2020: 24 Days of Waste Reduction – Day #22

My hope is that most folks take their bottles and cans to the bottle depot, rather than putting them straight into the garbage or recycling bags. Yes, you can put them in your recycling bags in the City of Edmonton, but you’ll see why I don’t suggest to do that in a moment. However, I know that some people still don’t know that you can recycle bottles and cans AND get your deposit back on them.

So, my pitch to you is firstly, ensure you are collecting and preparing your bottles and cans properly – anything that you paid a deposit for at the store and most bottles and cans purchased from vending machines can go to the bottle depot. Ensure all of the liquid is out and that the outside of the cans/bottles aren’t covered in nastiness (i.e. did your toddler spill apple sauce on their bottle of juice? Give it a quick rinse). Remove all lids – these are NOT recyclable, they are too small. However, they could make a neat craft or art project! If you’re not going to keep them for something, toss them in the garbage. Make sure any glass is not broken – let’s keep our workers safe!

Okay, so now that your bottles and cans are prepared, and if you can afford to do so, I recommend taking the deposit cash you get back and donating it to a charity or non-profit in your community. Shameless plug, the improv company I’m in, Rapid Fire Theatre, will accept your bottles/cans through the Skip the Depot app. Honestly, it can’t get easier than this – I don’t even need to leave my house! Skip the Depot will pick up the bottles/cans on an assigned date from your home and donate the majority of the deposit earned back to organizations registered through them. It is so simple, and it’s an easy way to give back to my favourite organizations. To register for Skip the Depot to donate to Rapid Fire Theatre, check out the link on this page: https://rapidfiretheatre.com/donate/

For more information on Skip the Depot, check it out here: https://skipthedepot.com

If you like the ritual of bagging your bottles and cans and taking them to the recycling depots yourself, I would still recommend taking the cash you get back and making a donation to an organization that could use it. It’s a small but simple way to continually give back to the community, and keep bottles and cans out of the garbage too!


2020: 24 Days of Waste Reduction – Day #21

One of the sneaky things about garbage is that once it’s in a bin, it’s out of sight, out of mind (at least until it starts to smell funky). A great way to examine how much waste and what kind of waste you’re making is to do a home waste audit with your family/roommates.

It’s a pretty simple concept – as a group, you pick a day just before you’d typically be taking the trash out, and go through the garbage bin/bag to see what’s in there, and what your biggest waste culprits are. This can give you an idea of what types of things are ending up in the trash – is it plastic, organic waste, broken items, or things that should actually be in the recycling? If you don’t already compost, this is a great way to see what foods are being wasted, if any, and to make a plan for how to reduce your food waste.

I recommend wearing kitchen gloves and laying out some newspaper or plastic for sorting – it could get a little messy depending on what is in that bag. As a group, write down what you’re finding and how much of it is in there. From there, you can brainstorm ways to reduce the waste from the biggest culprits. For example, if it’s mostly food scraps in there, you should consider starting a compost system if you haven’t already. If it’s mostly plastic, see if there are ways you can reduce that plastic waste. If there are a ton of recyclable items in there, review the ‘What Goes Where’ posters offered by the City of Edmonton to ensure everyone in the house is on the same page: https://www.edmonton.ca/programs_services/documents/PDF/What_Goes_Where_Poster.pdf

Another great way to monitor your waste and create some waste reduction goals is to record how many bags of garbage and recycling you’re putting out each week. If you put out two bags of garbage a week, make a challenge for your household to only put out one bag of garbage for a few weeks. Since starting our compost systems, we typically put out one bag of garbage every two weeks, and one bag of recycling every two weeks as well. Once you’re aware of how much garbage is physically coming in and out of your house, it’s much easier to set some goals and be able to track progress.

For more tips on how to conduct a waste audit, check out this blog: https://www.thezerowastecollective.com/how-to-conduct-a-trash-audit

Happy auditing!


2020: 24 Days of Waste Reduction – Day #20

Having worked in customer service for over a decade, I have seen the look of panic in the eyes of someone who has either forgotten about buying a gift or procrastinated until the very last second (looking at you: middle-aged men who came to the Citadel on Christmas Eve to buy gift certificates!). If you feel the need to buy someone a gift and want to spend a fair amount of money, but are stuck on what to get, I have two great suggestions that will help reduce household waste.

