Failing Grade

Guest post written by Lillian Nakamura Maguire, June 12, 2019 For Whitehorse Star


Okay…I’ll fess up…I FAILED!

No…Not school. It was the No or Low Use Plastics Challenge our household took on last July 2018!

But whenever I fail…I try to see it as an opportunity to learn about myself and why I failed. (That’s my parent voice speaking.)

Last winter it started with our adult son coming to help with various household chores and “de-­clutter” as the latest gurus call it. De-­cluttering has become an ongoing family activity with the buildup of stuff while living in our rural property the last 25 years.

Oh boy…Little did we know that the No Plastics Ninja (our son) would strike in our household! As each item got examined, I could see the steam rising…The volcano was about to explode and so it did!

Our son had lived in Victoria, a city a bit further ahead in some environmental practices than us Yukoners.

Maybe it was the salty sea air and being around other people who love the ocean that moved him to open up discussion, arguments, and dialogue about the environment. We weren’t completely ignorant – after all I can’t be a Japanese Canadian without knowing about Suzuki!

We knew about plastic pollution and what it’s doing to the fish, fauna and fowl. But did we realize that the Yukon is facing similar environment waste problems?

So being a retired adult educator, I believe in assessing, gathering information, analyzing and then taking action. (That’s my professional voice speaking.)

We decided and challenged everyone in our household, including all guests, to aim for no single use plastic. I even convinced a group of Whitehorse United Church members to take the No or Low Plastics Challenge with me for a month in the early winter. Ideally we aimed for no new purchases of plastic wrapped goods or plastic products. Our family of 3 adults collected all the plastics we used or purchased from July 1 to December 31, 2018. (Thankfully we went to our friend’s place for Christmas, but they too took on the challenge to follow this guideline. Friends and family are so supportive no matter how quirky the idea. )

Normally I wouldn’t expose my garbage in public, but see the picture taken at the beginning of January 2019. Happy NEW Year! Time for a New Year’s resolution.

Plastics collected between July and December 2018.


Okay…so that was our assessment period. This was a time to look at what was in our garbage and try to figure out what to do differently. We had plastic bottles from our various cleaning supplies, produce and takeout food containers, plastic wrappings from meat and other products and Styrofoam packing. I felt completely overwhelmed, discouraged and embarrassed.

Not to be defeated, I decided we should continue the experiment and see if we could improve and reduce our use of plastics for the next 6 months from January to June 2019.

We avoided purchasing any new plastic products. We also decided that we would reduce our purchasing of new things as much as possible. If we needed something we checked the free store or the thrift store. We always remembered our cloth shopping bags and began using the lightweight net bags for produce/nuts. We took our own containers to fill with nuts, seeds, grains and processed meats. We shopped in places that had bulk bins, checked out the Whitehorse Potluck Food Co-Op for sources of shampoo and other supplies in bulk and bought unpackaged Yukon made soaps. When we did find ourselves buying frozen berries or chocolate covered almonds in those resealable, heavier weight plastic bags, we reused the bags for other food storage.

Plastics collected between January and June of 2019.


When preparing food for community events or meetings, I insisted on preparing vegetables and fruits from scratch and avoided the pre-­prepared, cut up produce in plastic containers. No Styrofoam cups or plates were allowed. Instead of using plastic wrap to cover food temporarily, we used tea towels or for longer storage, beeswax food cover wraps. My friends and I experimented with making them from old cotton pillowcases. Recently I needed some mayonnaise, and decided to make it from scratch in a blender. It’s easy, tasty and cheap and is stored in a glass container avoiding the plastic container.

I admit…There wasn’t all that much improvement with the latest collection of plastic stuff. We did reduce our use of those clear plastic produce containers and now buy greens or other produce unwrapped. We started an early crop of lettuce and arugula under some grow lights in February, which were transplanted and now producing lots of greens in our outdoor raised bed. I continue to look at every purchase with the 7 R’s in mind.

Consider the following diagram:

We’ve had lots of interesting discussions with family, friends, neighbours and strangers. My husband often has to drag me away from conversations with complete strangers in the store, restaurant or at the fruit stand exchanging ideas or offering them one of my cloth bags.

Individually and as a family unit there is much we can do to reduce our use of plastics, especially single use plastics like bags, wrapping, straws, lids, plates, food containers and take-­out Styrofoam trays.

But I think what is truly needed is for all of us to pressure our governments at all levels to develop policies and practices that encourage the 7 R’s outlined above.

We need to pressure manufacturers and marketers of consumer goods to reconsider packaging to eliminate or replace plastics. It’s not easy but let’s tackle this together.

