Day 267: Clean Bin in the MEC Catalog

grantjenThe Mountain Equipment (MEC) Spring Catalog is out!  But why, you may wonder, am I excited about a catalog full of stuff that I can’t buy due to the stringent rules of the Clean Bin Project?

Well, it just so happens that Grant and I, and our household’s waste-free, consumer-free initiative are featured on page 79!

For those of you who don’t live in Canada, MEC is our national co-operative outdoor equipment retailer and one of the most popular sources for gear and clothing for the self-propelled (think cycling, hiking, camping, rock climbing, ski touring, and paddle sports).

Hmm, isn’t it funny, you may now be thinking, that a catalog designed to sell material goods, is featuring an article about a project designed not to buy them. . . .here’s how it happened.grant-film1

Last summer, Grant entered a short ski film of us doing the Garibaldi Neve Traverse (a few years ago when his hair was much longer and our video camera was much smaller) to the national MEC Sweet Spots Video competition.  After much online voting by friends and friends of friends (thanks guys) we made it into the pool of 25 semifinalists.

It then went to a panel of judges, and low and behold, we placed 2nd winning a $1000 gift certificate!

So, when Grant went to pick up the gift certificate he had to ask if we could defer our purchasing because, well, we were doing this crazy little, year long experiment at home.

This sparked the attention of someone within MEC, and they contacted us about an article about the Clean Bin Project.  Despite the seemingly ironic inclusion of our project in a catalog, I think it is actually fitting.

First off, of course MEC carries material goods – they’re a store – but you can also rent gear, get things fixed, attend educational sessions, and receive expert advice on all things outdoor, so it’s not just a retail outlet.

Secondly, MEC is a co-operative and has a sustainability mandate.  They research where their products come from and how they’re made and ensure that they’re carrying high quality stuff that will last a long time.  Page 127 of the catalog actually suggests, among other things, that you should:

  • look for recycled materials
  • select minimal or recycled packaging
  • bring your own shopping bag
  • don’t replace it, repair it

That practically sounds like it was stolen from the rules of the Clean Bin Project.  My point is that, people do have to buy stuff, but there is a more sustainable way to be a consumer, and it’s nice to be able to have options to choose from.

Maybe you’ll also question the fact that we deferred our purchasing, as if waiting a year makes any difference to our consumption habits?  Well, I think it might.

We definitely won’t be making impulse buys.  I hope in the end we’ll pick items that are useful, durable, and recyclable at the end of their lifespan – things that we wouldn’t necessarily have considered before we started this project.

Of course, that’s only if we don’t spend it all in the meantime on chocolate bars -the only food item we can find in there packaged in paper.  (You should’ve seen the look on the cashier’s face the first time we paid for a $2 chocolate bar with a $1000 gift certificate.)

Anyway, the best part about this catalog thing is that we get to reach thousands of people across the country (which does wonders for our blog stats by the way) and tell them about what we’re up to.

We’ve already had a few people blogging about it including Eric Miller Photography who gave us the best compliment ever saying “This small article has really challenged me. . . . it definitely gets my brain turning; allowing my creativeness to come up with unique ways I combat garbage in my house, with my family.”

That alone made my day!

You can check out the MEC article here. (If it looks odd, don’t worry, you can zoom in)




Filed under consumerism, media

18 responses to “Day 267: Clean Bin in the MEC Catalog

  1. kate

    sweeeeet you guys are gonna be superstars!

  2. And that’s how I found out about you guys. Great project! Very motivating to try things out, to experiment with life.

  3. NP

    Hey guys,

    Found you through the MEC catalogue and posted a link on my Facebook page, so hopefully others will visit your site as well. I wish I knew about your blog 267 days ago.

