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Readers share their waste reduction strategies after Ontario family's one-trash-bag year

Categories: Community

Stacey Vandermeer, along with her husband Matt and two children, produced just one bag of trash for an entire year. They recycled, composted and changed their buying habits to produce less waste. (Andrea Bellemare/CBC)

The story of an Ontario family of four who went an entire year producing just a single bag of trash was the perfect launching point for a wider conversation on waste reduction among CBC News' audience.

Stacey VanderMeer and her husband Matt live in Breslau, a small community just outside Kitchener, along with their two children, ages six and eight. The family had pledged to limit their garbage output to just one 75-litre bag over the course of the year.

"Our goal was not to make anyone feel guilty but to think about 'Hey is there one thing I can do that would make this a little better in our household?'" said Stacey VanderMeer in an interview with Craig Norris onThe Morning Edition on Wednesday.

Following Vandermeer's example, we asked CBC readers to share their stories and ideas about how to reduce waste at home. Here are some of their comments, methods and suggestions.

Denise Quesnel-S├ęguin says, "Impressive! I am ashamed to say that we put out 1-2 bags per week, recycling only every second week, though our bins are full. No green bins - really wish we had a green bin program. This story does inspire me to change at least some bad habits. Great job by this family!"

Laura Lewko writes, "My husband just drinks sparkling water. I bought a machine so we make our own sparkling water also pops drink so I reduced 60 to 0 plastic bottles waste on our recycle bin."

Danielle Bedard shares her story: "My family of 4 puts out roughly 1 can of garbage a week with four recycling containers and a full green bin. One visit to Wal-Mart/Target throws that out the window. The amount of packaging is ridiculous."

Jodi Rosengren posted this detailed breakdown of her family's waste-reduction strategy on CBC News' Facebook page:

"We are a family of 5 adults and have 1 bag of garbage every 6 weeks or so. Buy meat directly from a farmer or a butcher who wraps in brown paper. Buy eggs from a farm or buy the largest carton packaged in cardboard, not plastic.

Grow your own veggies. My shrubs on my city property are currants, raspberries, blackberries, high bush blueberries and strawberries. My trees are apple, cherry and pear. We eat seasonal fruit and buy everything else we will need for the winter, in bulk, from farmers markets and local farms.

Invest in 2 freezers. Invest in building a proper cold room with shelving, in the basement so everything can be organized and stored properly so there is limited waste and spoilage.

Do NOT buy pre-packaged food products (or as [little] as possible). Buy ingredients and make your own food. It doesn't take any more time; you just have to be organized. When purchasing items from a store, I make a conscious choice to select something with minimal packaging and then I email the receipt to the competitors and tell them why they lost the sale and I let the company I bought from know why they got my money.

Small changes can add up, especially if we all started doing them. I have bought NOTHING with tinfoil in 20 years as it takes hundreds of years and still won't break down."

On the comments section, user BCLeafFan asked for advice on how to reduce the amount of garbage produced at home. Some other users offered their suggestions.

"Congrats to the family, but I would love to see more about how they did this. We compost (backyard and green bin) and recycle, but still have a fair amount of garbage. Styrofoam trays that meat comes in and plastic wrap cannot be recycled where I live. Maybe they are vegetarian? If any glass breaks, we have been instructed to put in the garbage wrapped in newspaper. If a small appliance breaks (coffee maker, rice cooker, etc...) these must be taken to the dump? Old shoes, old underwear and socks filled with holes - goodwill obviously doesn't want this, where do they go?"

tyntof replies: There are places in the community to recycle small appliances. Some recycling programs take broken glass, since some have a community bin where bottles are dropped in and break anyway. Holey socks and other clothes can be cut up and used instead of paper towels! (but I have no other solutions for disposing of them). I would like to hear more about how the VanderMeer accomplished this too.

AtiaoftheJulii says: You can buy your meat from a butcher, they wrap it in butcher's paper that can then be composted. Junk removal services can take small or large appliances, they make every effort to reuse items or recycle their parts. As for old shoes, underwear and socks, I guess that's what the 1 bag of garbage was filled with :)

Amalthea writes: For junk/small appliance removal also look for scrap metal recyclers. They pick stuff up for free. For other stuff, try posting an ad on Craigslist or Kijiji, you'd be surprised at the junk other people can find a use for!

Thanks to your readers for their suggestions and lively discussion. Do you have any more advice on how to reduce waste at home? Let us know in the comments section, on Twitter at @cbccommunity or on our CBC News Facebook page.

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