Garbage nation: Why two women want to help Canadians stop piling up the trash
Katelin Leblond and Tara Smith-Arnsdorf are on a zero waste mission and want you to join them
Katelin Leblond and Tara Smith-Arnsdorf were so sick of all the waste piling up, they tossed their garbage cans on Earth Day in April.
And then the two friends downsized — by a lot. Leblond and her family now stuff what little trash they produce into a 1.5-litre roasted red pepper jar. Smith-Arnsdorf and her family use a similar-sized mason jar. Neither of the Victoria women has emptied their garbage in five months and hope not to for an entire year.
"It's a bit of competition," admits Smith-Arnsdorf.
They're on a mission to live a zero-waste lifestyle and they also want to help other Canadians change their filthy ways.
So they've created a website, sharing their journey and offering advice on how to toss the trash for good.
- Zero-waste living a success for Victoria family of 4
- Toronto condo goes green, cuts garbage to 1 bin a month
- Canadians produce more garbage than anyone else
Canadians love their convenient, disposable products, everything from coffee pods to cleaning wipes to plastic wrap that pile up in landfills.
Leblond once bought in. "You know, you talk about the environment but I'd forget my reusable [bags] in the car and you're too lazy to run back. So of course you get everything in plastic and everything prepackaged."
She'd try to make changes but always gave up. "Nothing felt significant," she explains.
But that all changed one day when she watched a compelling YouTube video about a family in California that produces almost no garbage.
"There was no turning back from that. It was my 'aha' moment."
Leblond was so inspired, she immediately set out to reform her family's wasteful ways. She met no resistance. Her two children were too young to object. Her husband, Kevin, who works in the air force, was deployed overseas for nine months.
"I felt so strongly about it that I knew I wouldn't be able to not live this way and I wasn't sure that he could live this way. So it took me a while to tell him. I was worried." Fortunately, when she fessed up three months later, her husband offered his full support.
Leblond began her mission by decluttering rooms one by one and donating whatever she didn't need to charity.
The cleansing process forced her to confront her rampant consumerism. "We had like six wooden spoons, four cutting boards, two full sets of pots and pans, more than you would ever need."
So she decided to change her shopping habits too. Leblond started buying only second-hand clothes and replaced single-use items with reusable alternatives. For example, when she ran out of paper towels, she replaced them with cloth napkins.
"Gone are the days of mega trips to Costco," she says.
Leblond soon discovered that paring down was saving the family money. She hasn't crunched the numbers yet but guesses household expenses have declined by about 20 per cent.
She hopes to get to the point where the family produces no waste and says disposable products now give her a "gross feeling."
"Is convenience actually more convenient at the end of the day?" she asks. "If you buy into that notion, then you also buy into the idea that you have to have more. By changing our lifestyle and decluttering, we realized that you can make do with a lot less."
She now wants to spread the word. So she's teamed up with friend, Smith-Armsdorf. They created the website, PAREdown, full of recipes, resources and tips to inspire others to change their ways.
Cutting the waste with a newborn
Smith-Arnsdorf signed up her family of five after being inspired by Leblond's trash talk and action. "It made me think that we have a responsibility to our planet," she says.
She also decluttered and now makes her own products -- even sunblock, which Leblond attests works just as well as the store-bought stuff.
The mother of three also has the challenge of trying to cut out the waste while caring for a baby -- her son Hugo is only six weeks old.
"It's just not getting sucked into what you think your baby needs, that they need a lot of all this extra stuff," she says.
While many parents feel they couldn't survive without disposable diapers, little Hugo wears only cloth. And instead of baby powder, Smith-Arnsdorf opts for cornstarch. "It works just as well," she claims.
She also makes her own diaper cream and has replaced baby wipes with cloths combined with a homemade solution of water, olive oil and soap. She keeps a glass jar of the mixture packed in her diaper bag. "When I'm out, I can just dip the cloth in and use it."
Smith-Arnsdorf admits her family is still in transition. For example, her 13-year-old daughter, Avery, is not buying into second-hand clothes. Her mother hopes her daughter will one day come round but, for now, she wants to give the teen "a little bit of breathing room."
But, even with three children, Smith-Arnsdorf believes her goal of zero waste is doable. "I feel good about what we're doing and the further we get into it, the more that I want to do."
Like Leblond, she also hopes others will join the journey. "All of these small changes have a big impact. We have a responsibility to do our part."