A Zero Waste Community

zwsignI’ve been meaning to share this story with you for awhile.  While we were busying ourselves with our personal zero-waste project, another challenge was being hatched just down the street.

The Strathcona Zero Waste project challenges 10 families (yes, some even have kids in diapers) to try to send nothing to the landfill for a whole month.

The challenge is the brainchild of Deanna Rogers.  As a student enrolled in the Simon Fraser University Semester in Dialogue, Deanna tried her own personal waste challenge: to put nothing into the landfill and nothing into the recycler for three weeks.

After “a few weeks of awkward exchanges, long explanations, personal choices, some extra weight in [her] backpack, and a lot of forethought” she decided to take her challenge (modified to be zero landfill waste only) to a larger audience, starting with her neighbours.

She recruited 10 families and lobbied Metro Vancouver to kick in funding for the project including buying two green cones the families could use as neighbourhood compost depots.  She voluntarily set up her own shed as the recycling center, taking items like soft plastic and metals that can be recycled by local haulers but aren’t part of the municipal curbside program.

Grant and I were lucky enough to attend the project kick off a month ago where we showed our film trailer, were treated to package-free goodies and juice from refillable glass bottles, and partook in some great conversation on where to recycle materials and where to source package-free products in East Van.

There are a few reasons that I love this project.  The first one is Deanna.  She practices what she preaches, yet manages to be passionate and organized without being pushy or hardheaded.   She is a young community leader if I ever saw one.


Credit: Deanna Rogers

The second is community.  These folks are sharing not only a compost and a recycling center, but a lifestyle.  Their recruitment meeting looked more like a street carnival than a serious weigh in.

The third is the “you can do it” attitude.  Everyone started at different points in the “waste-free spectrum” – some people had tons of garbage and some people had next to none -and that’s ok.  Everyone got a chance to improve, to meet their neighbours, to challenge themselves.  The idea was not to be overwhelmed or fixated on zero-waste, but to to start thinking about consumption and reducing what we’re sending to the landfill.  Each family measured their waste for a month before the project to create a personal baseline, and then tried to one-up themselves by producing less garbage every week during the project.

The participants wrap up their challenge this Thursday, so best of luck to them all.  I hope they continue with what they learned over the past few weeks.  And if you live in the Vancouver area and want to set up a neighbourhood challenge, give Deanna a call.  Seriously.  She can help.



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5 responses to “A Zero Waste Community

  1. this is such an inspirational story. I would love to set up something like this.

    Thanks for sharing the story Jen; it’s heart warming to hear of other people doing their bit 🙂

  2. Thanks for posting our story Jen. Hope to see you Thursday!

  3. Sounds like an awesome project! Their must have been a lot of careful steps in place to accomplish this. Also, your article is very well written.

    Nice work,


  4. WOW!! The project sounds fab!!

    Would love to hear/read more about it!

    How did she approach the neighbours, what did she say (& what did they say), etc?

    Some of our neighbours already recycle & compost, but not all!

    • Check out the Strathcona zero waste website for more info. I know that she rounded participants by having a free event in a local park with a band and facepainting etc and started conversations with people that way. I actually saw one of the zero waste signs outside someone’s house the other day, and it was pretty cool – I actually felt like “hey, those guys are on the same team as me”.

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