Any ideas for shrinking my garbage output even after the strike ends?

Q: Any ideas for shrinking my garbage output - even after the strike ends? [rssbreak] A: First week of summer and Toronto.


Q: Any ideas for shrinking my garbage output – even after the strike ends?

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A: First week of summer and Toronto already has a ripening B.O. problem. Considering that the average Canadian churns out a stinkin’ 1,000 kilograms of trash a year, the current strike is prime time to join Weight Watchers for the Planet.

Do an assessment of what’s clogging your cans the most. Recycling bin filled to the brim with newspapers? Suspend those deliveries and follow the strike/Iran’s uprising/the Jonas Brothers online. Smelly diapers building up faster than you can cry Uncle? Time to consider cloth.

The rankest trash in most households is definitely all the food waste you’d ordinarily be green-binning. “Organics” add up to a third of your pad’s waste. If you want to get a grip on your slop, get yourself a backyard composter, indoor worm bin or automated NatureMill to help shrink trash on your own turf.

Oh, and unless you go the automated route, you’ll want to make any BBQs you hold this week vegetarian. (Otherwise, you’ll be left with a heap of rotting meat waste that can’t be composted on the premises.)

This would also be the choicest of weeks to kick off that packaging-free challenge I took on a couple of years back. (Search for Garbage Free Ain’t So Easy at nowtoronto.com.)

The ground rules? Avoid packaging at all costs. Buy nothing disposable. (That means no gum, no Swiffers, no straws, not even a bag of organic chips.)

Normally, I’d allow you some recyclable packaging if for some reason an unpackaged substitute can’t be found, but the strike means no blue bin pickup either, baby.

Not only should you be BYOMing (that’s bring your own mug) to coffee shops and juice bars, but you’ll definitely want to BYOTakeout containers when you stop for Thai/tamales/tikka. Who needs mucked-up styrofoam and plastic containers sitting around the homestead now?

Also, pass on plastic produce bags and stock up on reusable mesh ones by Montreal-based CredoBags (fromgrassrootsstore.com or eco-handbags.ca).

Kootenay-based Kootsac makes cotton- and nylon-based produce bags that are perfect for stocking up on bulk flour, grains and more. (Punch in “kootsac” at etsy.com for cool

nylon ones.)

They’ll come in really handy now that you’re carting your own containers to the bulk store. Most shops will be happy to pre-weigh your heavier vessels.

Refilling is your best friend. Good health stores let you top up your shampoo and conditioner bottles. And our pals at Grassroots let you refill all your cleaning supplies, too (including dish and laundry soap). Of course, you can avoid packaging altogether by making your own cleaning products from baking soda, vinegar and borax.

Returnables are another green ally. Look for organic milk in glass containers. Get eggs from farmers’ markets so you can bring your cartons back once you’ve scrambled your way through the dozen. The same can be done with most food containers you get direct from farmers, like berry boxes.

Ladies, leave the maxi-trash pads in the box and score yourself some reusable cloth pads or a menstrual cup (like the silicone DivaCup or latex-based Keeper) from a health store or specialty shop like Red Tent Sisters on Danforth.

Gents, I won’t tell you to stop using condoms, because that’s just plain irresponsible. I will, however, warn you not to start flushing them just to avoid landfilling them. One storm sewer overflow and those condoms will only end up in the nearest creek/river/lake. You can avoid other disposable dailies like throwaway razors really easily, though.

If you have to make bigger consumer purchases at this exact moment, like, say, patio furniture or a floor fan, scour second-hand sites like Craigslist first so you’re not bringing home cardboard boxes stuffed with styrofoam. Or make a statement: leave that bulky unrecyclable packaging that comes with your razors, headphones or toys at the checkout. Just be sure to pass on a message to upper management that you’d like to see packaging-reduction programs put in place.

Better still, mail some to your MPP and MP with the same message so we can see more garbage reduction on a nationwide scale. And finally, stick with as many of your new garbage-free habits as possible, even after the stink settles and trash pickup resumes.

Send your green queries to ecoholic@nowtoronto.com

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