By Natasha McCormick

Have you heard of Zero Waste living? I told a friend about a zero waste store, and they replied with “I haven’t had a zero waist since high school!” I am talking about zero WASTE.

Zero waste living means — ideally — sending no waste to landfills, recycling centres, or incinerators.

Now I know that little voice that says “Yeah right, there is no way I can live zero waste; I will just continue on with business as usual; it is too late anyways; one person will not make a difference…” Prepare for some great news! We do not need everyone living zero waste perfectly, we need millions of people living zero waste imperfectly.

Gentle Rain, Stratford

Did you know that it is estimated that over half a trillion plastic bottles will be sold in 2020? Most plastic bottles take 400 years to naturally decompose, along with straws and other plastics. By 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish!

There is also growing awareness of the connection between plastic production and our climate crisis. Virtually all plastic — 99% — is made from fossil fuels! Greenhouse gases are emitted at every stage of the plastic lifecycle: production, refining, and disposal. Production of plastic throwaway products is expanding worldwide, in large part for packaging. A recent report from the Center for International Environmental Law said that “[a]t current levels, greenhouse gas emissions from the plastic lifecycle threaten the ability of the global community to keep global temperature rise below 1.5C.”

There have been encouraging announcements and promises for future changes from the government and changes that are already being made in banning single-use items and reducing waste. This is great, and this is a process. Where there is demand, there is change.

We need to reduce our packaging consumption in many ways now, let product producers know we want change, and transition towards zero waste communities. Let’s turn Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, to Eliminate, Extend, Evolve! Sometimes items are unavoidable, so extend their use.

For example, return the pots/trays from buying plants and flowers to nurseries to re-use. Instead of sending items to the landfill donate them or offer to friends, family, neighbours, or post them online for others who may enjoy. Reward yourself with the deposits when you return your glass milk bottles, kefir and yogurt jars, wine and beer bottles.

There are lots of options in Stratford to help live zero waste at coffee shops, grocery stores and restaurants. We can all reduce packaging! In particular, there are growing opportunities for buying in bulk with reusable containers like your old pasta, pickle or relish jars.

The Little Green Grocery, Stratford

There are lots of options right here in Stratford to help live zero waste at coffee shops, grocery stores and restaurants. We can all reduce packaging! In particular, there are growing opportunities for buying in bulk with reusable containers like your old pasta, pickle or relish jars. You simply ensure that your containers are clean and dry and have them weighed by the cashier before you fill up. You could also collaborate with your friends, family and neighbours to each buy a different item in bulk and share. If people refuse to buy and support waste, there would be a change, pronto!

When you raise awareness and lead by example, you educate and empower others, who then educate and empower you! Thank you for reading this, you are making a huge difference! There are so many great options in this area, so remember that just because somewhere is not mentioned below, does not mean that they are not doing great things. Please add to the list and spread the cheer!

The Little Green Grocery

The Little Green Grocery

129 Downie St, Stratford, ON

So many environmentally friendly options! Fill your containers with organic and gluten free options including, chocolate chips, pasta, seeds, nuts, rice, beans, tea, oats, various flour, popcorn, local maple syrup, honey, various oils, tamari and even dog food!! For bathroom items, you can fill your reusable containers with shampoo, conditioner, soaps, hair gel, skin cream, dish washing tabs, coffee body scrub, and even face mask clay! The list goes on! They also have yogurt, kefir, milk and more in jars that are returnable for deposit and reused. There are free containers available for use to fill your bulk items as well as forks with a deposit of 50 cents.

If you bring your own coffee cup, you save 50 cents on your coffee, and free filtered water is available when you bring your own bottle! Fabulous. There are also plastic alternative items to get started for your bathroom/kitchen needs and more! Thank you Little Green Grocer for sharing so many Big Green options!

Gentle Rain

30 Rebecca St, Stratford, ON

Gentle Rain continues to be a great example of how stores are able to convert to reduce waste, founded in 1979!

Gentle Rain

Bring your own CLEAN and DRY containers for peanut butter, tahini, honey, maple syrup, tamari, vanilla, dish soap, laundry soap, all purpose cleaner, shampoo, body wash, conditioner and even kombucha! There are bulk nuts, beans, grains and more, plus yogurt, kefir, milk and more in reusable jars!

