North

Yellowknifer attempts to go zero-waste for month of November

Imagine not producing any garbage for a month. That's what a woman in Yellowknife is trying to do, as she attempts to go zero-waste for the month of November.

Jade Cambron brings reusable bags to grocery store; composts dryer lint, dental floss

Jade Cambron and her roommates bring reusable bags to the grocery store. They stay away from all packaging, and only buy what they can put in the bags. It's all part of the zero-waste challenge they're taking for the month of November. (Rachel Zelniker/CBC)

Try this challenge on for size: producing no garbage and buying nothing new for one month.

That's what a woman in Yellowknife is trying to do for the month of November, in an attempt to go zero-waste.

Jade Cambron was inspired to take on the challenge after watching a documentary about a couple in Vancouver.

"They lived for one year without producing any waste, and over the course of the year they produced only four pounds of garbage," Cambron says.

"I thought, I'd like to try that."

She got started by using homemade bins to measure the waste she and her roommates are producing.

Cambron's house is composting a majority of their waste, everything from dental floss to dryer lint. (Rachel Zelniker/CBC)

A few weeks in, and their bins only contain a few pieces.

"You can compost all sorts of things," Cambron says proudly. "Paper towels, there's compostable dental floss, all your banana peels, even lint from our dryer."

There are rules to the challenge. Not only can you not produce any garbage, you can only buy the basic necessities — groceries and toiletries. Cambron and her roommates are holding off on buying material goods, such as new clothes or knick-knacks. 

"We're making our own bread, and we learned to make our own soap for the dishes and washing machine," she says.

They also have to take responsibility for all their waste — that rule can lead to some interesting predicaments.

Compost...in your coat?

Cambron says the challenge is about making small changes in your daily habits.

"I make sure to bring reusable bags with us for buying things in bulk. We're also choosing to buy meat solely from the deli because then you can put it in your own containers."

Cambron brings containers and reusable bags to the grocery store. (submitted by Jade Cambron)

For her roommate, Robin Young, the first few weeks have been more of a struggle.

"At work we have a garbage and no recycling or compost, which means you have to bring all your recycling or compost home with you," Young says.

"If you don't have a proper bag, then you're just putting your compost in your coat, which can make for some awkward situations."

Young says simply figuring out how to prepare food in a different way has been a challenge, but he's sure they're making a big impact.

"I don't think it's feasible to say anyone can produce zero waste. Even while we're doing the challenge we're still producing waste," Young says.

"But I think that this is a really great place to start and to realize that there are a few things you can do specifically, that aren't that hard.

"So it's kind of a bit of a wake-up call."

'One of the simplest things we can do'

Along with her roommates, Cambron's co-workers at Ecology North are also taking part. She says getting other people on board has been its own challenge.

"I guess in some ways I just kind of expected people to get it, but we are just so used to living in a culture of convenience that you've got to work with people to get them to... make those small changes," she says.

She hopes those small changes will make an impact on the staggering amount of garbage piling up at landfills across Canada.

Cambron proudly shows the homemade bins she and her roommates are using to measure their waste. (Rachel Zelniker/CBC)

Canadians produce more than 25-million tonnes of garbage per year — more per capita than any other country in the developed world.

"I really think that waste reduction is one of the simplest things we can do," Cambron says, "that has the greatest impact in terms of climate change, water stewardship, environmental stewardship."

The challenge, she says, has been rewarding.

But will she keep it up come December?

"I probably will buy stuff in the future, but in terms of not producing garbage, and reducing the amount of plastic that I produce? Yeah, I'm totally on board with living a very similar lifestyle."

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