The first is buying an outdoor compost bin for folks who have a yard. It’s not the sexiest gift, but it’s great for ‘the person who has everything’ as it will not take up any indoor space, and can be used for decades to come. Compost bins are really easy to make from scrap wood, but many folks don’t get excited about projects like this. Buying new compost bins can actually be fairly pricey nowadays, so it might be something that someone wouldn’t necessarily buy for themselves. I recommend a standard top-lid type compost bin for a beginner, but spinning bins are also good for people who want to get a work out in their yard. Here are some bins I’d recommend to get you started:

Top-lid type: https://www.homedepot.ca/product/freegarden-earth-compost-bin/1000790099

Tumbling composter on a stand: https://www.homedepot.ca/product/fcmp-tumbling-composter-with-two-chambers/1000710822

Rolling composter if you want a true workout: https://www.homedepot.ca/product/fcmp-70-l-rolling-composter-green/1001431571

The John Janzen Nature Centre (when open) sells compost bins at a very affordable rate, so check them out in person when its safe to do so!

The second gift I recommend is a bidet. Bidets are becoming more popular in North American now that they can be installed onto existing toilet structures. This is a great way to reduce toilet paper usage in the home, and has some neat perks such as feeling extra clean where it matters 😉 I personally would love a bidet, and I hope to have one in my home soon. There are tons of discount codes out there for TUSHY, and they get pretty great reviews, so that would be my recommendation, having never tried one myself.

Check them out here: https://hellotushy.com


2020: 24 Days of Waste Reduction – Day #19

One of my childhood memories of Christmas Day is opening up presents in the morning and my Dad cleaning up the wrapping paper as soon as possible so that our living room could retain some sense of normalcy, rather than a wrapping paper war zone.

If you have children or a large family at home, it can be chaotic to get through present opening and try to clean up in time to get a big meal started. Like most things, it’s helpful to have a plan of attack to deal with all of that holiday present waste. I recommend having a checklist of what goes where, especially if you have kids, as you can get them involved with sorting everything with you!

Start with things that can be reused – ribbon, bows, gift bags and boxes are all easily reused – have dedicated boxes or storage bins for these items, and have them at the ready on the big day so that you can put them away neatly. If you’re a person who carefully unfolds gift wrap so that it can reused, take the tape off and fold it up nicely. Even if you don’t plan to reuse it for wrapping other gifts, you can use wrapping paper for craft purposes – you can make envelopes and decorations for cards using the wrapping paper and some glue or tape.

Have a checklist of what makes wrapping paper recyclable vs. garbage. Quick tips: if the wrapping paper has foil, metallics, glitter, bumpy textures or other adornments, it is NOT recyclable. If it is made of plain paper, even if there are designs on it, it is recyclable. Do your best to remove tape, before putting it in the recycling bag, but it’s not the end of the world if you forget. Never put ribbon or long stringy bits in the recycling – these damage and can even fully shut down recycling plants, which is bad news for the system.

If you’ve received items in really nice reusable bags or containers from family or friends, ask if they’d like them back. They will likely want to reuse them over and over again to give gifts. If they don’t want it back, make sure you plan to reuse them next year and pass on the good reusable vibes to someone else you love.

For more information on what wrapping paper can be recycled, check out this helpful page: https://www.mollymaid.com/practically-spotless/2019/december/what-wrapping-paper-can-be-recycled-/

For information on general holiday waste in Edmonton, click here: https://www.edmonton.ca/programs_services/garbage_waste/holiday-waste-recycling.aspx


2020: 24 Days of Waste Reduction – Day #17

Welp, I’m three days behind. Let’s pretend these next few posts actually came out on time, shall we?

Real Christmas trees are so delightful, they smell nice, give that extra ‘authenticity’ to holiday decor, and bring the magic of the season indoors. However, they can become a pain days or weeks after the holiday, and many folks don’t dispose of them properly, leading to headaches for our waste collectors. If you have a real tree at home, I challenge you to make your tree disposal plan before Christmas, so that you are prepared and commit to proper disposal.

