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  • B.Webster

5 Simple Swaps to Reduce Waste & Help the Environment - for Free!

Eco swaps, low-tox living, plastic-free and caring for the environment doesn't need to be life-altering... Nor does it mean buying new versions of everything you own.

We are constantly bombarded with products and services claiming to make life 'easier', encouraging convenience and over-consumption. The sustainability market adds yet another layer of complexity - there is a lot of greenwashing (claiming a company's products are environmentally friendly when they are not, or highlighting one small green aspect that is overshadowed by unethical / unsustainable / poor practices). But there is so much you can do outside of products and services, on your own, at your own pace.

Reducing waste at the source. Repairing and donating locally. Borrowing what you need.

Read on to discover 5 free and simple strategies you can start right away - they'll not only reduce your environmental impact, but simplify your day-to-day.

5 Strategies For Reducing Waste


The Ecosia search engine is shown on a laptop computer.

✓ Plants Trees

Ecosia is a search engine like Google, but 80% of ad revenue is used to plant trees where nature and people are in need of reforestation, including Ethiopia, Brazil, Indonesia, and Spain. *Read more about the company here. **Get the Chrome extension here.

✓ Transparency

Monthly financial reports and tree-planting receipts are published on their website. They've also signed a legal contract to maintain their not-for-profit status indefinitely.

✓ Certified B Corp.

Since April 2014, Ecosia has been a part of this strict certification that measures not only a company's environmental impact but also their social achievements (ie. employee benefits, charitable giving, supply chain practices...) *Read more here.

If you're curious about B Corp and other global Certification programs, I'll be highlighting some of my favourites in a future post and explaining their importance for consumers, as well as holding companies accountable.

2. ELIMINATE JUNK MAIL: Refuse & Unsubscribe

✓ Post a 'No Junk Mail' sign on you mailbox

Canada Post will stop delivering most unaddressed advertising material including retail flyers, restaurant menus, coupons ... *For more details / if you still receive junk mail after posting a sign, contact Canada Post here.

*In the USA stop receiving direct mail here.

✓ Unsubscribe

Remove your name from catalogues, newsletters, magazines, charities and businesses that you do not want to hear from. In some cases you may have to call or email the business directly.

✓ Do a digital cleanup

It takes a lot of energy to store all your emails, files, videos and pictures - digital junk mail needs regular cleaning too! Delete what no longer serves you, migrate photos and videos you want to save onto your computer and unsubscribe from digital newsletters / advertising you no longer need.


✓ Bring your own (BYO)

Have your own bags or containers ready and easily accessible for shopping and going out (store them in your purse / car / bike basket / near the door so you'll remember to take them with you).

✓ Ask and advocate for plastic-free

Use and reuse your own containers. When you are unable, or forget, ask the butcher / deli to wrap your meat and cheese in paper; ask for a paper bag to carry goods; and get receipts emailed instead.

**The important thing is to TRY to use your own containers and ASK for plastic-free options. If enough people do, shops will realize there is a demand and may consider switching / allowing for other options.

In an ideal world everyone would have access to refill shops and fresh local produce; we would be encouraged to always bring our own reusable containers for coffee runs, grocery shopping and market visits. While I realize these options are not always 'cheapest', please consider seeking out opportunities for BYO and refilling as they are becoming increasingly accessible!

4. LEARN TO SEW: Basic Repairs & Mending

✓ Buttons, holes, patches

Rather than throwing something away, stitching on a new button, repairing a tear, or sewing on a patch can extend the life of clothes by years! You'll save money and keep things out of the landfill: Win-win.

*Alternatively, or for bigger jobs, consider asking a friend / relative for help. Maybe you can do a skills trade?

✓ Try visible mending

If you're already comfortable with needle and thread, get creative with your repairs and create new designs / try 'visible mending'. It will speak to the history of and add value to your piece, like a work of art.

*There are many free tutorials online for sewing, and Pinterest or Etsy are great ways to discover creative patching and mending ideas. If sewing really isn't your cup of tea, you can also look for local designers and tailors to mend your clothes, such as Toronto-based designer Diana Coatsworth.

5. BORROW / LEND / SWAP: Libraries are for more than books

✓ Libraries big and small

Aside from my local public library, I have been taking more notice of little free libraries in the neighbourhood - both to donate to and take from - they build a sense of community and some people get really creative with their appearance.

✓ Second-hand or local

If you are looking to buy, try supporting second-hand or local bookstores. I've come across some wonderful cafe / bookshops and online shops that give back to the community.

*In Ottawa, Black Squirrel Books is a favourite, as well as Secondhand Stories (they donate ALL profits to a local animal sanctuary). *Avoid Amazon's shady ethics (more on that here) and consider searching for hard to find books at Abe Books while supporting independent booksellers from around the world, or find great deals on second-hand books at World of Books (also B Corp certified!).

✓ Lending libraries for all your needs

A great way to free up some space in your home and save money: I have seen everything from tool lending libraries and sports equipment, to musical instruments and clothing, all across the globe. As people become more aware of the impact of buying new and housing equipment / gear for infrequent use, unique libraries are popping up with associated workshops, events and skill-sharing. Typically they require a membership, often with special rates for families, students and individuals.

*If you only need something for a short period of time, you can also try asking your neighbours / friends / family. Groups like Nextdoor, Buy Nothing Project or Facebook's Being Neighbourly are also great resources to connect with the local community for information, to borrow / lend and encourage a more circular economy.

Today, zero waste is considered a waste-management strategy, tomorrow it will be regarded as an economic opportunity. - Bea Johnson


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