Going “zero waste” or waste-free is not as hard as you think. As you are probably aware, plastics take forever to breakdown and leave toxic residues in our environment and are made from fossil fuels. If our trees are not being cut down for development, they are dying from climate change-related natural phenomena. Cotton is one of the dirtiest crops due to its high use of pesticides. Any frequently used disposable products, such as packaging, straws, menstrual products, etc. are very harmful to our environment.
The best way to protect our future is the REFUSE (refuse buying something if you don’t need it). The second best way is to REUSE (buy secondhand because recycling takes a lot of energy and a lot of it gets contaminated and ends up in the landfill). Another great way is to buy local/Canadian.
There are many options below that will allow you to significantly reduce your ecological footprint and lead a more sustainable way of living.
- Jars & Containers – When you buy products that are packaged in glass jars, clean them and reuse them. Just soak your jars in super hot water for about 10 minutes. I find that using this Scrigit Scraper from Lee Valley does the job really well. My favourite places to get larger bulk containers are from Karma Food Co-op (you don’t have to be a member to shop there; it’s open to the public!) and secondhand stores. They sell large Anchor glass jars with metal lids and a variety of stainless steel containers to store food and beverages. I recently went to Value Village and found two large Anchor jars for only $5 each! Secondhand is the way to go – you save money too. When I was there, I noticed that they had a lot of stainless steel camping glasses and plates.
- Buy in Bulk & Use Reusable Containers/Bags – Karma Food Co-op sells many many reusable bags (including produce bags) and they’ve recently updated their bulk selection to include almost everything. One of my biggest struggles in my zero waste journey is frozen fruit; they come in plastic packaging, and we have smoothies every morning. Karma now has frozen CANADIAN wild blueberries in bulk. I started to buy bananas and freeze them in large Tupperware too. They sell nuts, seeds, dried fruit, grains, candy, popcorn, and pasta in bulk (they even sell locally made Tinkyada gluten-free pasta made in Scarborough!). They have CANADIAN honey, CANADIAN maple syrup, and olive oil in bulk, as well as personal care products like laundry detergent, hand soap, dish soap, shampoo, conditioner in bulk. They sell the Unscented Company‘s hand, dish, and detergent soap, and they’re based in Quebec. They also sell vinegar, baking soda, Epsom salts, bentonite clay, and toothpaste in bulk (Nelson’s natural toothpaste is the best!).
- Drinking/Cooking/Food Savers – Karma sells 100% recycled aluminum foil and hand-sewn fabric covers (ditch saran wrap). They sell reusable glass straws and cleaners for the straws. They also sell Full Circle sponges made from walnuts (another Canadian product). Say no to plastic!
- Women’s Products – Karma sells reusable cloth pads (with an organic option) and the Diva Cup from Canadian company Lunapads.
- Package-Free Shampoo & Conditioner Bars – Karma sells made-in-Canada Unwrapped Life shampoo and conditioner bars that are vegan and fragranced naturally with essential oils. My favourite one is the Detoxifier combination. These bars may look small, but they last for at least 3 months per person.
- Save Trees – Karma sells Caboo toilet paper and tissues, which are made from bamboo and sugarcane. They are a Canadian company based in Vancouver. They also sell 100% recycled paper toilet paper and unbleached brown paper towel. Of course, the better alternative is to use reusable napkins and hankies (they’re very easy to sew).
- Reusable Cloths – I bought several dozen of these Colibri Organic ultra soft cotton cloths. They are fantastic for removing makeup and washing your face. I basically stopped using cotton pads; the only time I use cotton pads is for removing nail polish.