Find the dates of tree pickup in your city, and mark them on your calendar. Better yet, set a reminder in your phone so that you know exactly who in your household is responsible to take the tree outside and when they will do it. If you have a yard, consider leaving the tree inside the yard until spring/summer – it can be a great bit of biodiversity and once dried out and the needles have fallen off, you can cut up the wood for a fire, compost or as part of your garden/landscaping.

When you make a plan, you’re more likely to follow through. Dispose of your real trees responsibly, and ensure you are keeping waste collectors safe. For more information on City of Edmonton pickup and how to prepare the tree to be collected, click here: https://www.edmonton.ca/programs_services/garbage_waste/garbage-collection-christmas-trees.aspx

For information on keeping the tree in your yard, click here: https://www.natureconservancy.ca/en/where-we-work/quebec/news/christmas-tree.html


2020: 24 Days of Waste Reduction – Day #8

One of my favourite ways to keep my home feeling cozy is by burning candles. If you also love candles, I bet you’ve come face to face with candles that have melted weird or the wax didn’t fully go down to the bottom of the jar – it’s annoying. However, there is a way to give this wax new life and also reduce your candle budget.

I keep a wax container, which is just an old repurposed yogurt container, where I put any bits of unburned wax that have broken off of a candle or are left when the wick is burnt down. If you love candles in jars, there is any easy way to remove the wax. Simply put the jar in the freezer for a while, and once the jar is frozen, you can take a butter knife and carefully pop out the ‘disk’ of wax at the bottom. You can also split the wax disk in half with the butter knife and then take each piece out using your knife. If the wick was secured to the jar using glue, I find it easiest to also pry that off with the butter knife while it is still frozen. Then you can do a quick wash and dry of the jar and it is ready to go!

My collection of old candle wax from March until December 2020

Supplies needed for this project:

Step 1: Take all of the clean jars you’d like to use. This will depend on how much wax you have. I typically start with two, gluing the metal wick holder down in the centre of the bottom of the jar. Get your jars ready near your work surface.

Step 2: Create a double boiler and melt the wax. Use a spoon to stir and get it all melted, just like you would if you were melting chocolate. If you want to add a crayon for some extra colour, this is the time to add it.

Step 3: Once the wax is fully melted, add any scents you like – but this is not necessary. If there are any old wicks or other junk floating in the melted wax, use either your old chopsticks or tweezers to pluck them out and put them in the garbage. It’s not the end of the world if these bits end up in your candle, but it will look much better if you remove them.

Step 4: Carefully and slowly pour the melted wax into your jar, trying not to pour directly over the wick. It is helpful to have a partner hold the jar and spot you while you do this. Leave at least 1 cm of space between the top of the wax and the top of the wick. You’ll have an idea at this point if you need to prep more jars based on how much wax you just poured into the first candle.

Step 5: Reuse those chopsticks or another household stick to centre and straighten the wick. You can put the wick directly between the chopsticks for an extra secure hold. You’ll want to ensure the wick is as straight and centred as possible for even burning. Once you’re satisfied with the position, you will leave the candle to harden. Repeat with the rest of the candles.

Step 6: Leave the candles for at least a few hours to harden. I typically wait overnight.

Step 7: If the wicks are quite long even above the candle, trim them down, and you are ready to light and enjoy!

This is a pretty easy project once you have your supplies ready, and wicks are very inexpensive compared to candles themselves. These make great gifts and are a great way to reuse old wax, old jars and have a fun crafty afternoon.

Some tips for purchasing candles: choose natural waxes over paraffin. Paraffin is essentially just a solid fossil fuel, as it’s derived from petroleum, and is non-renewable. Soy and beeswax candles do tend to be more expensive, but they are better for the planet.


2020: 24 Days of Waste Reduction – Day #7

Vegan queso? That looks like real cheese? Yes. It exists, and it is delicious! Hot for Food has perfected this recipe: https://www.hotforfoodblog.com/recipes/2015/01/22/nacho-cheese/

The best part of this recipe is that you can make it so cheaply, and with ingredients you likely already have at home. The recipe post also includes substitutions you can try if you’re missing ingredients. Vegan queso, or any queso that is store bought can be fairly expensive for a small jar. You also end up with all of these small jars you have to either recycle or find ways to repurpose. Not only is this a really cheap option, but you are also using ingredients that are pretty easy to find bulk (i.e. carrots, potatoes, oil, spices, etc) and there is no extra packaging required. We don’t typically use tomato paste in ours, mostly because we don’t want to open a can of it just for this recipe, and the colour and taste is still great. We store ours in an airtight container for up to a week, but honestly it rarely lasts us 2 days.

