Waterloo region's zero waste challenge begins Monday

A local environmental charity wants you to try to get a week's worth of waste down to just a mason jar, and says it might not be as hard as you think; it just takes planning.
REEP Green Solutions wants you to try to reduce your waste down to just one mason jar during the week of Oct. 24 to 28. (REEP Green Solutions)

Can you get a week's worth of waste down to just a mason jar? 

REEP Green Solutions thinks it's possible, and is challenging Region of Waterloo residents to give it a try.

"The goal here is to divert as much from the landfill as possible and to reduce the waste to being with – so to start thinking about our choices," said Mary Jane Patterson, the environmental charity's executive director.

Their guidelines allow you to personalize the challenge, depending on individual circumstances. For example:

  • You can decide to use one jar for all members of the home, or one for each member.
  • You can choose to participate only at home, if it seems insurmountable to incorporate the challenge into your work life.
  • The size of the jar is up to the individual participant.
  • Disposable diapers can be exempted from the challenge.

Tips for a zero-waste week

Since the average person already produces more than a mason jar of trash each week, anything less than that is a win, Patterson said.

And most of all, she says the challenge is about changing routines and starting new environmentally-friendly habits. 

"My own little environmental rule is that, the fact that I can't do it 100 per cent of the time, doesn't mean I shouldn't do it at all. I don't get hung up on if I can't always do it."

Here are some of Patterson's tips for making it through a zero-waste week:

  1. Bring your own containers for takeout: "I have my own milkshake container," Patterson said. "I'm kind of a frequent flyer at Baskin Robbins and I have my own milkshake container and I just wash it at home. I love treating myself without creating my own garbage."
  2. Choose butcher meat over pre-packaged: Most butchers wrap meat in butcher's paper instead of Styrofoam and plastic.
  3. Choose loose vegetables over packaged: "We don't need that Styrofoam tray to hold three peppers, for example, and a bunch of plastic on top of it. It's all going to get thrown out."
  4. Say no to free junk: "That may be something that takes us all aback. We think 'free stuff? That's pretty exciting!' But if you look at it and know it's going to end up in your garbage," Patterson said, "Say no."

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