Breaking Up With The Paper Cup: A New Year’s Resolution

With the start of a new year, it’s time again to decide on some resolutions to take into 2018 to make our lives and the lives of those around us a bit better. As always, some resolutions will fall by the wayside, some we might stick with for a few months, and a few of our resolutions might become the norm. Some resolutions are grandiose (“I’m going to work out more!”) others more modest (“I’m going to stop eating popcorn before bed!”), but let me suggest a resolution that is entirely attainable and will have meaningful impact on your environment: Break up with the disposable paper cup.

In Canada, over 1.5 billion disposable coffee cups, equivalent to as much paper as over half a million trees, are thrown away each year. In Whitehorse, it’s estimated that 20,000 cups are thrown away each week, and in Vancouver, the cups make up about 22% of the on-street garbage stream, costing the city millions of dollars to deal with. Our dependence on convenience has resulted in a cycle of growing waste, but these disposable cups are easy to give up, and there’s no time like the present.


Disposable coffee cups are a growing environmental burden


Most disposable coffee cups are made from paper but have a polyethylene or wax lining,which makes them difficult to recycle. Some municipalities can recycle these cups but these are few, and in places that do recycle them, most people are unaware that they can be recycled.

Many shops offer compostable coffee cups, which is great, if they get thrown in the compost. Often there are few compost options around for the cup to go into, and the average number of steps someone will carry garbage is only twelve paces. Unfortunately many consumers are unwilling to carry the cup to find composting options, and they end up in the landfill where they last hundreds of years and contribute to the production of methane, whose greenhouse gas effect is 25 times that of carbon dioxide.


Bring your own


Impressed by a friend’s decision to quit using disposable cups, I decided I would get a reusable mug, but I would often forget it and have coffee in a paper cup anyways, plastic lid and all. As time drew on and my understanding of the global issues of waste evolved, I decided that to do this effectively I would have to strengthen my resolve.

I decided that if on any given day I forgot to bring my mug, or didn’t have time to use one at the coffee shop, I would skip coffee that day. In this way, I created a negative consequence for forgetting to bring my mug. On those days I forgot and couldn’t have my coffee, the act of missing out created incentive to consciously remember my cup wherever I went.

The cup for me was an old ceramic mug I “inherited” when I moved out of my parents’ house. It was a good size, and I always preferred the taste of coffee from a ceramic mug. It didn’t have a lid, so I would be forced to stop and smell the coffee, or to tread carefully when carrying a full cup, but it was a convenient enough size that I could comfortably carry it everywhere, and I saved a bit of money with each cup, as most businesses offer a discount for bringing in a reusable mug.

(Photo credit: Moomin Shop Online)

The key? Find a mug you love, one you enjoy drinking out of, and you’re much more likely to bring it with you every day.

I’ll admit there are lots of less than ideal travel mugs out there. Some don’t keep the coffee hot, and some keep it so hot that you have to wait hours before it’s a drinkable temperature. KeepCup makes some funky, sustainably made coffee mugs that are great for specialty coffee and come in all sizes. For those on the move, I can’t say enough good things about my Stanley 16oz Thermos. It’s not too big, has a cup, and keeps things hot for hours. On top of that, it has a lifetime warranty.

Spend a little time looking and you’ll find the right mug for you, then the only thing you’ll have to do is remember to bring it!


Solutions to the coffee conundrum


It would be wonderful if we could all wake up tomorrow and stop using disposable cups, but that’s unlikely. Fortunately, there are many people and organizations working at reducing our consumption of disposable coffee cups.

We’ve seen how beverage container deposit systems are successful at diverting recyclables from landfills, could the same system work for coffee cups? In Vancouver, where 2.6 million cups are thrown away every week, The Binners’ Project is exploring what a refund-deposit system for coffee cups would look like. They hosted a one day “Coffee Cup Revolution” where they offered a 5 cent refund for every disposable cup brought in.

