By Mythreyi Rajasingham
As the spooktacular season of Halloween approaches, front yards come to life with the warm glow of pumpkins, jack o’lanterns, and skeletons, while store aisles overflow with an abundance of confectionery delights.
Regrettably, these celebratory traditions come with a gloomy downside. From plastic candy wrappers to flimsy decorations and costumes, Halloween generates a substantial amount of waste that can be difficult to recycle.
While we should never dampen the Halloween spirit, we can still explore ways to continue celebrating this haunting holiday while safeguarding the future of our planet, avoiding any ominous twists in our story.
Ghoulishly green costume ideas
One of the most memorable aspects of Halloween is the rare opportunity to become anyone or anything your heart desires, with an infinite array of choices at your fingertips. You can transform into a beloved movie character, embody a well-known Halloween icon, or even take on the persona of everyday objects, like a pizza slice.
However, one downside of this tradition is that it has a huge carbon footprint, since most of the costumes people buy are sourced from the fast fashion industry and tend to be of poor quality (Robertson, 2021). These unsustainable materials have a short lifespan, preventing people from reusing them, and ultimately, can find their way into the trash, contributing to the pollution of our landfills.
To prevent this waste buildup, consider reaching out to friends and family to ask about borrowing their costumes or recycling your own from previous Halloweens. Should you find the time and desire to embrace your creative side, consider upcycling one of these costumes into a fresh and special creation of your own. For instance, you can use old clothing you no longer need or materials found around the house to transform your costume, which can significantly reduce unnecessary plastic waste from new costumes.
Enchanting eco-friendly decorations
Halloween decorations range from elaborate outdoor displays that consume a lot of electricity to the more straightforward and traditional pumpkins atop kitchen counters. But despite their differences, both options can contribute to excess waste.
Consider purchasing more traditional decorations, like Halloween pumpkins, from local growers or farmers’ markets to reduce the energy spent on transportation. After enjoying the aesthetic aspects of your pumpkins, you can maximize their use by saving the seeds and flesh for recipes like pumpkin soup. Additionally, you can reduce waste by composting your pumpkins or donating them to local community gardens and animal shelters (Robertson, 2021).
When it comes to outdoor decorations, such as plastic skeletons and tombstones, you can embrace a sustainable approach by crafting them yourself from recyclable materials like cardboard, which you can repurpose from old Amazon boxes or other sources within your home.
Alternatively, you can explore more do-it-yourself (DIY) ideas, such as crafting ghosts from old sheets or fashioning reusable spider webs from yarn. To take it a step further, make sure to store these DIY creations in a designated box, preserving them for use during the next Halloween season.
Lastly, if you prefer purchasing your decorations, consider choosing items that are not only reusable but also of high quality, that way they can be used in the years to come. For products like candles, it’s advisable to opt for soy-based or beeswax candles because paraffin-based ones can emit toxins and soot.
Spooky sustainable treats
While costumes and decorations are relatively easy to upcycle and reuse, candies and chocolates pose a different kind of challenge because they can expire.
In 2021, the National Retail Federation projected a Halloween candy spending of approximately $10.1 billion (Social, 2021). While the consumption of candy and chocolates surges during the Halloween season, these tasty treats are beloved throughout the year.
To kickstart a sustainable Halloween, it’s important to understand what candy is made of, where these ingredients come from, and what impact it has on the environment and its people.
Two of the most concerning ingredients found in candy and chocolate products are cocoa and palm oil, which are often sourced from low-income countries. West Africa accounts for 70% of the world’s cocoa production, while Indonesia and Malaysia together host 90% of the world’s palm oil trees (Chiu, 2022).
The production and extraction of cocoa and palm oil in these regions results in deforestation of local rainforests, leading to risks for both the climate and biodiversity of these nations.
These processes are also associated with severe human rights violations, such as forced and child labour. Although prominent chocolate manufacturers like Mars, Nestle, and Hershey have promised to stop using cocoa harvested by children, tracing cocoa back to its origins to verify these claims remains challenging.
As a result, the recommended approach is to steer clear of products containing palm oil by carefully inspecting labels before making your purchases. Some brands that already exclude palm oil include Reese’s original peanut butter cups, plain M&Ms (but avoid Peanut M&Ms), and Hershey’s Kisses (excluding Hershey’s Hugs).
