The United Church No Plastics Challenge

By Lillian Nakamura Maguire, December 7, 2018

 

Members of Whitehorse United Church recently took on a 4-week challenge to eliminate single-use plastics from mid-October to mid-November.

The purpose was to increase our awareness of the amount of plastics we use in our households.  At the end of the challenge, we shared pictures of the single use plastics collected and talked about ways that we worked to reduce them during that time. Lea Pigage, Zero Waste Hero, mother of 3, B&B owner and biologist, served as a resource to the group.

In Whitehorse, almost 10% of the landfill consists of plastics, and another 10% is composite products made of plastic mixed with other materials (e.g. chip bags, food packaging and single-use coffee cups). Currently the world recovers only 5% of the value of the plastic packaging we produce.  Plastics break down into very small particles that are found in seabirds, fish and marine mammals and some of these compounds found in plastics have altered hormones or have other potentially harmful health effects on humans.

 A sample of plastic waste collected during the United Church no plastics challenge (Photo: Lillian Nakamure-Maguire)

 

Our church wondered where recycled plastics are sent and what happens to them in the end?  We also wondered if buying products in glass containers was better for the environment (It turns out most glass is crushed and used for landfill cover because it is too costly to ship out of territory).

For many participants it proved to be a challenge to eliminate things such as meat foam trays, take-out containers, food and consumer product packaging, ready-made salads in plastic, yogurt containers and coffee cups with plastic tops.  Cleaning supply containers seemed to take a large portion of my plastic – bleach bottles, floor cleaners, window cleaners, etc.   I learned that I didn’t really need all these different kinds of cleaners.  One kind of soap purchased in large containers could handle many kinds of jobs.

Many of us already use cloth bags for shopping; some also carry small nylon bags for bulk bin products such as nuts or grains and legumes. These bags weigh next to nothing and won’t add to the cost of the product.  Some members have requested of store managers to carry more bulk foods in bins, and allow people to bring their own glass jars.  Riverside Grocery allows this and will weigh your container prior to filling it.

Most veggies and fruits we were able to buy unpackaged, although lettuce wrapped in plastic was difficult to avoid. We used our cloth bags or reused plastic bags we already had to store these items.  Buying soap and shampoo in bulk helped to cut down on the smaller plastic bottles.  Some have made their own shampoos, although many recommended homemade soaps by Yukon artisans.

Handmade Soaps from the Yukon Soaps Company. Owner Joella Hogan is a Zero Hero, read more about her story here! (Photo: Joella Hogan)

 

Instead of using plastic wrap, I learned about beeswax food covers, which are sold at the holiday craft sales.  I made some with old cotton pillowcases and melted down bits of beeswax. It worked quite well but not as beautiful as the craft sale or store bought ones, but certainly useable.

We also discovered we could buy toilet paper in bulk at the restaurant supply store.  Each roll is wrapped in paper and in a cardboard box, rather than the plastic wrapped individual rolls covered with a second plastic layer that we had been purchasing in the past.

Some members of the group had been away travelling during that time.  Airlines are notorious for the amount of plastic garbage they produce.  Of course the fast food places in the airports are filled with plastic water bottles and pre-packaged ready to eat foods.  For the lucky ones who vacationed in southern France, they were able to buy fresh local food daily without the plastic.  The rule of thumb, no take out coffee without your own container and fill your own water bottles.

Lea Pigage told us about her practice of arranging with her meat department an order of meat for 2 – 3 months. She brings large food containers into which they put chicken, beef, etc.  She picks up a few days later and wraps up her meat into waxed butcher paper at home. For sliced meats she takes her own container and asks the person to slice it onto paper and put labels on the outside of the container.

“Zero Hero” Lea Pigage has embraced a Zero Waste lifestyle by simply refusing unnecessary waste and making small changes to her purchasing habits. Read more about Lea here. (Photo: Zero Waste Yukon)

 

When ordering take-out sushi she tells the restaurant that she will bring her own container, which they have no problem accepting.  She also asks for no soy sauce in small packages.

