Dans la Salle à manger 24/7, on entend souvent parler de gaspillage. Comme nous ne produisons aucun déchet, le tout est destiné au compostage, ce qui est quelque peu réconfortant. Dans la foulée de l’événement « J’aime la bouffe, pas le gaspillage » qui a eu lieu le mois dernier, je me suis posé une question bien simple : si nous gaspillons tant à la consommation, à quoi peut ressembler le gaspillage en cuisine?

La Salle à manger se targue d’être un espace sans déchets, mais il me semble que cet exploit s’applique avant tout à l’aire de restauration. On n’y trouve aucune paille, aucun emballage, aucun contenant qui puisse se transformer en déchet. Alors, que se passe-t-il en coulisse, là où l’on prépare la nourriture? Cet espace serait-il lui aussi sans déchet? Pour m’aider à élucider ce mystère, j’ai demandé à Maryann Moffitt, des Services alimentaires, de m’aider à passer de l’autre côté du miroir.

Dès mon arrivée en arrière-scène, je suis immédiatement frappée par le nombre d’ascenseurs et d’escaliers qu’on y trouve. Si ce n’était de l’aide précieuse de Maryann, je me serais assurément perdue! Ma guide et moi entrons tout de suite dans le vif du sujet : or, plutôt que de me faire parcourir moult statistiques dans un tableur, elle m’amène constater de visu le gaspillage généré.

Nous nous rendons d’abord au point de transition, où tout est entreposé avant d’être acheminé sous le Centre universitaire.

Maryann m’indique où sont empilés les composteurs au fur et à mesure qu’ils se remplissent. Chaque jour, on en compte environ une douzaine.

Elle me montre ensuite les boîtes servant au transport des fruits et légumes. Par souci d’espace, ces boîtes sont défaites, puis entreposées dans un conteneur en bois.

Enfin, nous atteignons la destination finale des rebuts générés : là où se rendent les camions pour tout ramasser. Et en toute franchise, je m’avoue franchement surprise par la proportion de compostage, de recyclage et de déchets!

Les bacs rouges sont réservés au recyclage du carton, et c’est ce que l’on retrouve en plus importante quantité. Logique : après tout, la cuisine reçoit chaque jour de la nourriture en abondance, et il faut bien transporter le tout d’une quelconque façon. Il n’y a pas que les fruits et les légumes qui y sont acheminés, mais aussi les conserves de sauce, les bouteilles d’huile et j’en passe – à peu près tout arrive dans des boîtes. Mieux vaut des boîtes de carton recyclable que du plastique jetable, non?

Évidemment, on trouve au sous-sol une tonne de composteurs.

La totalité des déchets générés au cours de la journée ne tient qu’au seul et unique bac bleu que vous voyez. Non, vraiment! Un seul bac de déchets, contre tous ces bacs de recyclage et de compost. Les déchets sont comprimés avant d’être insérés dans le bac. Impressionnant!

Je le confesse : je m’attendais à trouver une cachette secrète où trôneraient pile après pile de détritus. Je me disais que quiconque prépare quelque 6 000 repas par jour ne peut faire autrement que générer une montagne de déchets.

Je m’étais préparée à accompagner la révélation d’un « ah HA! », à demander des comptes. Or, s’il est vrai qu’ils pourraient produire moins de déchets, le ratio recyclage/compost/déchets est absolument renversant. L’étonnement aurait été à son comble s’ils n’avaient produit absolument aucun déchet… mais il faut bien avoir un objectif à long terme, n’est-ce pas?

~clarissa -  stagiaire en communications
Pots and pans in the back of a dining hall

 So in our lovely 24/7 Dining Hall we hear about the waste we produce all the time. I mean it’s not really waste it's all compost for us, not as bad as garbage, right. With the Love Food Not Waste event taking place last week, I asked myself the simple question: if we produce this much waste just eating, how much does the kitchen produce making the food we eat?

