Reducing waste: 10 tips from 2 women trying to live a zero-waste lifestyle

Katelin Leblond and Tara Smith-Arnsdorf of Victoria were so sick of all the waste piling up that they tossed their garbage cans on Earth Day last April.

Katelin Leblond and Tara Smith-Arnsdorf offer their tips for reducing waste

Katelin Leblond, left, and Tara Smith-Arnsdorf and their families produce such little trash now that they replaced their garbage cans with glass jars. Neither jar has been emptied since Earth Day on April 22, 2015. (Courtesy Katelin Leblond & Tara Smith-Arnsdorf)

Since Earth Day last April, Katelin Leblond and Tara Smith-Arnsdorf of Victoria have motivated themselves and their respective families to reduce waste — by having a very, very small garbage can.

Leblond and her family fit the trash they produce into a 1.5-litre roasted red pepper jar, and Smith-Arnsdorf and her family use a similar-sized mason jar.

This is all the garbage the Leblond family has created since Earth Day. The waste is stored in an old roasted red pepper jar. (Katelin Leblond)

Leblond said initially it was a challenge, but she has learned to just take one step at a time in cutting down on waste.

"Initially I was trying to de-clutter, I was trying to figure out everything I could be making ... and it was very overwhelming at first," she said.

"It doesn't feel like more work now, it's actually less work because we just consume less, and we don;t have to go to the drugstore, we don't have to go to the big box stores, we don't have to buy all that stuff that we were buying before."

The friends, who hope to not have to empty their garbage for an entire year, have created a website to share their journey.

Here are their top 10 tips for reducing waste:

1. Use grocery totes

Always leave your totes in the car and if you forget them, force yourself to run back to the car. Consider going one step further and using reusable bags for your produce and bulk shopping.

2. Bring your own containers

Ask your local grocery store if they will allow you to shop using your own containers at the meat and cheese counter. If not, small-proprietor businesses are often happy to accommodate.

3. Make your own household cleaner

We make a citrus vinegar cleaner and also use baking soda for all of our household cleaning. Familiarize yourself with your local soap dispensary for refillable household cleaners and beauty products. Or try to make your own.

4. Reduce extra paper and junk mail

Put a note on your mailbox to say, "No junk please," change all billing to online and take yourself off of mailing lists.

5. Create a "to-go kit"

Keep this in the car and have it include cloth napkins, reusable coffee cup, water bottle, utensils, stainless steel container and bamboo or stainless steel straws. This will help to avoid unnecessary disposable to-go containers and cups.

6. Look into soft plastic recycling in your area  

They take everything from foil wrappers, soft plastic packaging and old electronics. PMD Plastics on both Vancouver Island and in Vancouver provide a detailed list of what they accept and what they recycle these items into.

7. Swap out disposable items in the kitchen and bathroom

Swap disposable items in your kitchen such as paper napkins for cloth, chopsticks, plastic straws for bamboo or stainless [steel] straws, plastic wrap and tinfoil for containers and reusable beeswax wraps, plastic cutting boards for bamboo or wood. We have a blog on our site about transitioning your kitchen to Zero Waste if you are interested.

Swap disposable items in your bathroom such as, reusable menstrual cups for tampons and pads, plastic toothbrushes for bamboo, make your own toothpaste, disposable razors for a safety razor. Make your own  toothpaste and  deodorant. We have a how-to blog on making changes in the  bathroom, if you are interested as well.

8. Eat less meat

Add additional vegetarian and vegan meals into your weekly rotations. Animal agriculture creates more greenhouse gases than all modes of transportation combined.

9. Try to fix before replacing 

Adopt the attitude of fix it first before replacing something that is broken.

10. Buy second-hand clothes

Try to source second-hand before purchasing something new.

To hear the full interview listen to the audio labelled: Katelin Leblond of Victoria and her family are striving to live a zero-waste lifestyle

With files from Gavin Fisher


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