When she’s in the stores she refuses any free things that she doesn’t need and encourages her children to do the same. Lea’s son has taken this Zero Waste philosophy wholeheartedly and even suggested they potty train his youngest brother earlier to reduce their waste!

As we come upon the holiday season, it is worthwhile for us all to consider the amount of plastic, paper, foil, and ribbon that is necessary and what we would like to avoid.  Much of this takes planning – instead of buying a ready to serve veggie or fruit tray to take to the office party, take less than an hour to prepare your own and serve on your own platter.  Consider whether you need the latest Christmas ornaments in the WOW catalogue. Would a simple beeswax candle and some holly and evergreen boughs do the trick?

Dehydrated citrus like oranges and lemons make for a great Zero Waste Christmas ornament. For more Zero Waste Christmas ideas check out our Zero Waste Advent Calendar! (Photo: Zero Waste Yukon)

 

As Whitehorse United Church members, we vowed to consider how to make these plastic-free ideas a practice in our daily living.  We also felt that we wanted to learn more about where our waste goes and how to reduce it in our homes, in our church and community activities and in our workplaces. Further discussions will follow in January with Ira Webb of Zero Waste Yukon and Bryna Cable of the City of Whitehorse.

For further information, contact lillian@lakelaberge.com.

 

 

 

Bea Johnson of “Zero Waste Home” visits Whitehorse

Whitehorse can stop wasting, says leader of global Zero Waste lifestyle movement

 

A woman who has eliminated trash from her California-based household since 2008 is coming to Whitehorse to encourage others to do the same.

Bea Johnson and her family adopted a Zero Waste lifestyle in 2008 and they now produce only a half litre of trash per year. Her blog and subsequent bestseller Zero Waste Home launched a global movement of waste-free living.

Zero Waste Home has been translated into over 20 languages and is rated number one in the amazon.com waste category.

 

“In giving this way of life a face, in showing that Zero Waste is possible, that it can be stylish, that it can save time and money (40% on our overall budget!), we changed people’s misconceptions. And our lifestyle turned into a movement. Thousands are doing this now,” says Johnson.

Dubbed “The Priestess of Waste-Free Living” by the New York Times, she has become a guru to a fan base to hundreds of thousands on Facebook and Instagram.

“The Zero Waste lifestyle might, at first sight, be about reducing as much household trash as possible, but what you ultimately discover is a simple life, a life based on experiences instead of things. It’s the opposite of what we would have expected it be; It’s improved our lives so much that we could not envision going back to the way we used to live,” the French native explains.

Bea Johnson has completed 14 international speaking tours and given talks in 50+ countries on 6 continents.

 

A will to create a more sustainable world for her children’s future is what got her started 10 years ago. Today she is driven to spread her message as far and wide as possible. Johnson speaks all over the globe, counting the United Nations, Google, Adobe, and the European Parliament as recent gigs. Bea is known to talk about her personal journey with humor and without preaching, inspiring self-reflection and change.

Zero Waste Yukon is excited to annouce that Bea will be speaking twice in Whitehorse on October 21st – once in French and once in English. She will be giving a presentation about practical ways to eliminate trash. Johnson’s presentations will be the closing event in Whitehorse for Waste Reduction Week in Canada, which takes place October 15-21 across the nation in support of waste reduction initiatives.

Zero Waste Yukon chose to bring Bea to the Yukon because she is extremely knowledgeable and relatable to so many people. She’s had such a large influence abroad and we’re excited for her to inspire change here locally too. Waste Reduction Week is the perfect time to bring everyone together to inspire action.

“I’m really excited to share my lifestyle in Whitehorse. There’s been a lot of interest in this way of life in Canada and I am honored by Zero Waste Yukon’s invitation” says Johnson.

Bea Johnson is speaking twice on October 21st at the MacBride Museum – 1124 Front St. Both presentations will be followed by a Q&A period.

12:30 pm – 1:30 pm – présentation en Français

5:00 pm – 6:00 pm – presentation in English

Both presentations are open to the public.

 

Contact info@zerowasteyukon.ca or call 867-667-7269 ext. 27 for more information.