Our favourite ways to eat this:

  • As a chip dip and for nachos
  • Our ‘cheese’ in macaroni and cheese
  • Cheesy chili fries
  • As a topping or spread in our version of the Buckingham’s Big Crunch wrap
  • A cheesy broccoli topping

Got extra carrots or potatoes you’re not excited to eat? MAKE THEM INTO QUESO. You won’t regret it.


2020: 24 Days of Waste Reduction – Day #6

Oops – I’ve already fallen behind. We’ll pretend that I’m posting this yesterday.

For day six, I’m sharing a cleaning DIY that has been very successful in my home. This is a lemon and vinegar cleaning solution that utilizes all the potential of lemons, even after you’ve used the juice for cooking, baking or drinks.

Supplies you’ll need:

  • A jug, bottle or large glass container (I reuse 2.85L olive oil glass jugs)
  • White vinegar
  • Lemons that have already been ‘used’, aka lemons you’ve juiced and squeezed.
  • A sieve
  • a large pot or glass measuring cup
  • skewers
  • a funnel (depending on the size of your container) or soup scoop

Step one: choose a sturdy container that can store a decent amount of liquid. I reuse empty 2.85L olive oil jugs – they have a fairly small opening, but are easy for me to carry and pour out of once the solution is ready. Ensure the container is clean and dry before you use it, and has a lid or stopper.

Two different olive oil jugs that have useful handles for pouring and fairly small openings.

Step two: start saving lemons that you’ve juiced and cut them small enough to fit in the container opening. No need to separate rind from pulp, you will be straining the solution later. Take the first batch of lemons you’ve used up and put them in the container. Pour enough white vinegar into the container to cover the lemons and cover the container with lid or stopper.

I buy large containers of vinegar (its cost effective and reduces plastic used). We particularly love the Tom Collins beverage in my house, so we go through many lemons!

Step three: continue to add lemons as you use them in cooking, baking or drinks. Ensure you add more white vinegar each time you add lemons, and that you cover the container. The more lemons you add, the stronger the solution will be – but there is no need to have a 1:1 ratio of vinegar to lemon. I typically go for a 1:4 ratio of lemon to vinegar.

Step four: let the solution sit, with the lid on it, for at least a couple weeks. I’m lazy and often forget about these while they are ‘steeping’, and tend to finish it off in about a month.

Step five: put a large pot in your kitchen sink so that you have lots of space. Place the sieve over the pot, and pour the solution in. You want the sieve to catch all of the lemons and for the liquid to strain down into the pot. Some of the lemons may be tricky to get out of the container if the hole is quite small. I find a skewer works well to stab the lemon chunks and pull them out. Give the container a quick rinse to ensure there is no lemon pulp left in it.

Step six: compost the lemon chunks. Use a funnel or soup scoop to pour the solution back into the container. It’ll be pretty strong, so don’t put your nose or mouth too close.

Here is a finished solution – you can see how the lemon has penetrated the vinegar and changed the colour to look more yellow.

To use: this is a very strong solution, and I’ve found it really awesome for cleaning my bathtub, shower and drains (especially where my hair tends to clog). For the grit in my bath, I will sprinkle baking soda on those spots and then slowly pour the solution right on it – it will cause a chemical reaction and that grit will start to break down. From there it’s super easy to wipe it away. You can dilute this solution as you wish with water, and use it as a spray for surfaces. If using in your bathroom, ensure you have the fan running and the door open, as it is very strong – safety first!

Lemons are awesome for cleaning, and by steeping them in vinegar, you not only give extra life to already used lemons, but can also make a cheap cleaning solution.

