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Hear from Lupii Café why Zero Waste is about much more than just waste…

Zero Waste Canada sits down with Lisa Papania of Lupii Café, a Zero Waste coffee shop located in Vancouver. Although born as a coffee shop meant to provide a living example of responsible business, simply referring to Lupii as a coffee shop would be misleading. Find out how Lupii Café epitomizes the phrase “Zero Waste is the journey more than the destination”.

When you walk in you quickly realize that this place is not quite the same. That this place is not quite comparable to the standard coffee shop vibe you may come across virtually anywhere else in North America. Once you are greeted by the owners, you quickly realize why. Lisa and Daniel Papania’s “bottom line” for their coffee shop is building community. Imagine that for a business model.


This is Lupii Café.

Located in the Champlain Heights neighborhood of Vancouver, Lupii has become a source of community interaction through Zero Waste. Owners Lisa and Daniel are both instructors at Simon Frasier University, running this initiative in their spare time. Whether it be via salvaging otherwise discarded food in order to host free community dinners and free Saturday produce giveaways, providing rigorously Zero Waste and vegan catering services, preparing produce boxes for delivery or educational programs and workshops, Lupii Café is first and foremost all about people, utilizing their space to offer opportunities for community interaction and the building of relationships.

When we come in to have a chat with Lisa, we are welcomed into a facility where everything in sight has been either revitalized after prior use from a previous owner, or creatively repurposed to perform a different function than originally intended. All of Lupii’s equipment are not only re-usable, but themselves re-used or second hand.

Our conversation with Lisa begins by her going through her story and how this café came to be.


The Back Story To The Birth Of Lupii

“So for the last 20 or so years I have been involved in higher education, specifically around social responsibility and what business actually is and does. It seemed to me when I was doing my MBA that there was a lack of responsibility. There was a whole bunch of people who were going into organizations and it was the mentality more generally that as soon as people were hidden behind some organization or some other name, they acted like they didn’t have any say, or input, or responsibility for any of the actions that were taking place within the organization.

So I try to teach my students how to go and be better. And lots of things happened.
The first one is that over time, the more I was telling them this, the more frustrated they would become because they would say ‘you are asking us to do this but there are no models. I look out in the world and there’s nothing for us to see that this is how or why it should be done’. All of these companies that we depict as brilliant, these are the pinnacle of successes, of the people that we look to, and so you are asking us to do these things but that goes against what we are understanding to be the make-up of success.

The second thing is I teach my students how to create products, but it’s really difficult for them to start stuff.

Here in BC we once had a matching fund, that when you wanted to start an entrepreneur enterprise the local government would give you a certain amount of money to get you on your feet. This is no longer the case and as soon as they did that the banks said ‘we’re not getting involved anymore with this either’. And so they suddenly made these huge barriers for anybody to actually start anything. And the consequences of not investing anything in entrepreneurs are that we don’t value entrepreneurship. We don’t value the idea of actually solving any problems. We look to past successes, and they are not actually successes. They are just models that we understand and we emulate.

So if you try to say I want to do a better coffee shop, they say ok well how’s it going to look like? Well ok Starbucks. It has to look exactly like Starbucks. If it doesn’t look like Starbucks we don’t know what it is and we can’t fund you.

And if it looks like Starbucks we have a model and can figure out how much money you are going to be making, in what timeframe and can assess so on and so forth…

So my students who were going out there and saying ok well I can come up with an idea, were finding it terrifyingly difficult to be able to find a place to start, they were just finding barrier after barrier after barrier. And so it became increasingly urgent to me that when the opportunity presented itself to create something that was the example that I wanted my students to emulate, that I needed to take that chance.

And so when this space became available for the first time in 30 years, my only thought was, if we don’t do something, it’s going to become another store like everywhere else in the world and I can’t let that happen. I keep telling my students that we have to do something, that we have to be involved. And I don’t really know what it’s gonna be but we don’t really have a coffee shop in this area. So I phoned Daniel and said ‘do you want to run a coffee shop?’ And I was really hoping he’d say ‘no that’s ridiculous’. But he didn’t.

So this was a place where I figured I could let my students set-up their shops, where I could get a leg up. When we started the retail space I said you can have the space for free if you want to try out running a retail store. The other thing was that I actually wanted there to be better business. I wanted to be invested in my community. I wanted to be that organization.”

Lupii Cafe

The Lupii Experience

Lisa proceeds to go through the make up of her store. As she goes through every item, what stands out is that there is a story to be told behind each and every one of them.

The bar counter, shelves and condiment stand are designed specifically for Lupii with plywood recovered from a North Shore store, after the re-outfitting of their site. The legs of all their coffee shop tables collected and repurposed from a steel recycling plant. Chairs, tables and work counters made from the discarded basketball gymnasium floor of a local school on Commercial Drive. The characteristic overhead lights made directly by Lisa using hemp string and a second hand yoga ball. The ventilation system above itself made of piping that her husband Daniel reclaimed. The remaining furniture either donated or passed along from the Papania family after 20 years in their possession. The water heater exterior, previously a cabinet in a hundred year old house on the West End. The curtain in the back of the shop (meant to provide a quieter working area) with drapes originally from a banner of the 2011 Women’s Soccer World Cup. The storage compartment in the back of the shop with shelves made from painted wooden pallets (a particular item otherwise destined for landfill in Vancouver). Re-usable milk crates from a dairy farm no longer in need of them, utilized to transport items to and from all catering events run by Lupii. The trolley utilized by Lupii for catering and Saturday community produce giveaway, itself made from discarded wooden slates and wheels claimed from a customer of Lupii working in a local hospital, where they found no more use for them. The towels in Lupii’s washroom are made by Lisa’s sister using swimming towels, most of which were Lisa’s daughter’s from when she would go swimming as a child. Lupii’s original set of napkins were made with curtains of pure cotton that Lisa brought with her from South Africa where she is originally from. While close to 100 meters of fabric “that was being ditched by one of the most famous athletic brands in Vancouver” was used to make “cozies” that could be wrapped around their containers as an alternative to the standard cardboard sleeve offered in coffee shops across North America

All items purchased are purchased in bulk and stored in airtight re-usable olive containers. All the way down to cups, cutlery and plates, none of which you will find resemble that of the person sitting next to you. All of them themselves with their own story. Everything was once something or somewhere else.