Photo credit: Binners’ Project

In 3 hours, they collected over 53,000 cups, and project leader Ken Lyotier didn’t beat around the bush when discussing the issue:

“We’re chopping down half a million trees a year in Canada to provide ourselves with these disposable cups, which we ship out to the dump, and we can’t afford to build decent, affordable housing for our very poorest citizens — there’s something very off-kilter here.”

Lyotier is right, and even though paper coffee cups are covered under an EPR program for packaging, the City of Vancouver is exploring potential regulations to further reduce coffee cup waste.

At UNBC, they started the ‘Borrow-A-Mug’ program, setting up stations on campus where reusable mugs can be borrowed if needed, and then dropped off to be washed by volunteers. Other universities are employing this new strategy as a way to move towards Zero Waste on campus. We’ve all been in the coffee line and realized we left our mug at home, so this is a great way to provide reusable cups for students on the go.

Similarly, a New Zealand Cafe challenged the norm and did away with takeout cups altogether. Instead, they offered repurposed ceramic mugs they got at thrift shops and other recycling stores. The mugs could simply be taken and dropped off later, and the shop saw no decrease in business like they expected.  By taking away the option of a disposable cup they’re encouraging their customers to rethink their behaviour, and eventually people get used it.


Change the story about convenience


There are lots of great initiatives tackling the issues associated with our disposable culture, and we’re still discovering the consequences of convenience. What it will take to change is people like you deciding enough is enough. Individual actions have merit, so if you’re looking for a new year’s resolution, ditch the disposable cup! Get out there and find a mug you love! You’ll enjoy your coffee more, and you’ll dramatically reduce your waste! Furthermore, you’ll be showing people there are alternatives and demonstrating a real solution to the issue of disposable cup waste. In the words of Lindsay Miles from Treading My Own Path, “you’ll be changing the story about convenience”, making reusable cups a little more socially acceptable and disposable cups a little less so.

Forgot your travel mug at home? Stop and smell the coffee (literally) by enjoying your cup at the café in a real mug, or dare I say it, skip the coffee?

Happy New Year!





Chad Berndt. 2013. Wake up and smell the coffee. Retrieved from:

CBC News. 2014. Coffee cups recycled for 5-cent refund in Vancouver. Retrieved from:

Durocher et al. 2014. Methane fluxes show consistent temperature dependence across microbial to ecosystem scales. Nature 507: 488–491

Chad Pawson. 2017. Vancouver seeks ideas to stem tide of cups, containers and bags. Retrieved from:

Brianne Tolj. 2016. Cafe BANS disposable takeaway coffee cups telling customers they can either bring their own or drink out of old crockery from second-hand shops. Retrieved from:

Zero Waste Canada. 2017. The brewing problem of the to-go coffee cup. Retrieved from:

Zero Waste Advent Calendar – December 25: Love!

This December, Zero Waste Yukon is counting down to Christmas with our Zero Waste Advent Calendar! Each day of the week will highlight a waste-free activity or gift you can give this year to reduce your holiday waste! Christmas can be a time of year where we generate a lot of unnecessary waste, so check back here daily for ideas on how you can spread joy this Christmas without spreading garbage! 

Zero Waste Advent Calendar


December 1: Local, handmade goods
Avoid packaging and support local artisans by finding handmade gifts.
Check out local markets, fairs, and stores for Yukon-made creations!

December 2: Going out for dinner
Treat your loved ones to a nice dinner on the town or a special meal at home.
Don’t forget your reusable container for leftovers!

December 3: Homemade dog treats
Surprise the dog owners in your life with some tasty homemade goodies for their pup.
There’s countless recipes online for dog treats that will make you a dog owner’s best friend!

December 4: Tickets to a show
Give the gift of entertainment with tickets to a musical act, theatre performance or movie (e.g. the new Star Wars).
Check out the Arts Centre, Guild Hall, Gwaandak Theatre and others for local performances!

December 5: Babysitting
Treat your friends or family with kids to a day off this holiday season by offering up your babysitting services as a gift.
Your loved ones will appreciate it more than any material gift!