For more information on vinegar and what it should or shouldn’t be used for re: cleaning, check out this link: https://davidsuzuki.org/queen-of-green/does-vinegar-kill-germs/


2020: 24 Days of Waste Reduction – Day #4

Yesterday I posted a cookie recipe… which leads to my next topic – purchasing bulk ingredients. This is especially relevant to baking, as many of us might be baking 5 x more frequently than we typically do this month making holiday treats. Normally I would be chatting about how great bulk shops are and how easy it is to reuse your own containers. While some shops are allowed to bring back their refill programs (Yay Earths General store!!), many others are still not able to, and must sell their bulk products in plastic bags.

However, you can still shop bulk and reduce your waste by purchasing larger bags and containers of well-used items. For example, most flour and sugar bags are paper and can easily be composted or used for other purposes (lining your worm bin, wrapping breakable items when packing, or even wrapping fragile Christmas ornaments at the end of the season). If you know you’re going to be doing a lot of baking or cooking with a certain ingredient, opt to purchase the largest size of it available – this will reduce your trips to the grocery store and reduce your overall waste.

We make almost all of our own food from scratch, so we go through a lot of flour, sugar and oil on a regular basis. We get our flour in 10 kg bags, our oil in 2+ L jugs (we found a 17.3 L jug of canola oil at Costco), and our sugar in 20 kg bags! These large containers and bags are difficult to use in the kitchen, so we typically decant them into smaller containers that stay in kitchen cupboards and refill as needed. The best find of 2020 has been bulk nut and seed butters/spreads – we found 3.5 kg and 4 kg pails of peanut butter and tahini at Earths General Store and it has been a game changer. It saves us money, reduces our trips to the store, and best of all reduces the amount of plastic we’re putting in the waste stream. Many of these items are also shelf-stable for years, meaning there is little risk in buying a large quantity, as you have lots of time to use it. The pails and jugs are awesome for reuse for other purposes as they are made of higher quality plastic that can be refilled over and over again.

Okay, some considerations here – purchasing bulk containers of individual food items is a large purchase upfront. If you’re living paycheque to paycheque, it is difficult to buy large singular items that may take up most of your budget – saving money in the long run doesn’t mean much if you need to use your money sparingly right now. Your living space will also have an impact – if you have a cellar or cold room (or basement in general), you will likely have lots of storage space which is great for this purpose. If you live in an apartment or single-level suite, this is a different story altogether. Full disclosure – I wish we had a cellar, but we don’t – we store most of these bulk bags and containers on our kitchen and dining room floor, and we are fine with that. The lifting, carrying and transport of these bulk items may also be a barrier to access.

I have a solution for these considerations – bulk buy-in groups, or splitting purchases with friends/family who share a similar diet. For example, my Mom has a giant container of pure vanilla that she got from a relative in a warmer climate – instead of buying my own giant container of vanilla, I simply bring my empty vanilla bottle to her house and get her to refill it from her container. The same practice could be done amongst a group of friends, co-op style – you split the cost of the large product and then divide it into your own containers on a regular basis – you all enjoy the cost savings of the bulk purchase and get a manageable amount of product. If you know that weight/lifting/transport may be a barrier, including someone with access to a vehicle/the ability to lift large weights will also be helpful to ensure everyone can access the products. Of course this takes a bit of planning, but it has many benefits and is a more accessible way of buying bulk, plus you are building community care amongst your group – sharing is caring! This is also a great idea for roommates or folks who live in an apartment building with friends in the same building.

So consider buying bulk if you are able – instead of buying a few 1kg bags of flour this month, buy one 10kg bag that will last you a few months. Happy baking and cooking!


2020: 24 Days of Waste Reduction – Day #1

Happy December 2020 friends! As it is the first day of December, advent calendars or count down type activities may be on your mind. Growing up, I loved advent calendars containing chocolate – I would typically eat mine with breakfast! However, these grocery store advent calendars are filled to the brim with plastic and packaging. There are lots of reusable advent calendar structures available out there, and it is very easy to make your own using cloth bags, paper envelopes, wood, egg cartons, etc, etc. The wonderful thing about using a reusable advent calendar is that you can customize the ‘prize’ inside to whatever you like.

I personally am a big tea drinker and have a big tea collection I am slowly working my way through. Yes, this entire cart contains tea (surrounded by my army of flour bags):

A few years ago I purchased a Davids Tea advent calendar that is made of heavy duty cardboard, card stock inserts and small reusable tea tins.

