Sometimes Grant and I get to speak to school groups. We show our film and tell a few stories and answer questions about living zero waste. And sometimes I’m stuck that we’re talking to youth who maybe don’t have a lot of control over their garbage. I mean, most of our garbage comes from food packaging, and they probably aren’t the ones buying the food in their family. I even had one girl ask me today “but what can I do?”
I’ve been thinking about it. And I think there are lots of things you can do to reduce waste even if you’re under 19. Here are some ideas to get you started. You don’t have to do everything; just start with what works for you!
- Carry a stainless steel water bottle and vow never to buy bottled water again.
- Bring your reusable container and cutlery everywhere! (start at your cafeteria)
- Ask for experiences as gifts (think birthday presents like movie or concert tickets, playland or fun park passes, a massage, a hiking trip, skiing, etc)
- Buy clothes that are secondhand or have a clothing swap with your friends. Donate clothes that you’ve outgrown to charity (organizations like Big Brothers will even pick them up from your house)
- Look on your municipal website to see what can be easily recycled where you live. Then talk to your family and set up recycling bins in a convenient place in your home.
- Focus on one thing. Pick one thing that you can live without (plastic bags, paper napkins, disposable cutlery) and start avoiding it today. Once it becomes easy, then add something else.
- If you pack your own lunch, try to make it zero waste by eating whole fruits and packing food in reusable containers. Try making some of your favorite packaged food from scratch (eg. granola bars)
- If you’re a female, try reusable feminine hygiene like a menstrual cup or cloth pads.
1. Start Composting (this is a big one, so do it as a group, and talk to your administration and teachers to get help if you implement).
- The Students at Windermere Secondary in Vancouver have a large composter and even have a Zero Waste Committee. Check it out here.
2. Make recycling at school easier.
- The shop students at Charles Tupper Secondary in Vancouver made attractive wooden recycling bins with three compartments to have in school hallways.
- Homma Elementary in Richmond has great posters reminding people to recycle and compost.
3. Try your own challenge.
- The students at UBC Commerce Environment Club decided to carry all their garbage with them for a week to draw attention to how much they produced. They said it automatically made them make better packaging choices.
3. Do something at school to draw attention to garbage.
4. Start a Campaign or a Petition
- When she was just 16 Michelle Arsenault of Dryden, Ontario started the website http://www.onelessplasticbag.ca/ to help her community reduce plastic bag use.
- UBC Students got a waterbottle refill station installed to help people cut down on buying plastic water bottles.