December 6: Volunteering
Give back to a local charity this Christmas. Volunteering is a great family activity that teaches compassion and caring for others.
Contact Volunteer Yukon to learn about volunteer opportunities!

December 7: Reusable Beeswax Food Wrap
Say goodbye to plastic cling wrap with breathable, reusable cloth beeswax food wraps, the perfect kitchen stocking stuffer!
Available in Whitehorse at Riverside Grocery or make your own with these 
DIY instructions!

December 8: Secondhand Gear
Explore secondhand options for sports gear and save money this Christmas! There’s lots of secondhand items in great condition looking for a new home, check out ChangingGear and other local secondhand stores as well as the Buy and Sell!

December 9: Borrow from nature decorating
Avoid junk plastic decorations and borrow from nature! Harvest some tree boughs or pine cones to add a festive touch to your home, and don’t forget a natural Christmas tree!

December 10: Recycled decorations
Skip the plastic tree ornaments and craft something unique out of recycled materials. Your tree will be more personalized and it’s a great activity for quality time with the family!

December 11: Beer
Get your loved ones a refillable growler with some local brew in it. They can use it over and over again without having to waste bottles and cans!

December 12: Recipe Book
Have a favourite recipe? Secret guide to making the world’s best something? Why not share your recipes as a gift to a friend? It’s a gift that keeps on giving!

December 13: Go wrap free
Try keeping it simple this year and avoid hard to recycle Christmas wrapping paper by going wrap-free! Wrapping presents is as easy as tying a string bow around your gift and plopping it under the tree!

December 14: Learn a new skill
This Christmas, give the gift of learning! Instead of dancing around aisles in stores looking for the right material gift, why not try dance lessons? Or why not try learning a new hobby like weaving, painting, pottery, or glass blowing? You never know if you’ll find something you and your loved ones will love!

December 15: Reusable Coffee Filter!
This holiday, give the gift of paper-free coffee with a 100% cotton cloth coffee filter! No plastic, no metal, no paper. Simply compost your old grounds, then rinse and reuse for waste-free coffee this Christmas!

December 16: Curling!
This Christmas get your family and friends together and organize a curling game! Sheets of ice and equipment can be rented for you and your friends to enjoy a day of curling. It’s great fun, so hurry hard and visit Whitehorse Curling Club for more info.

December 17: Getaway
Instead of buying your family stuff this Christmas, why not treat them to a getaway? It could be as simple as a weekend out of town, but it will be a great opportunity for quality time and it won’t come wrapped in plastic!

December 18: Charitable Donation
Stuck on what to get your friend or family member for Christmas? Why not make a charitable donation in their name to a local organization that could use some support? No materials necessary, and you can both feel good knowing you’ve done something to help those in need.

December 19: Share a book!
Read a good book lately? Got a pile of classics sitting around collecting dust? Why not bundle up one or two of your top picks and give them as a gift to someone this Christmas? Passing on your favourites to others is a great, thoughtful holiday gift.

December 20: Yoga!
Treat your loved ones to some relaxation and physical fitness this Christmas with yoga classes at your local studio! Perfect for relieving the stress of the Christmas season! Namaste!

December 21: Edible Gifts
Always a good choice, a home cooked gift is a perfect Zero Waste Christmas present! Cookies, baked goods and other homemade creations are a great holiday treat and don’t require any excess packaging or wrapping! Instead of buying presents for friends, invite them over for a home cooked meal!

December 22: Snowshoeing or Skiing
Treat those special people in your life to a special day in the snow and get outside this Christmas!

December 23: Write a song or poem!
Embrace your inner creative and show how you feel by writing a poem or song to your loved one. It’s a gift worth more than anything material!

December 24: Give Nothing!
Make a deal with your family and friends to skip presents this year! You’ll all create less waste and you can worry about sharing quality time with each other instead!

December 25: Love!


This holiday, be bright and merry, be compassionate, be caring, be thoughtful, and share today with those who matter most to you.