How about joining me in a NO PLASTICS MONTH for July? No excuses…Take the first step and just try! Every bit counts.

-Lillian Nakamura Maguire


Whitehorse Waste Audit highlights organics, wood, and high volumes of plastics

In November of 2017 and July of 2018 the City of Whitehorse conducted a waste composition study to determine the type and source of material entering the landfill.

Over the course of 5 days in summer and winter, ~6500 kg of waste were sorted into 60 categories and weighed to determine the estimated tonnes and types of material entering the landfill from residential, construction and demolition (C&D), and institutional, commercial and industrial (ICI) sectors annually.

The waste audit identified potential for 6500 tonnes of material to be diverted. Diversion potential was based on current programs and policies as well as consultant experience. Last year the diversion rate in Whitehorse was 26%, down from the high of 34% in 2015. Diverting an additional 6500 tonnes would bring the overall diversion rate to 50%. The City of Whitehorse previously adopted a goal of 50% diversion by 2015 and Zero Waste by 2040.




The waste audit concluded that organics, wood waste, paper and metal have the highest potential for diversion. Organics make up a small volume of the material landfilled, but they are heavy and contribute strongly to pollution by creating methane and toxic leachate which can pollute ground water.


Wood Waste


Currently, clean wood is a controlled waste, meaning it must be separated from regular waste, but there are no other diversion strategies for clean wood. Wood waste is heavy and takes up lots of space, and also creates air gaps. Currently some clean wood waste is used in the compost facility, but there is high potential for increased diversion through avenues such as biomass heating.




Wood waste and organics were the largest categories of landfilled waste by weight, but the largest material category by volume is plastic. Soft plastics were the largest portion of the plastic waste stream. This material is light, but takes up lots of landfill space. This landfill space is something we should be valuing very highly, as the costs and footprint of a new landfill are significant.



While plastics make up only 8% of the weight of material, they account for 29% of the volume of landfilled material. The composite category also has a high volume to weight ratio. Composites include most packaging, particularly multi-laminate packaging and plastic pouches. These single-use items are becoming more and more popular, which was evident in samples, particularly from the residential sector. This material is not currently recyclable, so it is either landfilled or shipped out by recyclers to be used as fuel, often in the production of cement.

The large amounts of this material highlight the need for policies to reduce the production of this material at the source. It also highlights the need to incentivize producers to create packaging that is readily recyclable or compostable. Some grocery stores worldwide have begun to tackle this problem, by providing packaging free options and calling on producers to provide products with less packaging.


Product Stewardship is working


Only a small amount of beverage containers were observed in samples. The most frequent type were single-serve yogurt drinks and coffee cream. This speaks to the success of the Beverage Container Regulation deposit system.

Only 1% of landfilled waste was glass, which may be due to high recycling rates for glass in the city. Ironically, glass collected by recyclers is not actually recycled due to the economics and logistics of recycling the material. Crushed glass is used as daily landfill cover to prevent windblown litter and to compact material. Fortunately, glass is inert, which means it does not leach toxic chemicals like plastic does when landfilled.


What’s next?


These findings highlight the importance of continued efforts to divert organic material from landfill. Composting prevents methane release and toxic leachate formation. It also creates high quality compost which can be used to amend poor Yukon soils. This is good for local food production and reduces our reliance on imported goods.

Reducing our reliance on single-use plastics should also be a priority. These items are filling up our landfill at alarming rates. On top of that, the production of plastics is an increasingly significant contributor to global emissions.

There are many different diversion programs in place nationally and internationally. We can look to other jurisdictions for inspiration. We must continue to reduce our consumption and waste generation in order to lower our emissions.

Our population is growing and waste generation along with it. The more policy and infrastructure we can create to reduce resource use and recover the resources we use, the better off we’ll be.



Earth Day Reflections

“The ideology of consumption is so prevalent that it has become invisible: it is the plastic soup in which we swim.” –   George Monbiot

Earth Day was first held on April 22, 1970 as a series of demonstrations against growing air and water pollution. Almost 50 years on, it has grown into a global event. According to the Earth Day Network, “more than 1 billion people in 192 countries now take part in the largest civic-focused day of action in the world.”

It is not surprising that Earth Day has grown so significant. As the evidence of human impact on the Earth’s climate continues to mount, a global movement to protect the environment has grown. Decades of inaction on climate change have inspired generations of activists. Worldwide there is now a growing community dedicated to solving the most important social, environmental and economic issue of our time.

   Signs from the recent global School Strike for Climate that took place in March of 2019 (Goran H/Pixabay).