Instead of throwing this away after the first year I used it, I have reused it and refilled the tins each year using my own collection of tea. Unfortunately I believe the advent calendars Davids Tea has sold in the past couple of years have been pre-packaged tea rather than the small tins, but I’m really selling you on the concept here, not this specific product. Any of us who have received tea samplers or tea gift sets likely have these tiny tins hanging around or know someone who does. You can also purchase small tins like this without any fillings at many stores and online – they are often used to make party favours at weddings. Alternatively, you could fill compostable tea bags in your own advent calendar or write a note card with the type of tea to drink each day (mix them up when you put them in the calendar so you surprise yourself!). If you’re looking to buy tea locally, check out https://acquiredtastetea.com.

Regardless of what your daily ‘treat’ will be, reusable and DIY advent calendars are a great way to keep traditions alive and reduce waste at the same time. They are also a very lovely and personalized gift to give to someone you love. Personally, our advent calendar is filled with two servings of loose leaf tea, so every morning I will make a pot of tea for Karl and I to share during December.

If you have received an advent calendar this year that is fairly sturdy, I recommend hanging onto it – you can likely put it to use next year with a little bit of care and pre-planning. Here are some other great advent calendar ideas:



2020: 24 Days of Waste Reduction – Day #24

We made it! Christmas Eve is here! My final tip is my favourite one. It’s to start a compost system of some kind. This is always a psychologically daunting task for folks, with questions like What if I fail? But I don’t know how to do it? What if it smells? I’m not a good gardener, how can I do this? I know, I get it, it’s definitely not a skillset we’re taught throughout our lives (shoutout to Grade 4 science!!) However, once you have started one, I promise you there will be people (including me), who are more than happy to help, support you and encourage you to keep going. You will be doing such a service for your municipal waste services, for your plants, or someone else’s plants, and for the soil.

If you have access to a yard, an outdoor compost is very easy to set up. You don’t need to have an expensive compost bin, seriously, if you have some scrap wood/pallets chicken wire, some tools and the motivation to put one together, you can make a compost bin pretty much for free. If you have the money for it, a plastic compost bin is super simple to set up and lasts pretty much for life – I have two in my backyard and I plan to move them with me for the rest of my life!

If you live in an apartment/condo/place with no yard, there are still ways to compost! Vermicomposting, or composting with red wiggler worms, is a fun way to compost indoors, year round. My worm compost lives in my laundry room. Vermicomposting takes a little bit more patience and attention, but once you find the groove, it is very easy to keep up with. You can also try out a bokashi system, which many people just leave under their kitchen sink year round. If all else fails, you can bring your compost to a friends compost bin, the bins at Compost S’cool, in your community garden, or even farmers markets (depending on your area and what is offered).

Even if you aren’t ready to 100% commit to a compost system in the coming year, I challenge you to collect at least one weeks worth of compost and drop it off at a composting system nearby. There are also plenty of great websites, books and articles online about how compost works, how to get started and why it is so good for the earth.

One more challenge for you – to reconsider how your household impacts the municipal waste system, and how you can reduce your impact. Yes, many cities collect organics or compostable materials. And yes, many cities actually do have a successful composting system. However – these massive compost facilities rely on other resources (heat, electricity, etc) to operate them, whereas a home compost system does not. The more folks who send a lot of waste through the system are also potentially increasing trips that trucks need to make back and forth from their route to the facility – every time that truck fills up, it makes another trip, which increases usage of gas and batteries. Composting at home or nearby in your community just makes sense – you are reducing the usage of other resources, and building wonderfully alive soil, which is so important for our ecosystem.

If you’ve stuck through the journey this far, I hope you will consider at the very least reading more about composting. I personally believe it is one of the most important things we can do as individual households to reduce our waste and give back to the planet. If you want to know more about composting or even get a ‘compost consultation’ in the YEG area, please drop me a line, I would be so glad to help you!

