to be part of the solution, not part of the problem later down the line.

Plastic pollution, microfibers, toxic chemicals and the growing amount of marine litter are all having a significant impact on the health of our waters. As a marine biologist and Aquaculture technician did you see this impact in your work?

Unfortunately, pollution has become ubiquitous in our oceans, both locally and world wide. Our careers have brought us right into the oceans and we have seen what marine litter can do to wildlife. And at the same time, we know that the pollutants and microplastics in the water are entering our food chain and affecting our health in devastating ways. By creating awareness of these problems and offering simple lifestyle changes to reduce plastic pollution, we hope to create a positive impact on the environment and the way people respect it.

What do you recommend the average person do to reduce their impact?

It might sound extreme, but by removing your main garbage bin you become more aware of the things you throw away and start rethinking your purchases. You start analyzing your daily habits and become more creative as to how you go about your day. It really makes you conscious of what you consume.

Paula and I are also big fans of the “recycling is not the solution” philosophy that goes along with Zero Waste; everyone’s first step should be refusal. By simply not accepting waste, like straws, plastic utensils, and plastic bags, it reduces the demand for single-use disposable items and hopefully forces companies to reconsider the materials they are supplying to their customers.

Many people read the blogs of individuals collecting a year’s waste in a mason jar and they feel overwhelmed. What advice do you have for someone that may want make lifestyle changes to begin a Zero Waste lifestyle?

Start by making little changes. We believe a great place to start is with the big wasteful 4: plastic straws, plastic bags, take-away coffee cups, and plastic bottles. If you can eliminate the use of those from your life, you’re off to a roaring start. It is not about perfection, it’s about making better choices. There will be days that will feel like total failures, and others that are a total Zero Waste win. Reward yourself for the good days and learn and grow from the more trying days.

Reach out to the Zero Waste community, we are here to support each other.

What advice do you have for individuals in other communities who want to have Zero Waste shopping opportunities in their communities or the person who is nervous about asking their grocery store or butcher if they can bring their own containers?

Bulk is unexpectedly everywhere once you start looking for it. Get to know your neighbourhood and explore. Discovering all the new places to shop is part of the fun.

With anything new, practice makes perfect. Engage the person behind the counter, they are only people too. Make light of the situation, hand them your container and tell them you are trying to save the world. You will be surprised at their positive responses; most of them will be quite happy to accommodate your needs once they know you what are trying to accomplish. And after a while they will get to know you and will expect you to bring your reusable containers.

What products do you recommend to help people reduce waste?

Reusable grocery and produce bags are a big one. Many stores now offer cash back on your bill when you bring your own bags to the grocery store. Total win-win! We have been taught through habit that every single piece of produce needs to go into a thin plastic bag, but have you stopped to think if it is truly necessary? Place your apples, peppers, and tomatoes in loose they will be fine, promise. Refusal, is your best tool – simply don’t accept waste.

Purchase reusable cups, straws, and cutlery and have them with you always. Having these things with you is not a burden at all and it can greatly reduce the amount of waste you would create otherwise. Anything can become habit if it’s done consistently.

What plans do you have for the future?

Paula and I would like to continue encouraging and educating as many people about Zero Waste living as possible. We want to become even more involved in our community and its waste reduction strategies. We would like to be recognized as a community leader in the fight to eliminate waste in the Greater Victoria Area.

We will continue to pursue new ideas and products to make everyone’s Zero Waste journey a success.

The Burlap Shoe

ZWC notes: Bea Johnson gave inspiring presentations in both Sidney and Victoria to enthusiastic crowds, thanks to two Victoria area businesses making a difference – The Burlap Shoe and Pacifica Real Estate Inc.

Nairn tells us that he and Paula have plans to open up a Zero Waste Store with a butcher and local foods in the future. ZWC looks forward to sharing the continuing journey of The Burlap Shoe.

Bolt Across Canada : Time to Rethink

This summer we spent almost two months travelling across Canada with our Bolt Across Canada project showing it is possible even while on the move to incorporate Zero Waste actions, but also seeing some of the challenges we face in communities across Canada.

While travelling from coast to coast to coast, as we talked to hundreds of people, visiting both urban and rural communities one of the biggest outcomes of our Zero Waste journey was: We as individuals, businesses, governments and communities need to seriously focus on the first step of the Zero Waste hierarchy, RETHINK.