According to a new scientific report from Environment and Climate Change Canada, Canada’s North is warming at more than three times the global average. Our oceans around the country are becoming more acidic, and Arctic sea ice, our reflective shield against solar radiation, is melting rapidly, leading to further warming. Animal populations and habitats are collapsing, soils are rapidly being lost, and extreme weather events are becoming more common. The global climate crisis is inextricably linked to our unsustainable way of life. Our pursuit of a four-planet lifestyle is overwhelming the Earth’s living systems to the point that we have permanently altered the planet.

Observed changes (°C) in annual temperature across Canada between 1948 and 2016 (Canada’s Changing Climate Report).


So what can we do? Individual behaviour changes are one way we can attempt to lower our own environmental footprint. Refusing disposable products is a start. By saying no to single-use items, we are sending a message to producers that we want our products redesigned. After all, waste is just a product of bad design. We must live simply. We can bring our own bags to the grocery store and refill our reusable mugs. Shop local and choose products with recycled or minimal packaging. Composting organics creates new soils for growing local food, and prevents the release of methane from our landfills.

Look online and you will find countless suggestions for how we can take responsibility for our individual impacts. Unfortunately, reducing our own impacts has limits. Our individual behaviours can only do so much in a system designed for endless economic growth.

According to the Carbon Majors Database, just 100 fossil fuel companies have been responsible for 71% of global greenhouse gas emissions since 1988. Privatization, deregulation, tax cuts, free trade deals and government subsidies have allowed global corporations to generate massive profits at the expense of the environment. The responsibility for environmental protection has been surreptitiously shifted to the individual. Meanwhile, the Nestlés, the Coca-Colas and the ExxonMobils get off scot-free.


Just 100 private and state-owned companies are responsible for 71% of global emissions since 1988 (Carbon Majors Database).


The good news is things are changing. We are in the midst of a climate movement. In March, over one million students participated in a global school strike for the climate led by Greta Thunberg, a youth activist not even old enough to vote. Growing consumer activism is forcing governments to regulate, producers to redesign, and grocery stores to un-package. Fossil fuel divestment and pipeline protests are signalling to politicians and corporations that enough is enough. They will have to adapt to a green economy or risk being left behind.

Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, center, leads a march of thousands of French students through Paris, France, to draw more attention to fighting climate change, Friday, Feb. 22, 2019. Sign reads : “school strike for the climate”. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)


Saving our environment means more than reducing our own consumption. It means challenging the system that protects corporate interests at the expense of people and ecosystems. This Earth Day, and every day after until things change, we must stand up to corporate power. We must demand our political leaders to act, and fight for the planet. After all, it’s the only one we’ve got.



The Poor Creature

“Life is for all poor creatures to enjoy. Good food helps.”

If you’ve been to the new NorthLight Innovation Hub on 2nd Avenue you might have noticed a little corner cafe has set up shop.

The Poor Creature opened its doors on December 3, 2018 and serves up delicious plant-based hot meals, salads, coffee, freshly baked goods and sweet treats.

“We care about our ingredients, and you” states their website. Owner Brioni Connolly and her team cook everything from scratch using plant-based ingredients and whole foods. They don’t use palm oil or refined sugar, and the ingredients they use are ethical and local whenever possible.

The cafe sources organic ingredients from places like the Potluck Food Co-Op in Whitehorse and Organic Matters in Nelson, BC, ordering things in bulk as much as possible to reduce waste. Brioni is currently talking to a number of Yukon farmers to figure out how they can supply her kitchen. They reuse materials as much as possible, “recycle like crazy,” and minimize their use of plastic – and it shows.

This tiny bag of garbage was all that was created in a week of work at The Poor Creature. Their dedication to reducing what they use, reusing and recycling means there’s little left to go in the garbage. (The Poor Creature)


“I always daydreamed about opening a cafe,” says Brioni. “When I went on maternity leave in 2016, I started doing market research and business planning on the rare occasion my son Luan would nap.”

Brioni applied for the open cafe space at NorthLight and was chosen to set up shop. So what’s on the menu?

The recipes are a collection Brioni has built over the years, and the menu is constantly changing. Some of the offerings include homemade masala chai (with lots of ginger!) and oatmeal chocolate chip cookies (delicious!). They also have a great selection of rotating lunch options, such as Asian tofu stew, roasted parsnip soup, potato and roasted hazelnut salad, and many others. They also offer espresso now, using organic and fair-trade coffee from Bean North Coffee Roasters.

The cafe has been a hit for Yukonstruct and Cospace members as well as other hungry Whitehorse workers.

Tikka Masala is just one of the hot lunches served up on The Poor Creature’s ever changing menu. (The Poor Creature)


The Poor Creature has recently started offering Zero Waste take-out options, providing food in reusable mason jars. Customers pay a deposit for the jar and can return it to get the money back (or refill it). They also have an extra charge for compostable take-out containers to encourage customers to bring their own containers.