Everything was previously loved” as Lisa more eloquently puts it.
But Lisa makes the point of clarifying how “we don’t just go ‘ok how do we take this for free’. It was about ‘how do we showcase how amazingly valuable this is’”.



“So everything that we have here was something else before. Not because it’s cheap. It’s much more expensive to get wasted products and when we get something that somebody else is throwing away (we don’t get anything unless it is being thrown away), we get stuff that keeps being taken off the shelf because they keep getting more and more and more. So when we buy, we get that stuff which is not perfect. So we pay potentially less for it at the point of sale, but then I have to invest 4, 5, 10 times more in terms of resources to actually get this stuff ready to be able to be sold. So I’m paying maybe 5/6 times what other people are paying just because I’m putting it back into a system that can then be consumed. So waste is not cheaper and what I’m wanting to show to people is that the waste is valuable, the waste is actually much more valuable than they thought it was to start off with.”

But as Lisa herself puts it, Zero Waste is about much more than just the numbers, the three R’s, diversion rates and reduction figures. “It’s not just about ‘not having the plastic’. It’s about understanding the impact of everything that we are doing”. It is about much more than just waste.


What Lupii Means By ‘Zero Waste’

What Lupii means by Zero Waste is once again best explained via a story, the stories of how Lupii purchases.

“Obviously there’s lots of things that we can improve. I’m not for half a second suggesting that what we do is brilliant and great. Everything is as green as it can be but that doesn’t mean that it’s good. It doesn’t mean that it’s right. It doesn’t mean that we’re done. So Zero Waste doesn’t mean ‘oh now we’ve reached the point where we don’t have any waste within our system.’ Like ok that was actually easy. That was a bit of a no-brainer.

The Zero Waste comes in when we have, so for example one of the first things that we did because all of our stuff is used, so we got a dishwasher of which I think there are maybe two in all of Vancouver. So Daniel went to pick it up from whichever sports club and we didn’t quite know how to work it and so we phoned the one guy who knew how to work it because it’s just not something many people know what to do with. He came and helped Daniel install it and this guy was starting to provide us with the dishwasher fluid. And so the third time the guy came back to give us new dishwasher fluid, I said to him ‘can you please take back and re-use your container?’. He said ‘I’m not taking this!’ and he stormed out and left all his stuff.

Daniel was furious with me. He’s like ‘how are we going to get dishwasher fluid? There’s only one guy!’. And I was like ‘but this is the Zero Waste to me’. If this guy is going to come in and say ‘I’ve made this industrial plastic and I am not responsible for it, and you can just accumulate all of this stuff and I don’t care’, then that goes against what we stand for. So that’s Zero Waste. Zero Waste is every single decision that we make, it is how do we make that decision better. And ya Daniel was serious but then three calls later we found another supplier and it wasn’t that devastating.

And I believe that is one of the big things that we try and explain to people is that we have all of these mental barriers about ‘how we can’t’ and ‘why we can’t’. The first manager we hired to work with us. His first job was to go all around Vancouver and find the people that we want to do business with. Who are the people that have the kinds of goods that we want to be able to access, who are these that have good practices or are actually willing to change their practices?
And so when I was asking him to go out and find out from people how they would want to interact with us, they’d go ‘well we don’t do that’. And so he was going ‘we just can’t do this’. And I’m like no no. That’s not the answer, the answer is not that we are not going to do it, the answer is that we need to find other people that we can do business with.

And so we ended up going out to Chilliwack and further afield to people who were actually willing to work with us in terms of zero packaging and making sure that they would reduce the amount of waste that they were producing so we could get transparency through the supply chain and we would make it so that people were being compensated properly for not putting effluent into the water and so on.

So there were people that we could find to work with us but it was a matter of actually going out there and saying not ‘oh this is the easiest way to do it’ but ‘what is the way that we want to be able to do it’. And if you’re not finding an answer it’s because you haven’t looked for it. That’s how we purchase. If you can’t tell us where your stuff is from then we can’t buy it from you.

And we started off only vegetarian because I trusted the systems that I thought were in place until I actually started looking into it. So you hear what’s going on in Chilliwack where for one the cows are being mistreated. But in order to be able to produce enough money for these guys to keep in business, and they get paid for what they supply right, they don’t get paid for what is sold. So these guys are milking every single cow, just so they can get paid per liter of what they supply. And they can’t sell the amount of milk that we’re actually producing in BC, so they flush it down the drain. Because they are paid not for sales to us, they get paid for sales to the milk marketing board. And so every time we were buying milk we were encouraging that. I’m like ‘I can’t participate in that’. Yes it’s ethics and how much carbon and methane is being put into the atmosphere as a result of cows and so on. But every time I buy from that system I am contributing to this enormous amount of waste.

So it was going through every single purchasing decision that we were going to make. What does this encourage? What does this allow? What does this require in the system? How am I perpetuating it and how do I stop it?