Two volunteers for the uOttawa Love Food Not Waste program in the dining hall

You see the Dining Hall is zero waste but that is in the part where you and I eat. There are no straws, no wrappers, no containers, nothing that can become garbage. What about in the "back of house" where all the food is made? Is that also zero waste? Now figuring this out was a little harder than I thought so I got in contact with Maryann Moffitt from Food Services and asked her to show me around.

First there were a lot of elevators and stairs in there, WOW! I would have definitely gotten lost. Luckily I had Maryann to guide me. We went right to the core of the question which meant the she actually took me to see the waste, not just some stats from on a spreadsheet in her office.

First we went to the "halfway point". This is where all waste goes temporarily before being brought down under the UCU to be dealt with.

Compost bins piled one on top of the other at uOttawa
Maryann showed me where the pile of compost bins go as they get filled up. They fill up like a dozen of these every day.

Then she showed me all the boxes that carry the fruits and vegetables. They go into a wooden bin and are "broken down" just so that there is enough room to put them all.

A wooden cardboard recycling bin at the university of Ottawa

Then we headed to the area where the final stage happens, the place where the trucks pick it all up. I was genuinely surprised at the ratio of compost to recycling to actual garbage.

A large red outdoor recycling bin at the University of Ottawa

The red bins are cardboard recycling. There are more of them than anything else. Now this makes sense since the kitchen receives a lot of food everyday and it has to come in somehow. Not just fruits and vegetables, but cans of sauce, bottles of oil... basically everything arrives in a box.
Better that it's in recyclable cardboard than disposable plastic right?

And of course there are also a ton of green compost bins as you can clearly see.

A garbage dumpster at uOttawa

This bin, this blue one here, is the only garbage bin they have. I am serious. One garbage bin, in comparison to the amount of recycling and compost. All the garbage in this bin is compacted first and then put into this one bin. I am truly impressed.

A series of outdoor recycling bins at the University of Ottawa

I will be honest with you. I was kind of expecting to find a secret stash with mountains of garbage. I thought there was no way they couldn’t produce anything but mountains of garbage given the fact that they serve something like 6,000 meals every day.

I was ready for a big exposure moment, like "Gotcha! How do you explain mount Trashmore?"... but the truth is, yes they could produce some garbage, but my word their ratio is amazing! To recycle and compost that much is amazing. Seriously. The only way I could have been more amazed would have been if I found out they had no waste at all, but you know that's why people have long term goals right?

~ clarissa - communications intern
A pile of donations to the uOttawa Free Store

T.S Eliot wrote that April is the cruelest month and although for different reasons than his, I couldn’t agree more. Exams are stressful, your thesis might be due, you have to nail down a summer job or maybe even decide what your graduation game plan is. You’re saying goodbye to friends and professors for the summer, or maybe for longer. And on top of all this, you might even have to move out, move in or move home.

I see moving as an opportunity to downsize and declutter. One of the central tenets or zero waste is minimalism, or at least that everything you own serves a purpose and was procured sustainably. But how do you get rid of the big things, like a kitchen table or all your glassware, and not just leave them on the side of the road, or worst, throw them away.

The reuse economy is the best place to get things and give away things when moving. What is the reuse economy? It is so many things! The salvation army, consignment stores, selling clothing in facebook groups or even selling your curtains to a friend for a beer are all resources and options to avoid buying new, perpetuating plastic culture and can save you cash money.

The reuse economy is strong in Ottawa and even on our own campus. If you lived or live in residence, the Dump and Run is a program managed by the Campus Office of Sustainability which collects all the things people leaving residence don’t want anymore and takes them to the Free Store.

A student happily donates a bag of clothing to the uOttawa Free Store using the donation bin

If you now live off-campus, you can still bring your things to the Free Store. The donation bin is just behind the building, which is located on King Edward. The Free Store has many community partners like the Ottawa Mission, St. Joe’s Women’s Center and Operation Come Home with whom they are constantly in discussion, figuring out what their community needs are and allocating stuff accordingly, in order to ensure best use of your donations.