Rethinking is the first step in the Zero Waste Hierarchy, because only by rethinking current processes, policies, and actions, we can start to change. Rethinking means looking at current processes, policies, and actions, and finding ways to improve those systems to reduce waste.

As Canadians, we have attitudes, behaviours, systems, policies, and programs that are just not working. We have solutions that are not addressing the problem instead they are Band-Aids that temporarily mask the growing problem.

Climate change means we need to take serious actions. Results from reports like the Conference Board of Canada’s Environment 2016 ranking report or NASA’s climate change evidence show we need to be more effective.

Canada 14th among 16 peer countries when it comes to environmental performance, with only the United States and Australia doing worse.

Canadians generate about 720kg of waste per capita. Current global MSW (municipal solid waste) generation levels are approximately 1.3 billion tonnes per year, and are expected to increase to approximately 2.2 billion tonnes per year by 2025. This represents a significant increase in per capita waste generation rates, from 1.2 to 1.42 kg per person per day in the next fifteen years.

News stories continue to report illegal dumping, plastic pollution in our water systems, resource depletion, litter and an overload of stuff we don’t know what to do with.


In order to change, we need to RETHINK.


On the road while delighting in the incredible beauty of Canada, as we drove spotting fast food litter scattered on highways, communities challenged to deal with discards, communities experiencing food insecurity and economic declines, incinerators situated near food growing farm lands, and over-flowing garbage cans waiting to be whisked away somewhere, we had time do some thinking.

Here are 5 RETHINKS

1. The myth that individuals do not have power.

Individuals can make an impact, yet not everyone thinks they personally have power. Many people we talked did not believe that government will save us from climate change but they tended to look for someone else to volunteer rather than talk about what they could do.

Yet, we have met school children who have successfully lobbied local and federal government for policy change, individuals consciously adapting their lifestyles so they use less plastic, individuals organizing community members to stop incinerators and seniors starting community gardens.

We have seen the math if everyone stopped using straws and we have seen the evidence of single use coffee cups creating parallel trails along roadways.

2. Adapt to changes in how individuals generate waste.

The increasing changes in movement of individuals and eating and purchasing behaviour changes mean more products are consumed and discarded in transit. While communities may see changes in residential garbage totals and characteristics, the increasing amounts of streetscape garbage generated and litter is not being effectively

Systems need to be developed to capture these items by working with patterns of movement. It is time to require recycling, compost and waste collection systems that are readily accessible to people in transit. This may include drive-thru recycling depots on highways, and in parking facilities, reverse vending machines to capture coffee cups and beverage containers and fast food establishments financing systems to collect their product packaging.

3. The local message is not being received.

Numerous people we spoke with did not have accurate knowledge of recycling rules in their community. It was not that they did not have recycling information or that they were uninterested in the topic, instead they often seemed confused from “what they had heard”.

With news and information sources being from locations around the globe, in many cases, individuals assume what they have heard is – what is so in their communities.

Instead of generalizations, Zero Waste and waste reduction education must be specific to the community detailing opportunities and challenges. Zero Waste messaging must happen at a local level.

4. Big picture solutions are needed.

Often waste or discard management is isolated from other issues that affect our communities. We should no longer just consider managing waste but that we are conserving resources. Treating our discards as something to be removed is limiting local economic growth opportunities, reducing local resiliency and often kicking the problem down the road.

5. Addressing waste avoidance at source.

Our current systems are too often more about cleaning up the never-ending messes rather addressing the issues at the source.

While more and more communities recognize removing methane generating organics from landfills by composting, the issue of wasting food continues. Without addressing the causes of food waste in homes, transportation, farms and retail we continue to have a growing problem while we spend money to supply collection systems when we should not be discarding food.

Adopting highways and community clean up is an after the fact solution to the problem of litter. The people doing the clean-up are usually not the litterers. Litter has impacts on the environment; it would be better not to have it in the first place? We need to reduce the items being thrown away in this manner. Cleaning up plastic in the ocean and even recycling this ocean plastic does not stop the flow of plastic into the water. We need to identify the sources of the plastic and arrest the pollution.

The Zero Waste Hierarchy describes a progression of policies and strategies to support the Zero Waste system, from highest and best to lowest use of materials. We must start basing our actions on the first steps of the hierarchy. Doing better requires Rethinking.