So you know, that’s Zero Waste. Zero Waste is not a set of practices, Zero Waste is not ‘oh ok we turn our lights off when we are not using them, we try to re-capture what we can, we don’t have compostables’ and so on. Zero Waste is a matter of what is my impact? What is my weight in this? What is the consequence of me making this purchasing decision? Not even on ‘my impact’, but what does this encourage in the system? What does this allow? What does this make someone think that I am allowing him or requiring him to do in the future? And so understanding that we have an obligation every single time we do anything.

And that if we can’t support a system it is up to us, not somebody else, to change behavior. We have to be the people that are involved in the change. And then we support all of the other people that we feel are already doing that. And there are more and more. But you have to go out of your way to find them and that’s ok. But to be complicit, it doesn’t change anything. To go ‘oh ok well I am aware of that. Now that I’m aware of it it’s ok’. You know, if you’re aware of it then you are aware that you can change. So that’s why we do what we do.”


Lupii On Zero Waste As A Movement

“At the moment, what is happening from an economic perspective, is that as soon you go out in the market and say to somebody, ‘I want your stuff and it needs to be the cheapest in the market’. The only way to do everything as cheaply as possible is to make sure that all of your inputs are as cheap as possible. So you don’t filter your water. You use the worst chemicals that are possible. You fertilize and use pesticides without any kind of understanding of the toxins that are involved. And the most important thing is that you don’t pay. It’s really very important for people to understand that as soon as you ask for things at the cheapest cost, one of the biggest costs of that is people. People are then asked to work longer, work more and you pay them less.

So when we say Zero Waste we’re not talking about ‘oh eliminating plastic ’. What we are saying is ‘what are we doing every time we ask for something at the lowest price?’ What is the price that we are requiring in the system in order to enable you to have that? What are we demanding of the planet? What are we demanding of people? What are we doing to poorer nations?

Zero Waste is about us saying ‘what is the consequence of me buying this thing?’. And if I’m doing something that is at the end of the day making all of this suffering and all of this waste all the way down the line then how do I stop? That’s what Zero Waste is.

Resources have value. The water, the land that went it to them. You put human labor into it and we have this thing that is now our finished product that is at the pinnacle of its value. As soon as you sell that thing the value either goes to zero or it just drops. You keep the value constant if you continue to use it.

And there is now this movement to upcycle, but very rarely do we actually take something and say ‘ok this was good wood, we can use this and make something more valuable’. At the moment we are putting as few resources as we possibly can to make really really crap stuff. So if there was no value inherent in it to start off with then why is anyone going to put more value in it to make it more valuable after product purchase? So we have this incessant cycle. Even recycling is not a thing to a large extent. Most of the plastic we create in the world is actually not put back into plastic. The best we can hope for is downcycling, taking something and making something that has a lesser value. So taking a t-shirt that you pay $10 for and now making it into a grocery bag that you actually would pay a buck for.

But we actually re-use 93% of all bottles that were ever produced by the Canadian Beverage Association. They are actually kept in play, not broken down, not recycled, not constituted back into bottles, they are just washed and re-used. 93%. And so that’s really what we want. We want to keep things in play, those things never lose any value we just need to keep them in play.

We’ve actually lost what it means to provide value. We’ve entered into an era at the moment where everybody has so much and we need nothing. But the accumulation of stuff in it of itself has become valuable, it has become a basic status symbol. So we say we are Zero Waste, but what that means is we actually have to acknowledge our role in the system and be able to explain to other people what their role is in the system, and that’s been a hugely challenging journey over the last three years.”


How Lupii Builds Community Through Zero Waste

As we continue to speak with Lisa, as we continue to learn about Lupii’s experience, by simply interacting with this facility, it is increasingly evident how Zero Waste is about so much more than just waste reduction.

To simply run through the items in her store and tell the story of where they came from, our conversation with Lisa touched upon her origins in South Africa to her 20 years in higher education. We learnt that Lisa has a sister, a daughter and a husband as equally committed to the cause. We have gone from a local school, hospital and sports club, down to large retailers to reclaim materials which otherwise would have indeed been wasted. Our conversation runs from the fundamentals of business, the market, of supply and demand, passes through modern environmentalism and social justice, all the way down to our relationship with our neighbors, our behaviors, our values and sense of worth as individuals within our communities. The word that comes up most often as Lisa runs through each item is “reused” or “reclaimed”. Not once did we hear the terms “recyclable” or “compostable”. Lupii Café very simply follows the logic of the Zero Waste Hierarchy, focusing on reduction by continuously re-thinking their daily purchasing choices. Every single decision respects this logic.

Perhaps most importantly, we learn about Lisa’s knowledge of, and relationship with her customers that we feel comfortable saying is unlike that of North America’s typical coffee shop. We are not aware of many coffee shops who know but one single thing about their customers other than what latte they would like. We are not aware of many coffee shops who have customers come in and donate items, furniture, or fabric for the benefit of the store. We are not aware of many coffee shops that have these relationships with other sectors and are presented with these opportunities to add value to their business.

Lupii’s model is itself a choice deeply rooted in community-based concerns. The space now occupied by Lupii previously was run by a man named Alan Wong, owner of a video store.

“This is just a walkable residential neighborhood, there are kids and families all over this place, yet this was a bit of a dodgy strip mall. But this video store was the safe space in Champlain Heights. Alan who managed the video store, he knew everybody. He knew their phone numbers, he knew their email addresses, he knew which movies they’d seen, he knew everything about them! He was the one place, he was the one person that if your child was here you knew they were known. You knew they were safe.

And when this place went up for sale and they closed the video store I said we can’t lose that. It’s going to become something like that where you’re anonymous, where something illegal or dangerous is going to be done for our youth and I can’t live in a community where this happens.”

One of the many initiatives of Lupii Café is that of offering free community dinners at their facility, where the community can come together over a warm, rigorously vegan and Zero Waste meal, to be shared in the company of their neighbors.

