5 Tips for Reducing Waste

Monday, October 20, 2014

woman holding a garbage bag with a measuring tape around it

Up until a few months ago, waste was not frequently on my mind. Every second week I would make my sacrifice to the Garbage Truck gods and that was the end of that. However dealing with waste on a campus scale opened my eyes to the impacts of our collective action.
At first, I felt rather distressed, I knew a problem existed but I felt as though the problem was bigger than me and I did not know how to solve it. In honour of Waste Reduction Week, I looked to my colleagues for inspiration on concrete actions which can help me reduce personal waste.

  1. Reduce packaging
    Nothing angers me more than having to tear through 5 different layers of packaging to get to my food. WHY WON’T YOU LET ME EAT YOU?! It appears as though everything nowadays is packaged, even packaging is packaged! Buying in bulk is one of the ways I have found to reduce waste and those dreaded plastic bags. Some bulk retailers like Market Organics will even let you bring your own Tupperware. As an added bonus buying in bulk is often cheaper!

  2. For the love of all that is good BRING A REUSABLE MUG!
    Why, you ask? Every day 6500 paper cups are thrown out on campus, that’s a lot of waste! But with a reusable mug, not only do you save money every time you purchase a coffee on campus but you can even find FREE COFFEE! Muggy Mondays happen every Monday from 8am-12pm on the second floor of FSS.

  3. Recycle, recycle, recycle! Waste Diversion 101
    Fun facts about recycling: there are different grades of plastics. Higher grades of plastics can be melted down to make lower grade ones which eliminate the need for new resources to be allocated to making low grade plastics (such as the dreaded Styrofoam). This is especially important when you keep in mind that plastics are petroleum products and are resistant to degradation.

    I’m throwing in compost in this category because not all waste is paper or plastic and reducing how much organic matter finds its way into landfills truly has a large impact. “My apple is biodegradable, if I throw it out won’t it decompose in the landfill?” No. For anything to degrade oxygen is required (which you don’t get much of when all that waste is buried). Furthermore this lack of oxygen means that what does decompose creates methane as opposed to CO2 when the same item is composted. Yes, both are greenhouse gases but methane is significantly better at trapping solar radiation (it contributes more to climate change).

    The University of Ottawa offers many services to facilitate waste reduction such as e-waste and battery collection. Check out these recycling rave cards (mine is posted on my fridge, I live by it!). Not sure how to recycle an item? Send us a picture @uOttawaSustain

  4. Donate
    It’s important to remember that in the right hands, your waste is golden. That old shower curtain you want to throw out and replace with a new deluxe edition, bring it to the Free Store! While we`re at it, why not check out the Free Store, maybe you can find a gently used item to suit your needs.

  5. Small actions
    There are a host of small gestures you can do which, when repeated multiple times will have a larger impact. Examples of this for me include printing on both sides of the page. Yes, it took me longer than I like to admit to figure out how to do this on my standard printer but I can now say I consume half as much paper. (It also means I have to buy paper half as often☺)

How do you reduce your waste? Share your ideas with us!

 ~ alice - outreach and volunteer coordinator

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