The Brewing Problem of the “To Go” Coffee Cup

Coffee is the most common beverage after water for adults. Coffee is the most popular hot beverage and the number one food service beverage in Canada. 14 billion cups of coffee are consumed in Canada every year, and 35% of coffee is consumed “to go”.

Most of the “to go” coffee is being served in single-use cups. The impact of these cups causes wide-spread problems in both urban and rural communities. Disposable cups are becoming a major pollution hazard.

Disposable cups, lids and other coffee related products make up a significant amount of the items picked up annually in The Great Shoreline Cleanup Campaign

The City of Vancouver has recently directed staff to investigate potential regulatory options  to reduce the amount of coffee cup litter

A huge problem with “to go” is where the coffee cup is travelling and what we do with it when we no longer want it.

In British Columbia both foam and plastic coated paper coated coffee cups are recycled in a provincial EPR program for packaging ; this is a residential recycling program that brand owner’s like Tim Horton’s contribute to as a producer of packaging but the problem is the discarded cup does not travel to the consumer’s home to be placed in the recycling, instead it will be discarded when the coffee is either finished or not wanted anymore.

The average number of steps someone will carry garbage is twelve paces. Unfortunately many consumers are unwilling to carry the unwanted cup to find recycling, composting or disposal options. Providing these options on city streets, malls, beaches, highways, and parks has a cost.

Supplying composting or recycling options can only work if consumers use the service properly. A busy commuter may throw a coffee cup full of liquid into a recycling bin at an airport or train station into a recycling bin contaminating the newspapers and other products in the bin for recycling or a compostable coffee cup dropped on the ground at a park may look and smell like food to wildlife.

While all communities have “to go” options for take-out coffee not every community has options to deal with the discards. Vancouver, like other communities in Canada, actively promotes street food sales as part of the community plan but with this encouragement of this economic development the big picture costs of “to go” has not been anticipated. For many communities property taxes make the old style mom and pop coffee shop, where patrons sat over a cup of coffee, not financially viable.

Banning single-use coffee cups will impact many small businesses in communities and before doing this perhaps we need to look at alternatives.

In New Zealand a campus coffee shop is no longer selling coffee in single-use coffee cups instead the Eden Cafe is asking patrons to bring their own cups or take a ceramic cup to return. Their research showed that the majority of their patrons consumed the coffee 50 metres from the cafe. The cafe is also able to create drop off zones around the campus for the reusable ceramic cups.

Food vendors at Powell River Farmers Market also use ceramic cups that can be deposited at a washing station as do many zero waste events. Mobile dish mobilesmay be an answer to eliminating waste when the cups are remaining in the area.

Creating deposit systems for refundable bottles has been successful at diverting recyclable products into recycling systems. In Vancouver, the one day Coffee Cup Revolution organized by The Binners Project, gave a 5 cent refund for single-use coffee cups, 55,000 cups were collected in downtown Vancouver.

Bans, deposit systems, recycling programs, and product design are methods that governments and business can work with to resolve the problems created by single-use cups but the success of these changes depends on the consumer. Years ago when coffee marketers looking to expand the market share convinced consumers of the convenience and ease of abandoning the office coffee pot or the thermos for coffee anytime and anyplace consumers embraced the “to go” way of life. Now realizing the impact of disposable cups we as consumers will be the ones to really create change.

As consumers it is the decisions we make that will make a difference.

If we want to avoid creating waste and wasting resources we have to make conscious changes in our behaviours and increase our awareness of the products we use including all end of life issues.

Even adopting reusable containers, we must resist our impulse of acquiring and discarding instead we must, as consumers lead the way to reducing and reusing and making things last.

Perhaps it is time to slow down our lifestyles so we sit down with a cup of coffee in a reusable cup and talk about a sustainable future.

Zero Waste Canada: Quiet?

Hello everybody!

It may seem that Zero Waste Canada took a bit of a vacation this summer as our regular newsletter and blog posts were quiet for several months.

We have actually been very active.

So here is a news update:

Zero Waste Canada Executive Director

We are very pleased to have Connie Reicheldorfer join our team as Executive Director. Connie brings a passion for growing the Zero Waste message as well as an array of knowledge and skills as a marketing contractor who specializes in working with non-profits and socially responsible start-ups.