Zero Waste take-out is now on the menu as well, customers can pay a deposit for the jar and bring it back to be re-filled! (The Poor Creature)


The Poor Creature also sells nothing in plastic, offering only canned beverages and ensuring everything that goes out the door (even the tea bags) is plastic-free.

“We hardly create any garbage,” says Brioni. Almost everything they use is compostable or recyclable, and they only generate a small amount of garbage from things like soiled aluminum foil. They also separate edible compost from non-edible and give the edible scraps to a local farm that raises hens.

The idea of using less, reusing, and striving for Zero Waste is front and centre in the cafe’s activities. Recently, they repurposed the old Super-Valu sign that was salvaged by Yukonstruct’s former executive director Jarret Slipp during NorthLight’s renovations. Brioni sees this as a neat way to reuse but also to pay homage to what came before and the people who made Whitehorse what it is today.

The old Super-Valu sign makes a neat addition to the cafe’s aesthetic, and pays homage to what came before. (The Poor Creature)


The Poor Creature is a shining example of how the food service industry can operate with a minimal footprint and model Zero Waste for its customers.

So stop in, grab a chai, and don’t forget your reusable mug!


The Poor Creature is located in the NorthLight Innovation Hub at 2180 2nd Avenue in Whitehorse. Visit or follow them on Facebook or Instagram for more info!



Fill the gallery and say NO to single-use!

Bugged about bags?


Dear Zero Waste advocates and partners, we’re getting ready to present our petition April 2nd, but you can still sign the petition at Raven Recycling until April 1st.


Show your support and help us fill the gallery at the Yukon Legislative Assembly to present our petition for a single-use bag fee!

April 2nd, 2019 at 1:00 pm

Yukon Legislative Assembly
(2071 2nd Ave, Whitehorse)

In just a few short weeks over 1400 Yukoners have signed their names supporting a fee on single-use bags. Yukon Government has recently begun consulting on how to implement such a fee. Please fill out their survey at

Help us send a collective message that this is only a small step, and there is a lot more work to be done to combat single-use plastic waste!

Please share widely, and tell your friends! Let’s let this government know we support continued, dedicated action to reduce single-use plastics in our Territory!

Please respect the public gallery rules of decorum, no signs, etc.


Follow the event on Facebook


Learn more about bag fees and our campaign on our Think Outside The Bag page!


For more information, contact or 667-7269 ext. 27.



Yukon Government announces proposed single-use bag surcharge!

On Tuesday the Government of Yukon announced it was seeking input into a proposed single-use shopping bag surcharge.

They are looking for input from Yukoners into how to apply a surcharge, the surcharge amount, type of bags, potential exemptions, timing and approach for implementation.

Take the Survey!


From the Engage Yukon website:

“The Government of Yukon recognizes the impact of plastic waste and has committed, along with federal, provincial and territorial environment ministers, to work towards significant reductions in waste disposal and zero plastic waste in Canada.
One way in which the Yukon government is helping decrease plastic waste is through a proposed surcharge on single-use shopping bags received at point-of-sale.

This is one of many steps that the Government of Yukon is planning to take to improve the territory’s recycling system and make it more sustainable.

The collection of fees for single-use shopping bags will contribute to making recycling more financially sustainable in Yukon and act as a disincentive for their use. Our goal is to reduce single-use shopping bag usage by 70%”


Ministers Frost and Streicker weighed in on the announcement.

“Northern Canadians are among the highest waste producers per capita in the world. We can do better. Reducing waste keeps our environment clean and our communities healthy,” said Minister of Environment Pauline Frost.

According to Minister of Community Services John Streicker,

“The Government of Yukon spends approximately $6 million every year to deal with waste including $3 million on non-refundable items such as plastics… A surcharge on single-use shopping bags is a simple yet significant way we can reduce waste, improve our recycling system and make it more sustainable.”


Last fall the Yukon Legislative Assembly unanimously adopted a motion (Motion 294, as amended) urging the Government of Yukon to “work towards eliminating the distribution of single-use plastic, including plastic bags, food and beverage containers, straws, utensils, lids, and packaging.”

We’re thrilled to see some serious movement on this issue, and it’s very encouraging to see that actions are being taken to address the growing issue of single-use plastics in the Yukon environment. In Northwest Territories, a single-use bag program has reduced bag usage by over 70% and also provided revenue to the territory’s recycling programs.


Want to give your input on the proposed single-use bag surcharge? Visit to participate in the online survey!


10 Easy Zero Waste New Year’s Resolutions

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!



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