“Our model has changed over the years. We started out with the idea that we were going to do a better coffee shop, where we didn’t have any waste, where the responsibility was on us so that there couldn’t be waste outside. And the other was how do we actually get people to sit down and actually start talking to each other?

So we started doing community dinners because I still and will always believe, that we are trying to fix the planet and trying to fix sustainability, but people don’t care about sustainability. They don’t care about what is going to happen in a hundred years time. They don’t care about what’s happening right now in Puerto Rico. They don’t care about all of those things and they especially don’t care when they feel like every day is a struggle for them to be able to survive, for them to be able to do anything. They care about Puerto Rico but nobody seems to be caring about them.

So if we want people to care about their neighbors and then ultimately Puerto Rico, and then ultimately a hundred years from now, they have to be cared about. So our community dinners started before we even opened the café. We’re about getting people to know each other because if they felt that they were known, if they felt that somebody was caring about them, then suddenly those things, and it might not be explicit and it definitely wouldn’t be immediate, but those associations would eventually be triggered.


Why Lupii Abandoned The “On-The-Go” Option

“Then we saw in the first 8 months as a café just shocking behaviors. How convenience is understanding that we need things on the go, for the lowest price and how that allows us or entitles us to act as human beings. What that encourages. And so this goes back to what we were saying about every time we buy at the lowest price and what we encourage down the line. So every time we allow people to come in and go quickly, I mean if you appreciate something, if you value something, you’ll take the time.

People would walk in often and say ‘what’s the quickest thing?’. And we’d go like ‘Nothing. Nothing is quick you need to actually sit down’. And we had to do the coffee shop model in order to be able to understand that that is actually how we act in this convenience-oriented society. What’s going on with Mc Donald’s and Starbucks where you can order online and never talk to people? The devastation that it is wreaking on how we are as human beings we won’t feel for generations. But that where we go no human being is worth my time to actually interact with? It’s devastating. How do we expect to have any kind of impact on our environment when we actually don’t care about saying a decent word to another human being? It’s horrifying.

And so we said again so how do we change our model? And so now we do the weekly community dinners, where I’m doing this for the explicit reason of people saying hello to people in their neighborhood. To say this is who I am, this is who you are, so we start just being decent.

Then on Saturday’s we give the produce away for free. We are taking stuff that other people were going to put into the waste stream and we are showing the value of it but also showing people that we care about them and more than anything else, having people understanding what waste looks like. I know that the whole judgment of ‘if it’s free then there is no value associated with it’, but they’ll stand out here and they’ll basically queue the whole day so there is value.

Lupii are also invited to do educational programs for schools and at conferences in addition to catering services.

“We do catering where food that other people thought was not good, we showed there is actually huge value in. I insist that it has to be Zero Waste and it has to be vegan. So any time I cater I am insistent that there is no waste, and that there are no animal products because of all the waste inherent in that system. So if you’re committed to doing this, if you’re committed to doing Zero Waste we can either bring our own cutlery and stuff and take it back and clean it, or you can tell your participants to bring their own.”

Lupii also hosts workshops (such as luna pad workshops for women or re-usable diaper workshops) and clothing swaps for the benefit of their wider community.

“So those are the things that we do now. And that will change.”


There Is No End

“One of the most encouraging things is to hear from people who are already doing this and then you realize you are not talking a different language. And you are all talking about different things, but if you all talk together, then you start to have this coherent story. So I don’t know where we’ll fit because I don’t know what we’ll be doing in 6 months time. It depends on where those people need us, where we feel there are gaps and we can evolve.

But every week is a new thing, every week there is something we didn’t realize. When we do stuff we look at the impact that this is having on how people would take things for granted or even how we were impacting the world in a potentially negative way. And this is human nature. When you even just suggest, simply by existing, that maybe the things around you are not the way that is optimal for everybody else, people respond negatively, they rebel. They double down and they get angry, they do it more, and so some of the things that are happening around here are kind of responses to that. And so you go ok does that mean that I do less of this? Or do I be louder? I don’t know. I don’t have answers to those things. It never ends and there’s no answer.”

But that is Zero Waste. That is sustainability. Continuously striving for improvement. A continuous evaluation of how to do better and ultimately be more than just “sustainable”.

“Capable of being sustained”. That is the definition of the word “sustainable”. In an era where the very notion of sustainability is often come across with delusion, Zero Waste, with arguably the boldest of any objective, continues to grow as a movement precisely because of this ongoing pursuit for improvement, precisely because the goal of Zero Waste ultimately goes beyond the belief that the best we can aspire for is just being “tolerable” in our impact. Zero Waste is not about the “zero”. Zero Waste is about the journey more than the destination.

We hope that through our conversation with Lupii you have had the opportunity to see this, and to see how Zero Waste is ultimately, fundamentally about so much more than just waste.


Join Lupii Café to see for yourself

Learn more about Lupii Café.
Learn more about Zero Waste Canada.
Join Zero Waste Canada either as an individual, or as a public or private organization.

Spoiled Sew Rotten – Reusable Menstrual Pads

Approximately 20 pads/tampons per month, equating to 240 per year which over the average lifespan of a menstruating female (approximately 40 years worth of periods) gives us the grand total of 9,600 feminine hygiene products used during one woman’s lifetime.

Switching to reusable menstrual or incontinence pads is another action that reduces disposable products filling up our landfills.

This week, we learn about Melissa Pardoe of Spoiled Sew Rotten from Bracebridge Ontario, who took a love for sewing and a passion to make a difference and decided to make reusable pads.

Can you tell us about the products Spoiled Sew Rotten offer?

