Zero waste lifestyle

In a follow-up to a post from April about the Environmental Film Fest, held here in Ottawa at the gorgeous recently-renovated Museum of Nature, I wanted to write about one of the films that I saw called The Clean Bin Project. When I moved to Ottawa, I was doing a lot of research about using less chemicals, wasting less stuff in general, eating good local food, etc. At that time, I must have been googling a lot and do vaguely remember reading about The Clean Bin Project.

The film chronicles a young couple, Jen and Grant, in Vancouver who love a good competition and decide to challenge themselves to living as close to zero waste as possible. They allocated themselves a little waste bin each and had to discard every piece of waste that they created in their respective bin. At the end of one year, they would compare the amount (volume/weight) of waste that they had each produced and a winner would be declared…but as you can guess, it was obviously more about the journey than who won in the end (I half joke). They research about how to produce your own food and household goods (toothpaste, laundry detergent, etc). They also experience the difficulty of shopping waste-free; It’s easy as ever to use cloth bags at the check-out but supermarkets make it harder to avoid produce and deli plastic packages (or – gasp – those horrid meat trays saran wrapped in more plastic!). The funniest part of the film was when Grant had to take a visit to the hospital and was outfitted with a one-time-use-only neck brace that he was extremely reluctant to have because he would have to add it to his waste bin at home. Poignant but at the same time, really makes you think how easily waste is created anywhere and everywhere.

The film is a great conversation starter and there are tons of screenings happening across North America and beyond. I’ve been striving to reduce the waste both that I consume (think plastic bags) and create (think used goods), and I am nowhere near zero waste but I continue to move in that direction. We only put out the garbage once a month (if even) because we sort most of our garbage into either the cardboard/paper or metal/plastic recycling. We take our electronics (cell phones, computers) and used batteries to special depots. We try to make a lot of our food from scratch, including breads and juices. We take our re-usable bags/bins whenever we go shopping; the bins are great because I can put all of my fruits and veggies into the bin without using any produce bags. I clean my floors using reusable micro fibre cloths and I try to find new uses for jars, containers, and old clothes (I try to buy things that come in nice reusable containers). I wash and reuse our Ziploc bags (a big pain that Jen talks about in the film – I totally understood where she was coming from!) and have a nice stash of soap bars from a visit to a goat farm on PEI (bar soap is good for the body, face, and hands).

My biggest challenge is take-out containers, because I always forget to have a container on me to pack away my leftovers from a meal out at a restaurant and I always always always feel so stupid and guilty when I have to ask the waiter to please pack my food away, secretly hoping that they bring it back out in at least a recyclable paper container and not styrofoam. I hang my head in shame.


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