posters at the uOttawa campus prompting people to go waste free

In the spirit of Barney Stinson and in an attempt to really walk the sustainable walk, this past week I accepted a challenge from a fellow environmentalist to truly trashless. What challenge you ask? Sure to be the latest mannequin or ice bucket challenge to have all the youths blowing up their social feeds, the waste bucket challenge raises awareness to the amounts of waste we produce every single day.

So this is how the challenge works. Any trash you produce is kept in a bucket or receptacle or whatever of choice allowing you to see how much of what you consume regularly is non-compostable or non-recyclable. So to reiterate, if it cannot be composted or recycled, it goes and stays in the bucket.

An empty glass container that will used to collect waste

I used a 32 oz. glass container rather than any sort of garbage cans as I moved about my normal life for a week. I also equipped myself with my trusty travel mug, Nalgene, mason jars, canvas bags, a fork/spoon and reusable containers. So now five days later, with a glass container overflowing and compost and recycling bins happily brimming, let me tell you about what I learned.

And to preface all this, as a person who eats a vegan diet, most of my culprits where fruit stickers and frozen fruit bags. And I understand that this experience would likely be challenging in different ways for folks who choose to eat more normative diets. I recognize that grocery store meat or dairy comes with a lot of plastic packaging. However, I learned that there are creative ways to skip the packaging regardless of dietary preferences and although not as convenient or routine without practice or intention, the entire challenge made the notable events of my week - my grocery shop, brunch date, study sessions, baking, going out and work - not only more waste free, but also more eco-friendly in other ways.

A full glass container stuffed with plastic

Fruit stickers are a great example. All the produce at grocery stores comes with stickers on it, regardless of whether or not it is organic. This is hard to avoid. BUT by consciously collecting all the fruit stickers for my container, I made sure none went down the drain. This happens to the best of us, but when it does the stickers are very likely to pollute our water systems. To avoid this further, I also bought some of my weekly produce at the Lansdowne Farmers Market (my fave post Sunday-brunch ritual) which is even better because it supports local farmers AND is sticker-free. I also bought my bread at a local bakery to avoid the plastic bread bag and the plastic bread tag.

Tofu was harder for me. I rely on tofu for typically three-ish meals a week as a high source of protein. However my fave tofu brand at Loblaws comes with not one, but two layers of plastic packaging. To avoid this, often health food stores like Herb & Spice allow you to bring you own reusable container and get your tofu that way. And perhaps if you typically do eat meat, you could try getting your meat from the butcher's counter wherein butcher paper is totally compostable!

As a side note, places like H & S, Whole Foods, Bulk Barn etc. allow you to make your entire shopping experience plastic free if you simply bring your own containers and mason jars! I've been doing this for a while and it's really fun! (just ask your cashier to weigh your jars and write their weight on the bottom in sharpie beforehand and then you're set)

This leads me to another point, which is that the closest grocery stores to campus do not have bulk bins. Therefore this weekend while I was making homemade granola bars (to avoid buying prepackaged and processed ones) and I needed almonds last minute, I had to buy the ones sold in a plastic pouch, which was a major bummer. If Loblaws had bulk options, students would have easier access to zero waste options. Another nearly unavoidable culprit is the plastic pouches most brands of frozen fruit come in. I eat lots of smoothies and I make homemade jam frequently, so I really wasn't able to avoid that especially given that fresh berries aren't really in season right now.

Furthermore when eating/drinking out this weekend, I chose to eat at restaurants which were vegan-friendly scratch kitchens meaning that they make everything in house (no ketchup packet plastic for example) and I got my drinks at the bar without straws!

A variety of plastic products layed out across a table

So until the last day (Monday) of my challenge I was doing pretty well. The container certainly wasn't empty, but I wasn't worried. And then the new sleeping bag I ordered in the mail arrived... and it was absolutely covered in bulky layers of plastic packaging. It was devastating and unavoidable. I couldn't choose a plastic-free option here; all of this plastic just sort of happened.

So on the last day of my challenge, I cannot get the lid back on my glass container. In summation, I could have sustained the low to no plastic life indefinitely in the places I can control my impact, but then sometimes life throws you plastic curveballs. Frankly we don't realize the amounts of plastic all around us until we begin taking note. I didn't choose the plastic life, the plastic life choose me. And that's okay. It's hard to be zero waste in a world that doesn't have zero waste systems readily in place. This entire eco-conscious thing is about becoming more conscious, it's not about rigidity or perfection.