Spoiled Sew Rotten provides women with reusable cloth menstrual pads and the laundry/storage bags needed to use them. Each pad provides a specific amount of absorbency and features a water resistant fabric backing. If the right absorbency is chosen for the woman’s needs at that time, there should be no leaks to worry about, all while decreasing the amount of sanitary products in landfills.


How do you sell your Spoiled Sew Rotten cloth pads?

A few months ago I decided to start making and selling cloth pads, since I had had success sewing them up for myself for a month.  At first I was unsure which platform was the best to suit my needs, since I know cloth pads are not widely used or even known to most women. I eventually settled on Etsy, figuring that since they are all hand made by myself, it would work best. You can find my shop at www.etsy.com/ca/shop/SpoiledSewRotten. I have sold some to colleagues at work and continue to offer information to anyone who asks about them. I also plan to sell them at craft shows and other vendor events to spread the word locally. Many women need to hear about and discover cloth pads many times before deciding to try them for themselves. I also have a Facebook page where I explain cloth pads, link articles, post demo pictures and promote sales and pads that are in the shop. I love having the ability to interact with the women who are interested in trying cloth pads or have bought some and let me know how well they work for them.


What are the benefits of using Etsy to sell products?

I think there are many benefits to selling products using Etsy. First, I’m able to sell to people all over the world. I really love this fact, that I’m helping women in so many countries to be more environmentally conscious. Also, I can reach a lot more women who are looking for hand made products.  People who search on Etsy either know exactly what they want and will hopefully find my product, or will stumble upon it and learn out of curiosity. Etsy also gets rid of overhead costs from a brick and mortar shop so I can keep my prices lower.



Do you find a growing interest in using products that can be reused?

I definitely see a growing number of people becoming interested in reusable products. People are using beeswax wrappers instead of cellophane, bamboo toothbrushes, refillable container grocery stores and of course more and more women are becoming curious about cloth pads and using them. There’s a period of adjustment sometimes with these products: hesitation, curiosity, research and finally use. Society has become so used to things being easy, quick and disposable that in order to switch to reusable products, even at a small level, it takes some adjusting. I remember when I mentioned my products to a work colleague and her response was “that’s a thing?” and looked horrified. My hope is to educate friends, family and the general community about the fact the an alternative to disposable sanitary pads is out there. I have already sold pads to a few friends who discovered it was for them.


Melissa, why did you decide to start Spoiled Sew Rotten?

I’ve really developed a passion for this small company and each product I make. It all started with health problems. I developed menstrual symptoms that I now have a diagnosis for which caused me to use many disposable products, much more than a typical woman does.  Since I had already cloth diapered my daughter, I knew there were more eco friendly options out there and just thinking about the amount of trash I alone was creating started to sicken me. I decided to try looking on Etsy, since the larger cloth pad companies’ products were a bit pricey for me. I ended up looking around at many companies’ shops since almost every maker has a different design and ended up ordering from a shop in Edmonton. After using them for two months I was hooked and decided to make my own. I was already a decent seamstress so I was able to make them easily and found that I really enjoyed the whole process. It was then that I decided to sell them myself, and Spoiled Sew Rotten began.


Tell us about yourself?

I’m a busy mom and part time nurse, although I’ve always made time to sew up different things. I find myself trying to decrease the amount of waste me and my family creates. It began with not wanting to buy boat loads of diapers for my second child and have them end up in landfills. Cloth diapers then led to cloth training underwear which became the doorway to cloth pads. Sometimes by making a small change in your life, it slowly spreads and grows into other areas. You get exposed to other ways you can change your life for the better. Sometimes, as in my case, changing your own lifestyle gives you an opportunity to change others’ as well. I absolutely love helping other people and am growing more passionate about spreading the word on cloth pads.


What are the benefits of using cloth pads?

I would say there are four main benefits to using reusable pads. First, the money saving factor. I averaged out the cost of one cycle and then multiplied it to span five years, since most cloth pads last at least this long if properly cared for. I then priced out an average “stash” a woman might acquire and reuse during this time. I discovered there was a savings of $700! And that was just a conservative guess. If someone used more disposables than I supposed, but was able to wash and reuse the pads to make up for it, they would save more. Also, there are Facebook groups where you can sell used pads, if they are in good condition. The second benefit is that many women find that when they switch to cloth pads, their flow reduces noticeably. Some women chalk this up to not being able to tell as easily how much is being absorbed into the pad, while others claim disposables have certain chemicals that promote bleeding in order to get more sales. I am not saying either are true, only that many of the women I have talked with on Facebook (myself included) have found this to be the case. Third, cloth pads breathe a lot more than the disposables which is great for sensitive skin; they also don’t “crinkle” or stick to sensitive areas. Cloth pads usually are held in place with plastic snaps that fasten around the underwear, much like a disposable does. Finally, one cloth pad if used for five years in a rotation of other cloth pads would replace approximately 120 disposable products. Considering 20-30 pads is not uncommon for a woman to have, that’s a lot of trash avoided.


Some people may think there is a “yuck factor” for using reusable pads. Do you have any tips for changing pads on the go? How do you carry soiled pads?

There is definitely a yuck factor involved with these products. I am always very sensitive to this when I write on my Facebook page about information regarding pads. Some women don’t like talking or reading about it, some women are very open and don’t mind talking about it publicly. I provide gentle information, but if someone is not comfortable with the act of cleaning a pad, they will never be able to fully embrace this reusable product. It’s as easy as cleaning a leak on underwear, sometimes easier. Every woman will have a different way of doing things depending on her lifestyle and personal flow trends. Personally, the use of a wet/dry bag is very handy on the go. These are special bags that use a very water resistant fabric called PUL (polyurethane laminate) to hold damp pads that have been soiled or rinsed. One pocket is zippered and used to hold clean pads, the other zippered pocket holds the wet or dirty ones. Personally I find that rinsing them out as soon as possible helps to keep away stains and odour. Upon arriving home, you can add them to a larger wet bag until washing day. I usually advise my customers to wash soiled pads within 2-3 days of soiling, to extend the life of the pads. Wet fabric tends to deteriorate slowly over time.


