As a mom of two, the bathroom is a sanctuary for me. A small room…with a lock, that is child free (for the most part 😜). One of my favourite things to do after we get our kids to bed, is to draw a bath and go into a googling black hole on my phone. I can zone out and click links upon links, that lead to more links, reading about whatever I want, desperately trying to stay current, without interruption. Pure bliss.
In October 2015 a CBC article was emailed to me in passing of a zero waste something or other lifestyle that two families in Victoria, BC were tackling. At first it was just going to be a quick scan in my black hole of reading but I was drawn in and mesmerized by a new lifestyle that two families were actually accomplishing in Canada. Little did I know, this article would lead me down a black hole of researching into a whole new way of life for my own little family! It was that night that our zero waste adventure began.
Zero waste is a concept and lifestyle that encourages a sustainable way of living that tries to produce as little waste as possible. Instead of the traditional three R’s, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle mindset it goes further to introduce another R at the beginning which is Refuse. Refuse the item that will ultimately become waste (especially one use items such as straws, plastic bags, coffee cups, etc). Refusing first helps us evaluate what we actually need in our life. It can be tricky to live this way here in the YYC but even the smallest of choices has the most amazing ripple effect! Our family is by no means fitting all our garbage into one tiny mason jar a year (yes, some people are accomplishing this,) but we have reduced our waste significantly, and strive to find new ways to continue to do so. You will find that when you’re consciously making small choices to create less waste, a snowball effect occurs. Your small decisions will become infectious, and you will find so many incredibly easy ways to create less waste to minimize your impact on this beautiful planet that we live on!
Here are a few quick and easy steps to start you on your own personal Zero Waste journey:
- Familiarize yourself with what the City of Calgary recycles. Our recycling plant is privately owned by Cascades Recovery Inc. When you think you’re doing your part by putting Styrofoam in the recycle bin because it has a #7 recycling code on it, or tossing in that Starbucks coffee cup AND lid because the lid has a #2 on it, you are misinformed. Not only does the plant not recycle those two items, but they have a negative impact on how the recycling plant is run. The city has two great resources to quickly look up to familiarize yourself with what the city actually recycles, as well as a webpage to trouble shoot those tricky items.
- Try to borrow or buy used first, before buying it new. We all have so. much. stuff! From baby gear, little black dresses or tools, we have plenty to go around even within our own social circles. If your friends or local thrift store don’t have what you need, sharing communities are becoming more common around Calgary. Below are a few to check out:
- Car2Go– A car sharing program in Calgary that has an easy to use app, affordable membership rate, driving rates, zero parking fees and now offer 4 seater cars!
- Calgary Tool Library– Located in the community of Bridgeland, a tool library that allows you to rent tools to fix or build things in your home.
- Calgary Public Library – An obvious but sometimes overlooked resource to borrow books, DVDs, & CD’s
- The Commons Calgary– Looking for a workspace for your own company but don’t want to invest in buying your own space? Share a space!
- Toy Lending Library
- University of Calgary Gear Rentals– Reasonable rates for outdoor equipment!
- Bike Sharing – Coming soon – According to the City of Calgary website “Implementing a public bike share system in Calgary’s Centre City is Action #11 of the 50 action items in the Council-approved Cycling Strategy“
- Try to minimize your packaging while grocery shopping. A little bit of planning goes a long way! First things first, remember your reusable bags. According to the Earth Policy Institute, nearly two million plastic bags are used per minute. That is insane! I have found that local YYC grocery stores are very receptive to individuals using their own containers. You may get the odd look when asking if you can put your bread or cheese in your own bag, but for the most part it sparks an interesting conversation. However, I’m not running all over the city, it does require a little bit of planning, and combining our grocery adventures with other errands. Here is a sample of where we have been buying our groceries to minimize our waste as well as reducing the amount of items we need to recycle.
Cheese – Both Janice Beaton & Spring Bank Cheese Company in Marda Loop will allow you to use your own container to take home your cheese.
Milk & Cream & Whip Cream – Community Natural Foods carries Avalon Dairy which is a certified organic dairy in British Columbia. Avalon provides a glass jar option for milk, cream and whip cream. You will pay $1 deposit but get it back after you return the bottle.
Eggs & Chicken – Did you know that Bowden Fresh Farm Chicken will deliver to your door for free for an order of $75.00 or more? They offer $4 dozen organic free range eggs and will take back their egg cartons to be reused! Their 5 pound frozen chicken breasts (($45 roughly 16 chicken breast) also come in a large zip lock plastic bag that can be recycled, no cellophane or Styrofoam! A few friends and neighbours in my community got together to make a bi-weekly order.
Bread & Treats: Cobbs Bread is amazing for using your own containers or bags!
Fruit & Vegetables – These are the easiest to obtain waste free. No need to ask anyone if you can use your own container or drive anywhere special, you can simply bring your own reusable produce bags or just throw them in your cart bagless! You can also check out the many Community Shared Agriculture (CSA) programs in Calgary that allow you to purchase a share in a local farm. When you pick your items up at your weekly site, they require you to bring your own bags to fill with produce.
Coffee – Community Natural Foods will allow you to bring in your own container and have it weighed so it won’t count towards your coffee purchase. They have a great selection of bulk organic beans as well as many Kicking Horse Beans!
Spices – Community Natural Foods, Silk Road Market & Bulk Barn
Baking goods/Cereal/Treats – Bulk Barn will officially allow you to bring in your own containers. They need to be inspected & tared (weighed so you don’t pay for the weight of your container!) before you use them but you can bring in whatever to fill up with their goodies!
- Practice Sarah Lazarovic’s “Buyerarchy of Needs” visual. It’s a great reminder that sometimes what we need is already at home stashed away in a closet or drawer.
- Most importantly, be kind to yourself and others! Everyone is capable of creating change – do what works for you, and create and commit to change that is sustainable for you! Start small or start big, just do what works for you!
Mama Sasquatch: Zero Waste Newbie. Minimalist. Aspiring Baker & Cook. Coffee Lover. Mama to two, discovering a simpler way of life in Calgary, Alberta.
You can check out our little family’s blog at SimpleSasquatch.com where we are discovering a simpler way of life. As we aspire to be zero waste we also blog about raising a family, minimalism, saving money, discovering Calgary and cooking and baking.