Reduce = Say No To Waste
You probably don’t go to the store saying “I think I’ll buy some garbage today.” But depending on which products you choose, that’s partly what you’re doing. Purchasing stuff that’s over-packaged or disposable means your cash ends up as trash. Also, make sure you aren’t buying things that contain hazardous chemicals that are harmful to you and the environment.
Consider the following tips for:
- Food waste
- Compost (food, yard clippings, pet waste)
- Plastic and paper
- Household and cleaning supplies
- Paint and hazardous products
- Rechargeable batteries
- Big ticket items (cars, furniture, clothing)
- Water waste
- Construction/demolition waste
Have other ideas for reducing waste? Let us know on the my idea page.
Reduce food waste. Food waste accounts for approximately 20% of the garbage thrown away in the Yukon, and much of this food is thrown out still in its packaging. Food is wasted in many ways, such as buying too much, preparing too much and letting fresh food go bad. Making better use of the food you buy will save you money and reduce how much food you throw away.
Food shopping tips:
- Don’t go grocery shopping when you’re hungry.
- Buy exactly what you need by planning your meals for the week in advance, and creating a list of what you need. Buy fresh fruit and vegetables loose so you can buy exactly how much you need.
- Buy smaller quantities more often so you can enjoy food at its best.
- Choose organic and local food whenever possible to cut down on the amount of pesticides you eat.
- Choose products that are returnable, reusable, or refillable over single-use items — honey, cream, peanut butter, coffee, shampoo, cosmetics, and dish and laundry soap can be purchased in reflllable containers.
- Follow any food storage instructions on the label. Use vegetables that are getting soft to make delicious soups and stews.
Take leftovers for lunch in reusable containers.
Use the freezer to preserve food, and then follow online tips for the best ways to cook frozen food.
Don’t buy disposable and single-use items such as water bottles, plastic food wrap, plastic cutlery, paper coffee cups, plastic take-out food clamshells, razors and diapers. These items make up a large percentage of the total garbage we throw out (even though most can be recycled). Instead refill your own water bottle, and use re-sealable bags and food storage containers to keep food fresh. Bring your own containers to take-out food restaurants, or ask that your food be put into uncoated paper containers that can be composted.
Buy in bulk (e.g. shampoo, peanut butter, nuts, dried fruit) using your own containers. If you can’t refill your own containers, consider buying in larger quantities (the overall amount of packaging is reduced when you buy larger volumes of a product).
Be aware of double-packaging. Some “bulk packages” are just individually wrapped items that have been packaged and sold as a bulk item.
Avoid individually wrapped items, snack packs, and single-serve containers (e.g. juice boxes, cheese strips). Buy a larger quantity instead and put single portions in a reusable container.
Compost (food, yard clippings, pet waste)
- Compost food and yard waste. Compost leftover food scraps with your yard waste helps create high-nutrient compost. In Whitehorse, be sure to use your compost bin to divert organic matter from the landfill. Gardeners have used compost for centuries to increase organic matter in the soil, improve the soil’s physical properties and supply some of the essential nutrients for plant growth. Learn more at the Compost Education Centre’s website.
- Compost pet waste. Thousands of tonnes of pet waste go to the landfill every year, often sealed in little plastic bags. Currently within the City of Whitehorse, pet waste is treated as waste. Within many communities, there are now Organics bins that allow pet waste to decompose but it stays separate from the core compost. You can also choose to compost it yourself on your own property (in a special composter that you can build yourself) or bury it.
Plastic and paper
- Avoid plastic bags. The average Canadian family uses and throws out 1,000 plastic bags each year. These bags can be reused or recycled, and should never go into the garbage can. Plastic bags never break down entirely. Instead, they turn into small plastic fragments that mix with our water, soil and food, harming us and animals. Every molecule of plastic ever created still exists. Watch this video to learn more: Sea of Plastic.
- Bring reusable cloth bags when you go shopping. Also bring smaller reusable bags for your produce and other groceries.
- Reduce paper waste. Despite recycling programs, paper continues to be one of the largest components found in residential trash cans. One way to reduce paper waste is to stop it from coming into your home in the first place. Switch to reading your newspaper online instead of getting it delivered. Reduce your reliance on tissue paper and paper towels, and use cloth rags and handkerchiefs instead.
- Say “no” to junk mail and the phone book. The average Canadian receives over 40 pounds of junk mail per year. Put a “No Junk Mail Please” sign on your mailbox, and let Canada Post and the Canadian Marketing Association know you don’t want to be contacted. Also, ask retailers not to send you catalogues.
- Use unbleached paper products or products bleached with hydrogen peroxide or oxygen, which produce less pollution during papermaking.
Household products and cleaning supplies
- Buy recycled. Most environmental impacts associated with the products we buy occur before we open the package, so buying products made from recycled materials is a huge part of getting to Zero Waste. Hundreds of everyday products, such as notebooks and copy paper, polar fleece, and yard and garden furniture, are made from recycled materials. Close the loop on recycling by purchasing products made with recycled content. Look for products labeled “post-consumer”, “pre-consumer” or “recycled” content.
- Try reusable cotton diapers rather than disposable ones. Compare the cost of 3-4 dozen cloth diapers versus 7,000 disposables.
