It’s About Time

ImageI knew it would happen, but it has been a long time coming! The City of Vancouver finally has real food scraps pick up!

Back in 2010, the City started picking up fruit and veggie trimmings. It was a great step, but something that was a) already easily served by our backyard compost bin and b) not made available to the apartment dwellers who don’t have backyards to compost in in the first place.

So this newly announced expansion means that meat, bones, dairy, cooked food, bread, pizza boxes, and paper napkins are allowed in the yard waste cart headed for composting. And better yet, the City doesn’t allow plastic bags of any kind (even the ones stamped biodegradable). They’re pushing you to line your kitchen bin with newspaper instead.

Of course, if we were all managing our food properly, we wouldn’t have much waste to compost, but it’s great to have an alternative for your fat trimmings and bones and the occasional fuzzy mystery at the back of the fridge. More details are on the City website.

Next up? Weekly compost pick up and biweekly garbage. Could you do it?

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Making Secondhand Cool

Our old neighbour is the Fashionista Sista, and I’m thinking that some of her aura of stylishness has rubbed off on us because, a few weeks ago, Grant and I were invited to sit front and centre at a fashion show.

Yes, a fashion show. With models and a runway and everything. Such fun! But, before people start posting comments about the consumption and excess of the fashion world, let me say that the reason we were invited was that the show was all about upcycled clothing.

The event was the brainchild of Sayan Sivanesan. We first met Sayan at one of our screenings, and he was so excited about sustainability, we could tell he was going to do some amazing things. Sayan is a business student who recognized that for many people, there is a serious social stigma to buying used clothing. For a large portion of the population, it’s just not “cool”. In fact, when he surveyed people at the Sauder School of Business, he found that most of his peers never shopped secondhand; they thought thrift was either for poor people or was about low quality clothes.

That inspired Sayan to start a movement to make secondhand clothing go mainstream.

His concept is called RISE upcycling, and here’s how it works:

  • Clothes get donated.
  • If the fabric is not usable, it goes to textile recycling.
  • If the clothes are of excellent quality and tailoring already, they are embroidered with a red feather logo and included in the “renew” line of clothing (which is equivalent to your standard Value Village type thrift store type pricing).
  • If they are good fabric, but need some altering, they are given to in-house artists who take them apart and put them together into a new, one-of-a-kind piece that is part of the “rebirth” line (think $45-200 for handmade gems) before being embroidered with a red feather logo.

This perfectly tailored, upcycled vest made from an upside-down pair of jeans was one of my favorites.

The red feather is the official RISE logo. Based on the concept of a Phoenix rising from the ashes, it’s a subtle symbol that the garment has been upcycled, reused, or reborn in some way.

In addition to feeling like minor celebrities (Sayan got us front row seats at the cat walk), the event was really fun. After the show, people could walk around and look at clothes in a gallery type setting and try them on and sip cocktails. It definitely felt more upscale than your standard Sally Ann, but we still walked away with a nice tailored shirt and salvaged skirt for just $20.

I like to think that if I was wearing my skirt, and I saw someone on the street who also had a red feather logo, we’d exchange a secret knowing (and extremely fahionable) look before continuing on. . .

In any case, RISE just launched their new website, so keep your eyes peeled for red feathers out there!

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Attention Wannabee Urban Homesteaders

I am so so sad that I’m going to miss this, but I figured I could at least pass it on. The Homesteader’s Emporium is a new shop in Vancouver dedicated to all things urban farmy. Think bee keeping, chicken raising, cider pressing, flour grinding, and rainwater harvesting. I don’t buy too much “stuff”, but when I do, this is the type of thing I drool over. It’s like a super duper DIY store, and we’re pretty excited it’s in our general vicinity in East Van.

The grand opening is this weekend, and although we’ll won’t be there, I felt compelled to pass it on. They’ve got cool workshops for three days straight! Everything from “Keeping and Baking with Sourdough Starter” and “Growing Mushrooms at Home” to “Basic Soap Making” and “Stamp Crafts”. Check out full schedule and details at http://www.homesteadersemporium.ca/events.html and have a great weekend!

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Awesome Finds

There is a certain element of secondhand shopping that is more thrilling than regular shopping. Let’s call it “the hunt”.

You know, that exhilarating feeling you get when you’ve found a single useful or beautiful or perfectly fitting item in a sea of used crap? I feel like there is some kind of superior skill involved thrift storing that just doesn’t apply to browsing a mall where everything is neatly laid out for you.

There is also a compulsion after purchasing a fabulous secondhand item that makes you not only want to tell people about it, but also, absurdly, how much you paid for it. As if the fewer dollars you gave to the, no doubt non-proft, thrift store staffed by volunteers, the better you are.

