Zero Waste Blog
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10 Easy Zero Waste New Year’s ResolutionsJanuary 3, 2019
For many of us it’s time to set some resolutions for the year to come. To do so, you might start by looking back at the year that was. 2018 was a banner year for news about plastic pollution and the threat of global climate change. The word “single-use” was even chosen as “Word of the Year” by Collins Dictionary.
According to Collins, “single-use encompasses a global movement to kick our addiction to disposable products. From plastic bags, bottles and straws to washable nappies, we have become more conscious of how our habits and behaviours can impact the environment.”
“Plogging” – picking up litter while jogging, also made the short list, highlighting a growing concern with humanity’s impact on the environment.
To quote Stephen Buryani’s recent must-read article in The Guardian, The plastic backlash: what’s behind our sudden rage – and will it make a difference?, plastic has become “public enemy number one.”
“Despite the odds, the anti-plastic movement has become perhaps the most successful worldwide environmental campaign to emerge since the turn of the century. If governments are held to their commitments, and the movement maintains its momentum, it will have an effect.”
“In the much larger battle over climate change, the plastic backlash could end up being a small but energizing victory, a model for future action,” writes Buryani.
Pathways of biological and technical materials in a circular economy (Ellen Macarthur Foundation)
Coupled with growing awareness of the costs of our rampant consumption is the growth of the Zero Waste movement and the Circular Economy. We are in the midst of an exciting paradigm shift, one that will see us move away from the historic linear approach to industrial production and embrace circular economies where resources are used over and over again.
As individuals we play a pivotal role in bringing about these changes and shaping the world we want to live in. With that in mind, here are 10 simple Zero Waste resolutions you can embrace this year (and beyond):
1. Carry a reusable bag
This is one of the easiest things you can do to reduce your waste footprint. Canadians use roughly 2.86 billion single-use plastic bags each year. The majority of these are landfilled and recycling is not an effective solution. Once you get into the habit of always being prepared, you’ll wonder how you ever left home without your reusable bag. Keep them in your car, keep them by the door, and be sure to get yourself a set of reusable produce bags as well! Check out our Think Outside The Bag page for info on our campaign for a bag reduction policy in Yukon!
2. Give up bottled water
We know tap water is a far more efficient system for delivering water than bottled water. Even if every plastic bottle we used was recycled, tap water still uses less resources, produces less greenhouse gas emissions, and avoids other toxic emissions. It is absolutely insane to take water from across the country, bottle it in plastic, and drive it up the Alaska Highway when we have clean, drinkable water right here.
Carry a reusable bottle with you and you’ll likely end up drinking more water too, so it’s a win-win!
3. Get a good reusable mug
The best way to ensure you’ll remember your reusable mug is to get one you like to drink out of. There are countless options out there so you’ll likely be able to find one that suits your needs. The next step is to commit to using it. Try skipping your coffee or tea if you forget your cup, that way you’ll create a bigger incentive to bring it!
Bringing your own mug means less Tim Horton’s cups littering Yukon streets and parks, and less wasted resources.
4. Refuse what you don’t truly need
Make 2019 the year you try and refuse as much needless packaging as you can. Whether it’s a disposable bag, disposable cup, or some other items designed for a single-use, saying no will not only help you create less waste, but you’ll also save money! Avoiding impulse purchases can be difficult at first, but like anything, all it takes is a bit of practice.
5. Wear your clothes longer, shop secondhand and buy quality
Every year, North Americans send 26 billion pounds of clothing to landfills. 95% of this clothing could be reused or recycled. When you throw away your clothes, you’re not just wasting the item itself, but the natural resources used to make that item. It takes over 700 gallons of water to make a t-shirt, and 1800 gallons for a pair of jeans!
Donating your clothes to local thrift stores is a great way to save those resources, and shopping secondhand helps avoid using up resources for new clothes. The most sustainable fashion item is one that already exists.
6. Plan ahead
Anticipating your needs and being prepared so you don’t end up with needless waste can take a bit of work. With a little mindfulness, you can create new habits so remembering your reusables becomes second nature. Plan your weekly meals to avoid creating food waste. Think you’ll have a coffee? Bring your mug just in case. Keep a reusable bag in your car, purse, or pocket. You’ll quickly see how much less waste you produce when you get in the habit of always being prepared.
7. Say no to straws
Straws are one of the easiest single-use items to give up. While they don’t account for a huge part of the waste stream, they are a symbol of unnecessary waste. They’re also one of the easiest items to avoid. Simply say “no straw, please” when dining out. Once you’ve eliminated something simple like straws, it will help you in saying no to other disposable items.
8. Cook more
Cooking and eating without single-use packaging is a big part of reducing your waste. By avoiding take-out and making more meals yourself, you’ll be avoiding styrofoam and other plastic food packaging. You’ll also eat better, as many processed packaged foods are less healthy than unpackaged fresh foods. Plan your meals to help decrease food waste and don’t forget to make a list when shopping!
9. Be positive
Making Zero Waste choices every day can be a little daunting, particularly in the grocery store where we’re surrounded by disposable plastic. The news about plastic pollution can also seem bleak. That’s why it’s so important to stay positive. Don’t be discouraged if your cart has a bit more plastic than you’d like, instead celebrate the face that you’re creating less waste than you used to! Give yourself a pat on the back when you remember your reusable cup or bag and it will help you continue to remember!
10. Share your success
One thing that makes the journey to Zero Waste easier is help along the way. A growing Zero Waste community will mean more access to waste free products and more power to change our current systems. Sharing tips and success with others is a great way to inspire change, and you’ll also get positive feedback which will help you stay dedicated to fulfilling your resolutions.
Whether you choose 1 resolution or commit to making sweeping changes, stay mindful and don’t give up! Don’t be discouraged if you falter, simply start again and know you’re an important part of positive change in your community. Happy New Year!