Conscious Consumerism: The Other Three R’s

Most of us learn the “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” bit when we’re young. Well at least when I grew up it was a large focus. I think that is why I do so well with those three R’s, I have been hearing them since the first grade. Thrifting or passing down your clothing and household items is a great way to Reuse and Recycle (check out my Conscious Consumerism article on thrifting). There’s no such thing as a perfect environmentalist and everyone has things we can be doing better! Of course these first three R’s are an excellent start, but it doesn’t cover everything when it comes to how we can help the environment. 

The other “three R’s” are refuse, repair, and rethink/re-purpose. These are often left out of the conversation due to humans ever growing over consumption rate. Reduce makes an excellent starting place for this large issue. Number 1 thing to do is stop buying as many things, try buying more bulk items (see our Refill Station), live more minimally , reduce the amount of stuff you have and lastly, going vegan is one of the best ways I have found to reduce my waste (See the environmental effects of different milk options here).

Refuse is one I find compelling. All those flyers you get in the mail, the free item at superstore that might end up in the trash next week, receipts you will never look at again, the single use plastic that is constantly thrown at us, the one hundredth toothbrush you get from the dentist. All these things can be avoided with a simple “No thank you”. Not only will this reduce the amount of unnecessary, miscellaneous things you have in your life, it will also keep those things out of the landfills. Other things to refuse in your life is products from companies that don’t have the same standards as what you expect they might. Whether it’s unfair wages, unsafe working conditions, lack of environmental responsibility… anything that is important to you should be important to the companies you support. Next time someone offers you something, think before you accept it… do I really need or want this item in my life and is it coming from a place that I support. 

Repair is one I still need to work on. Despite my extreme lack of sewing skills I try my best to repair clothing or items I have worn down; I often ask friends and family to help me do so. Repairing things instead of throwing them away when they get damaged greatly reduces your waste and allows you to keep loving items you aren’t ready to get rid of! I also find this goes outside the realm of repairing. I mean that you don’t always have to replace something if it’s slightly broken. Make use of things that aren’t perfect and try not to replace items that still work. Like buying a new iPhone every time a new one comes out or getting another new pair of sunglasses that are only slightly different than the other 10 pairs you own (I’m guilty of this), we don’t always need new shiny and bright items… a little wear and tear never hurt anyone.

Rethink/re-purpose is one of my favourites and I am continuously trying to find new ways to use my old things! Take the desk my grandpa built my dad almost 40 years ago, my dad and I are refurbishing the entire thing to make it brand new for me to use while studying for University! A re-purposing trend I’ve seen as of late is using old kitchen ware as plant pots! Rethinking your old stuff can be really fun and lets you be creative with the things you already own … plus you can save money! Another way to rethink is simply take a look at your life: what you’re buying, what you’re eating, your waste… collect all of these thoughts and think of new ways you can be better. Becoming more self aware of how you are contributing to the issue and in what ways you can help is a great start to tackling the challenge of becoming less wasteful and more environmentally friendly!

I hope this reminded you of a few more ways you can help be kinder to this planet we call Earth! Sharing the knowledge you have with others will only improve your overall community… so, share your thoughts below or on our Instagram page, we’d love to hear all the ways you are putting the other three r’s to use. 

Written by: Holly Simpson

Sustainable Living

If you’ve been following along with this series, then you’ve read about the difference between compostable and biodegradable, and have learned to rethink the way we recycle. But what if we could reduce our waste altogether?

It’s all well and good to know how to dispose of our waste properly and divert it from landfills by recycling or composting. But a more long term solution would be to minimize our waste entirely. Reducing our waste is the most sustainable way to take care of our planet, as the abundance of waste, whether it is food waste, plastic, clothes, or just ‘stuff’ in general is really the problem.

To live sustainably, what needs to change is our lifestyle; the way we go through our day.

But that isn’t easy. In fact, it’s probably one of the most difficult things for people to do. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it! 

I recently interviewed an incredible woman, whom I will refer to as A. Patterson, who is dedicated to living as sustainably as she can. She educated me about Zero-Waste Living, and she gave me some information that I’m very excited to share with you.

I started with the basics and asked her what zero-waste living meant to her.

“To me, zero-waste living is about reducing as much waste from going to landfill as possible. A core belief of the lifestyle is that it’s a journey and not a destination.”

The less trash we send to landfills, the better. It’s not about being a perfectionist and having absolutely no waste, or getting overwhelmed by just how much waste we produce. It’s about transitioning to being more aware of what we’re throwing out, and finding solutions along the way.