  4. Claire

    Great job guys!
    Everytime i see those bins i get a laugh at the one windshield wiper in each box…

  5. Hello,
    I too found your blog through the MEC catalogue. I am wondering what you are doing when you buy fish and meat? Here there is always a lot of packaging. We compost and recycle and the packaging for meat is the ons thing that takes the most place in our garbage bag.
    Thank you,


    • We honestly don’t buy fish or meat very often. When we do, we take our reusable containers to the butcher or the fish shop. It costs a little more because we are often buying at specialty stores, but we think it’s worth it for the odd time we do want meat. Most big grocery stores have their own butcher and fish section and are more than happy to use your container. (We have been strategically avoiding bones, but I don’t know if that is really a sustainable tactic)

      As for the windshield wipers, I wish I had just installed those damn things back when I bought them (before the project started). They literally sat around the house for months, and I lost my chance to chuck them in the garbage. Grant has actually put a moratorium on cleaning up the basement because he’s afraid we’ll find garbage down there. . . .

  6. Congratulations! That’s a lot of fun. MEC sounds like a neat company — can you picture WalMart or some other big box store promoting something like the Clean Bin Project? Nice going!

  7. that is amazing – well done you. I’m thrilled that a catalogue and business who ‘sell things’ have such a great policy and have opened their way of thinking to be inspired by you guys.

    really well done!

  8. Right on. I’m delighted you guys are seeing some extra traffic to your blog . I’m a huge fan of the project — it inspired me to build a worm composter on by balcony. Looking forward to the movie too.
    Merran, the MEC catalogue editor

  9. Greenmama

    Hey. I think what you are setting out to accomplish is highly commendable, inspiring and full of integrity. My hands go up to you. However, my biggest criticism is in how you may already be sweetly poised in a financially “privileged” position to ensure your success in ways that others who may not have such means, cannot. I find it ethically unsound that so many of the optimal ways to live life green and sustainably (the way our First Nations brothers and sisters always did) require re$ource$ that many simply do not have.

    The high expense of ‘green’ living invariably adds up beyond many peoples affordability which only fuels Big Box Business further as well as the over-consumption of processed food sources that are denatured and polluting but get many through a hungry day.

    So my solution-based question is, how can we co-create more affordable opportunities for low-income peeps to model such amazing, life-enhancing and eco-revolutionalizing ways as this?

    We NEED to have such choices-for-change a realistic option for EVERYONE, for folks of all income brackets, not just the “non-hippies” with good incomes and high quality, expensive shoes which’ll outlast any pair from Walmart. 🙂

    “Green” really shouldn’t be a privilege, it is a global survival-based necessity now.

    • I completely agree. We realize that we are lucky enough to be in the position to make the choices we are making. If I was on welfare, I wouldn’t be buying organic milk in glass bottles.

      I went to the green living show a couple years ago and really noticed that it was all about products and buying more stuff which is too bad because that’s not what it should be about.

      On the other hand, I’ve been struck by how many bloggers out there write about being frugal and eco together. Doing your own baking, hanging clothes to dry (even if it’s in your living room), shopping in the bulk section, and buying things secondhand are all examples of “eco” things you can do regardless of your budget.

  10. NP

    I think one of the big obstacles in the way of green living for the masses is the idea that everything must be organic, made of bamboo, etc. The retail sector is doing a clever job of trying to convince us that we need to replace everything we own, or spend more money, in order to be eco-friendly.

    Really, we can do some pretty simple things such as hanging our clothes, growing our own patio veggies, taking a coffee mug to work, walking to the store, and even buying products that have less packaging. Recycling is also free. In my opinion, “organic” has become something of a dirty word. I’d like to see more focus placed on “local” and “handmade” (as in, we made it ourselves).

  11. spirityoga

    I found out about your blog through the MEC catalogue too. I’m inspired!

  12. Charles

    well… here in Quebec{Montreal} we have too a MEC store… but your story had been translated in French!
    keep going!
    for myself… we had twins boys and it’s very hard to stay greenminded!
    bon courage!

  13. Congrats! Well done! Great to see the word on such initiatives being spread!

  14. Yay – congratulations and I love that new photo of Grant having a peek in your bin 😀

  15. Adam

    We got inspired by the MEC feature and are trying it for a month, not as inspiring as a year but a start… we’ve really had to think about the simple, often unthoughtful act of buying everyday items. Great idea.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s