What if it’s not business, it’s busyness?: Lessons from a Waste Bucket Challenge

Monday, March 07, 2016

uOttawa, waste bucket challenge, sustainability, recyclemania

We often like to blame our wasteful ways on businesses. Why do they have to have so much packaging? Why do they waste so much during production? Why can’t they make things more durable? These are all very undoubtedly valid points, but we often have trouble taking a hard look at ourselves to see why on the consumer end so much is going to waste.

If there is one thing I learned from my Waste Bucket Challenge, it is that my nemesis was never businesses putting this or that thing in 10 inches of plastic packaging, rather my nemesis was my own tendency to live life in a big rush. Always busy! Always on the go! It was always very possible to avoid garbage but as soon as things started getting busy that went out the window. I forgot to tell my waiter to leave the straw behind, I stopped by the corner store for a snack, I went to get groceries but forgot to bring bags. All of these things happen to me on a regular basis but I only realized how wasteful that busy lifestyle may become, even as I was in this rush to get to work on time at the Sustainable Development Centre. Give yourself time! Don’t over commit to things!

I also have a bit of a confession to make about my Waste Bucket Challenge. I was being lazy at one point cause I did not want to empty the very full dish rack and so I thought it was a good idea to stack on a couple more dishes by balancing them quite precariously. CRASH! Down goes a massive Pyrex dish and smashes into a thousand pieces. Dang... That’s going to add to my Waste Bucket... I simply left it out, justifying in my mind that it was the dish rack’s fault. Take time for simple things! Don’t be lazy!

Another important realization that I truly enjoy up to this day is how I had to activate all sorts of long lost creativity to find solutions to my waste problems. Like when I forgot my grocery bags, I realized on my way there and managed to scrounge cardboard box from behind the store in order to carry my groceries home. There is not even a thought of creativity when you toss something in the trash. It’s automatic.  Creativity and waste reduction go hand in hand!

Almost in equal proportions to my production of garbage decreasing, my production of recyclables increased throughout the challenge. Since, the recyclability of plastic is questionable at best in both how it makes its way to recycling facilities, but also how it is oftentimes downcycled into lower grade plastic. Ideally, I would try to cut out some more of that plastic and focus on reuse even if the plastic I’m using can go in the recycling bin. Reusing is better than recycling!

Waste Bucket Challenges are a tremendous way to get a grasp on how much you produce in a week. The goal of it is in one part to try to reduce but also so that the things that you throw out are there for you to see instead of hidden away in your trash can. That way, you can see what the most common sources of your waste are where progress can be made!

~geoff - sustainability centre coordinator

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