A glass container whose's lid cannot close because it is stuffed with plastic

This challenge was more demanding than pretending to be a mannequin, more fun than having ice water dumped on my head, and was overall better for the environment at large. And I nominate everyone reading to give it a go. Make intentional and conscious consumer choices when purchasing and getting rid of all the things in your lives. Set your own goals and limits. Challenge your friends/family or do it with your housemates. Try to think about the everyday waste around you differently. Best of luck!

~ jennie @trashlesslovemore
A Tim Horton's cup with a message of change under the lip

Get ready to flip your lid for sustainable giving!

Although I rarely encourage folks to get paper cups when they are getting their caffeine fix, but this year's annual Roll Up The Rim season is a little different.

Cuppa Change, a charitable start-up imagined by a group of lovely uOttawa students, is rolling out their Roll Up For Change initiative! It's a simple way to give back to the local community.

Picture this: It's Roll Up The Rim season. You get a cup of coffee from one of three campus Tim Horton's before class. En route, you roll up the rim and for once this time it's not "please play again!" You won a free cup of coffee! Way to go!

An infographagic demonstrating how to donate to the homeless
Then you pass one of uOttawa's many amazing recycling stations. You rip off the winning rim and you obviously put the remaining paper cup in the proper receptacle, because hello it's 2017.

But wait! Above the recycling stations there is a new addition... a little red box where you can donate your winning rim to someone in need! Wow even better!

A donation box on a uOttawa Recycling Bin for Cuppa Change

The donated winning rims will be collected and passed along through Cuppa Change to the Shepherds of Good Hope Mission, as well as other shelters and food banks where marginalized individuals in the community will be provided with the rim to redeem a free cup of coffee. That's a pretty amazing and tangible way to have a positive impact just by donating your little prize.

Cuppa Change envisions redistributing excess commodities across Canada, but this small gesture is so much more than just a free cup of coffee. Through getting in contact with shelters, for what is initially a cup of coffee, individuals in need can begin to build trust within a safe space in our community. By going into shelters to obtain the donated rims, these individuals come in contact with the resources that shelters supply. Your small gesture could have a huge impact.

In this unsettling moment in time, many of us are setting intentions to be better to the world, and to me this must include all living and non-living members of said world. Sustainability doesn't exist in a vacuum. The wellbeing of the natural world is truly inextricable from the wellbeing of all people.

Cuppa change logo
So spread the word! Follow them on instagram @cuppachange! Tell your friends! And if you want to get even more involved, Cuppa Change is looking for help sharing their message, building more relationships in the Ottawa community and collecting the donations. Shoot them an email if you want to get involved at or 613-790-2385.

So this Roll Up season, look for the donation boxes all around campus. And very best of luck, because a win for you could mean so much more for someone else.

~ jennie

protest, Ottawa, cold, love, sustainable, uOttawa

It has been a weird past couple weeks.
Like many other students who enjoy living in the relatively progressive bubble here at uOttawa, I feel numb and nauseous in regards to many of actions and statements of President Trump. Since November 8th, I have been processing my feelings, watching a lot of Seth Meyers' A Closer Look and trying to stay away from the toxic political wasteland that tends to be social media.

And I truly hate having to get political online. I commend people who do it, but I do not find the internet to be a safe space and continually sharing a Huffington Post articles is not going to help anyone. However, being brave and standing up for one's beliefs is the only way to incite change.

Climate change, the environmental crisis and indigenous issues are not dismissible as "fake news".
Yet it is easy to start feeling all of the feelings in incredulous times such as these: anger, sadness, apathy, denial, hopelessness and fear. A steady downpour of really bad news regarding the environment, but also human rights, to in which it seems you can do nothing about, can really impact your mental wellbeing. Combine that with the normal pressures of student life and you're likely a veritable cornucopia of uneasiness, stress, anger, hopelessness and so on.

It is important not to remain silent about issues you care about and the things you know to be fundamentally wrong. But you cannot take care of others, or the earth, or anything for that matter, if you're not taking care of yourself first. So in this time of  "alternative facts", here are some alternative things you can do to self-care and earth-care.

reusable, mug, book, read

  1. Paint your own mugs
    There are too many discarded paper cups all over campus. Replace all those cups with a travel mug. It is so simple and it has an impact you can visibly see! Remember, you can get free fair-trade coffee on each Monday in FSS through the Office of Campus Sustainability's Muggy Mondays if you simply bring a mug. Plus, you save money at ALL of the campus vendors when you bring your own reusable mug.

