Does Going Zero Waste Mean Buying More Stuff?

Does Going Zero Waste Mean Buying More Stuff?

We can’t ignore the news reports any longer: the House of Commons recently declared a climate emergency in Canada as of June 17th. If it sounds serious, that’s because it is. According to members of parliament, science shows that Canada is warming at twice the global average. Should we be worried – perhaps? But there are also some preventative measures that can be put into place to do your part to help save the environment like going zero or low waste.

According to the Green Business Bureau, a staggering 2.2 billion tonnes of waste is produced per year with much of the waste produced from packaging used for food and beverages.

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You may have noticed more and more companies across the board have made it their mission to generate less packaging and dispose of less waste.

One great example of this is coffee shops across the Greater Toronto Area and in North America implementing the Bring Your Own Mug or BYOM program. How it works is if you bring in a mug, you get a discount on your cup of joe. Seems simple enough, since so many of us have travel coffee mugs at home, but is it? Ashley Tomlinson of the blog, The Little Black Coffee Cup wrote about her 30-day commitment to change her behavior and found it required some planning and thought, and it brings up some excellent points on how to stay committed because it’s a huge lifestyle change.

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For many, we all want to do our part for the environment and for good reason. But the biggest thing we have to understand and realize is the zero-waste movement is about cutting down on packaging and of course, implementing changes in behavior – consumer or otherwise.

It’s a lifestyle change, and for many – it can be a privilege to make those lifestyle changes. Another great example is the Unboxed Market, a waste-free grocery store in Toronto’s west-end. The shop is dedicated to minimizing plastic waste and asks customers to bring in their own reusable food containers, mason jars, and bags when they shop there.

But some people may not have access or the resources to buying bulk Tupperware or mason jars to purchase their groceries or furthermore the pricing might be different here vs a discount grocery store that does use harmful plastics. 

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In a recent piece for Vox, the author Alden Wicker writes, “Zero waste helps us reexamine our relationship with stuff in a way that can seem progressive and anti-consumerist.”

In theory, anyone can participate in the zero waste movement. But we need to think about the additional costs and the time one must invest to actually participate in this movement. 

One place we’ve seen that is anti-consumerist while also contributing to the zero waste movement is Chef Jagger Gordon’s Feed It Forward pay-what-you-can grocery store. Located in The Junction, Chef Gordon is saving food that is about to be thrown out by grocery stores and food terminals and serving it back out to the community and those who need it most. In an interview with Toronto Life, Chef Gordan explains “We have $31 billion in food waste in this country. You don’t know who’s food insecure or even who is homeless. That’s kind of the idea behind this place. Everyone is treated the same.”

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Feed It Forward

There is a wide variation on how zero waste is defined and focusing on zero waste may mean for some prioritizing waste.

But overall, we need to think of the bigger picture: making bigger overall lifestyle changes and implementing them into our lives, into the way that feels right for us. There is no right or wrong way to be zero-waste and one person’s journey may look different from another’s.

Know this: each small step you take is going to help save the planet and don’t feel judged because you haven’t taken more drastic measures. We’re all in this together!

Featured Image: Instagram/

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