- Use an electric razor to save money on shaving cream, or use shaving soap instead of cream and buy razors with replaceable heads or blades.
- Don’t use dryer sheets for freshening your laundry. Try dryer balls, or better yet, use clotheslines for a great way to keep clothes, sheets and towels smelling clean. Fabrics will last longer if they’re not tumbled around. After all, isn’t dryer lint made up entirely of material from your clothes?
- Purchase reusable items, like cloth napkins instead of paper ones, and reusable coffee filters.
- Use reusable mops and dusters rather than ones with disposable attachments.
- Remove makeup with a washcloth or facial sponge instead of using disposable cotton pads.
- Choose products that are returnable, reusable, or refillable over single-use items. Honey, cream, peanut butter, coffee, shampoo, cosmetics, and dish and laundry soap are all available in refillable containers.
- Purchase items in concentrated form, such as dish soap and laundry detergent, and use the amount suggesting on the label.
- Don’t buy disposable and single-use items such as water bottles, plastic food wrap, plastic cutlery, paper coffee cups, plastic take-out food clamshells, razors and diapers. These items make up a large percentage of the total garbage we throw out (even though most can be recycled). Instead refill your own water bottle, and use re-sealable bags and food storage containers to keep food fresh. Bring your own containers to take-out food restaurants, or ask that your food be put into uncoated paper containers that can be composted.
- Buy in bulk (e.g. shampoo, peanut butter, nuts, dried fruit) using your own containers. If you can’t refill your own containers, consider buying in larger quantities (the overall amount of packaging is reduced when you buy larger volumes of a product).
- Be aware of double-packaging. Some “bulk packages” are just individually wrapped items that have been packaged and sold as a bulk item.
- Avoid individually wrapped items, snack packs, and single-serve containers (e.g. juice boxes, cheese strips). Buy a larger quantity instead and put single portions in a reusable container.
Paint and hazardous products
- Buy the right amount of paint for the job, and buy water-based products wherever possible, especially those with low volatile organic compounds (VOCs). By measuring first, you’ll save money, and eliminate the need to throw out old paint.
- Buy less hazardous products and avoid pesticides. Better household cleaners are chlorine-free, and made with natural (baking soda, white vinegar, lemon juice) or plant-based (citrus, seed, vegetables, herbs or pine oils) ingredients. Instead of more complicated laundry detergents, try using a combination of washing soda and borax in your machine. These are usually as effective as more complex formulas, and cheaper. Avoid bleach when possible. If whitening is needed, use non-chlorine bleach, which is oxygen-based and less harmful to the environment. Make your own cleaning products by searching for “homemade cleaners” on the internet. Also, there are many online resources that explain how to deal with pests in ways that are not toxic to you and the environment.
- Choose pump spray containers instead of aerosols. Aerosols put unnecessary volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) into your indoor air when you use them and are hard to recycle.
- Use rechargeable batteries for toys, games, flashlights, clocks, CD players, etc. Try nickel cadmium or nickel-metal-hydride batteries. Both can be recharged hundreds or even thousands of times!
- Maximize the life of your rechargeable batteries. The battery pack is an expensive and important piece of a rechargeable device. Charge your batteries according to the instructions, and don’t use the charger as a stand. Continuous charging will shorten battery life and also the life of the tools and appliances they belong to. When your rechargeable nickel-cadmium (Ni-Cd) batteries no longer hold a charge, drop them off for free at any Yukon Recycling Depot. Do NOT put them in the trash.
Big ticket items (cars, furniture, clothing)
- Maintain your vehicle and walk, bike and bus it more. Proper maintenance of your car will ensure that it will last longer, save you money and reduce the need to buy a new one. Properly managing waste oil and oil filters keeps these contaminants out of landfills and helps protect our planet’s resources. Did you know that waste oil, oil filters and antifreeze can be dropped off for free at Yukon Community Recycling Depots and in Whitehorse at the Whitehorse landfill on Household Hazardous Waste Days? Finding other ways to get to where you need to go lowers greenhouse gas emissions, saves you money and improves your health at the same time!
- Give your old furniture a face lift by refinishing, painting or restoring it, instead of buying new.
- Buy clothes that don’t need dry cleaning or use an alternative called “wet cleaning.” Clothes that have been dry-cleaned emit perchlorethylene, a toxic chemical dangerous to human health and the environment. The wet cleaning process uses water, so there are no harmful gases emitted from the cleaned clothing.
- Mend or alter clothes instead of throwing them out.
- Buy quality shoes that can be rebuilt for a fraction of the cost.
Conserving water is remarkably easy:
- A running faucet can waste 10 litres of water each minute. A dishwasher uses approximately 40 litres of water per use. Each time you wash dishes by hand and rinse them under running water, 130 litres of water is typically used.
- Clean vegetables in a pan of water rather than under running tap water.
- Run only full loads in your dishwasher and scrape your dishes without water before loading the dishwasher instead of running the pre-rinse cycle.
- Use your food disposal sparingly (compost instead!) This will also keep your plumbing from becoming clogged by food and grease, which is an added benefit in addition to saving water.
- Take shorter baths or showers, and use towels and sheets a little bit longer.
Have other ideas for reducing waste? Let us know on the my ideas page.