 

 

Yukon Montessori School Battles Plastic Pollution

 Luca, Tammo, Elliott, Ben, Asher and Owen of Yukon Montessori School are visualizing solutions to environmental issues through Cosmic Education

 

When discussing the global plastic pollution crisis – and it is a crisis – things can often seem bleak. That’s not the case at Yukon Montessori School, where in Kelly Scott’s Lower Elementary class, the future looks bright. Very bright. Through Cosmic Education, the class is utilizing their creative energy to imagine solutions to global plastic waste.

What is Cosmic Education? It is one of the pillars of the Montessori system. Maria Montessori called it the path through which children develop a global vision. By developing gratitude for the universe and their own lives within it, children can begin to understand their role, purpose, and responsibility in society.

Plastic production has many associated negative externalities (costs) that will only worsen as consumption surges.

 

Since the 1960s, plastic production has increased twenty-fold. Plastic production uses 6% of the world’s oil resources. By 2050, it will account for 20% of global oil use. It is a material that lasts forever, but is mostly used for items that are destined for a single-use. As a result, we waste 95% of the value of our plastics each year. What’s more, vast amounts of these single-use items escape collection and are wreaking havoc on our ecosystems. By 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish (by weight).

After hearing about the growing problem of plastic pollution in the world’s oceans, and learning about 4 Ocean, an initiative to clean up marine plastic pollution, Scott’s class decided to create a project that could illustrate the dangers of plastic pollution to others. What they came up with was a plastic artwork show that highlights not only the harmful effects of plastic pollution, but also imagines potential solutions to the crisis.

Kelly Scott’s Lower Elementary class is teaching visitors about plastic pollution through recycled art.

 

I spoke with students Luca, Tammo, Elliott, Ben, Asher and Owen (ages 6-9) about their art pieces and was blown away by their depth of knowledge and creative ideas for solving this global problem.

Using recycled plastic, most of it from their school lunches, they created incredible models of machines and vivid scenes of plastic pollution, complete with explanations and up to date facts.

 A scene that’s becoming more and more common, littered beaches and strangled marine life highlight the crisis of plastic pollution in our oceans.

 

Several students created machines designed to remove plastic debris from the ocean and recycle it. One was even designed to take ocean plastic and convert it into water! Some pieces showed the extent of plastic pollution and its effects on wildlife and ecosystems. Many called for the viewer to take action against garbage. There was even a rocket ship created to remove garbage from space and return it to Earth to be recycled!

 

This scene of ocean pollution was accompanied by pleas to “Save the turtles,” and “Save our Earth!”

 

Accompanying the art pieces were posters providing the facts about plastic pollution. Speaking to the boys it was clear that they knew their stuff. We talked about where plastic comes from, and the backwards logic of creating single-use items out of a material that lasts forever. We discussed how plant-based alternatives to plastic might help decrease plastic waste. Most importantly, we talked about ways we can all use less plastic in our lives.

“We’ve really come a long way with our classroom waste,” says Scott.

“We recycle a lot, and only fill a small garbage bin once every few weeks. Next up is student lunches, I’m hoping to get everyone on board for plastic free lunches in the fall.”

  The plastic art pieces were complemented with posters displaying facts about plastic pollution.

 

The class’ timing is great, as Zero Waste Yukon is kicking off a campaign to promote Plastic Free July. This is an international initiative to raise awareness of plastic pollution.  We’re challenging people to refuse as much single-use plastic as they can for the month of July. Throughout the month we’ll be celebrating people that are refusing single use plastic, and providing tips for living with less.

Kids like the students in Scott’s class at Yukon Montessori are our future Zero Waste champions. They’re out there reminding people that there are so many easy little things we can do, whether it’s bringing a reusable water bottle or coffee cup, or saying no to straws when we dine out. Small behaviour changes have an impact, and when kids are leading the charge, you know that the future is in good hands.

 

Plastic Free July kicks off July 1. Zero Waste Yukon will be at the Fireweed Community Market on June 28th hosting a plastic-free living workshop where attendees can make their own beeswax food wraps and learn ways to live with less plastic.

Visit zerowasteyukon.ca/plasticfreejuly for info on sign up and all the ways you can choose to refuse single use!