Living the zero-waste life
It’s a thing you see after every event, including pro-environment ones: The people leave, but their rubbish stays behind.
It doesn’t matter how many garbage bins there are at Bluesfest or Shakespeare in the Park, and how many times people are reminded please not to leave their empty containers behind, there’s always some.
At McD in the parking lot this morning at 5:17, getting caffeine for self and Eldest who was on her way to a two-week camp in Kingston with a merry (if not entirely awake) band of sea cadets, there was trash everywhere. From the night shift, evidently. People soaking up too much alcohol with too much grease, scarfing hamburgers and just leaving the wrappers right there on the ground.
The beleaguered McD employee was coming out with a garbage bag and other cleaning instruments just as I was walking in to get my coffee. He was still out there when I left 10 minutes later, picking up debris from the bushes along the drive-thru lane.
It shouldn’t be that complicated not to litter. When you’re done with something, you put it in the proper receptacle, a profusion of which is all around you. Even if you somehow fail that test and throw your empty fries container in the compost, it’s better than leaving it on the ground.
At the other extreme, you have people committed to living the zero-waste lifestyle. Which, as the name suggests, involves not ever throwing out much of anything. They accomplish this by buying less stuff, not buying overly-packaged goods, reusing as much as possible, upcycling, recycling, and possibly knitting their own kombucha.
In Calgary yesterday a group put together the first Zero-Waste festival. It featured people who are really keen on sustainable living. I hope it was well attended. There is also a bigger Zero-Waste conference in Vancouver in October, focused on the “circular economy”. Expect to hear those two words put together a lot more in the future. It’s kind of like the next big thing.
I admire people who can be committed to a good cause. I find zero-waste a little unrealistic in my own life right at the moment, but I certainly have reduced the amount of stuff I throw out… mostly by reducing the amount of packaging I purchase. Most of the actions I’ve taken so far are quite small; for instance, buying loose mushrooms in a paper bag instead of the plastic container covered in Saran-wrap. Possibly I’d rack up more good-karma points if I used a reusable cloth bag instead of brown paper. Maybe that’s my next step. I also buy loose spinach or kale now, instead of buying it in plastic bags. Loose apples, too. I found a place to buy shampoo in bottles I can get refilled instead of buying a new one. I try to remember to carry a reusable mug for my take-out coffee. I also use “eco-nuts” for small loads of not-especially-disgusting laundry.
I’m not doing anything spectacular, I’ll be the first one to admit that. But I figure it’s a start. The key is to think about it. You may not see anything obvious or that you can do fairly easily. But if you keep thinking about it, one day you will. You’ll see something easy that you can do without too much effort. Like maybe switching to a bamboo toothbrush. Or just picking the brand of pen that’s not wrapped in a triple coat of plastic. Or maybe buy just a little less new clothing this year. Or switching to tap water instead of buying crates of bottles at Costco. There’s usually something, somewhere. And if your own personal starting point is remembering not to discard your trash out your car window, well, then, so be it.
I’d be curious to hear about other such events as the one in Calgary — if you know of one near you, drop me a line, yes? As well, if you’ve recently made little changes towards a more sustainable lifestyle, I’d like to know that, too.