Category Archives: food waste

Spot That Trash

I got a great, but highly disturbing, email today.  It was from my friend M who was out for a stroll on the seawall in West Vancouver.

The seawall, for those of you who aren’t Vancouverites, is a long paved recreational pathway running along the waterfront  in West Vancouver (there’s also one that winds for kilometers  around the entire downtown core and out to Jericho beach)

Anyway, the seawall is generally packed with people cycling, jogging, or simply walking along, breathing the fresh salty air while enjoying, say,  a latte in a disposable cup.  What?  . . . . You don’t think nature goes with disposable cups?

M said that is was pretty interesting to hear people’s reactions while she was taking this picture. “Most people laughed and made some sort of ‘haha that’s a funny picture’ type comments.”

I’m pretty sure that’s not the reason she took it.

I mean, it’s only funny because it’s ridiculous.  And it’s only ridiculous because we all know it’s not really acceptable.  Don’t we?

So, what do you think?  Is it an appalling symbol of consumerism and waste? Or is it no big deal?  Just a  sign of the times? Maybe people should get credit for trying not to litter and putting their cup as close as possible to the nearest garbage can?  Maybe not.

Thanks for the photo M.


Filed under food waste, interactions

School Lunch

When you were a kid, did you have a lunch program at your school?

I didn’t.  But in elementary school we did have hotdog day once a month.  You had to fill in your order for the whole year in September.  I always got the same thing; two hotdogs. The choices were mustard or no mustard; I got one of each.  You could also get a carton of milk, a yogurt, and a cookie.

The cookies were made by my mom and another mom.  The weekend before hot dog day she’d make dozens and dozens of these raisin oatmeal cookies and take them into the school.  I actually have the recipe.  The official hotdog day oatmeal cookie recipe. (Let me tell you, it’s damn good.)

I obviously didn’t think about garbage much back then, but looking back on hotdog day, we were doing pretty good on the garbage front.  The hotdogs were prepared by a couple parents in the snack room (good luck doing that these days – parents boiling wieners and getting their hands all over the buns. No hand sanitizer in sight.  Someone would be suing someone for something).  Anyway, the hotdogs were each wrapped in a napkin (yellow for mustard, white for none), slipped back into the bag the buns came in, and put into big cardboard boxes -one for each class.

Sure, there were a couple plastic bags and wiener packages, but it’s a far cry from the garbage you can get at school these days.  Just look at this photo:

Mm, hmm.  That’s a school lunch. Looks to me like the the ratio of waste to food is about 1:1. Actually, I don’t know which is more appalling, the amount of packaging or the type of “food” these poor kids have to eat.

Which brings me to the Fed Up With School Lunch blog (where I borrowed the above image from).  Over in Illinois, there is a teacher who has decided to eat school lunch for a whole year – just like the kids.

Whether she’s trying to bring attention to nutrition, highlight the evils of over-packaging, or just see how many days in a row you can drink chocolate milk (seriously), it’s pretty scary.

So far, she is choosing to remain anonymous -probably a good idea considering the wrath she’d get from the cafeteria staff and school board –  but it’ll be interesting to see if she makes it through the whole year without either a) getting caught with her camera over her food tray or  b) passing out from malnutrition.

Watch the horror unfold at


Filed under food, food waste

Way Back When Halloween Happened

Whoa, has it really been three weeks since my last post? !  Did I really not post about Halloween, my favorite of all dress up events?!

Humour me while a backtrack a few weeks for an eco-oriented review of our haunting activities.

Rhyannon wore an old costume of Grant’s and went as a Micheal Jackson Cassette Tape, scoring top points for reusing and non-consumerism.  I don’t have a photo, but trust me, it’s awesome.

I dressed as the Sunmaid Raisin Girl (idea, shirt, and bonnet stolen from my sister from last year) with a skirt made of scrap fabric, a sun made from virgin paper board from the dollar store, and a wack of grapes and raisins that came in plastic bags.  I give myself a 5 out of 10 for sustainability, and 10 out of 10 for offering healthy snack options.