The Free Store accepts things like clothing, textbooks, lamps, small furniture and kitchen supplies (find a full list here). Getting rid of something bigger like a bed or a sofa is a little trickier, particularly if you don’t have a car to bring it to a donation drop-off area. Thankfully, Matthew House Refugee Services, Helping With Furniture, and the Salvation Army all offer pick-up services for large items and are all places looking to give your things to those who need it most. For example, these three organizations have been extremely active in helping the Syrian refugees feel welcome and settled with everything they need. This way you know the things you’re giving away are going to a good home and all you have to arrange is a pick-up time.

A pile of clothing and accessories that are ready to be donated at the uOttawa Free Store

Through Dump and Run, the Free Store is also taking food donations of unspoiled, non-perishables which will then be distributed to various food banks. So instead of throwing out all those extras cans which have been collecting dust in your cupboard since Day 1, you can combat food waste and give to those in need either by donating to a food bank.

If you’re looking to make a little cash money from your stuff, that’s cool too. Plato’s Closet in Barrhaven will give you some money for gently-loved clothing or you could try your luck with the University of Ottawa Clothing Exchange Page on facebook (sometimes you can try selling furniture there too!) A friend also recommended this thing called Bunz to me, which is a way of bartering things for other things. I haven’t tried it out, but it looks easy to use and it could be worth a shot if you wanted to put up some things you didn’t need and see what people in your area would be willing to give you in return.

And this may seem obvious, but I found a good home for many of my things by just getting social and asking friends if they need stuff in exchange for a little cash or even some beer. Speaking of friends, when it comes to the physical moving of moving, friends are a great way to save money, time, your back, renting a truck, energy etc. and all you have to do is ask nicely.

When moving, the more stuff you have, the more energy (manpower and otherwise) it takes to get it from point A to point B. If you downsize in the first place (remember not by throwing away, but giving things to the reuse economy), you are contributing to a better earth environment, but as well your own living environment.

And then if you need things like a kettle, lamps, shoes, chairs, a pot, forks, curtains, whatever, check out places like the Free Store, the Salvation Army, online posts or friends before going to Ikea or Bed Bath and Beyond. By procuring from the reuse economy, you are doing better for the environment, I guarantee you will be saving money and you are directly supporting these resources who exist simply to make the world more sustainable.

A box of kitchen accessories ready to be donated to the uOttawa Free Store

And if you are kicking things to the curb, make sure you follow Ottawa’s recycling policies! Things that are unsorted or improperly set out just end up in landfills! Read up about them here!

Although I am desperately sad to be leaving my wonderful student life in Ottawa (despite being desperately happy to be finished my undergrad), I love the opportunity moving brings to downsize, minimalize and donate. Once again, good luck on exams, good luck on your summers and please don’t leave your perfectly good things to the landfills!

~jennie @trashlesslovemore

a basket of groceries without plastic

~ This is a piece about plastic that I really could live without and how to navigate normative grocery stores in a more eco-friendly way. Yes more than anything really, this will be a rage piece about unnecessary everyday plastic that really does not need to exist and what we can do to live without it. ~

I began thinking critically about the everyday items I buy each week at the grocery store around September when I started to transition more and more towards being plastic-free. Like most students, my life is a balance between trying to eat healthy and work hard and then eating my stresses away with sweets. We are all trying our best. Its exam time now. Nothing a few bulk chocolate chips can’t fix. It’s going to be all good.

You know what isn’t all good? Foods packaged unnecessarily! Foods for sale that have unnecessary plastic packaging when you can get the same food in a plastic-free manner! So I am going to tell you how I really feel and we’re going to go through the grocery store together so that you can make choices sustainable for yourself.

