Workplace Recycling

I’m sad to say that due to me being out of the country, this was the goal that had the least amount of traction. At my workplace we have a rubbish bin, we have a cardboard bin and we have a compost. Sadly, like many retail businesses we use plenty of paper (signage, paperwork, notes etc) and yet there is no bin available to recycle.  This seemed like a small and easy fix that could make a large impact in the long run. However, our shop is a part of large a building that houses other shops and offices, so any changes to recycling systems would have to be directed to our building manager.

The results of these efforts are very anti-climatic. When I got back from Edinburgh, I researched the options businesses had for recycling on property and even on city property, and forwarded them to my own manager. Considering there are offices in the building, I reckon there may be some sort of system in place but we are still waiting to hear back from the building manager. I will update when I have a conclusion.

Recycling systems, including composting, are one of the easiest things one can do at home or at work to change how we impact the environment. In residential areas, the city will deliver the proper bins and boxes to your home to make it easier and therefor its hard to find excuses not to recycle, reuse or compost.

Update: Our building manager has gotten back to us. She ha assumed the cardboard box was appropriate for paper and had been using it for the buildings recycling. She is now in contact with the city to see what her options are.


Water: we need it, we use it, we take it for granted, and we waste a lot of it. One of the ways I have often noticed myself being wasteful, even before taking this course, was how often I leave the tap running while brushing my teeth. I would catch myself after thinking about the tasks I had for that day or next, and quickly shut them off but only after a full minute or two of wasting water. As with snacking, it would be creating sustainable habits that would eventually become subconscious acts and make a real difference for longer than a month.

For the first week, it was a matter of taking the time to be aware of what I was doing and forming patterns. I would unscrew the cap, squeeze a small pearl sized amount of toothpaste on my brush, turn on the tap for a few seconds and then turn off the tap. One of the things I was unnecessarily was wet my brush before putting the toothpaste on, and then I would leave the tap running while I squeezed the toothpaste on my brush and wet it again. It was a small and yet significant step to cut out of my routine. I would also turn on the tap to rinse the sink out every time I cleared my mouth and had to train myself to leave it until I was done brushing my teeth as a whole. I wont fib and say that I automatically improved and kept up the habit; it took work and it still takes work, but I did improve. I find myself being much more conscious when brushing my teeth.

Thinking critically about how I use water also challenged me to reconsider how I use water in other areas of my life such as washing the dishes, taking showers and doing the laundry. If I was going to change how I used water when I brushed my teeth, it wouldn’t sense to continue to waste water otherwise. I would have to change my water usage completely. Often when I shower I will take a good 15-20 minutes while I leisurely think about my day and witty come-backs I should have used ten years ago. I cut back my time to 6 minutes (1 minute to shampoo and lather, 30 seconds to rinse, 30 seconds for conditioner, 1 minute to thoroughly wash my body and face, and 3 minutes to leisurely wash out the conditioner while I daydream) and set an alarm on my phone so I would know when I had to get out. I could have used a lower temperature of water, but you have to leave a girl some pleasures. When it came to doing the dishes, my habits were different dependent on where I was based. In Edinburgh, I had a dishwasher so it would just involve waiting until it was absolutely full before putting it on and hand washing any dishes I needed immediately. Sadly (for me, not for the environment), I do not have a dishwasher in Vancouver, so it was how I did my hand-washing that had to change. I live with a roommate so I was hesitant to leave unwashed dishes in the sink, and I definitely didn’t want to leave them overnight. However, I communicated with them and starting leaving dishes starting at breakfast through to dinner (in a neat pile) and washed them using a small basin of soapy water at the end of the day. This way I used nearly the same amount of water to clean all my dishes opposed to one bowl at a time. My roommate seems to be on board with this and will often do the same thing.  The last item to change was my washing. Instead of doing a small wash every few days, I changed to doing one large wash at the end of the week. To be honest with you, I don’t often separate my colours or dedicates so it wasn’t to hard to change this habit. I used cold water instead of warm or hot. These three changes were relatively simple and effective, and will be easy habits to continue after the month of February.

Thinking about how we use water and how we can make changes in our daily lives is just as simple as it sounds. In the West, we often take for granted the clean and accessible water that comes from our taps. Being more mindful as a society can help ensure that that our habits are sustainable. Despite how it may seem, fresh water is not a renewable resource and water scarcity is a problem in different areas around the globe.

A Change in Snacking Habits

Out of the three goals I set myself for the month of February, I knew that changing how and when I snack would be the most challenging. Sugar, and more specifically chocolate, have been my greatest vice and I often indulge myself whenever I am craving. However, buying sweets for home, or when I’m out, creates a lot of unnecessary waste through its wrappings. My plan for the month of February (and beyond) was to create a weekly schedule of snacks that would be prepared ahead of time to prevent the outside purchase of snacks. As I would be outside of the country for three weeks, I needed to choose snacks that I could easily make with common ingredients in most cupboards. For that reason I choose these four recipes: chocolate-chip cookies; Banana bread (both classic and chocolate chip); and ginger snap cookies.

