Zero Waste Update (January)

For those of you that may not know, my new year’s resolution for 2018 is to transition to zero waste, the details of which can be found in my previous post. This post will be an update about how the first month of this transition went.

January, as I decided, was the month where I eliminated all waste associated with disposable coffee cups/drink cups, takeout containers and related waste. This is probably one of the easiest months of the year for me, considering that I am already very conscious of this type of waste in my life and produced very little of it to begin with. Despite this, I did make some mistakes.

The month started out strong. I brought my climate change mug that I got at the Cambridge University bookshop to my office and used it everyday to get coffee. Then, I came up with a unique little system that saves money and ensures that I have hot coffee at all hours of the day. It might make some of you jealous with its ingenuity, or it might make you cringe with its stupidity. Every morning I prepare my coffee in my french press and bring it to school in my very handy S’well 71knn6hw9cl-_ac_ul320_sr180320_travel mug that keeps it hot, literally all day (even when exposed to the subzero temperatures at the arena for hours on end). Then I pour a cup at a time into my mug, allowing it to cool off so I can drink it, and then the cycle repeats until I have no coffee left. Speaking of incredible lengths people go through to have the best and most efficient coffee experience, this month I some amazing coffee talks with some great people who told me all about their past and present coffee routines which are just hilarious yet so relatable!

My climate change mug that shows the sea level rising when you put hot liquid in it!

The coffee shop near my office is conveniently very conducive to eliminating waste from disposable coffee cups, simply because it doesn’t supply any. You either have to rent one of their mugs with your student ID or you bring your own. Very simple, and coffee is only a dollar, which makes me love it even more.

If you haven’t noticed by now, coffee is very important to me. Being a very busy grad student and figure skater, means I have to be awake and focused from very early in the morning until absurd hours of the night (or even the whole night). That’s why eliminating my waste from coffee was an important first step to my zero waste journey.

I went to Toronto at the end of the month for a skating competition and this is where I was slightly unprepared for the waste challenges that it faced me with. I brought my coffee mug as usual, so this was not the issue. The hotel’s complimentary breakfast did not supply and reusable utensils or dishes, which is where I should have known better and should have brought my own. I used two paper bowls and two plastic spoons for my oatmeal and wasn’t able to compost my apple core or banana peel anywhere. Some good can come from this experience, because now I know better than to trust cheap hotels to have reusable dishes, and next time, I will be sure to bring my own, as well as something to transport my organic waste to a compost bin.

As for other disposable drink cups, I rarely use any, especially in the winter, so it was simple for me to avoid this type of waste, especially from disposable water bottles. I have an extreme hatred for disposable water bottles that you may or may not know about. I’ve blogged incessantly about it here and here. On that note, this month I was faced with many unfriendly reminders about the extent of human impact on the Earth. Many videos about the plastic in the ocean crossed my Facebook news feed and they nearly always brought me to tears and made me feel completely useless because I wasn’t not right there cleaning it up. I always want to do more for the planet which was the main inspiration for my zero waste journey, which is basically just turning into my own personal war-on-plastic.

Fish that dies from ingesting microplastics!

Some uplifting news in the global war-on-plastic this past month, is that the UK banned microplastics, which are tiny plastic particles used in many products including cosmetics, face scrub and toothpastes. This ban is extremely important because microplastics in the ocean are even more difficult to remove than larger pieces of plastic. It is estimated that there are currently 5 trillion pieces of plastic in ocean and that 8 million tons of plastic waste are added each year to the ocean. At this rate, it is predicted that by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in oceans which is absolutely absurd to me. In other news, in January, Montreal, my hometown, became the first major Canadian city to ban traditional plastic bags in retail stores, however, it has now surfaced that this ban isn’t exactly what everyone originally thought it was (read more here).

Shorebirds dying from ingesting plastic pieces, mistaking them for food

I seem to have gone a bit off topic, here but I allowed myself to in hopes that maybe reading all of this will inspire you to start your own war-on-plastic as I have. The most important thing that I value during my zero waste transition is not just reducing waste, but also taking the time to learn from my mistakes and becoming more and more mindful of possible sources of waste during my everyday life and inspiring others to do the same.

To summarize the month, I only had a few slip-ups, but I can happily announce that I used zero disposable coffee cups or any type of disposable cup this month and hope to continue this trend and be more prepared next time I go on any excursion.

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