Before hitting up the grocery store, make sure you have your reusable bags. For produce and bread, many people have mesh produce bags. However, i just reuse the same two plastic produce bags each week, plus I usually put all my fruits and veggies in the same big bag. Your cashier won’t mind, I promise.

a package of reusable mesh plastic bags

Onto food. Now I love dipping carrots into hummus, it is one of my fave study snacks! But baby carrots are actually just silly-looking large sweet carrots which are cut, scraped and rounded before being cutely bagged up. Why is this annoying? Well you could just buy normal (or even organic) carrots, put them in your reusable produce bags and then cut them yourself at home! This is A. cheaper and B. plastic-free! If you buy carrots every week (which I do), you would save 52 bags of useless plastic from going to landfills each year, get an arm workout from chopping your own carrots and improve the overall aesthetic of your snack life.

The pepper four-pack also grinds my gears! Not only is that plastic useless, you can just buy peppers separately! The pepper four-pack also only has teeny tiny peppers and one time there was a live moth in an orange one! (ask me about this later, it’s a great anecdote) Now I just bring my own bag to stock up on peppers and try to follow the same principals for boxed greens, as well as all the other fruits and veggies I buy each week.

leafy green vegetables

Next up on my smackdown list is a personal issue I happen to have with the Rideau Loblaws. Why Loblaws Rideau do you not have a bulk food section! I complained about this in my Zero Waste Challenge piece as well. Usually I get my bulk food items (ie. lots of choco chips, b-sug, almonds, flour, quinoa, pepitas, pb, etc.) from Herb and Spice and use jars instead of plastic bags. BUT if I something last minute for a recipe, I am forced into buying pre-packaged stuff which is SO unnecessary and then I also can’t get the exact amount I want. I have already contacted Loblaws about this huge inconvenience to my life, as well as the environment’s. I’m so over it. Can we get this issue trending?

food in plastic packaging

I also give you permission to buy the delicious freshly baked bread or bagels or buns that come in a paper bags or that you can put into a reusable bag yourself! It tastes better than the plastic-bagged mass market bread, usually contains fewer additives and is often cheaper!

Now, I drink soy milk and use the silk almond coffee creamer, so the bagged milk issue doesn’t directly impact me. However, it is crazy that we put our milk in disposable, plastic bags rather than a recyclable liquid-holding device such as a carton or jug! (once I heard an American hilariously refer to it as “moose milk”). I recognize that with bagged milk you can get more moo for your moola, but switching to a carton milk or better yet, a non-dairy milk, is a small price to pay for the sake of the environment! Even J. Cole drinks almond milk now! Get on board!

Briefly and while we are on this topic, a common recycling misconception for the Ottawa region is that milk or juice cartons go into the black bin with the other mixed paper items when in fact, all cartons go into the blue bin with glass, metal and plastic. You can find info about the city’s recycling policies here.

There are a couple other supermarket switches you can make to get the packaging for the food you typically buy to be recyclable. Boxed pasta instead of pasta in a plastic bag. Rices in a box instead of rices in a bag. Spices in a jar instead of spices in a plastic bag. Are we seeing a pattern here?

Finally, if you’re looking for an exam treat, instead of buying individually-wrapped ice creams, just go for the whole tub! Also PSA: Ben & Jerry’s non-dairy pints are now available at the Rideau Loblaws! They are minimally-packaged, mostly-recyclable and SO GOOD!

non dairy Ben & Jerry's ice cream

Go on, you deserve it! (and so does the environment). And good luck with exams!

~ jennie - @trashlesslovemore

IMPACT conference Ottawa group picture

This past weekend, I was fortunate enough to participate in the IMPACT! Youth Sustainability Leadership Conference. The conference aims to help young leaders "take their next strategic step for action: to deepen their sustainability understanding, build their leadership skills, and develop or advance projects and initiatives for meaningful change." The conference demonstrated that there are no sustainable actions too big or too small: all are worthy, all are rad and all are important.