Alternately, if you don’t have access to a sink or clean water at the time of changing the pad, you can wipe it with toilet paper, fold it up and store it in a “wet bag”.

Are there any special laundry or care instructions with your pads? How do you recommend washing the pads?
The best thing you can do for pads is to rinse as soon as possible in cold water or some women choose to soak them for a few hours to lift the stain. I promote the use of a stain stick like Buncha Farmer’s to erase the stain quickly and easily. Whatever you use, whether it is a stain stick or detergent later in the wash, it must be low residue and as free from fragrance and dyes as possible. Either a smaller amount of detergent or an extra rinse cycle will benefit greatly. Residue buildup can decrease a pads absorbency effectiveness and will result in the pad’s needing to be “stripped” which basically means soaking the pads with washing soda and is a natural chemical process to get rid of built up oil, detergent and other barriers to absorbency that accumulate over time. In fact, even though I use new fabric and wash once before sewing, I advise my customers that a few washes may be needed before pads are at their most absorbent and softest. Pads can easily be thrown in the dryer with other laundry loads, although no fabric softeners or dryer sheets, as they drastically decrease the ability to absorb. Letting damp pads dry in direct sunlight helps to get rid of stains.


Are there different designs for different menstrual flows?

It’s amazing how many different pad designs there are, and yes, even for different flows. There are pads for front bleeders that have a larger area in the front, back bleeders have a larger flared area in the rear and some are flared in both areas. There are different shapes including oval, rectangular and even novelty shapes like cats and Christmas trees. It’s up to the shop owner which designs to offer, and there are so many I doubt any shop has all of them! I currently sell rounded pads that closely resemble disposables, and also a longer version called the Titan which I bought from a pattern designer that features a larger flare at the back. There are also different lengths from 5 inches up to 23 or more inches! I have chosen to make 7 inches up to 15.5 inches.


What materials do you use to make pads?

To answer this question, I have to explain the three layers of a cloth pad. The fabric that touches the skin is called the topper, and is usually cotton, jersey, flannel, minky or velour. The fabric depends on the individual, some women find certain ones to be too hot or others to absorb quicker or clean easier. There are also a variety of prints you can get, from dogs to zombies and Mickey Mouse to Marilyn Monroe. The layer that touches the underwear is called the backing fabric. This is usually fleece, microfleece (which is thinner), flannel or sometimes a fabric bonded to PUL for added peace of mind. PUL is sometimes what cloth sandwich baggies are made of, for people that need a visual reference. It’s very thin and when bonded to a fabric it becomes a hidden layer inside the pad to keep moisture inside.  The inner layer is called the core and the options in here are endless: cotton, flannel, cotton quilt batting, bamboo, bamboo quilt batting, Zorb (a fabric made from “tangled cellulose fibers from bamboo, cotton, viscose and poly micro fiber,” as stated on their website), cotton, microfibre, old t-shirts…basically anything that absorbs well and isn’t extremely thick. I currently use either cotton batting, cotton/bamboo batting or Zorb, depending on what absorbency I’m sewing up. Then there are the plastic snaps that allow the wings to wrap around the underwear and stay in place. These are just simple snaps used in everyday items. Some people think that because they are cloth, it means they’ll be bulky or uncomfortable, but they are surprisingly comfortable and some are quite thin and trim.


How many cloth pads would an average woman need?

This depends on her individual flow and how many times she chose to change her pad in a given day. Some women change at the slightest damp feeling while others are ok leaving the same one on for 3-4 hours or more. Since they are fabric, they could be left unchanged for a whole 12 hours if the flow was very light or simply there just as back up. I would say a typical woman might need 5 light flow, 6 regular flow, 7 heavy flow and four overnight flow pads as a minimum, but again it depends on her body and preferences. Also, if you can’t do the laundry too often, you would need more pads than other women. The more pads you have, the less each pad would be used in each cycle and the longer it would last. I hope I’ve done a good job explaining and providing information on cloth pads. There is a lot more information out there and I encourage any women who are curious to visit my Facebook page, Etsy shop or send me a message from either of them, cheers!

Note: Sew Spoiled Rotten also make incontinence pads

Island Java Bags, creating bags from another company’s discards

This week, Zero Waste Canada is pleased to talk with Jackie Kitzler, a “kitchen table” entrepreneur from Cowichan Valley British Columbia, about her small business, Island Java Bags. Island Java Bags is a wonderful example on how businesses can reduce waste and prosper by exchanging materials.

Small businesses can have a real positive impact on their community. Last year Jackie’s business kept 2,190 kg burlap coffee bean bags, 780 (19.5kg) foil coffee bags, 521 (240kg) retired zip line harnesses,140 malt bags and 120 (67kg) of used jeans from going to a landfill by repurposing them into new products.

Can you tell us about kind of products your business creates?

My company produce mainly bags and accessories. The full list is : purses, totes, messenger bags, 3/4 messenger bags, large bags, backpacks, coin purses, french press cozies, forever coffee sleeves, growler carriers (both coffee burlap and malt bag), foil market bags, burlap grocery bags, retired banner grocery bags, wine carriers as well as coffee soap (made from green beans in the burlap bags), coffee body scrub (made with roasted coffee seconds) as well as new products this year, burlap paper and retired zipline harness bags (used for hardware and parts on other bags right now).

Where do you sell your products?

