#HaltonWasteChallenge Week 4

Hello friends of Halton Green Screens! Now in the fourth week of the challenge, I feel like I’ve settled in pretty nicely, especially now that I’ve made it through Halloween waste-free (more on that below). I’ve still been adding the odd food packaging to my bin from items purchased before I started, but I’ve added very little from after. I’ve had one more mishap with a kitchen item breaking (my husband Neelan this time – he dropped a little knife with a porcelain handle that I use for serving jams and spreads). Neelan collected all of the pieces and glued them back together. It’s not quite as good as new, but it’s fully functional and should last me through the year!

 

One thing I’ve found after doing the challenge for almost a month is that I’m so much more aware of the ways that I produce waste. At one of my favourite restaurants I always ask for no straw, but before starting the challenge I never thought twice about leaving my napkin behind at the end of the meal. I’ve eaten there once after starting the challenge and had hoped not to use a napkin, but I forgot to bring a washable one and I did need one during the meal. When we were packing up to go, I realized that the restaurant most likely doesn’t compost and that my napkin would end up in the garbage if I left it. I brought it home to compost and will make an effort to bring an extra container from now on (in addition to my leftovers container) to bring home any compost and recycling. And garbage, if necessary. I also find myself wondering what my share is of the waste produced by any company or organization I support. How much landfill waste is produced by the bakeries where I’ve been buying bread? Or by the coffee shops where I’ve bought the occasional coffee (in a reusable mug of course)? Or even the farmers who grow my produce? I’m trying not to let this discourage me… I’m a fan of taking on one thing at a time, then taking on more when the first becomes second nature. I suppose I could start baking my own bread more often (and maybe I will) but I cannot grow my own coffee. I don’t drink a whole lot of coffee, but I don’t intend to cut it out anytime soon.

 

I’ve also learned to call ahead to a restaurant and make sure they offer real dishes, or would at least be willing to put food in my own containers. When out with my mom and sister recently, we went to a small restaurant for dinner and found that they only served disposable dishes. I asked if I could give them my Tupperware to package my food but they would not allow it. Being the kind, supportive people they are, my mom and sister cancelled their orders and we found somewhere else to eat. At the new place we asked first to make sure we could get real dishes and I told the server why, and she even brought me cutlery that was not wrapped in a disposable napkin. It’s so encouraging to receive support like that.

 

One of my biggest waste items by weight before starting the challenge was kitty litter. I recently bought some recycled wood pellets to use instead; they break apart into saw dust when wet and in theory should be flushable. If they are not, I will make a pet-waste-specific septic system composter in my yard, as suggested by Jen and Grant’s blog about the Clean Bin Project. I called the farm that was selling the woodchips to check availability and see if they could give me some that aren’t already packaged in disposable plastic bags, and the owner left me a few bags that had not yet been sealed so that my sister and I could transfer the chips to our own bags and he could reuse the plastic ones. More to come on the wood chips’ effectiveness and my cat’s opinion of her new litter.

Scooping wood pellet litter into our own bags

Scooping wood pellet litter into our own bags

3/4 of the full bags of litter - it's way cheaper than the clay I had been using! I paid $11 for 80 lb

3/4 of the full bags of litter – it’s way cheaper than the clay I had been using! I paid $11 for 80 lb

 

Halloween:

This was one of my big concerns at the beginning. I love dressing up for Halloween, and I love handing out candy to trick-or-treaters. I usually make my own costume anyway, mostly from items purchased secondhand, but this year I can’t buy anything so I was limited to what I already had. I decided to be a skeleton. All it took was an old black T-shirt turned inside out and a bit of white acrylic paint that I already had in the house. It worked just fine!

 

For candy, we once again went to Jen and Grant’s blog for suggestions and went with cans of pop since it’s something that most people would recycle these days. We also took the advice of an attendee at one of the events where I launched the challenge and bought some skate and swim passes for the Oakville rec centres. It took a bit of running around to find the flavours we wanted in enclosed cardboard boxes, rather than the ones that come in single layers with shrink wrap overtop, but now we know where to go for next year. My brother and sister and I loved getting pop for Halloween as kids, because we weren’t allowed to drink it very often and there were usually only two houses in our neighbourhood that gave it out. Neelan and I were a little worried that it wouldn’t be the exciting treat that it used to be, but our fears were quickly alleviated. Before long we’d hear kids excitedly saying, “They have pop!” when they could see it through the window as we walked up to answer the door. Other kids high fived each other after, or ran down to the sidewalk to excitedly tell their parents. We also had the occasional group that said something more like, “They only have drinks.” But you can’t please everyone. Overall I’d call it a successful Halloween with no landfill waste!

 

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4 comments

  • Rachel

    I can’t wait to read about what you do at Christmas to avoid producing waste!

  • Marcia Ouellet

    I have been thoroughly impressed with the film series, the commentary and the workshops. Be proud of the efforts and the results. Yay Green Team!

    My question is regarding your source for wood pellets. Is it something you can share?
    M

    • Heather

      Sure I can! I got them from Gildale Farms, near Stratford, ON. If you make the switch as well perhaps we can coordinate to make fewer trips!

      Thank you for the positive feedback about our events. We hope to see you out in the new year.

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