We are all intelligent human beings who are capable of adapting to our changing environment. We live in a society that likes things to be done fast and efficiently (in terms of both time and money), with only the short-term gains in mind. We’ve become comfortable, and less accountable for our actions. It’s easy for us to fall into this mindset when our waste disappears after we throw it away. We can get caught in the trap of thinking that our actions have no consequences. In reality, a plastic bag we have used for maybe a few minutes to carry our groceries home has harmed or even killed a creature in the ocean, thousands of miles away.           

Patterson says that one of the biggest things she has learned in her transition to zero-waste is just “how many of the things we think just disappear when we throw them away actually make their way into our environment and oceans. As well that small actions can have huge consequences both positive and negative. A simple balloon, straw or plastic bag that is used for a matter of minutes can have consequences to wildlife on the other side of the world. As well that what we think is recycled in our local municipal system is actually fairly limited. It has definitely made me research more sustainable ways of dealing with items I no longer need.”  

I believe we’ve gotten to a point where we have a hard time distinguishing between what we want and what we need. We actually don’t need boxes of kleenex. It’s possible to clean your kitchen without using paper towels. You don’t need to buy a coffee in a disposable cup on your way to work. These are all things that we want to do; things that are easy and comfortable.

I’ll state it again because I think it’s such an important thing to remember: changing your habits to live sustainably is not easy. It’s not going to be easy. You’re going to want to buy that coffee and throw away the cup afterward without a second thought. You’re going to want to buy more things than you need. It might be a confusing transition.

I think that a lot of people expect green living to be easier than they thought, and give up when it gets challenging. I find myself falling into old habits more than I’d like – it happens to everyone. But once you build a new routine for yourself, it becomes as natural as breathing – and the air will be cleaner too.

To be conscious of it is the first step, and doing something about it is next.

I’ll end with some of Patterson’s tips and tricks to living more sustainably and producing less waste:

  • Carrying a reusable water bottle/coffee cup
  • Carrying a reusable shopping bag
  • Carrying a small kit of reusable cutlery, food storage and a cloth napkin 
  • Buying produce in cloth bags instead of plastic
  • Buying pantry items at a bulk food store or in recyclable/compostable packaging
  • Using your own containers when buying bulk
  • Buying personal care items (shampoo, soap, deodorant, etc) without packaging or in packaging that can be reused/recycled/composted or refilling them at Generation Green 😉
  • Donating unused items to places like Goodwill and ArtsJunction
  • Composting and recycling as much as possible!
  • Take special recycling items like old electronics to proper disposal locations;  BellMTS will take old phones for recycling and places like staples and hardware stores offer more types of recycling for thing like electronics, printer cartridges, batteries, light bulbs, etc.
  • Another big challenge is snacks and ordering in food (Skip the Dishes is always so tempting after a long day of work) and while it’s something I’m still working on my solution is to keep pantry staples for quick meals and easy snacks (bought with minimal packaging or at bulk stores) at home and with me to reduce the temptation. If I do order take-out I make sure to bring my own reusable containers
  • Some great resources are the “Journey to Zero-waste” Facebook groups. There’s a global one and ones broken down by region. Winnipeg has one too!

Stay tuned for articles about special recycling items, travelling sustainably and more!

Article written by Chantal Delaquis

 

 

Recycling Explained – Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle

In my last article titled “Where Do I Put My Garbage?”  I spoke about the confusion that many folks can have understanding the difference between compostable, biodegradable and of course recycling.  As promised, let’s first start off with a look at recycling.

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I’m sure the majority of us have heard of these three ‘R’ words: reduce your consumption, reuse what you can, and recycle what’s left. They’re good words to live by.

In the past few decades, recycling has increased dramatically. Beside almost every garbage can, there is a matching blue bin. It is expected that plastic, glass, and paper are thrown into the latter, and those who don’t do this are often given disapproving looks. I personally find it extremely irritating to see stacks of paper or recyclable plastic in the garbage, and am quick to correct this error.

But, as most things are, it’s not that simple. Although ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ is a memorable catchphrase, it fails to mention how the way we recycle is changing, especially here in Winnipeg.

In April 2018, CBC published a series called “Reduce, Reuse, Rethink”, revealing common misconceptions about recycling.

You can read the full article here: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/winnipeg-manitoba-recycling-rules-1.4625533

Basically, what can and can’t be recycled in Winnipeg has changed now that China, the largest market for Canadian recyclables, has changed many of their regulations. For example, dark coloured plastics, like a Tim Hortons coffee cup lid, cannot be recycled in Winnipeg.

