Zero Waste

So I’ve talked about leaving the city, but I feel like I should say something about how awesome I think Metro Vancouver is…or perhaps, can be.

Last night I went to a Zero Waste workshop put on by the City of Vancouver and I guess I was just really inspired.  Van City’s long-term goal is to create zero waste.  Wouldn’t that be something?! In the short-term, they…wait a second! WE…want to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill by 50% of 2008 levels.  Cool.  The city has seven pretty cool goals all to support this vision.  Check them out here. Even if you don’t live in Vancouver, they might inspire you to check out what the heck your city is doing (and perhaps get involved).

I plunked myself at the “making reducing and reusing a priority” table to push my REFUSE agenda.  Because, quite frankly, I think its OK to be totally NOT OK with something.  In this case, plastic.  Oh right, I didn’t need to remind you.

In 20 short minutes we realized that we could have talked for many days about all the cool things one could do to support reducing and reusing. Here are the things the city has listed. Then, we broke out into our community groupings and came up with another impressive set of things to do to reduce waste- everything from sharing bees and chickens to community tool shares.

Besides preventing waste, Helen Spiegelman from Zero Waste Vancouver spoke of the need to reconnect.  She eloquently stated that consumption and waste are products of social isolation.  I couldn’t agree more.  I think that the plastic project really necessitated me to reach out and connect, and was a big part of improving my quality of life.  Helen is a cool chick.

Before I continue with this post, I do want to point out that I almost wasn’t able to eat dinner because all the sandwiches had plastic-capped toothpicks in them.  This bugged me so much, because the LAST place waste should be created is at a zero waste event.  They even had disposable plastic cream containers!!!  Eeek!  It wasn’t until Clean Bin Jen (my favourite) found one wrap without a toothpick that I was able to tone down my hunger-induced grumpiness.

Vancouver is nestled within the larger Metro Vancouver region, who itself has some pretty impressive targets in their Solid Waste and Resource Management Plan. The plan aside, I really like the region’s (gum)balls when it comes to their in-your-face public awareness trash campaign.   I saw a garbage truck the other day that had a big ribbon painted on it.  It said: To Landfill. From the residents of Vancouver.  In the skytrain stations these days, they have a new ad urging people not to throw stuff out; their Metro Vancouver Recycles database tells you exactly where to take stuff you don’t want- both for recycling and reuse.  I was also impressed about the launch of the Tap Map this summer, which shows people where they can refill their water bottles to avoid buying plastic.

The thing is, that these initiatives are only as successful as WE make them.  Too often I read research that states that consumers are quick to hand off the responsibility of protecting the environment to governments, be it local, regional, or beyond, and that is simply not the case.  This summer at our plastic bash, my friend Peter from Metro Vancouver put it frankly.  He said, deal with your own s*&% so we don’t have to.  Peter likes me because he doesn’t have to deal with mine…very much at least.

We are at home right now intermittently talking mortgages, weasels, building houses out of Vancouver’s garbage, and wind power.  All stuff that I don’t have a clue about.  But it turns out, I will.  For the first little while, even living plastic-free on Denman will be a big challenge because the options simply won’t be close to home.  But that too, is OK.  Where there’s a will, there’s a way.  And I gots will baby.

can”]How’s your refusing going?