10 New Years Resolutions Everyone Should Make

If you’re staring down the barrel of a weight loss resolution you know you will fail at in a matter of weeks, try pledging to do better by the planet this year with these 10 easy New Year’s resolutions.

1. Compost

Photo by Edward Howell via Unsplash

Yes you read that right. Compost. Even if you live in an apartment building and don’t have a garden, you should be composting so that kitchen waste and food scraps don’t end up in the land fill.

We have a garburator at home and nothing is easier than shoving egg shells, carrot tops and left overs down the drain, but composting improves the planet’s soil condition, helps ensure nutrients for plants and will make you more aware of what you’re wasting. When you know what you throw away because its all in one place you are less likely to overspend at the grocery store and more likely to cook your fresh produce instead of saying good bye to it. Find out more about why soil health is so important in this documentary.

Most apartment buildings in Canada have a composting bin, so there’s no excuse. If you live somewhere that doesn’t have a composting program, contact the building management or your local council about getting one. There may be a community garden near by that would be happy to take your compost. Ask around!

We use Bokashi Composting at home. Find out more here.

2. Recycle your electronics

Photo by Frank Wang via Unsplash

With Christmas behind us there are a whole host of obsolete electronics in our homes, full of useful components and metals that can be recycled. Some companies, like apple will take there old products and recycle them themselves, but there are stores like Staples that have recycling programs for printers, computers, phones, TV’s you name it and they’ll take it. It’s free and more recycled materials reclaimed from old electronics, equals less being mined from the earth, which has already been plundered.

3. Recycle Light Bulbs and Batteries

These items are super poisonous to the earth and each year tons of them end up in the land fill despite other options being available.

You can recycle batteries and lightbulbs easily at most hardware stores and may recycle depots now take them as well. Just because you can’t put these things in the recycling where you live, doesn’t mean they can’t be recycled, it simply takes a bit of effort.

4. Stop buying plastic

When you’re in the grocery store, think about the packaging on the goods you buy.

Photo by Devi Puspita Amartha Yahya via Unsplash

Unfortunately most companies won’t change unless it hits them in the pocket, so to effect change you have to vote with your purchases.

Take reusable produce bags to avoid plastic there. Make better choices. For example, when you go to buy mushrooms there are usually two options, the ones that are loose that you put in a paper bag, and the ones in a plastic or styrofoam box that are wrapped with cling wrap for convenience. Choose the former. If enough people did, supermarkets would stop packaging mushrooms in plastic!

Does this mean that sometimes you won’t find a non plastic option? Yes. Maybe it means you have to go to a farmers market or purchase your rice or flour from a bulk bin store, or maybe it means that you don’t get to eat fresh strawberries year round. The upside is that you will discover things that you don’t normally eat!

4. Count your air miles

Not all of us can grow our own food and depending on where you live it can be difficult to eat food grown locally, but we can still reduce environmental impact.

Where did those apples come from? If you have the choice between apples from where you live or a neighbouring country or a place on the other side of the world, choose closer. Foods that are flown from somewhere you’ve never been to and can’t find on the map, were probably harvested early and ripened on their journey across the oceans or through the skies where tons of fuels were burnt up, and seas polluted in the process.

5. Use your scissors

If you buy beer and it comes in one of those plastic ring holders, cut them up before you get rid of them. The same goes for anything netted or looped. Even disposable masks! Sea life and birds get caught and die in these items and you can save them by currying the loops.

Photo from the Missouri Department of Conservation

Ideally, you want to purchase things that don’t have loops or extra plastic but if you can’t and you really want that six pack from your favourite brewery, do the right thing and cut up the loops.

6. Turn off the lights

Pledge to turn off the lights when you leave the room and unplug electronics.

Photo by Josh Calabrese via Unsplash

Don’t leave appliances on standby, they are still drawing electricity and contributing to heating up the planet by burning the energy they use.

In your home, your TV and cable box are probably the biggest drain! You’ll save yourself some money at the same time as caring for the planet.

7. Get Thrifty

Photo by Nick de Partee via Unsplash

Shop second hand when you can. I made the decision to stop buying new clothes last year and since then have been thrifting. I’ve managed to easily find what I need clothing wise at two thrift stores near where I live. I’ve also gotten rid of old clothes there which has freed up more closet space!

8. Give Stuff Away, someone will use it!

We dispose of things all the time that still have plenty of life left in them. Everything from clothes to pottery goes in the bin, because we decided we want a change, or were gifted something new.

