Nfld. & Labrador

Low-waste living: How one St. John's woman is cutting back and avoiding plastic

There are plenty of ways to cut down on what goes to the landfill and avoid wasteful single-use plastic items, says Amelia Reddick.

Amelia Reddick and her partner throw out just ‘one Sobeys bag’ of garbage a week

Amelia Reddick says living a low-waste lifestyle helps the earth and even saves her a few dollars. (Lukas Wall/CBC)

Waves of Change is a CBC series exploring the single-use plastic we're discarding, and why we need to clean up our act. You can be part of the community discussion by joining our Facebook group.

When Amelia Reddick moved to St. John's, she couldn't believe how much she was throwing away.

"Because I grew up in Halifax, I've been composting forever and when I moved here I was kind of shocked that everything went in the garbage," she said.

About a year ago, Reddick and her partner found a local company to pick up their organic and food waste and compost it.

"We started there and I just noticed how much it cut down on our garbage," she said.

"We only put out one Sobeys bag of garbage a week, just from sheer composting and recycling."

I just started questioning, where does it go?- Amelia Reddick

That sharp reduction of waste got Reddick thinking and started her efforts to live a low-waste life.

"I just started questioning, where does it go? And it just snowballed from there."

Reusable bags, bottles, cups

Reddick says she's started carrying a reusable shopping bag and has smaller, cloth bags for fruits and vegetables at the grocery store. A travel mug and reusable water bottle are also key items.

"The reusable bag, it's one of the biggest things and you hear people talk about it all the time, and it's so simple," she said.

There is a variety of products that can help cut down on waste and single-use plastics, Reddick says. (Lukas Wall/CBC)

"Those plastic bags and plastic water bottles and coffee cups, how many of those are people using each day?"

She's even saved a few dollars by living low-waste. Many cafes give discounts on coffee and tea when using a travel mug, for example.

"They call it a refill, and it's a little bit cheaper," said Reddick.

Reddick says using bar soap, shampoo and deodorant has been an easy switch to reduce her plastic waste. (Lukas Wall/CBC)

She said she has also begun using soap, shampoo, deodorant and lotion made in bars, rather than packaged in plastic.

"I found these super easy switches, instead of buying the big bottles of things that you had to recycle," she said.

Reddick said some other easy switches have been:

  • A safety razor, rather than plastic disposable razors.
  • A bamboo toothbrush and bamboo case, which are both biodegradable.
  • Making a household cleaner with vinegar, essential oils and orange peels.
  • Buying items in bulk.
  • Bringing a reusable container for take-out food items.
  • Putting a "no junk mail" sign on her mailbox.

Plastic-free grocery shopping

However, it isn't always easy to avoid plastic and reduce waste, Reddick said. She said it can sometimes be challenging to find items that aren't packaged in plastic.

One of Reddick's favourite low-waste items is her bamboo toothbrush and toothbrush holder. Both use no plastic and are biodegradable. (Lukas Wall/CBC)

"I've almost stopped planning my meals and just [started] going into Sobeys or Dominion and seeing what's around, and based on that making a meal instead," said Reddick.

"I find it frustrating to go in there and you want something, but it's wrapped in plastic."

She said she's also stopped buying food items in glass jars, like salsa, jam and pickles, because the bottles aren't recycled in Newfoundland and Labrador. The MMSB told CBC News in a statement, however, that it "continues to investigate options to recycle non-beverage glass containers."

The lack of large-scale municipal composting is also a frustration, said Reddick, and while the City of St. John's has no plans to begin composting in the near future, the province announced a review of its waste management strategy earlier in January. 

Despite the challenges, Reddick said the most important thing is that people are mindful of the waste they create.

"People will come up to me and be like 'I've got my mug today,' or they'll send me pictures," she said.

Reddick's even started an Instagram account to share her progress with others.

"Friends and coworkers and stuff, they'll just talk about it or send me messages, send me pictures of stuff that they're doing," she said.

"I love that they're thinking about it, that's all I want, just for people to think about it and maybe start reducing."

Join the discussion on the CBC Waves of Change Facebook group, or send us an email: wavesofchange@cbc.ca.

Read more articles from CBC's Waves of Change project

About the Author

Lukas Wall

CBC News

Lukas Wall is a journalist with CBC Newfoundland and Labrador in St. John's.

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