12 Days of Alternative Gift Wrap!


Did you know that most Christmas wrapping paper can’t be recycled? Many gift wraps contain heavy inks, foil or glitter that interfere with recycling processes.

On top of that, about 545,000 tonnes of waste is generated in Canada annually from gift-wrapping and shopping bags.

With that in mind, here are 12 alternatives to traditional Christmas gift wrap you can use this year to cut down on waste, and when you’re recycling old Christmas wrapping paper, make sure it’s 100% paper!


1. Newspaper and magazines

Newspapers are a great option for repurposed wrapping paper. The comics section is great, particularly if it’s in colour! Otherwise, a neat headline or any old news or magazine page will work great as Zero Waste wrapping!


2. Maps

My particular favourite, maps are a super cool alternative to regular holiday wrapping paper, and give your presents a unique look. I recommend a visit to the library, as they may have old ones kicking around!


3. Reusable Containers

Instead of hard to recycle wrapping paper, why not use a box, tin or mason jar that can be reused by the receiver after? These are also great for protecting your gift at the same time!


4. Decorated Recycled Paper

Grab a used paper bag or some old white paper and get to work decorating it. Use stamps, pencil crayons or paper cutouts to bring some life to your recycled paper and your gift will be the most beautiful under the tree!


5. Handmade Box

Use this simple template to craft a cute little gift box using an empty cereal box (or similar sized cardboard box). No need to buy a new one, and you’ll impress whoever you’re giving to with your crafting skills!…/cereal-boxes.html


6. Calendars

Old calendars are another great option for alternative wrapping paper! They often have beautiful imagery that will look great as a gift wrap, and it’s a perfect way to recycle last year’s stuff!


7. Textiles

Another great alternative to wrapping paper is cloth or other textiles. It’s durable, reusable, there’s no tape involved, and your gift will look beautiful!


8. Paper Bags

Simple, rustic, recyclable. The brown paper bag is a great option to wrap small gifts in, and looks great with some natural additions, red and white twine or ribbon to tie it all together!


9. Furoshiki

The Japanese wrapping cloth Furoshiki accentuates care for things and is an ideal method for wrapping almost anything, as it’s highly reusable and multipurpose. Choosing Furoshiki to wrap your gifts is like giving two gifts at once!

Visit for instructions on folding your Furoshiki.


10. Repurposed Containers

Got an old coffee tin or jam jar? These are great for holding edibles like cookies, and you’ll be giving these old containers a second life!


11. Last Year’s Paper

What better way to avoid waste than by using last year’s paper? Instead of tearing into your gifts (which we all love to do), carefully unwrap and save the paper to use for your wrapping next Christmas (or birthday)!


12. No Wrapping

What better way to reduce wrapping waste than by breaking the mould and going wrap-free?!


Whatever alternative you choose, you’ll be doing your part to reduce your holiday waste and spread the joy of a green Christmas. Happy wrapping!



Indoor Community Garage Sale – February 10th, 2018

Registration is now open for the 5th annual Indoor Community Garage Sale!

New this year is the opportunity to learn to repair household electronics with the help of YuKonstruct’s handy Repair Cafe. Yukontruct’s volunteers will make their best effort to help you repair your broken devices during the event.

With over 1000 people attending the event last year, this event is also a great opportunity to raise funds for your organization (non-profit, sports team, etc.) while keeping materials out of the landfill!

To register as a vendor for the event please call North Star Mini Storage, our event partner, at 633-5402.

NEW – The Perfectly Good Household Goods Reuse Program

In Whitehorse, the recent closures of thrift and free stores has meant a wealth of household goods are being disposed of rather than reused. These closures have also affected housing organizations that previously sourced items from these spaces to help furnish homes. This program was created to support organizations working on housing initiatives by filling that gap.

When consulted, many organizations cited storage and managing goods as major barriers to acquiring used items. North Star Mini Storage, in partnership with Zero Waste Yukon, has created a program to overcome these barriers to make household goods accessible to organizations working to provide housing in Yukon communities. North Star Mini Storage has agreed to provide storage space for items while Zero Waste Yukon will be responsible for coordinating the calls for materials, managing an inventory list, and communicating with organizations seeking goods.