    Don't have a travel mug? I would like to recommend to you a wonderful place in the Glebe called the Mud Oven. You can paint and decorate your own piece of pottery and it is so lovely. They play wonderfully chill music there and it is a wonderful space to disconnect with the "Trump-y" social meds feeds and reconnect with your inner child. No more excuses for silly paper cups!

    letter, hand writing, Justin Trudeau, environmental, oil
  2. Read and writeDid you know that no postage stamp is required to send a letter to any MP, including Prime Minister Trudeau? Maybe you could tell him how you feel about his support for the executive ordered pipeline. If you feel a way, you'll feel better if you DO something about it. Or simply writing things down for yourself is an amazing way to work it out, get it out and validate your emotions.

    Or, if you feel like you need more information about some of the environmental and indigenous-rights threatening executive order, uOttawa law student Andrea Lesperance wrote a succinct and clever piece about the proposed pipelines and their infringement upon indigenous rights in America. Learn the real facts about these issues before getting fired up one way or another.

    You also likely do enough reading for school, but if you're looking for a good novel to escape into, I'd like to recommend Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien, the Man-Booker Prize winner and the Writer in Residence at the uOttawa English Department. It intelligently and touchingly deals with immigration, protest and uprising in the aftermath of China's Cultural Revolution. The themes eerily reverberate today.
  3. Walk... or march.
    Get your butt outside! You will always feel so much better when you do. Buddle up and go for a walk to get a coffee or Kettleman's, but perhaps even to a protest! There have already been many protests organized and there will be so many more to come. Sharing the energy of other people who CARE is a wonderful way to support and feel supported in these uncertain times. Spend some time outside and maybe spend some time standing up in solidarity for something you feel strongly about.
  4. Minimize your life
    Make your room great again... by decluttering your life and decluttering your headspace. You'll feel less overwhelmed when you have less things overwhelming your space. And better yet, you can donate your old things to the Office of Campus Sustainability's Free Store.

    The Free Store, located on King Edward, allows you to drop off stuff you don’t want anymore and pick-up things you do want for FREE with a goal of creating a campus where waste is a thing of the past. You can donate and find so many things, including clothing, footwear, towels and blankets, office supplies, kitchen ware, electronics, lamps, textbooks and novels. In doing so, you're keeping reusable items out of landfills and minimizing your own consumer impact.  

If you're feeling overwhelmed, there are many services on and off campus for you to access. Talk to someone. I will never stop emphasizing this: you cannot take care of others if you are not taking care of yourself.

Don't get immersed. Get informed. Drink some water. Go to the doctor. Buy a plant. Check your privilege. Call a loved one. Disconnect. Reconnect.

Do something good for yourself and do something good for our earth. 

Local Beer options at the University of Ottawa

The very beginning of a university semester can either be ridiculously laid-back or incredibly jarring; either way you're going to want a drink. In addition, my father recently took a "beer appreciation" course, and so over the Christmas holidays I got my ear chewed off about the difference between lagers and stouts, brewing history and proper glassware. This all got me thinking about the impact of the beer industry and if brewing and beer consumption could be done in a sustainable manner. So I did some research (and some sampling) and here is what I would love to share with you about how to make greener choices about beer, or sustainabrews, if you will.

As with most things, buying locally-made/sourced products can be better for the environment and also for the local community. Primarily, there is less energy used in transporting the products when they are domestic. Furthermore, you support small businesses in the community. So when choosing between something locally-brewed or a larger corporate mass market brand, it's usually better to buy local. If that's not available, buying domestically is better than internationally.

Now, if you are buying a bigger name brand, in their 2016 Sustainability Report Molsoncoors pledged to go landfill free, reduce energy consumption by 25% and reduce water consumption by 15% by 2020. Interestingly, Labatts most recent environmental report only features numbers from 2011 and despite claiming that "environmental stewardship is a key focus of [their] everyday operation", their current environmental initiatives are not so transparent.

 Thankfully some of my favourite Ontario craft breweries have made strides forward in their sustainable practices. Millstreet Organic is an award-winning, Toronto-based craft brewery who, among numerous environmental initiatives, use only domestic, local or seasonal organic ingredients and have an extensive recycling and waste management policy. On a smaller scale, a really cute and emergent brewery in Blyth, ON called Cowbell has pledged to become the first carbon-neutral brewery in North-America and have integrated environmental stewardship into every aspect of their business.  

In switching back to locally-brewed brews, the Ottawa community has recently become known for its growing craft beer market. Dominion City Brewing Co., a small-batch brewery which began as a Kickstarter campaign, emphasizes giving back to the local community by recycling and reusing as much as possible and responsibly disposing of brewing by-products. 

Finally, Beau's All Natural is Canada's first ever Benefit Corporation brewery, who not only use all natural and certified organic ingredients and use only eco-friendly packaging, but have given back over $1 million to local charities and community initiatives! Even more exciting? The CEO and co-founder of Beau's All Natural Steve Beauchesne will be the keynote speaker at the Telfer School of Management's Entrepreneurs’ Club ‘Toast to Success’ Business Dinner on February 1st at the Canadian Museum of History!