My products are mainly sold at Farmers Markets and special events. I do the Duncan Farmers Market Spring/Summer season from April until October, then the Fall Market until Christmas, as well as the Cedar Farmers Market from Mother’s Day until end of October. I also sell online and do may special orders through my website and email.

Has your community been supportive of your business, Island Java Bags?

I believe they have, no one has done what I do in my area. The first year, it took time for people to warm up to the idea of up cycled bags. Now, my community does support me by buying my products and I have been asked to give talks about up cycling to different groups as well.

The community of businesses that sell product made from repurposed materials has been very welcoming. We all know each other and talk about what works and what does not.

How do you market your bags outside of your community?

Mainly through social media, My facebook and instagram page. I also use my website to advertise which markets we are at, and we update it through the year. I love Instagram because I can showcase my product and often I sell it right from the picture.

How long have you been operating Island Java Bags?

I started in 2011, while still trying to work a regular style job. I did every other Saturday at the Duncan Farmer’s Market. I went fulltime in 2014.

Why did you decide to start Island Java Bags?

When I was thinking about starting my own business, I wanted to do something I would love. I wanted to do something different and environmentally friendly. I am a coffee addict. I had seen what the burlap bags looked like and thought they deserved another life with the amazing art on them. I had no idea what to name my business, my son with autism was very matter of fact, We live on an Island, Java is coffee and they are bags.

What did you do before Island Java Bags?

I returned to the Island from the USA in the later part of 2009. In the USA I worked for Safeway. Here I did entry cashier style jobs. Not a real career at all, and nothing I really enjoyed either.

When you were setting up your business did you have any assistance from government programs or business mentors?

No, I did not at all. I wish I knew it was there. I did research and read as much as I could find online. I had never sewn before either! I still have those first bags to remind myself how far I have come. My first Farmers Market, I met Clare from Urchin Bags, and she gave me some invaluable advice. She is amazing.

Is it a home-based business?

Yes, it is. Douglas Magazine called me a kitchen table start up, and they were accurate. My first years, I set up a cutting table in my kitchen and my kitchen table had my sewing machine. Now, I sew in a workshop not in the house. It is nice to have room to spread out and see what I am doing.

What skills have you learned from operating your small business?

I have learned skills for social media and marketing. I have learned selling skills because I do face to face selling at the Farmers Markets. I have learned spreadsheets and how to do pricing. I have learned to set up a website and Etsy store. I think it is hard to tell all the small skills you learn when you are a one woman show.

How did you decide to use burlap coffee bags as a material and how were you able to find a supply?

I had seen empty coffee bag hanging in coffee shops as wallpaper. The artistic designs are so well made, they deserve another life. Looking at the burlap as a material, some is not suitable because it is too loose of a weave or too thick and will just splinter and break when it is folded. I did research and found we do not compost the bags on the Island that they are just sent to the landfill. That was the final straw in the choice as burlap for a raw materials to make the bags. At first, my boyfriend (now husband), was travelling between the Island and Portland very month as we were getting him ready to retire, he would bring me bags from Portland. Eventually, I began to find coffee roasters up here. I started with Oughtred, then Peaks, Fernwood Coffee Roasters and DrumRoaster. Now, I have roasters contact me about taking bags.

You have a special working relationship with Oughtred Coffee that benefits you both, can you tell us how that has developed?

The story of how Oughtred and I connected is very interesting. I decided to start making the burlap bags and knew I needed a reliable source on the Island for them. I went on Crag’s List to see if I could find any. Lo and behold, there was an advertisement for burlap bags, as many as a person could take. I contacted the writer and it was Jill Doucette of Synergy Enterprises who had Oughtred Coffee&Tea as a client. She was trying to work on their landfill stream and was working on redirecting the burlap. She and I met in 2011 and never looked back. I started getting 30-50 bags at a time and now I take an entire pallet (approx. 250 bags). I met Johnny Oughtred at the kick off party for Synergy and he has been nothing but supportive.

Synergy Enterprises has a non-profit branch called Synergy Sustainability Institute and they facilitated an up cycling work group. In that group we were a kind of think tank to help each other with issues, like sourcing or even product names. I was challenged in that work group to find a way to start using reclaimed coffee foil bags (2and 5lb) that Oughtred had. I created a market bag that uses 9 bag each. The Spring/start of Summer of 2014, Oughtred was taking applications for a Green Grant. They wanted to have green businesses with their bottlenecks for production (in my case). I wrote a proposal for an industrial sewing machine and how one would change my business, making me more productive, so ultimately using more burlap/foil. I did win one of the grants and still use that machine to this day.

It is hard to touch on all the parts of my relationship with Oughtred, they are a large part of my story and I am a small part of theirs.

Have you developed any other similar arrangements with other companies?

I use many different raw materials that would normally be headed for the landfilll to make my bags. I use the reclaimed coffee foil to make market bags (I am working on a local initiative with coffee hops to pick up their coffee foil instead of it going to the landfill), they had roasted coffee in them so they smell so good! I get all the zipline harnesses that are retired from Wildplay Elements Park, I take them apart and use the hardware on my bags, the strapping on my growler carriers for handles, strapping on my backpacks and I am hoping to start making them into purses (if I can afford another industrial machine). I use second hand buttons, second hand material for pockets. I have made bags out of retired street banners. For breweries, I take their malt bags and make single and double growler carriers. I use second hand jeans, and leather for bag bottoms. I am also hoping to start mixing in bike inner tubes with the other materials, if I get another industrial machine.

What other materials are you using in your bags?

I work with other roasters to keep their burlap from the landfill, but not on the scale I have with Oughtred. Peaks coffee, is roasted locally and I get a call to take their bags several times a year. I have recently started working with Drumroaster coffee, they also call me when they have a pile of bags they want to send my way. When I visit Victoria, I pass by Fernwood Coffee Roasters and see if they have any out. I am always open to relationships with coffee roasters.