As a Vancouver-based entrepreneur operating Sunny Start-Up Marketing, Connie is a strong advocate of permission-based marketing. She is an active volunteer participating in local environmental events as well as being Zero Waste Canada’s Vancouver Chapter organizer. Connie also works with a number of global campaigns including Let’s Do It World.

We look forward to increasing the resources and information we can offer while nurturing the growth of the Zero Waste movement across Canada.

Zero Waste Canada Website - New Look

Our website has gone through a facelift /reorganization as we continue to develop a go-to-resource for individuals, businesses, non-profits and governments committing to real Zero Waste actions. We have also switched to a secured server to make your donations and contributions as secure as they can be.

Check out the changes at https://zerowastecanada.ca

Recognizing Young Activists

Sarah St-Jean (grade 9)
Sarah St-Jean (grade 9)

In Coquitlam BC, the École des Pionniers de Maillardville rolled out their first “Green Award” to reward a “green” project organized and carried out by students in their school. Sarah St-Jean leveraged the help of other students to create a flower garden in the front of the school to save bees. Sarah asked all classes to donate seeds of flowers or the flowers themselves to be planted in front of the school. The idea was to have a flower garden to save the bees. Students were encouraged to learn about the importance of bees in our eco-system.

Following this project all grade 3 students attended the Bee Museum in Pitt Meadows -in order to understand the challenges the bees are facing nowadays and the importance bees have on our food system.

Zero Waste Canada contributed a membership to honour Sarah for her positive actions that benefit both her school and the environment.

Members of Zero Waste Canada are working with their communities and local businesses to create a circular economy. An economy where materials are reused and recycled, where greener alternatives are the norm, not the exception, and where businesses work with the community, not only for the community.

By becoming a member of Zero Waste Canada, Sarah is becoming a role model for her peers. She has displayed exemplary environmental stewardship and we hope that many others will follow her on that path.

Zero Waste Canada would like to thank all students who participated. We highly appreciate that these students are concerned about our planet and all living beings on it.

Thank you, Sarah for being a Zero Waste actionist.

Bolt Across Canada

On July 1, two of Zero Waste Canada’s directors set out on an epic road trip across Canada to promote Zero Waste and zero emissions. As a grassroots organization advocating a world without waste, Zero Waste Canada decided to take our message on the road to reach Canadians in their own backyards.

Buddy Boyd and Barb Hetherington travelled over 17,690 km across Canada from Victoria, BC, to Quidi Vidi, NL, and back to Gibsons, BC.

Not only were they the first all-electric Chevy Bolt to drive across Canada proving that zero emissions travel is possible. They had an almost Zero Waste journey for nearly two months on the road travelling through the provinces and participating in numerous events. They also proved that you can have a Zero Waste lifestyle anywhere. On the road, they even composted all food scraps.

Even though the road trip has been completed, the journey of Bolt Across Canada to promote Zero Waste and zero emissions is just beginning. Check out Bolt Across Canada to learn about Buddy and Barb’s low impact road trip and what they learned.

As members of our outreach educational team, Buddy and Barb will be continuing to share the experiences and how-to tips of Bolt Across Canada to school groups, communities and the electric vehicle community.


With our #BreakFreeFromPlastic campaign, we are joining a global movement to create awareness for the growing plastic pollution and drawing attention to the problem these plastics create for our health and our environment.

An international group of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) is coming together to do something big. Our goal is to work together to stop plastic pollution.

We are trying to make this movement as big as possible, and we want you to join!

We share the common values of environmental protection and social justice, and these shared values guide our work in building the world in which we wish to live.

In North America alone, the average person uses more than 300 pounds (around 140 kg) of plastic per year. That’s the equivalent of a full-grown Pacific Harbor Seal. Join us:



Follow our campaigns

Did you know that in 2010, Canadians used an estimated 1.5 billion disposable coffee cups, equivalent to more than half a million trees? And the number of single-use disposable items is escalating?

Are you getting annoyed seeing the litter from these disposable products like coffee cups and straws everywhere?

Zero Waste Canada is actively educating individuals as well as companies that are responsible for the current create-use-dump mentality. Help us out by showing your support of the #DemandZeroWaste campaign.

Join us for an active year ahead!

Tips to Reduce Plastics

Say 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.

Plastic Facts

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.