Grant went as a keytar (yes, a guitar keyboard, as in. . . super 80’s).  It had functioning sound, but unfortunately relied heavily on duct tape and little foam buttons.  I give him top marks for originality and 2 out of 10 for sustainability (the base was reused cardboard, otherwise it would’ve been worse).

For candy, we gave out some fair trade, organic, paper wrapped chocolate as well as some sugary plastic wrapped standards.  We said no to plastic cups at the party we went to, but ended up with a wack of plastic candy wrappers in my basket (sometimes it’s hard to say no to free chocolate).

All and all, I think we could’ve performed a little better from a zero waste perspective, but for an event dominated by plastic decorations, plastic wrapped treats, and synthetic costumes made overseas, I think we did ok.


Filed under DIY, food waste

Island Recycling and Plastic

tire planters

Tires reused as planters at the cabin

Island life is different than the mainland.  It’s slower – and cooler (at least it seems that way after last week’s scorching weather in Vancouver).  It makes you forget about things like technology. Which is why I haven’t written this blog in so long – I’m pretending to be an islander.

But there is one thing you can’t escape from, even here at a cabin in the woods and near the ocean.  Garbage. If anything, the amount of garbage is accentuated by the knowledge that we are on an island, and what comes onto the island must be ferried off. Continue reading


Filed under food waste, no waste on the road, soft plastics

Day 226: Why Eat Out?

That is what I keep asking myself.  Why eat take out when you know it’s just going to be a big hassle to explain that you want your  falafal wrap in your own container with no paper wrapping? NO paper.

Then I receive a wrap covered in two pieces of paper, a napkin, and a paper bag INSIDE my reusable plastic container.  No joke.

I know it seems like I’m asking for it by even trying to dine out, but there was nothing at home to make lunch with, and I did pick a nice local restaurant that doesn’t use styrofoam which I thought indicated that they were trying to cut back on needless waste.  I even heard the order-taker tell the wrap guy to make it with no paper involved. . . .

In retrospect, I should have asked for it on a “for here” plate and then transferred it to my container myself.

It’s not in the Clean Bin Rules, but I’m going to try a new approach and mail the paper waste back to them with a nice letter.


Filed under food waste, slip ups

Day 217: Fast Food Meltdown

wendysI like to think of our Clean Bin Project as a competitive support group.  Each of the three of us has our bins and are personally vying for the “least landfill trash generated in a year” title, but we also support each other and make sure we’re on track and making good waste decisions.

That’s why personal vacations are dangerous.  You’re support group is not there when you need them.  Temptation is everywhere.  Especially, as it turns out, along the highways of Idaho and Washington where fast food joints jostle for advertising space and strip malls dominate the landscape.

Grant went away for a week “with the boys” in the United States and came back with unmistakable evidence of a fast food binge.

Continue reading


Filed under food, food waste, reusable containers

Day 86: Cheese (Energy) Please

I don’t want to be spreading corporate spiel around and promoting big business, but this story was just too good to pass up.  Kraft is bringing two of my favorite things – cheese and waste reduction – together.  They have announced that two of their New York plants will be turning cheese whey into energy, thereby producing less waste and saving money.

Of course, they get to put a lovely green advertising spin on it all because the plants will now be using biogas instead of natural gas.  But good for them.  Why not save money and reduce waste at the same time?

Not to pretend I scooped this story myself, here it is its entirety at Green Biz.

The irony of course is that one of the plants manufactures string cheese, a product which, although extremely fun and silly to eat (yes, i have tried them), is essentially a tiny stick of cheese individually packaged in plastic.  I do wonder if that string cheese plant really needs to exist in the first place.  I also wonder whether the second plant which manufactures philly cream cheese has any plans to do other things such as reduce the amount of virgin plastic it uses in the creamcheese containers.

It seems to me that redesigning the products themselves might be better for the environment in the long run.  If anything, I think this story highlights that although it’s great that large and very influential companies are jumping on board the green wave (expecially when it equals cost savings), there are still always more things that can be done.  One step at a time I guess.

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Filed under food waste