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what is zero waste?

We look at the journey towards zero waste as a practice and an ongoing process of both learning and change. We can move forward with mindfulness and a willingness to change even one thing at a time. Some people may start with committing to bringing their own coffee cup or water bottle around with them, while others who are at a different place in their journey may be looking to eliminate things like plastic wrap and plastic bags from their lives. The point is to start thinking about where things come from and where they end up – the whole lifecycle, especially with things that are only used for a short time. It’s not about perfection, but a process – and remembering that it’s not an all or nothing thing. It’s about intention – we need everyone do this imperfectly and not just a few doing it perfectly!

"Zero Waste is the conservation of all resources by means of responsible production, consumption, reuse, and recovery of all products, packaging, and materials without burning them and without discharges to land, water, or air that threaten the environment or human health." — The definition adopted by the Zero Waste International Alliance (ZWIA) 2018.


Let us think about our behavior as indirect consumer outside home. Let us think of the unnecessary objects which enter our life and let us refuse them; from the advertising leaflet to the free samples, via receipts, plastic bags and tumblers with single use. The purpose is not to hurt by refusing, but to bring a reflection on our habits as indirect consumers and to stop the demand growth on products which block us (leaflet which we do not even read, shampoo in the hotels which we do not use but what we love embarking and storing at home for example). Of course, this concept works only if the effort is collective.


Refuse plastic bags and carry a tote or reusable bag.

Refuse plastic water bottles and use your own reusable bottle.

Refuse take away coffee cups and use your own reusable coffee cup.

Refuse plastic and polystyrene take away containers by taking your own Tupperware or glass jar to restaurants.

Refuse plastic cutlery with your take out.

Refuse to buy packaged items that are available or can be substituted by a similar item in the bulk section. Bring your own linen/mesh bags as most stores only provide plastic bags for filling. Examples: Grains, Beans, Seeds, Nuts, Pasta, Chocolate, Snacks, Flours, Dried Fruits.


We are used to a society of consumption, abundance. Let us favor quality over quantity. Let us think of how we can reduce our volume of consumption and adapt it to our real needs as well as to the volume of resources available on the planet. This stage has a real impact on the environmental crisis we are facing. Here are some lines of thought and challenges: reduce the use of the car, reduce the number of packagings during your grocery shopping by favoring shopping in bulk, reduce the number of emails to print at work, reduce numbers of household electrical appliances in your home, etc.


Reduce the paper mail you receive by opting for paperless options for your bills. (Enmax, Atco, Rogers, Teksavvy)

Reduce paper receipts when offered by choosing to have your receipt emailed to you. (Calgary Library, Small stores with iPad point of sales systems)

Reduce the packaged items your purchase at the supermarket by choosing items that are available or can be substituted by a similar item in the bulk section. Bring your own linen/mesh bags as most stores only provide plastic bags for filling. Examples: Grains, Beans, Seeds, Nuts, Pasta, Chocolate, Snacks, Flours, Dried Fruits.


Let us extend the life cycle of our objects by reusing them. Let us favor packagings and reusable utensils, in sustainable, long-lasting materials (glass, fabric, metal instead of plastic materials for example). Let us favor a collective mode of consumption and the purchases of second-hand equipment and repair of objects rather than purchasing new material.

Vegetable scraps — Vegetable scraps such as garlic, onion, celery, carrots, herbs are perfect for creating your own vege broth. Store them in a jar in the freezer until you have enough to make a broth.


Glass jars - When you're at the super market, select products based on convenient sized glass jars that you can use to store pantry goods or leftovers. Our favourite is the large ADAMS Peanut butter jar.

Junk mail - Use paper junk mail to line your compost bin.

Towels - Cut into small sizes for kitchen cloths or rags.

Plastic brushes — Reuse your old dish brush, toothbrush and other brushes for outdoor use.


Recycling does not correspond to the first purpose of the zero waste lifestyle, it is one of last stages when we have already tempted everything to avoid waste. By thinking about our way of consuming, by refusing, by reducing and by reusing, we shall not have much to recycle, hopefully. Let us not forget that recycling is not the ideal solution to the environmental crisis. To recycle consists in modifying an object to create a new one, but this modification has an ecological cost and its smooth running depends on numerous factors.


Complete list of what can be recycled in the Calgary blue cart. 


Let us think of composting the peels of fruits and vegetables, the rests of meals, and any other organic waste. They decompose naturally and return their nutriments to earth.


Sources: Zero Waste Home: The Ultimate Guide to Simplifying Your Life by Reducing Your Waste

Book by Bea Johnson
Blog by Bea Johnson