Join or start a Buy Nothing Group on Facebook. The idea is that when you have something you no longer want you take a picture and post the details in the group. People express their interest and you give it away. Most groups have rules in place about how to select who gets the item when multiple people are interested.

It feels great to get rid of your clutter, and knowing that it’s going to someone who will use and enjoy it will fill you with good vibes!

9. Go Paperless

Stop receiving mail that you look at once and throw away. Bills and other documents are almost always available via email or as digital copies. Storing things like this on the cloud or in your computer reduces paper waste, and the energy expended to print, and deliver your letters. Plus if you need to reference something quickly, you can just check on your phone or computer and have it instantly.

In stores, you can often get email receipts or get your receipt by text, you won’t lose it, so if you need to make a return you’ll have everything you need.

10. Say no to single use

Photo by Jasmin Sessler via Unsplash

Stop using single use everything. Plastic bags, coffee cups, straws, cutlery, food sachets etc.

It is always going to be more convenient to grab what you need on the go, but if you start being intentional about not using single use items, over time you will be more prepared with things like your morning coffee, or grocery bags. It takes practice, like anything, but it’s worth it.

There are compostable alternatives to straws and cutlery, reusable items are available in lots of high street stores and you know you can carry a reusable cup for coffee or water.

Take on all 10, pick a few, or choose just one, but commit to your resolutions and you will be on your way to becoming an earth warrior! Plus it will make you sound way more interesting when people ask what your New Year’s resolutions are, than saying “join a gym…” Good luck, and Happy New Year!

Bokashi Composting Review

variety of green plants

I was skeptical when the Bokashi Composter first came home, but I’ve become a convert. this is the best way I’ve found to accelerate the composting process and be able to compost in an apartment.

Traditionally, you need a yard and space to get a decent compost heap going, but above all, you need time. We live in 850 square feet in Vancouver and consider ourselves very lucky. We love to Garden and have a huge garden box that takes up most of our outdoor space.

Compost and garden supplies are expensive, and while we’re able to compost via a bin in the recycling room, nothing beats using our scraps to make compost that we don’t have to buy. The goal initially was to make the garden cheaper, the result is that it’s less work than going downstairs.

So what do you do? In a nutshell you take your food scraps and chuck them in the composter instead of the bin downstairs. Add some of the Bokashi bran and wait. The official wait time is 4-6 weeks. We live in Vancouver and maybe it’s our climate but it generally take a bit longer, I like to leave it 8 weeks if I can.

After its had two weeks in the bin with the bran, I drain the liquid (Which can be used as a tea for plants when diluted) and mix it with reclaimed dirt from the planter box in a tote on the balcony. It smells pretty bad, but its worth it! 6 weeks later the earth and compost mix is a rich soil that can be used to start seeds or plant out mature plants, and what’s better is that after the initial investment it’s free!

How does it work? I think magic, but apparently it’s microbes. Healthy soil is full of it and kitchen scraps are what they like to eat, the Bokashi bran aids the process and speeds things up!

We’ve had our composter a year and got two bags of bran with it. I’m still working through the second bag. our “soil factory” (the tote) cycles through easily, its sealed so it doesn’t smell and irritate the neighbours and we haven’t spent a penny on compost in the last 6 months.

If there’s a downside, it’s the smell. It’s like sour fish garbage, but like our tote the composter is completely sealed so you’ll only get a whiff when you open it to deposit your scraps. We’ve found that thinks like nut shells and avocado pits take too long to break down but I generally add them anyway. When I add scraps I rough chop them first to aid the process. I wash our composter out whenever I empty it. It’s a quick rinse on the balcony, and it’s way better to do little and often, than leaving it until you can’t bare the smell, trust me.

Our composter came from “Bokashi Living” and we’ve found their service super fantastic. I’ve not shopped for anything else related to the composter since then so I can’t compare, but the experience was good. If we ever live somewhere bigger, I’ll probably get a second one. I know some people start out with two, so that they can keep filling while one is breaking down in it’s two week “sit” before it goes in the soil garden.

At the end of the day, our cash is hard earned, composting is always the right thing to do for the planet, but I’d rather find the saving in my wallet than give our food waste away.

Photo by . ▃ on Pexels.com

The Last Straw: Zero Waste at Home, a Quick Inventory with Solutions

assorted plastic bottles

Photo by mali maeder on Pexels.com

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

Kitchen

Plastic bags

  • 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.

Garbage bags

  • 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.

Living Spaces

  • 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).

Bathroom

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.

Cleaning supplies

  • 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!