Date: Location: Snack
February 1st – February 9th Edinburgh Chocolate chip cookies
February 10th – February 16th Edinburgh Chocolate chip cookies and Banana bread
February 17th – February 21rd Edinburgh   Coconut milk chocolate Chip Cookies
February 22nd – March 2nd Vancouver Ginger cookies and chocolate chip banana bread

The first week did not get off too a good start. I found myself 30,000 feet above land on a large passenger airplane headed for the U.K. I was already contributing big to my ecological footprint. I did think ahead to bring my own snacks (leftovers from my cupboard) but the flight was nine hours long and I needed the on-board meal. As I unwrapped my tray, and looked at each separately wrapped portion of the meal, I couldn’t help but feel a large dose of guilt. The only highlight (waste-wise) of the meal was that it came with a reusable cup for tea or coffee. When mealtime was finished, I looked around the plane and eyed the amount of rubbish that each person was throwing away, and wondered why no one had come up with a more sustainable system.  Had I not had this challenge set for February, I am not sure if I would have thought critically about the amount of waste airplanes create. When I got off the airplane, I decided to do a little research on just how much waste airplanes create. Many news articles had similar numbers but an article written in the Guardian quoted 5.2 million tonnes of waste in 2016 ( The most frustrating part is that even if you come prepared and bring your own meal thinking that you aren’t personally contributing to airplane waste, the meal that you have denied will still end up in the trash with all of its wrappings. Therefor, you are contributing to food waste and plastic waste. More needs to be done to hold airlines accountable for the waste they produce.

After the distressing experience on the airplane, I was doubly determined to make the rest of my month as waste-free as possible. This was hard. I am not sure if you are aware, but British Dairy-milk is so much better than the Canadian equivalent. However, I ignored the rows of purple wrapped confection in the supermarkets and focused on ingredients for my homemade snacks. I had made a list of ingredients already in my husband’s cupboard so I wouldn’t buy unnecessary products. I also paid attention to the actual packaging of the product I was buying. I shopped for products that had recyclable or reusable packaging, or went to the dry ingredient section to get items that I could buy in bulk. The one problem with bulk—at least in regular supermarkets—is that you have to use the plastic bags provided because the scales are not calibrated for your own containers. However, the chocolate chips didn’t come in any recyclable option so I went with the bulk. Luckily, most larger supermarkets in the U.K. will have a plastic bag recycle on the way out so you can dispose of the plastic and transfer you ingredients to a reusable container. I decided to stick mostly to chocolate chip cookies while I was the U.K. as they were fast and easy to make, and could easily be transported in a small container in my purse. I found that my snack and sugar cravings increased when I was inactive or just after an activity, and so I prepared myself for those moments. Overall, baking my own sweet snacks in the U.K. was effective in reducing the amount of waste I created. However, the one thing I didn’t plan for was sugar overload: after eating so much sweets, I would need something savory to balance it. I bought three bags of crisps due to this. The only other setback in the waste department was due to my husband: the man goes through bottles of sparkling water like its air. Hopefully, that’s a problem a SodaStream for his birthday will solve.

After another very wasteful return trip home, I was prepared to work even hard to be waste-free. Luckily, I only had to shop for the perishables such as banana’s and eggs (on a side note: one thing the U.K. supermarkets do better is offering a half-carton of eggs. I often struggle to use up a full one) for my banana bread, the rest of the ingredients would be using up what I already had. Due to being home more regularly, I could bake more often and with more variety so that I wouldn’t get tired of the items I was eating regularly. I could also pack several different kinds of snacks on the go that involved less or no waste like a medley of fruit and vegetables. I found carrots to be an easy and satisfying snack to have and bought full carrots I could cut into sticks therefor forgoing the plastic packaging. It’s probably no surprise to anyone how much easier it was to be waste-free at home versus on holiday, but taking a packed lunch to work or school is much easier than taking one on city-walks or visiting friends Edinburgh.

In conclusion, being mindful and reducing the amount of waste was not as hard as I thought it was going to be. It became more about creating sustainable habits that became more natural as the days went on. The largest challenge I had was impulse control. If left unheeded, I could eat a full plate of cookies in one sitting. I had to limit the amount of sweets I was consuming–I think my health also thanked me for this. If I continue to keep up with this habit, it will be easy to keep up with it outside the month of February and make it something I do organically. I think it is something that others should consider doing as its small act and easily changeable, and can help one think critically about other areas of their life that they are being unnecessarily wasteful. No one is perfect: at the airport I bought a large fruit and nut Dairy Milk bar as a treat for the first day of March and it was great, but I have banana bread made for the first week so that my snacking habits can be satisfied.

Action Project Proposal

  1. Implement a paper recycling bin at my place of employment: I work in a small retail shop that has a bin and a compost but oddly enough, not a recycling bin. Like most businesses, we go through a lot of paper for one thing or another but we do not have any measures for recycling. Recycling seems like such an easy thing we can do to protect our environment and I have been debating taking action for a while. However, the shop is apart of a large building management that has multiple shop and business as tenants and any proposal I have would have to be approved by them.
    For this action project I plan to do the following:
    – research was options businesses have with the City of Vancouver in terms of   recycling bins and determine what if and what the cost would be
    – write a proposal to the building manager to implement it
    – if the outcome is negative, I will need to research what options we have as an independent shop.
  2. Stop snacking out: I am often proud of myself for not drinking fizzy drinks, therefore contributing less waste to the world and to my body, however, one of my biggest contributes to personal waist is store bought snacks. I often have craving for sweet things like chocolate bars and no will power to prevent myself from buying them–almost every school day I buy something from the vending machine. These snacks almost always come in some form of wrapper that gets wasted. My proposed plan for February is to make my own waste-free snacks at home and bringing them with me in containers for snacks. I will prepare a snack schedule for the month that I have to adhere to using up a lot of the ingredients I already have in my cupboard to also reduce food waste.
  3. Turn off the taps when brushing my teeth: This is a small thing that I am guilty of. Often when I brush my teeth, I get in the habit of daydreaming and forget to turn off the tap which wastes water and energy. For the month of february, I am going to train myself to turn off the water right away and therefor getting myself into a routine that will last well beyond the month.