Rather than boycotting chocolate altogether, you can opt for responsibly sourced chocolates by seeking out third-party certification labels from organizations like Fairtrade and Rainforest Alliance.
While it’s important to note that these labels do not guarantee a flawless product, they serve as a useful starting point. One helpful website for finding responsibly sourced chocolates is The Chocolate Scorecard.
Beyond the sourcing of these candies and chocolates, another environmental concern revolves around their wrappers, which are usually made of plastic and aluminum.
One approach is to purchase candies in bulk and wrap them using recyclable materials like paper bags, making sure to wear gloves and maintain cleanliness to address any health worries. Alternatively, you can skip edible treats altogether and consider items like pencils, homemade multicoloured crayons, and even seeds for children to start planting early.
If you live in the Toronto area, you can also check out local low-waste stores, such as Bare Market and Unboxed Market, that offer eco-conscious Halloween treats and gift options.
Harvesting Halloween sustainability: In conclusion
This Halloween, as we indulge in our favorite traditions, let’s also take a moment to reflect on their socio-environmental impacts. From the sourcing of ingredients to the disposal of wrappers, our choices matter. By being mindful of what we consume, embracing sustainability in our decorations and costumes, and selecting responsibly sourced treats, we can celebrate Halloween while preserving the planet.
By Cynthia Wan
While there is consensus that discarded cigarette butts are a serious cause of litter and a nuisance to pick up, we seem to remain distant from the substantial pollution and damage they cause.
Littered cigarette butts, which are one of the top single-use plastics, unleash toxic chemicals that severely impact our land and water as well as the health of living organisms. While Environment and Climate Change Canada and Health Canada recognize butts as the most frequently found microplastics in aquatic environments, cigarette filters are not included as part of the government’s commendable goal to reach zero plastic waste in Canada by 2030.
In an effort to address the issues of pollution, chemical leaching, and microplastics, the St. Lawrence Neighbourhood Association Waste Reduction Group (SLNA-WRG) has partnered with the waste management company TerraCycle and members of the St. Lawrence Market Business Improvement Area to pilot a cigarette butt–recycling project.
This initiative involves the installation and servicing of 24 free butt receptacles outside of interested local food-based businesses. Due to the prominent locations of the receptacles, community members are able to easily access these collection points and deposit their cigarette butts in real time. Rather than simply being sent to a landfill, the collected butts are then recycled by TerraCycle to lessen the negative environmental and health issues they create.
Cigarette butts are actually the most abundant form of plastic waste in the world, with about 4.5 trillion individual butts polluting our global environment. As the most littered item on earth, they produce an estimated 1.69 billion pounds of toxic garbage each year.
In a recent issue of Environment International, Lucia et al. (2023) call these discarded butts “an environmental hazard for aquatic organisms” because “they contain more than 5,000 chemicals such as nicotine, metals, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.” Among these, “at least 150 compounds are considered highly toxic, mainly because of their carcinogenic and mutagenic potential,” the authors warn.
The problem is not limited to the ingredients in cigarette tobacco. Almost all of the 6 trillion cigarettes sold globally have plastic filters made with cellulose acetate, which degrades poorly, as the Bulletin of the World Health Organization pointed out in its October 2022 issue.
According to the city’s latest Litter Audit of Toronto, cigarette butts are the second most identifiable littered item after chewing gum, which account for 18.1% and 22.5% of all small litter, respectively. This is despite the fact that there are 10,300 litter bins throughout Toronto’s streets with receptacles for garbage, recycling, and cigarette butts. However, the butts collected in this manner go to landfill and are not recycled. This is not ideal, as the landfill itself then becomes a source of chemical leaching and spreads plastic waste.
The St. Lawrence Neighbourhood, as a community, is well positioned to tackle this global issue by changing people’s attitudes and behaviours regarding cigarette butt–littering. By installing recycling receptacles outside their establishments, the participating food and beverage operators are helping to reduce the cigarette waste on our main streets and raising awareness about this important issue.
The response from the community’s food-based businesses has been very positive, as can be seen by the growing number of receptacles throughout the St. Lawrence Neighbourhood.
