Fall is Coming: 3 Easy Ways to Reduce Waste
Updated: Aug 17, 2020
The dwindling daylight hours and slightly cooler nights are reminiscent of the next anticipated season. With just over 5 weeks of summer left (it's not over just yet folks!), we can't help but be reminded that fall is just around the corner. The brink of the autumn equinox marks new beginnings for many - back to routine, back to school, slowing down for the cold northern months, and changing aspects of our lifestyles in order to adapt to new regimes. In our occidental culture, these changes often involve and require new purchases. For instance, it could signify the need for warmer items in our wardrobe for the colder months, back to school materials, and simply re-stocking common items that we use on the daily (hygiene supplies & beverage or food containers). The out with the old and in with the new certainly pertains to an increase of waste. New purchases and waste production are often & sadly, not mutually exclusive. There are simple tricks however that allow us to make conscience choices while preparing for the new changes up ahead. If you happen to be a higher consumer in the summer to fall transition, take notes!
1) Stuffed Pillowcases After some time of wearing your favorite seasonal garments, it can be easy to grow tired of those pieces, and consider parts of your wardrobe as outdated and shabby. Sure, the items you are ready to rid of maybe in decent condition, but all they are doing is taking place in your closet, clothing rack, or drawer! What do you do with them? Some of your first reflexes may be to give or trade them away to friends and family, donate them, bring them to consignment or thrift stores, host a garage sale or sell online, or simply turn them into rags! All the aforementioned ideas are great, especially if creative methods of up-cycling are considered. However, finding new owners to reclaim your castoff items requires a method of transportation. While tossing old clothes, many people inadvertently revert to using plastic bags as receptacles to displace their unwanted belongings.
There is, in fact, a more practical way to relocate your old garb, and it requires the simple sacrifice of old pillow cases.
Simply take your unwanted belongings, and stuff an old pillowcase or two, enough to contain and usefully vehicle your repurposed items from one place to another. This avoids the unnecessary use of plastic bags, which as we all know, is extremely detrimental to the environment. Pillowcases can be up-cycled as well, especially if they are in decent and clean conditions. For instance, they can be donated, thrifted, and/or used as fabric in sewing projects. Don’t ever doubt that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. So, don’t forget to provide those gifts in non-plastic pleasures! 2) Minimalism & Sourcing Locally
All this talk of up-cycling your used textiles now brings us to the infamous notion of materialism. To give you an idea of our occidental obsession for the material world, the average Canadian will toss 81 pounds of clothing material on an annual basis, while North Americans will discard of 10 million tonnes of clothing right into the landfill! I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that it’s time for a paradigm shift, and a dire need to rethink our attachments to ephemeral possessions. A good place to start is by evaluating your needs vs. your wants. Before purchasing an item, ask yourself these important questions: 1 - ‘Do I really need this in my life as a material possession?’ 2 - ‘Is this worth investing my hard-earned money?’ 3 - ‘What will this item’s lifespan be?’ 4 - ‘Where will this item end up after I am done with it?’ 5 - ‘Can I buy this second hand or trade to get this item?’ Evaluating the worthiness of a purchase provides insight into the choices we make, and the footprints we leave behind. Making purchases is deeply ingrained into our daily lives. We are all part of a system that depends on the purchases we make, and in turn, we depend on a system that allows us to purchase items for our needs & wants. So be honest with yourself, and think about it before purchasing – do you really need that thing? The answer is, sometimes yes, and sometimes no. Truth be told, not all items can be bought second hand, and not all items are necessary to buy new. However, if you do have to buy new, consider this: Do your best to buy locally sourced items! Although not always affordable or available, the option is out there more than you realize. Moreover, it is often a matter of investment, and doing research to find the most durable and highest quality goods. Items like shoes, undergarments, socks, & comfortable backpacks, are all hallmark back to school items that are worth getting new (for comfort & hygiene reasons) especially if sourced locally and purchased for durability.
If you do ever come across a purchase that necessitates new materials, examine the commodity closely, and consider its potential lifespan. Think about how many years you could potentially own and use this product before it ends up in the landfill. Purchasing a locally & quality made item upfront can seem daunting and costly if you are on a tight budget – but it is worth it in the long run, as it will last you longer, and produce less waste along the way. That which you hold, holds you. So think about the items you wish to hold, and how you would like them to hold you. In this case, sustainable, thrifted, durable, traded, and/or locally made are the items worth holding onto!
3) Cut the waste cycle with these common re-usable items
BYOC: Bring your own cup
With some summer weeks still lying ahead, hydration is key. Moreover, with the transitional seasons from hot to cold just around the corner, the reliance on warm beverages is expected to increase as well. Even simple actions of hydration can leave us with some serious environmental consequences! Thus, when you leave your house, bring a reusable water bottle with you. If you are a hot drink lover, bring your reusable mug with you. In fact, you can even find some of these vessels in thrift stores.