Some other things you can do to make your beer consumption a little more sustainable include choosing what's on tap when at the bar and properly recycling and even returning your cans and bottles afterwards. So good news! If you're looking for these sustainabrews, you don't have to look far! Father and Sons, Café Nostalgica and the Sandy Hill Lounge and Grill all have Beau's All Natural on tap and Dominion City can be found also at the Sandy Hill Lounge and Grill. Furthermore, all the near-by bars have extensive domestic options available.   

As in all things, it is so important to look into the environmental practices  behind the products we consume and to support the ones which are good for us and good for the earth. Choosing sustainable beer, or Sustainabrews as I like to call it, is a great way to feel a little better about drinking a little more.

Meatless Mondays

New year, new earth? Unfortunately that's not really quite how it works. In the immortal words of Eminem, "you only get one shot". We’ve reached a point where we can no longer remain complacent in regards to the environmental crisis, especially when considering the current political atmosphere. Simply thinking about climate change, waste pollution, food sustainability and conservation is not enough. We need tangible actions, both big and small.

So here are five tangibles actions to reduce your environmental impact in the new year and new academic semester. Perhaps you can even pull Marshall Mathers and lose yourself... in sustainability! That might be a weak joke, but the earth certainly isn't getting any cooler and the new year is a great time to make small changes so you can keep living your best life for you, but also for the planet. Here’s how:

Carry your reusable mug everywhere you go

Make your travel mug your new best friend
Travel mugs are should be as essential as coffee is to university students. My parents bought this fantastic set of camping mugs when I was first born and now this Europe Bound bad boy never leaves my side. It clips onto my bags with a carabineer so as I move throughout my day, my coffee and tea consumption feels a little more campy and a lot more sustainable.

Shameless plug time: The Office of Campus Sustainability runs Muggy Mondays which offers FREE fair trade coffee, tea, and hot chocolate to anyone who brings a reusable mug, promotes waste reduction and environmental sustainability!
Ecosia is B Corp (that is, Benefit Corporation: see below) which allows you to help plant trees while searching the web. This eco-conscious add-on web browser plants trees with its ad revenue. It's simple to add it to your existing browser like Google Chrome and you can see the impact your internet research has as it shows you the number of trees you’ve helped to plant. 

shop ethically, Patagonia, clothes, sustainable

Shop ethically on campus and beyond
Many firms and companies are moving towards making sustainability matter more than the bottom lines as part of a growing movement of Benefit Corporations, non-profit organizations and sustainability-geared companies. The power is in the choice! Companies you may already love like Patagonia, Ethical Bean Coffee and Reformation  have made sustainable commitments to ethical practices as well as to social and environmental contributions. When on campus, student-run businesses like Cafe-Alt, have made tangible commitments to composting, recycling, and minimizing their environmental impact. Looking for an uOttawa-based, student run non-profit for ethical fashion? Check out the incredible Balance Project.

vegetarian, yummy, meatless

Eat less meat!
I strive to never become a preachy or strict vegan. People should eat what makes them feel good and what they feel good about eating. However, I urge folks to educate themselves upon the impact of certain diets and food groups. It is undeniable that the animal agriculture industry as a whole is unsustainable and has a massive impact upon climate change. Educate yourself about the impact your dietary lifestyle may have so you can make informed decisions about what you want to put into your body. 

Perhaps check out the piece written about meat consumption on our campus here. Eating less meat and animal-based products directly supports the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Try cutting meat and animal products out of meals you typically make and replacing them with chickpeas (curry), beans (chili) or  tofu (stir-fry). You'll feel good about saving money and saving the environment. 

Recycle properly
Recycling can be a struggle. Coordinating which week is what and playing chicken with your roommates about who gets to take it to the curb in freezing conditions is 100% a struggle. However, recycling is the cornerstone of a sustainable lifestyle and distinguishing between what materials belong where is so important in reducing the amount of waste we dump each week. Check out the city's recycling schedule here, then familiarize yourself with the university's current recycling system and don't forget to compost!

Better yet, reuse some of the recyclables and waste. Washed out jam jars are trendy drink wear, old hummus containers are perfect for on-campus snacks, and clear plastic produce bags can go right back into your reusable grocery bags (which you should already be using, I mean, come on, it is 2017). Get creative and see how close to zero waste you can get!

Whether or not you are the type of person that likes to make New Year resolutions, making a commitment to leading a more sustainable lifestyle is a resolution we should all start to make, step by step, one intentional choice after another.