Program Details:

-This program will run for one year. At the end of one year the program will be reevaluated.

-Materials are only available for organizations working on local housing initiatives

-There will be two controlled and staffed intake of household goods. One will occur on February 10th 2018 during the Indoor Community Garage Sale at the Canada Games Center and another in the spring/summer of 2018. Zero Waste Yukon is responsible for organizing these events. Controlled intakes where materials are assessed before being accepted are key to ensuring only usable goods are acquired. It also prevents illegal of dumping of materials at North Star Mini Storage.

-Zero Waste Yukon will survey participating organizations to determine specifically which items are needed most before the first intake of goods.

-Marketing for these events will target specific goods based on survey results and also clearly communicate quality requirements.

-Zero Waste Yukon will manage and make accessible an inventory list of materials held in storage.

The first intake of items will be on February 10th at the Indoor Community Garage Sale and Repair Fair. We are currently collecting feedback on exactly what items are needed by organizations working on housing initiatives. The survey is live and available here:


This program was made possible with support from the Community Development Fund.


Recycling and Zero Waste Working Forum  April 11th  – 13th 2018 

This two-day working forum is a platform for information sharing, streamlining of operations, and inspiration that will help guide the future of recycling and waste reduction efforts in the territory.

By bringing together stakeholders, we aim to take action in creating an informed and efficient system that supports municipalities and businesses throughout the Yukon.


Zero Waste Yukon is thrilled to host Eric Lombardi as a keynote speaker for the event. With over 25 years of experience building the largest Zero Waste social enterprise in America, Eric is an accomplished public speaker, policy advocate, and strategic community planner with front-line knowledge of Zero Waste and the recycling industry. Learn more about Eric Lombardi and Eco-Cycle Solutions here.

Everyone is welcome to an evening event with Eric Lombardi at the Beringia Centre on Thursday April 12th. 

Contact if you would like to attend, to share your ideas, and for more information. Registration and the event agenda will become available in the new year.

Recycle lights and support the Outreach Van

It happens almost every year. You expectantly plug in a tangle of holiday lights but nothing happens. They don’t light up and you can’t figure out which of the bulbs are broken!

What should you do?

The best option is to repair. This will save you money and minimize waste.  This article presents some strategies for testing lights to determine which are broken.  However, if your repair efforts are unsuccessful, the next best option is to recycle.

In Whitehorse, Raven Recycling collects lights for recycling.  This year, Raven Recycling has partnered with the Outreach Van and will be matching and donating proceeds from recycling the lights to the Outreach Van.  Simply drop them off at the Raven Recycling depot between 9 am – 6 pm, Mon – Sat.



Classroom Waste Audit Contest

Zero Waste Yukon is proud to announce the winners of our 2017 Waste Audit contest, Erica Keenan’s
grade 4/5/6 class at Teslin Community School! These lucky students will be the recipients of a free class
trip to the Canada Games Centre!

This contest was set up to teach students about what is in their classroom waste and how it should be
properly sorted, as well as to get them thinking about consumption in their daily lives. Several classes
across the Yukon were given a kit containing all the materials and instruction needed to sort through
their classroom’s garbage, and measure the amounts of each material they found.

Included in the waste audit kits:

  • Sorting cards identifying different materials (organics, glass, plastic, paper, refundables, metal,
    and other waste)
  • Gloves and tongs for sorting
  • Bags for sorted material
  • Instructions and questions to guide class discussion

Students sorted everything they found in their classroom garbage bin, and in doing so learned a lot
about proper disposal of different materials. Congratulations to all participating schools on a job well

Thanks to all the teachers who signed up their classes and performed waste audits! And a big thank you
to the students for jumping in eagerly and getting their gloves dirty! We hope you learned a lot about
reducing consumption, reusing what you can, and recycling or composting the rest!