What do you do with the scraps for cutting bags?

My burlap scraps are all saved. I have a scrap hierarchy. I begin with the burlap sack, I make a bag, then hopefully a growler carrier or wine bag, then comes a French press cozier, and finally a forever coffee sleeve. Any scrap is then collected and put in a burlap bag I cannot use for some reason (too loose of a weave or cut wrong etc.). Once a bag is full, I have a list of farms that will use the scrap for mulch or in the compost or for smoking bees (food grade so it does not hurt the bees). My fabric ha the same type of use, bag to carrier to cozier to sleeve. I save pieces for pockets or stuffing for burlap sensory pillows. The actual waste is less than one plastic grocery bag a month.

Many people have unique employment challenges and certainly caregivers can have difficulties with rigid hours, do you think that people of all abilities can create opportunities from using discards as resources?

I encourage anyone to think outside of the box and look at waste materials as a resource. There really is no limitation of then finding a steady source of material. I cannot go begging from coffee shop to coffee shop every week for bags. Do research, know trends and take that scary plunge (it may even just be a toe in the water), I encourage anyone to do this.

How have you been able to overcome any challenges that have occurred for Island Java Bags?

Challenges happen for any business. I am lucky that my husband is supportive (at first he thought I was insane) and I can bounce ideas off of him. I have also found my community or tribe amongst fellow market vendors, sustainability people and friends, who help me with issues. I also love to do research, so I will spend hours reading about other companies or upcoming trends.

What is the positive impact your business has on the environment?

This year my business has kept over 2000 kg of burlap out of the landfill (my website has the entire list). As well, I give talks to different networking groups about using waste as a resource. I have also spoken at the Coast Waste Management conference about what I do. I believe in educating the public about reporting and up cycling.

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

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.

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.

Vinegar: A Versatile Zero Waste helper

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

Vinegar has mainly been used for cooking and pickling.

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

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

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

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

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

What Can You Do With Vinegar?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Put vinegar on your Zero Waste helpers list.

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

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

Dear G7 Heads of State,

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

Such active steps should include:

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

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

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

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

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

As wars in the future, might well be caused by fights over limited resources, as they have been in the past, support for zero waste now may avoid incurring further international tensions over resources amongst Nations and can be seen as part of a global peace movement.

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

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


Signers include:

International Groups

Biodigestion Latin american Network

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

GAIA (Global Alliance for Incineration Alternatives)

IEN (Indigenous Environmental Network)

ZWIA (Zero Waste International Alliance)

Zero Waste Europe

Zero Waste Mediterranean

National, Regional, and Local Groups

Agro-ecology Centre , Wayanad, Kerala, India

Alliance for Zero Waste Indonesia (AZWI) Indonesia

WALHI/FoE, Indonesia

BaliFokus Foundation, Indonesia

Plastic Bag Diet Movement, Indonesia

Nol Sampah, Indonesia,

PPLH Bali, Indonesia

American Environmental Health Studies Project, Inc., USA

APROMAC Environment Protection Association, Brazil

Basura Zero, Chile

Coalición Ciudadana Antiincineración, Argentina

Conservation Action Trust, India

Consumers Association of Penang, Malaysia

Društvo Ekologi brez meja / Ecologists without Borders Association, Slovenia

Ecological Recycling Society, Greece

Ecowaste Coalition, Philippines

Environmental Health Trust, Berkeley, California, USA

Green Delaware, USA

Hnutí DUHA (Friends of the Earth) Czech Republic

Instituto Lexo Zero, Brazil

It’s Not Garbage Coalition, Nova Scotia, Canada

IRTECO, Tanzania

ISLR (Institute of Local Self Reliance), USA

Mother Earth Foundation, Philippines

National Toxics Network Australia, Australia

Pesticide Action Network India, Thrissur, Kerala, India

Polish Zero Waste Association, Poland

Rezero-Catalan Waste Prevention, Spain

Residuo Zero, Brazil

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

Sound Resource Management, Seattle, USA

Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), Pakistan

Texas Campaign for the Environment, USA

THANAL, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India

TOXISPHERA Environmental Health Association, Brazil

UKWIN (UK Without Incineration Network), UK

Work on Waste, USA

Zero Waste OZ, Australia

Zero Waste USA

Zero Waste BC, Canada

Zero Waste Canada

Zero Waste Catalan Strategy, Spain

Zero Waste Cyprus

Zero Waste Italy

Zero Waste Sicily

Zero Waste Slovenia

Zero Waste Spain

Zero Waste Tanzania

Zero Waste Tunisia

Zero Zbel, Morocco

Za Zemiata (Zero Waste Bulgaria)

State and Local Groups

Neighbors Against the Burner and Airheads, Minnesota, USA

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

Cobh Zero Waste, Ireland

Green Delaware, Delaware, USA

NO Macrovertedero, SÍ Residuo 0, Madrid, Spain

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

Zero Waste Beijing, China

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

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

Zerowaste Centre, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India


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

Project, Inc, AEHSP)

Rossano Ercolini (Zero Waste Italy; Zero Waste Europe)

Enzo Favoino (Zero Waste Italy; Zero Waste Europe)

Paolo Guarnaccia (Zero Waste Italy)

Tom Goldtooth, Executive Director, Environmental Indigenous Network, USA

Asrul Hoesein, Green Indonesia Foundation Jakarta, Indonesia

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

Islamabad, Pakistan)

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

Patrizia Lo Sciuto, Zero Waste Italy

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

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

Environment, San Francisco, California, USA

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

Erika Oblak, Coordinator Zero Waste Slovenia

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

Helen Spiegelman, Vancouver, BC, Canada

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

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