I received a calendar from the Anglican Communion Environmental Network covering the season of Lent, each day with a suggestion of how to use less plastic. Why? Well it turns out that Anglicans in Canada promise to strive to safeguard the integrity of God’s creation, and respect, sustain and renew the life of the Earth when they are baptized.
Interesting. If being religious means relating to or believing in a religion, then can refusing, recycling and reusing based on faith become a religious practice?
Looking at this calendar it’s easy to argue yes.
I shared this calendar with a couple of non-Christian friends and asked them for their feedback. They could agree that it made sense, and expressed that it was a cool thing for the church to be doing. Beyond that, it wasn’t an evangelistic moment, merely something to be noted.
Shopping with one of them for groceries later in the week I watched as my friend opted specifically to buy peppers that were not already in a plastic bag, despite them being more expensive than their value pack alternative.
“I’ve never thought about it before,” she said. I put that calendar up on my fridge for the kids and realized there’s a whole bunch of stuff on there I don’t do.”
If a behaviour is repeated based on a belief that it is good for the environment and a “small thing” one can do, are we doing it religiously? Perhaps the answer depends on your use of language. I hope you enjoy the calendar and perhaps find some tips or reminders about saying no to plastics.
We continue our journey to living a cleaner life and we’ve been inspired by the recent decision in Vancouver to ban all plastic straws. Single use plastics are the latest thing under scrutiny, so aiming to live clean we took an inventory of the single use plastics in our apartment and have begun compiling a list of ways to reduce. The goal is to cut them our altogether.
The inventory and the solutions
- Take your own reusable bags to the super market.
Plastic and foil single use food wraps.
- We’ve tried reusing paper bags which we can then compost, and are going to give some of the beeswax reusable wrap products we’ve seen advertised a try.
- Use existing jars and containers to store food in rather than wrapping it up
- Use a lunchbox that you take to and from work instead of Ziploc bags.
Food and beverage containers of almost every kind, bottles, containers, bags
- Save jars and make condiments like salad dressings, ketchup & other sauces from scratch.
- Purchase grains, pasta, cereal, beans, herbs, spices, vinegar and oils from refill centres like The Soap Dispensary in Vancouver and reuse existing containers.
- Instead of buying drinks in cans or bottles, take an on the go bottle with you whenever you are out and about. Keep a cup in the car for water, coffee or tea, so there’s no excuse for using a disposable cup.
- Craft beer lovers, buy a glass growlers and then get it refilled with your favourite brew. It’s reusable and more affordable! Our favourite Brewery? Storm Brewing in Vancouver
Cleaning supplies for surfaces and dishes
- Get refills in existing containers for dish soap from dispensaries. If there isn’t one near you, look up local places that sell unwrapped soaps.
Plastic bags on fresh produce
- For fresh produce, don’t use a plastic bag to separate ranges, apples etc. It will take a bit longer at check out to get everything on the scale but not by much.
- Some places will let you use your own bags. It is better to check with the store before you check out.
- Go to a farmers market to get your fresh produce, you can put it straight into your reusable shopping bag!
- For smaller produce there’s a simple cheat. Go to where the mushrooms are in the supermarket. There are generally paper bags available there. Use those and write on the bag what’s inside ready for check out. Then re-use, recycle or compost the bag.
- Compost, if you’re doing all the recycling you can and refilling other containers, there should be nothing to put in the garbage. Zero Waste is the goal.
Take out containers and plastic cutlery from delivered and takeout meals.
- We’ve trialed this where we live. If you take your own container to places you order food from, we have found that the restaurants are generally happy to put our food in them instead of using their Styrofoam or plastic take out containers.
- Carry a spork or pair of reusable chopsticks with you and you can say no to single use cutlery.
- Packaging on hard and soft goods
Contact your local municipality about recycling Styrofoam and plastic bags. It is possible, but you can’t put them in your recycling bin (Vancouver).
Shampoo & conditioners
- Refill shops like The Soap Dispensary let you refill shampoo, conditioner and body wash! Stores like LUSH have shampoo bars that have no packaging, take less energy to make and as there’s no bottle, there’s nothing to recycle. If you’re traveling, pop the bar in a tin, it takes up less space in your luggage and won’t explode all over your clothes in flight!
Face and body wash, toothpaste containers
- Refill on the body wash
- Toothpaste? Open to suggestions on this one. I’m going to ask my dentist because I can’t find a refill for this. If you know of one, please let me know in the comments!
Vacuum packaging on soaps
- Don’t buy soaps with vacuum packaging!
Toothbrushes (while we use them more than once, they are disposable)
- Toothbrushes! Try these bamboo toothbrushes – sustainable, non-plastic from Giving Brush We’ve tried these brushes and love them. At first getting used to the feel of them on the inside of the mouth while brushing was a bit weird, but that passed. Highly recommend these.
- This one we’re looking at refills as well, but you can make some of your own cleaning products that have the added benefit of being natural and thus safer for pets and children. Keep the spray bottles you have and reuse with your home made cleaners. Yet to try this, but this looks like a good place to start if you are going to try and make your own.
The list isn’t exhaustive, but we had to start somewhere so this is what we’re doing! As we go, we’ll share any up-cycling tips we discover. So far cleaner living feels pretty good. We’re also going to take the Zero Waste Pledge Come join us!
What the heck, our garbage recycling room looks like one of the floating islands in the Pacific Ocean! Garbage and plastic everywhere, no pick-ups and a provider refusing to take the bins unless they are properly sorted. Who puts a loaf of bread in a glass bin?!?
Up to my ears in refuse, I ask myself “how did it come to this?” We waded through garbage and recycling for a little over and hour before stopping, covered in filth and sweat, we reflected both on the inability of our building to properly sort trash, and also how much was in the dumpster that could have been up-cycled and reused.
That night we fixed three chairs, 2 lamps and a kid’s swing and gave them away on craigslist.
Sipping a cold one in our apartment we looked around and tried to list the stuff we have duplicates of. Can openers, pizza slices, and a couple of craft beer books. Appliances we don’t use and don’t need. It became clear that we are drowning in clutter which is weird because we’re not materialistic people. I am guilty of hording items that “might be useful” at some point in the future, but no one needs two can openers!
By drink three we were determined that we were going to change all this and purge, donate, fix, up cycle and learn how to live more cleanly. I was also determined to have a shower, the stench of the garbage room lingered like a dementor in a playground, and dinner was on the horizon.
We’re both creative people, and we like to work together. There is something satisfying about working with your own hands creatively in this age of screens and keyboards. We are one of those couples who are always talking about the changes we should be making to live clean, but we go to work in offices where we sit in a cubical trying to make the world a better place from behind a screen, while increasing the chances of carpel tunnel.
The following night over supper outside, I carved my first spoon from a piece of firewood and voila! Moon Snail Creative launched with gusto. By gusto, I mean we opened an Instagram account, and by launched, I mean we had no plan other than to be creative, research cleaner living and eat less meat. It may sound like no plan at all, but true to the “creative” part of our partnerships title, it gave us the freedom to fashion a plan from our experiments and mistakes.