Alternatives to plastic and reusable items are also available, including produce and take away boxes instead of bags, and they also compost! There is drop-off for oral care waste and packaging including toothpaste tubes and caps, toothbrushes, toothbrush outer packaging and floss containers. Resourceful earth-friendly options!

Bulk Barn

Bulk Barn

852Ontario St, Stratford, ON

Bulk barn has an abundance of items with the opportunity to bring in your own reusable container and to buy in bulk! They have machines to fill your containers with corn syrup, honey and machines to crush your own peanuts and coffee beans. There are aisles and aisles filled with great options including teas (bagged and loose leaf), nuts, beans, peas, lentils, dried fruit, fruit chips, crackers including animal and graham, chocolates and candies of all sorts and mixes. There are aisles full of numerous types of flour, salt, sugar, sweetener, spices, seasoning and powder mixes such as gravy, cheese, alfredo, popcorn seasoning and more! There are powder mixes to use for cakes, cookies, icing, scones, tea biscuits, pancakes, hot chocolate, teas, juices, soups, mashed potatoes, bread crumbs, fish and chip batter, couscous, and more! 

There are also several protein powder mixes, cereal, oats and oatmeal, quinoa, chia seeds, hemp seeds, cake toppings, salad toppings including croutons, corn meal, potato starch, yeast and gelatine. There are many snack items and blends such as bits and bites, trail blends, cheese sticks, powdered and crushed nuts, too many to list! Each sentence could end with “and more”! They even have cinnamon sticks, sprouting options including mung beans and chick peas, rice, pasta, popcorn, peanut butter, coconut oil, custard and pie fillings, spreads, dog treats, bird seed and a hamster food blend! Soaps, essential oils and bulk bath salts are also available. There are options to buy containers including jars and bags, beeswax wraps, cooking mats, straws and more! Bulk barn has promotions sometimes for bringing in your own reusable container for bulk items, including plastic free July from July 11th-24th saving 20%. There are often coupons in the mail! Thank you Bulk Barn for the abundance of bulk!

Large Grocery Stores & Retail Chains

Grocery stores that offer incentives up to five cents per bag when bringing your own bags are Giant Tiger, Foodland, Zehrs, No Frills and Sobeys. Each store is doing their part in helping reducing waste and having their cardboard and plastics baled and picked up to recycle and waste companies. Foodland, and also The Local Community Centre’s community market, are allowing you to leave the packaging from the items that you purchase from them for their recycle and disposal company. Walmart allows you to leave packaging behind from large items such as a patio set. Other stores are looking into this option, so express yourself on this and raise awareness. Avoiding buying items with lots of packaging and leaving packaging at stores shows the immediate actions that need to be taken.

Local Restaurants

All restaurants allow you to bring your own take away containers for your leftovers. Call ahead when ordering take out to ask if you can bring your own containers with you or ahead of time for them to use. When you are ordering food from a sit down or a takeout restaurant, ask for zero waste or limited waste FIRST before ordering. This helps us to remember to make that request … before the drink arrives with the straw! Say no thank you to straws, wax paper, napkins (use your own cloth napkins), single use utensils and even items such as the little plastic table that is put in the pizza box, or the fancy umbrella in the drink. The more people who ask for these options and refuse and reduce their purchases, the faster restaurants will take action.

When it comes to fast food chains, A+W and Harvey’s allow you to bring your own plates, utensils, and containers, plus they are already making changes with biodegradable packaging including paper straws! The local A+W will be renovating which will include composting options. Tim Hortons, Revel, Balzac’s, Edison’s, To Bean or Not to Bean, and The Little Green Grocery, as mentioned above, all have incentives ranging up to 50 cents for bringing your own beverage cup. McDonald’s and Wendy’s allow you to use your own beverage cup for drinks. Again, before ordering, ask for options that involve the least amount of waste.

Area Zero Waste Stores

If you travel to London or Waterloo and want to visit a zero waste store that is completely focused on eliminating packaging, check out:

Naked by Reimagine Co
211 King St, London, ON N6A 1C9

Zero Waste Bulk
110 King St S Unit B, Waterloo, ON N2J 1P5

Music and dancing are great ways to spread awareness, have fun, super charge positive vibes and spread cheer! Here is a fabulous song to check out and dance to.