Moreover, in addition to eating some delicious vegan food and meeting some other sustainably-minded individuals in the community, I got to share my zero waste journey with others. But perhaps most importantly, I learned about some other community-orientated sustainable initiatives and social entrepreneurship actions spearheaded by some very cool folks all over the city. From ethical energy to ethical brunch, here are some sustainable actions percolating across the 613, and perhaps how you can get involved.

Ethical Tree sample of website page

There is nothing more disappointing than going out with friends for food and realizing that there is NOTHING on the menu you can eat. Trust me, this happens more often than not. One time, yelp.com listed Subway as their top vegan friendly-restaurant... So my new friend Siavash, an uOttawa grad, helped to create EthicalTree.com, an ethical-business directory specific to Ottawa. You can find restaurants, cafes and other cool places to support by selecting your personal ethical preferences, be it Vegan-Friendly, Fair Trade, Organic, or Woman-Owned.

There are over 300 establishments in the directory alongside accurate rating and reviews. Imagine finding the perfect new breakfast spot with veg-options for Sunday brunch with your gals... that is actually owned and operated by other gals! Plus as we move into exam season, this is a great resource for finding fair trade coffee shops across the city which fit your dietary-preferences. So great!

Another really cool movement already well established is Backyard Edibles, an urban farming operation which transforms underused residential space into productive market gardens. Talk about eating local! Folks who offer to have their backyards (or frontyards) farmed get a beautiful garden managed by the very cool and experienced BE farmers as well as a basket of garden fresh veggies each week.

You can find BE's urban-farmed produce at Farmer's Markets across the city once again when the weather get warm so keep your eyes out! And if you have some backyard dirt without any vegetable friends which also meets their basic requirements to become a garden plot, perhaps you can get involved and get some urban-grown, organic veg in return.

uOttawa's Cuppa Change group bake sale

A more recent addition to the Ottawa sustainable scene and started by students still in their forth-year here, Cuppa Change is a capacity building organization and initiative platform that hopes to provide agency, education and initiatives to encourage youth to promote ethical and sustainable community development. I am particularly partial to Cuppa Change because it was founded by some close friends who love working together to inspire change! If you saw the red boxes by the recycling stations around campus, that was Cuppa Change's first initiative called Roll Up for Change.

They collected winning Timmies rims and donated them to those homeless shelters in order to provide folks with a free cup of coffee and build relationships between service providers and members of the homeless community. They have some amazing things coming up, including a much-needed mental health initiative and a project concerning food waste. If you wanna support them, they are still building a team, looking to umbrella any cool ideas you may have and are having a fun pub night this weekend!

Finally, I want to share with you a for-profit cooperative with grassroots vibes who are doing great things for the energy grid. The Ottawa Renewable Energy Co-op is a seriously cool community-owned solar energy investment opportunity which partners "with local property owners to use their land or rooftops for community-owned renewable power projects". This may seem complicated, but members can buy shares and get returns on their investments through sale of the power back to the grid, allowing individuals to make worthwhile social, sustainable and local financial investments. I also got an insider scoop and learned that they expanding their team, so this is a great experience for folks with an expertise or just a passion for clean energy who is looking for their next step.

The IMPACT! conference didn't just feature folks who already had some skin in the sustainability game. They were also concerned with empowering students and recent grads at all stages of their sustainability journey, providing development workshops and talks as well as networking opportunities and funding. The workshop included a diverse range of student leaders so naturally there was a diverse range of interesting and innovative project ideas in their nascent stages, concerning everything from outdoor education to indigenous awareness, from app development to farming co-operatives.

Once again, my favourite takeaway from the conference is that there is no project too small and no initiative too big. Everyone can do something and there is something for everyone to do. Some really special and sustainable things happening on every scale in our own backyards, from solar to sushi. Lets support each other, shall we?

~ jennie - @trashlesslovemore