Happy Holidays! – Christina xoxo

2020: 24 Days of Waste Reduction – Day #23

The big day is almost here! With it often comes an influx of electronics and fun tech – depending on the tech, this can also include a LOT of batteries. Here are some quick tips for reducing your e-waste:

  • Have a dedicated dead battery container. Reuse a plastic container (i.e. yogurt, sour cream, peanut butter containers are great for this!), a paper bag or a box. As long as it is labelled and everyone in the home is on the same page, this will reduce confusion about whether or not a battery has been used or not – make an agreement that as soon as a battery is dead, it will go in the dead battery container.
  • If you have the option, choose rechargeable batteries – these have come down in price over the years and are easy to use with their simple charging device.
  • Turn off electronics that use batteries as soon as you are done with them. Not coming back to that game controller for 45 minutes? Turn it off rather than leaving it to drain and wasting that energy.
  • Make regular trips to the eco-station to recycle your batteries. Never put them in the garbage – the chemicals can leech into landfill and potentially into our soil and water streams – bad news all around.
  • Ensure your office or work environment has a battery recycling plan. If they don’t, volunteer to start one. Again, it’s as simple as starting a box or container, ensuring everyone is on the same page and regularly bringing them to the eco-station.
  • Remove batteries from seldom used electronics – this will reduce the chance of the batteries leaking and causing damage from battery acid.

For more information on where you can recycle batteries and what Eco Stations accept, check out this link: https://www.edmonton.ca/programs_services/garbage_waste/eco-stations.aspx

2020: 24 Days of Waste Reduction – Day #18

The holiday season is often full of food… a lot of food…

While it can be incredible to have a table full of delicious seasonal foods in front of you to enjoy with family, it can become overwhelming to deal with the leftovers. Soon before or after your big meal(s) of the season, make a plan for how meals and leftovers will be dealt with and when you’ll eat what. For example, my family typically has a lot of leftovers, and when we would be going to work within the holiday season, we would pack leftovers into containers for lunches – that way lunch meals were taken care of, leftovers were eaten in a timely fashion, and food waste, if any, was minimal. A simple note on a calendar or meal plan list on the fridge can do the trick to help you eat the food you have before it goes bad and becomes waste.

Many of us will be at home throughout the holiday season and perhaps into January too depending on our situations. If you don’t anticipate wanting to eat the same leftovers each day, make a plan for which foods can be frozen – do you want to freeze individual meals, one type of food per container, or some combination of the two? The same should apply if you know you are ordering food in for certain days of the holiday – the more takeout you get, the less likely you’ll eat those leftovers before they go bad, so don’t take the chance of wasting it, just put that food in the freezer as soon as possible.

Another great way to reduce food waste is to bring leftovers to friends or loved ones who have a similar diet/restrictions (i.e. vegan, gluten free, nut allergy, etc). Of course, make sure they would actually eat the food before it goes bad, but it’s another great way to share your resources and reduce wasted food.

Lastly, cook appropriate portions. For example, if there are just a few of you at home and you’re making a turkey, choose a smaller sized bird/meal, rather than cooking as if there were 6+ people – freezing a few portions means they’ll likely be eaten, but freezing a lot of portions will likely lead to freezer burnt containers found close to a year later that just end up in the garbage.

Make sure you label leftovers that go in the freezer, as you’re more likely to eat it if you know what it is, rather than throwing out that ‘mystery meal’ found buried under a bag of frozen peas. Happy feasting!

2020: 24 Days of Waste Reduction – Day #16

The past four years or so I have been a jam machine. I find it very meditative to go through the process of removing pits, cooking the jam and putting it into jars. My favourite thing about jam is that it has the potential to ‘rescue’ food that would otherwise go to waste. My parents have a couple of sour cherry trees in their back yard that provide a bounty of plump sour cherries. They aren’t the most appetizing to eat fresh as they are very tart, but they are delicious when combined with sugar and cooked down into jam. A small amount of fruit makes an excellent amount of jam that can be used as a spread, in cakes and cookies, and in yogurt or oats.

Jam is essentially a preserved fruit that becomes shelf stable when sealed, allowing you to enjoy the fruits of one, two or perhaps more years ago, rather than that food rotting on the ground. There are many other easy and cheap ways to preserve food found in your climate. This year I also tried out canning apple sauce, diced tomatoes and tomato sauce. Next year, I want to go further with apples and make apple cider and vinegar.