I say this tongue in check of course because I myself am a fan of “the hunt”. And although I am no super shopper, I do have a few awesome thrift store finds that I feel compelled to share. True, they are all “things”, and we really are trying to rid our house of having too many “things”, but I’m pretty sure you’ll agree that they are worth keeping:

1. A winter coat. Never mind that it’s now spring; I found this back in November. At long last, my green jacket which makes me look like I borrowed a 14 year old’s wardrobe has been replaced by a proper and mature lady’s coat that amazingly had sleeves that were long enough. ($20 at Value Village)

2. A stick blender. Don’t give me flack because it’s plastic. My mom found this for $4 at the Sally Ann, and I’ve already made 3 different kinds of soup with it as well as made quick work of chopping some nuts, so I think it’s worth it.

3. And finally, whilst looking for a cardigan, I ended up finding this little beauty. I’m pretty sure I was the only one in the store who knew what it was.

It’s a bag dryer! We don’t have too many plastic bags these days, but I do have a few in circulation that I wash a lot, and this lovely dryer which I first read about on My Plastic Free Life is perfect.

Have you found any secondhand gems lately?

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It Hasn’t Been That Long

I’m blatantly stealing a post from the lovely and talented Mrs. Green over at My Zero Waste (compliments help when you’re stealing content).  I couldn’t help myself; this video was a sweet reminder that in the grand scheme of things, is really hasn’t been that long since we started this whole overpackaged, mass consumer, industrialized food thing. It also makes me want to alternately sow seeds in my garden and run over to my Grandma’s house for a chat.

Whether you’re 20 or 100, I think it’s a good exercise to take five minutes to consider how food has changed in our lifetimes and what we want to be spending our money on. Unlike Mrs. Green, I can’t seem to be tech savvy enough to embed a flash video, so I’m going to have to send you over to the original website: click here to watch 100 Years of Food (it’s just 5 minutes long)

I love how she weasels a kiss out of not one, but two grocery employees (you don’t get away with that kind of request unless you’re over 100).

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More Things I Never Thought I Would Make: Eatmore Bars

When I was a teenager, I used to babysit for a family down the street that had a candy drawer. It was, just as it sounds, an entire drawer full of candy. After dinner, if it was a weekend, the kids could each pick one item out of the drawer. And once they went to bed I would settle on the couch with a selection of  licorice, gummy worms, and various chocolatey treats and devour them until my teeth ached.

I remember this particularly because back at my house, we definitely did not have a candy drawer. To be fair, I probably didn’t have enough self control to have a drawer of candy, and we did have a cookie jar filled with homemade goodness, but as everyone knows, cookies aren’t candy.

Whether it was the lack of a dedicated drawer or my naturally ravenous sweet tooth, I have great nostalgia for candy. Most of it centres around the following:

  1. The obvious annual Halloween bonanza.
  2. The customary giddy anticipation of corner store candy purchases where I could spend my allowance however I wanted (generally a box of nerds, a ring pop, or a lick-a-stick because they lasted the longest and I have long been a girl who values a good deal).
  3. Skittles. My Dad would occasionally come home with a coveted package of these shiny fruity wonders. I associated Skittles so closely with being a “Dad candy” that I was actually surprised years later when I realized that anyone could just walk into a grocery store and buy them.
  4. And finally, the eatmore bar. At some point in my later childhood, after she went back to work full time and we started packing our own lunches, my mom began buying bulk packs of eatmore bars. Usually we had granola bars, but when the eatmores were in the house, each of us kids were allowed half of one in our lunch. It was the ultimate treat: soft and chewy, salty sweet, peanuty goodness, and it’s something I’ve missed since we headed down the zero waste path and stopped buying things like plastic wrapped candy bars. (I told you I was nostalgic about this stuff)

Anyway, today I unexpectedly discovered that my Whitewater cookbook had a recipe for eatmore bars in it. Even after all my do-it-yourselfing it never even occurred to me that I could MAKE them. And now, after all of 5 minutes, I have a whole pan of candy bars in the house.

If only I could figure out how to make skittles, I’d be set. . .

PS-If you want to try eatmore bars for yourself, there’s a similar recipe here

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What can I do? I’m only a kid!

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!

  1. Carry a stainless steel water bottle and vow never to buy bottled water again.
  2. Bring your reusable container and cutlery everywhere! (start at your cafeteria)
  3. 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)
  4. 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)
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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)
  8. If you’re a female, try reusable feminine hygiene like a menstrual cup or cloth pads.

At School:

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.

  •  The students at Fraser Heights Secondary School in Surrey made a Christmas Tree out of reused pop cans

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.

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