These statements might seem obvious to you, but the thing is, disposable water bottles & to-go coffee cups are enormous culprits that continue to feed into the waste cycles of our society. Canadians continue to use and dispose of two billion water bottles per year, breaking that number down to 5.3 million a day. According to Zero Waste Canada, approximately 14 billion to-go coffee cups are used and tossed on an annual basis…Yikes!
Nowadays, bringing your own drinking receptacle is not as practical as it once was. Since the pandemic and the establishment of extreme sanitary measures, most coffee shops, restaurants, and bulk food stores are refusing clients’ re-usable cups, and instead of offering its evil twin, which simply perpetuates our world’s waste issue.
So what is the solution here?
Don’t just BYOC (bring your own cup), make sure to fill your cup before leaving your place with the liquids of your choice. Sure, it can be easy to forget your mug or water bottle, but it is also easy to forge BYOC into a new habit! When you do forget your reusable drinking cups, you may be tempted to buy a water bottle or a warm beverage provided in a disposable cup. You may think ‘’it is just this one time’’. Simply remember, if we all continue thinking this way, we continue contributing to the daunting statistics mentioned above. Lead by example and BYOC!
Some areas in occidental life that require serious waste cutbacks are within our hygiene practices. Nearly every task that keeps you clean and healthy will have some sort of environmental repercussion. From washing your hair and body to brushing your teeth, from shaving to moisturizing, from toilet paper to menstrual maintenance, all these actions can leave behind wasteful items such as single-use plastics, polystyrene foam, or harmful types of packaging that end up right in the landfill. However, our washroom endeavours do not need to leave behind such detrimental footprints. There are options that help us lead sustainable systems in the bathroom. Unfortunately, most people are accustomed to the convention of quick-throw away items to uphold their hygiene practices. Here are a few items that you can substitute in the washroom practices that will not only save you money but will most importantly cut down on waste:
Brushing your teeth is an important hygiene practice. It reduces digestive diseases and prevents general health complications. However, the practice in and of itself is detrimental to the environment, especially when people opt for the plastic toothbrush option. The trend nowadays in environmental communities is to opt for biodegradable options. Bamboo toothbrushes have boomed in popularity in the last number of years. Although there are some downsides to bamboo toothbrushes (such as extraction of the resources for the product), it is a superior option to plastic toothbrushes. While making a purchase for bamboo toothbrushes, make sure to source ethically and locally (there are some Canadian companies).
Menstrual Cups & Re-usable Pads
According to Zero Waste Canada, the average woman will go through 9600 pads & tampons in her lifetime. Canada's female population is currently just over 50%, in the majority. So, it gives you a general estimate of how much waste is produced while maintaining menstruation. Many disposable menstruation products are pre-packaged in plastic or contain plastic lining. If the majority of Canadians are and will be menstruating in their lifetime, it signifies that an astronomical amount of waste is and will continue being produced. What is a good solution for this? Although not for everyone, silicone menstrual cups are a good way to go. They are easy to clean, reliable, comfortable (among the general consensus) and can last for up to 10 years! If menstrual cups are not for you, there are also reusable pads and other methods to maintain menstruation in a sustainable way. A quick internet search will help those who menstruate find what method is best for them!
DIY Hygiene products & Cleaning Products
Think about all the possible disposable products that are available in stores for people to use in the washroom: Plastic bottles for shampoo, condition, body soap, hand soap, moisturizers, creams & face wash, toothpaste tubes, deodorants, boxed bars of soap, house cleaning products...the list goes on, and the list is wasteful. Not to mention many of these products are often wrapped in extra packaging for the appeal of marketing purposes. A healthier (less harmful ingredients and byproducts), cheaper, and sustainable option is to make your own bathroom & hygiene products (DIY). The internet is full of ideas and recipes you can follow. For some fantastic ideas, click here.
It is nearly impossible nowadays to entirely eliminate waste out of our lives, but it is extraordinarily possible to reduce our footprint and significantly decrease our waste production. The temptation of purchasing new is at the tip of all of our fingers, often a simple mouse click or quick card tap away. Technology makes it easy to dismiss sustainability. Moreover, scary statistics of waste that occidental countries produce are important reminders to make conscious choices while getting out with the old, and in with the new. With the fall season approaching, let's all make an effort on ethical choices we make not only towards our purchases but most importantly for the planet and the future generations come.
Arianne LaBoissonnière has recently joined Stop Trashing It as an ambassador. Originally from Vancouver, though she is now located in Montréal, QC. She enjoys finding methods to be self-sufficient and self-sustainable and sharing these trends to increase environmental education. Take pride in your practices and make them ethical and sustainable!