Some other quick tips for your recycling include:

  • Clean your containers.The cleaner your recycling is, the easier it is to process and the less energy is required to wash it. It will also have a better chance of being reused.

  • Don’t use plastic bags. If you throw out your recycling in a plastic bag, it will most likely end up in a landfill.

  • Styrofoam is not recyclable in Winnipeg, even though has the little triangle symbol on it.

A more extensive list can be found on the City of Winnipeg website: http://www.winnipeg.ca/waterandwaste/recycle/4rdepots/acceptedMaterial.stm

I know it seems like a lot, and possibly overwhelming, but becoming aware of the regulations in our city is so important. It’s easy to ignore the little details, throw containers in a blue bin and call it a day, but in reality, our city and our planet are suffering for it. If you’re reading this, you’re one of the few who are fighting this wasteful consumerism. This awareness will help us be more conscientious consumers, and it’s definitely worth the effort.

Next article: Compostable vs Biodegradable

Series written by Chantal Delaquis

Our Top 5 Picks for Waste Free Living

The change starts with you! It simply must.

The time is now to start making changes towards producing less waste, even small ones make a collective difference!  We can no longer deny the environmental impacts that we as a society have contributed to and now must work diligently to rectify!

There are so many everyday items that we could easily convert to reusable and it won’t hurt a bit! We promise!!

#1 is reusable bags! It’s our hope that the more people who make this simple switch will have everyone easily shouting BAN plastic bags!!  From reusable shoppers, produce bags and even bread bags, we have options for you!!

Did you know…

“Plastic bags are not biodegradable, they are “degradable”, which means that they will break down into smaller and smaller pieces until they form micro plastics but they will never disappear from the environment altogether. Plastic bags take between 15 and 1000 years to degrade. The problem here is that these micro plastics can enter the food chain, ending up inside animals and even humans”.

#2 is plastic food wrap!! We offer Colibri reusable sandwich and snack bags, Onyx stainless steel food containers and Abeego beeswax wraps.  These all work well to eliminate the need to wrap your food in plastic food wrap.

Did you know…

“BPA and some phthalates (found in plastic food wrap) are endocrine disruptors, meaning they can mimic the body’s natural hormones and cause a raft of health problems. There is growing scientific evidence that even at lower levels of exposure, phthalates and BPA may be causing problems such as infertility, obesity, breast cancer, prostate cancer, heart disease and diabetes”.

#3 is a reusable straw! Carry your own stainless steel or glass straw and say no thanks when a straw is offered!

Did you know…

“Plastic is a material made to last forever, yet 33 percent of all plastic – water bottles, bags and straws – are used just once and thrown away. Plastic cannot biodegrade!

#4 is a vessel for your beverage, water, coffee, tea, ditch the disposable cup!! Or if you reeeeally need one, make sure it’s compostable and that there is a compost collection happening on site.  Actually insist upon it!

Did you know…

“The more we insist & persist, then changes begin!  The choices you make are the reasons why things continue as they do.  We vote with every purchase, so if you don’t support the options given that’s when things will be forced to change!”

#5  Purchase items that can be refilled or even better, where you can re-use your own container to fill  (like at Generation Green tee hee!).

Did you know…

“Refill, Reduce & Re-use are the “R’s” we love at Generation Green! We have gotten so “used” to recycling that some think almost everything can be recycled and neglect the reduce, reuse.  The other thing we turn a blind eye to is that recycling uses energy and raw materials which in turn impacts the environment.  Recycling has its place but it really needs to be the last R we use.”

Sometimes problems can seem so overwhelming and just too huge to tackle, and I get that!  We are human, we get tired of never-ending problems, life stresses and hearing about world issues. Personally, for a long time the issues I was hearing about scared me to the point of  panic and having anxiety.  This feeling was amplified even more after I started having children. I was scared for them and what type of world they were going to grow up in. I’m sure many others can relate to this feeling. Eventually I realized I was going to either continue to contribute to the problems or make changes to not be a part of it, and maybe possibly even make it better.

 I’ll be honest in saying this took time as it’s difficult to face the big truths and start actively participating in the solutions.

We want you to know that at Generation Green we are here for you, if you are just starting to face the big issues, and need a little hand holding to do it! We also love learning from all of you that have taken on the role of the trail blazers! Your suggestions, ideas, guidance and wisdom is gratefully received!

Thanks for reading & for doing your part!  Sherry Sobey

Information respectfully sourced from:

One Million Women

The Plastic Straw

Choice.com