There is a huge zero waste movement happening right now. The Tare Shop, on Cornwallis St just opened. It is Nova Scotia’s first zero waste store. As a Naturopathic Doctor who loves the environment, the concept of zero waste makes sense to me. I just didn’t realize how much I’ve practiced it all of my life until I started looking into it.
What is Zero Waste living? It means trying to reduce landfill based trash to a bare minimum (or none at all). It focuses partly on recycling but mostly on reducing your use and reusing what you can. The concepts suggest you Rethink your purchase (do you really need it?), Repair what you can and Repurpose what you can’t. Most zero waste promoters focus on making small changes to start to then to make them a part of your everyday life. It is not the same concept as Minimalism, but the two can go hand in hand as minimalism aims to reduce the amount of possessions you own.
Where to start?
Reduce your consumption. Do you really need to buy that item or can you make do with something else?
Recycle what you can. Compost food scraps (we are supposed to do this in NS any way). Have a place to store things to reuse again. Make a system, that makes it quicker and easier to integrate zero waste into your life.
Decrease your use of disposable paper. Think paper towels and napkins! We use rags and cloths and cloth napkins, anything that can be washed and reused. We do laundry all the time any way so a few extra items are no big deal.
Buy in Bulk (did you know The Tare Shop and Bulk Barn let you bring your own containers and refill them, eliminating the need for plastic bags?) and then use what you need. If you can’t use it all, split it with a friend.
What have I done? Most of my zero waste hacks happen in the kitchen but it spills over into everyday life too. Please keep in mind that most of these things I have been doing for a long time. Start small and work towards a goal.
Glass Bottles – These are recyclable so they already have a good place to go. Last year I reused a whole bunch for Christmas gifts at the office and for neighbors and family. They could choose to reuse again or recycle.
Silpat – Use silicon baking sheets instead of parchment paper (which I reuse any way). It isn’t perfect for everything (this is new for me this year) and I could use a few more but I’m liking this option.
Bamboo, glass and stainless steel straws – I never liked the idea of drinking out of plastic so have tried all of the options for reusable straws. I like the glass and stainless steel the best. Many businesses in Halifax are banning the use of single use straws so don’t be surprised if your drink doesn’t come with a plastic straw!
To go mugs (keep cup, Joco Cup) – We either sit in and get a mug or we bring a travel mug with us. Coffee cups go in the garbage, most of their lids are recyclable.
Lunches – I invested in some stainless steel lunch containers (planet box, dalcini stainless) as they are anti-bacterial, easy to clean and will last a long time. I try to pack as much in these as possible. I use leftovers in thermoses and bake from scratch to eliminate packaging. I do use some packaged goods when I’m in a rush (Made Good balls for example) but I try to keep it as waste free as possible. We have reusable Food bags (stasherbag.com, Planet Wise), reuse Ziploc bags (although once our costco stash is gone, I hope to not buy more). We also have glass containers and reuse our hummus and yogurt containers.
Clothing – We use as many hand me down clothes for the kids as possible. Everything that get a hole goes to my mom, who patches it for the kids. She can usually sew it but uses a cool patch if she can’t. I offer to do it, but Olive says that Mamere does it better (she patched everything for us as kids too). Olive is happy to wear Jack’s clothes still. We shop at Frenchy’s when we go to Yarmouth. Jack started playing hockey this year and his gear along with his skates are both second hand. I wear my clothes until I can’t wear them anymore (then recycle the textiles), and I buy only what I need. If I do have to buy anything, I try to make sure it is recycled clothing. My wardrobe is small but it functions. I have a pair of jazz tights that I use as long johns that I have had since I was 12!
Recycle – I do recycle everything I can (although I still have too much single use plastic). Jack makes crafts out of what we can’t.
No plastic wrap – use containers or plates to cover. Another option is abeego or Bees Louise beeswax wraps.
Cook from scratch – This will cut down on packaging. Buy food that comes in cans that can be recycled. We eat our leftovers! Do your shopping at Farmer’s markets as most of the vendors don’t have packaging. We process food in season. I roast or steam and freeze applesauce and pureed pumpkin. We buy copious amounts of berries and freeze them. We store in reused Ziploc bags but are moving towards storing in glass jars.
Cloth shopping bags – These only work if you have them with you! We have gotten so much better at this over the last 2 years. We keep them in the car and at work so there is always access. The trick is remembering to put them back in their places.
Toys and Books- My mom saved toys, books and clothes from when we were kids. Think Cabbage patch kids, lego, fisher price and Judy Blume books. We have been given lots as gifts, a lot of them recyclable. But not all, we are working on that! We purchase second hand as much as we can.
Bathroom – This is probably the least zero waste room of the house. We have bar soap and my husband has a stainless steel razor that you can recycle the blades of. I need one for myself. I don’t wash my hair daily so that cuts down on consumption, but I still buy packaged shampoo.
Cloth diapers and rags – We used cloth diapers until the kids got too big and now can use the inserts as rags. We recycled the outsides.
What else would I like to do?
Make my own yogurt and fermented foods – I have an instant pot and apparently it’s very easy to make yogurt in. I haven’t attempted it yet, but I will.
Less single use plastic (more market food like cheeses)
Bring containers to the market for meats (instead of using plastic bags).
Plant a garden – I grow garlic and berries right now but I used to have a larger garden. I have a rain barrel and lots of compost to use. When my kids were smaller I found it challenging to do what I needed to keep the garden going. They could help now. I’m considering making raised beds with all of the pallets we have.
Refill laundry and dish soap, and shampoo – Now that The Tare Shop is open I plan on going there to do this.
Homemade cleaners – We use eco-friendly ones now, along with baking soda and vinegar.
Floss and bamboo toothbrushes – Floss does not ever decompost, yet we are supposed to floss daily! There is silk floss available that I need to try out.
Gift more experiences – I’m thinking the Nutcracker for my daughter and a Moosehead Game for my son and a concert for my husband.
There are so many more things to consider but you can make a difference with small, consistent changes. Pick somewhere to start and go with it. Have fun and let me know how it goes!