So, consider what fruits and vegetables are bountiful in your yard or neighbourhood. The majority of people with fruit trees will never be able to use all of the fruit in a season, and are usually very happy to share (it means less yard clean up for them!). Canning, jamming and processing fruits and vegetables into a delicious shelf-stable creation is really quite easy and only takes a few ingredients to get started. The jars are reusable, and you really only have to consider replacing the lids if you want to reuse them year after year for canning. There is a bit of pre-planning required, so why not get all of your tools and information ahead of time so that you are ready to tackle it come late summer next year. Don’t let all that perfectly good food in your yard go to waste! Here are the products I recommend to plan your preserving next summer (links just to show you what products look like/are called, I typically purchase my supplies from Canadian Tire):

A fruit press: https://www.canadiantire.ca/en/pdp/weston-stainless-steel-fruit-tomato-press-1423802p.html#srp

A jar lifter: https://www.bernardin.ca/EN/Accessories/Jar-Lifter/Product.aspx

A canning funnel: https://www.bernardin.ca/EN/Accessories/Canning-Funnel/Product.aspx

A rack for your pot if it doesn’t come with one: https://www.bernardin.ca/EN/Accessories/Cooks-Helper-Canning-Rack-System/Product.aspx

A magnetic wand to lift lids: https://www.bernardin.ca/EN/Accessories/Home-Canning-Tool-Kit/Product.aspx

A big pot, or canner: https://www.canadiantire.ca/en/pdp/7-jar-canner-0422501p.html#srp

Good quality jars: https://www.canadiantire.ca/en/pdp/golden-harvest-mason-jars-500-ml-12-pk-0422509p.html#srp

Happy preserving!

2020: 24 Days of Waste Reduction – Day #15

My favourite of the three R’s is reduce. It’s the first and most important step to making an impact regarding your consumption and waste. Let’s consider products for the home and body. We are frequently sold products that have very singular purposes through advertisement and what is new and trendy on the store shelf. For example, toilet bowl cleaner or shaving cream for legs.

We end up with so many different bottles and containers of products that serve one purpose, which results in more waste in the recycling or landfill streams and clutter in our homes. Consider items that are multipurpose instead of individualized items. Of course, think about what is safe and accessible first, but you’ll find that many everyday items can be reduced to one multipurpose item.

Castile soap is one of the most diverse products out there. It can be used for simple household cleaning, washing your body, rinsing fruits and vegetables, and plant/ant sprays. While Dr. Bronner’s is certainly the most famous brand, castile soap is also sold by other brands and is relatively easy to find in most stores. For more information on uses of castile soap, check out this link: https://www.drbronner.com/all-one-blog/2017/06/dilutions-cheat-sheet-dr-bronners-pure-castile-soap/

There are lots of other simple ingredients that are great for making cleaning and/or body products: glycerin, rubbing alcohol, castor oil, and vinegar. I like to keep bottles of these on hand to make lots of different products with minimal ingredients.

This concept also applies to makeup. Many products are multipurpose, and if you’re not huge into beauty products but want to have some key items, it’s great to choose things that serve you in multiple ways. For example eye shadow can be used to fill in eyebrows, and lipstick can be used as a blush. For more information and tips on multipurpose makeup, check out this awesome video: https://youtu.be/KsaAT6XNjUc

Let’s not forget about clothing either. My favourite garment is my Patagonia Pack Out Tights, which are available in size XS to XXL. They are basic black tights with deep side pockets and a small zippered pocket. They fit me very well, and serve so many purposes. I wear them on hikes and when I’m active outside as they are fairly warm, as well as under dresses, tunics and other more ‘formal’ outfits as a base layer in the winter. If I had snow pants, they would be my go-to base layer under them as well. Not only are they extremely comfortable, but their pockets and versatility allow me to wear them in many activities and weather conditions. They are my favourite thing to pack when travelling in cooler climates. Finding a piece of clothing that serves these purposes reduces my ‘need’ to buy many specific items. To see the tights, you can check out this link: https://www.patagonia.ca/product/womens-pack-out-tights/21995.html?dwvar_21995_color=BLK&cgid=womens-pants-jeans-run-yoga

Always check health guidelines when using multipurpose products and make sure it is right for you. Once you start diving into the world of simple, multipurpose products, you will be surprised to discover just how many uses one product has, and you may even halve the plastic waste you’re producing in your home by reducing it down to a simple arsenal.

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