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:
- The obvious annual Halloween bonanza.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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
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.
- 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.
I haven’t made hot chocolate in a long time. Sure, I’ve had it at cafes (I’m a pretty big fan of rich chocolatey goodness), but I haven’t made it in my own house.
The last time I bought a canister of hot chocolate was something like 3 years ago when we started the zero waste thing, and I’m embarassed to admit it, but it never crossed my mind that you could make hot chocolate without hot chocolate mix, so I’ve done without ever since.
Until yesterday. Yesterdayday it snowed, and then the sun came out, and it became just the sort of gorgeous wintery day that beckons to you to grab a book, curl up at the window seat, and sip hot chocolate. And then it hit me. I had cocoa, I had sugar, I had milk; by golly, I could make hot chocolate.
Of course, after my “breakthrough”, I checked online and found out that I was far from the only one who had ever done this. Obviously people used to make it before Carnation and Nestle stepped in with pre-packaged mixes. In truth, just about everything we buy at the store can be made from scratch. Well, maybe not Kraft Singles, but you know what I mean.
What’s something that you used to purchase before realizing it was nearly as easy to make it yourself?
Somewhere on the road to zero waste, I became a bit of a hoarder. I don’t mean a hoarder of garbage, I just meant that I don’t throw things out if I think they “might” be useful, and I definitely don’t throw them out if they’re in perfectly good condition.
Take, for example, my slippers. I have 5 of them. All in very good condition. All very cozy and comfortable. Some high cut, some low cut, some hand knitted, some store bought, some with padded soles, some not. The thing is that I don’t have a single matching pair.
And I can’t throw them out because they are perfectly good slippers. And I can’t donate them to charity, because who’s going to buy a single slipper at a thrift store? So I’m stuck wearing random pairs of slippers, refusing to get rid of any of the 5 lest its partner show up (it has been known to happen).
It gets worse. This problem extends to socks too. I have a bag of over 50 mismatched socks. Good socks. $15 smart wool socks, and ski socks, and socks that still have lots of life left in them of only they could find a mate. Before you interrupt, yes, occasionally I wear mismatched socks. In fact, those who knew me when I was a kid know that for about 12 years, I exclusively wore mismatched socks (but that’s another story altogether. And those socks weren’t mismatched, they were the same socks, just in different colours), but at the office, mismatched socks don’t cut it. And, call me a princess, but I just like the feeling of wearing two matching items on my feet.
I don’t have the answer here; I think I’m just realizing that it’s hard to “minimize” and “live simply” when you can’t get rid of something as simple as a slipper. . . . . anyone else have a bag of orphan socks laying around?
Like it or not, the holidays are soon to be upon us, and like it or not, people are going to give gifts. I know there are some who have successfully removed themselves from decorating their homes with frivolous festive trimmings and giving “things” to their loved ones, but I’m guessing that there are many many others who want to give something; it’s just that they’re tired of the same old crap that gets used for a few months and then tossed.
Our regional government is actually running a campaign this year encouraging people to “Make Memories, Not Garbage”, meaning giving gifts of experiences or material goods that are good quality and meaningful (if you go to their site and scroll down, there are some great gift ideas and ecards). So, in that spirit of giving, here’s my two cents on low impact gift options.
- reusable fabric gift bags
- table cloths, dish towels, napkins or towels
- reused wrapping paper, newspaper, or kraft paper
- reusable mesh produce bags
- boxes from shoes, oranges, scotch, etc
- lunch containers or travel mugs (works well for gift certificates and jewelery)
- rafia and twine or quality, reusable cloth ribbon
- gift tags made from reused Christmas cards
- tickets: theatre, music performance, movie, theater sports, comedy club
- passes: rec centre, gym, museum, aquarium, science centre, yoga studio
- classes: art, dance, craft, cooking, language, theatre
- outdoor experiences (this might be an organized tour or a promise to do something together): snowshoeing, horseback riding, cycle trip, camping
- health and wellness experiences: massage, haircut, housecleaning
- consumables: preserves, crackers and fancy cheese, coffee in a tin, cookies, gift in a jar, etc. Or even better, a share in a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) or a few months of deliveries from a local food company (thanks for the idea Anna)
- secondhand items (almost anything can be found lightly used – it’s just cheaper and has less packaging): books, housewares, clothing
- homemade items: calendar, consumables, ornaments, etc
- zero waste helpers (yes, they are things, but they’re really good things): compost bin, travel cutlery and containers, mesh produce bags, plastic free shaving set, package-free toiletries
- Services! (thanks to Beth for the addition via twitter): Clean their bathroom, organize their digital photos; plant bulbs in their garden
Yes, if you’re wondering, we have actually given a compost bin as a Christmas gift before.
As an additional note, we’ve found that if you’re giving experiences, it’s best to actually sign them up to lock in a date rather than just give a gift card that could well be forgotten. What are some other low impact gifts you’ve given or received?
Yes, it’s that time of year. My mystery volunteer squash that threatened to overtake the garden have been harvested. The raised beds are looking a little bare, save for a few remaining carrots and beets, a scrawny row of last minute radishes, and the over-producing kale and swiss chard (Grant was done with kale back in June).
The wet weather has blown in. In short, it’s soup time.
My friend Keith called and insisted we go hunting for wild mushrooms. Dreaming of mushroom soup, I grabbed a few containers and we headed out to harvest a local and zero waste meal. Turns out that the mushroom patch wasn’t, as I’d expected, in the forest. It was right downtown. On the edge of a large grassy median in the heart of Yaletown (which, if you’re not from Vancouver, is a pretty fancy pants area).
And that is how I ended up in my gumboots harvesting mushrooms on a median in downtown Vancouver at rush hour as streams of business people walked by. (Never one to draw attention to myself in a public place, I found it a tad embarrassing). I was a little worried about the toxic traffic fumes impregnating the mushrooms, but Keith insisted he’d done this before.
In the end, we had wild, urban, shaggy mane hungarian mushroom soup for dinner (hungarian mushroom soup courtesy of The New Moosewood Cookbook – that recipe alone is worth the price of the book); zero waste, local, and pretty darn fun.