Zero Waste Swaps for Earth Day

When you walk down the isles of your grocery store or local pharmacy, you may notice the overwhelming use of plastic. It is estimated that Canadians use and waste roughly 3.3 million tonnes of plastic every year and that one-third of all the plastic being used in Canada is single-use (Oceana, 2021). On top of that, 2.8 million of that 3.3 million tonnes, roughly 86%, are not recycled and end up in landfills (Oceana, 2021). With Earth Day approaching I thought I would share some ways in which you can start to decrease your plastic consumption.

One of the most highly consumed single-use plastics in Canada is plastic grocery bags. Roughly 15 billion plastic bags are used every year in Canada (Ocean, 2021). Switching to reusable grocery bags is not only an easy way to reduce plastic, but it is also extremely affordable and more worthwhile in the long run. Today plastic grocery bags come at a small fee generally around 10 cents per bag. Reusable bags can be found for around one dollar at many places including in the grocery stores where you shop, many other retailers and places where you might find yourself. Reusable bags provide more support, allow you to use fewer bags, allow you to reuse those bags for every shopping trip and they can be picked to fit your personality. I personally take reusable bags everywhere and make sure that they are always in the car and ready to go.

Another easy and affordable swap is investing in a reusable water bottle and filter if preferred. In Canada, more than 2 billion plastic water bottles are used every year even though Canada is known for generally having clean and safe drinking water (Barlow, 2020). One single reusable water bottle can replace the need for endless purchases of water bottle cases. Every time I go to the grocery store I am baffled by the number of individuals purchasing cases and cases of plastic water bottles when all that is needed is one single purchase of a reusable one. Reusable water bottles can be found anywhere you shop and are available over a very wide price range to fit everyone’s needs.

Another grocery store swap is to just try and avoid plastic, especially when it comes to produce products. Most items that are found in bags or covered in plastic wrap are also available elsewhere in the store unwrapped. Sometimes the unwrapped items are even more cost-effective as the production of plastic is included in the cost of that item.

Photo by Benjamin Brunner on Unsplash

My current favourite swap that I have made is to shampoo in the bar form. This eliminates plastic waste completely and most bar shampoos are made with more natural ingredients and therefore tend not to contain cosmetic chemicals that have been found to have lasting effects. Bar forms of all shower products are on the rise and actually easier to find than one may think. Here in Waterloo at a few different stores around town. There are also many online stores that have products that can be shipped to your door. I personally love my shampoo bars and I have switched to having a completely plastic-free shower with everything in bar form. They lather very well, last long and are easy to travel with. Sometimes the new ways aren’t always better.

My favourite swaps in the kitchen would include cellulose cloths to replace dishcloths and paper towels, silicon bags to replace ziplock bags and bar dish soap. There are many great compostable sponge cloths with adorable patterns and colours to choose from that can be found at zero waste stores, other local shops and online. Silicone bags can be a slightly more expensive swap but there are tons of options out there to provide a reusable change for sandwich bags. I have yet to make the swap to bar dish soap, but this is something I hope to start soon.

Making the change to lower waste items can seem really overwhelming at first, but if you look around your home and at the things you commonly consume it is easy to target certain areas and just change one item at a time. I’m just starting my zero waste journey and without a doubt, it is going to take a while to accomplish every change that I hope to make. The start is always the hardest, but challenge yourself to maybe make one change this month and see how it goes.

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A student-run club that operates a small-scale composting service, while also promoting sustainability through proper waste management and Zero Waste lifestyle.

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UW Campus Compost

UW Campus Compost

A student-run club that operates a small-scale composting service, while also promoting sustainability through proper waste management and Zero Waste lifestyle.

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