The SLNA-WRG encourages all residents and visitors to the St. Lawrence area to keep an eye out for these new receptacles and, whenever possible, make use of them. Placing your cigarette butts in these new receptacles is a small step you can take to reduce your environmental footprint while keeping your environment and fellow community members healthy and safe!
A full list of the participating businesses and receptacle locations can be found here.
Founded in 2019, the SLNA-WRG’s objective is to help residents in the St. Lawrence Neighbourhood change their consumption patterns to reduce waste and positively impact climate change. If you are interested in participating or hearing about our current initiatives, you can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This post was edited by Lumida Editing & Proofreading
Your guide to eco-friendly back-to-school shopping: Save money and reduce waste by shopping sustainably
By Mythreyi Rajasingham
It’s that time of year again—the time for back-to-school shopping, when students search for the perfect supplies to help them through the academic year ahead.
While the thought of returning to school can feel intimidating and occasionally unpleasant, the tradition of back-to-school shopping has solidified its place in most students’ lives as something exciting.
Yet, what frequently goes unmentioned is the amount of school supplies that end up in the trash. For instance, around 580,000 tonnes of books, including textbooks and notebooks, are disposed of each year (CBC, 2020). This amounts to hundreds of millions of usable books being wasted (Dcunha, 2022).
Rather than overspending on school supplies only to see them go to waste, you can REuse, REduce, and REcycle for a heftier wallet and a healthier planet.
Reusing old school supplies is a straightforward approach to both reducing waste and saving money. Items like backpacks and locks, which are considered long-term supplies, can serve well for four years or longer depending on their quality and how well they are maintained.
To make the most of this strategy, take some time to look around your home and gather any school supplies, from pens and pencils to journals and folders, that you have collected over the years. This way, you will have lots of options to pick from when choosing what to use for the upcoming school year.
After you have decided which school supplies to reuse, consider repairing ones that are broken or damaged, and give them a good cleaning if they are dirty. For example, if your old backpack has a wonky zipper or a loose strap, you can try to fix these issues yourself, have them addressed by a local repair cafe, or bring them to a local tailor. You can often restore old items to a like-new condition with a little bit of time and effort.
This approach not only makes your supplies feel new again but also helps the environment a lot. By using your old school supplies again, you are reducing the demand for new products, which lead to waste and pollution via their production and transportation processes (Minos, 2022).
While reusing school supplies is a great approach to lowering your carbon footprint, you might find that a few items are in short supply at home and need to be bought from stores. In such cases, it is perfectly fine to buy new items when necessary, but it is recommended that you prioritise quality over quantity.
For example, when faced with a choice between a 20-pack of fragile mechanical pencils and a 5-pack of sturdy ones, go for the 5-pack. A well-made mechanical pencil lasts longer than a flimsy one, and when it is time to discard them, there will be less waste because you have bought fewer items.
Another suggested approach is to buy second-hand supplies from friends and family, platforms like Facebook Marketplace and Karrot, or local thrift stores (Astoul, 2023). You can also rely on totally free markets (like the WRG’s FreeMarket event) and local swaps to obtain these items. And if you have any usable school supplies that you want to discard, consider selling or donating them to those who could use them. For example, did you know that the WRG accepts working stationery items and school supplies at REmarket?
Lastly, to cut down on both household clutter and waste, choose reusable items over disposable single-use ones. For example, instead of using single-use plastic snack bags or water bottles, opt for containers that can be washed and reused for many years.
By following these suggestions, you can buy school supplies at a more affordable cost, make long-term savings by choosing reusable options, and have a more eco-friendly household.
In addition to reusing old school supplies and reducing the amount of new ones you buy, you can also recycle your old supplies when they can no longer be used and opt for new ones made from recycled materials.
For example, Staples Canada accepts used pens, markers, and toner cartridges for recycling in many of its stores. In partnership with Staples, the WRG also accepts these items for recycling at its triennial REmarket event.
Similarly, if you find yourself needing a new backpack because your old one is damaged and cannot be fixed, look for bags that are made from recycled materials, such as plastic bottles, or those that come with lifetime warranties.
While the American brand Terra Threads offers backpacks made from recycled materials, the Swedish brand Fjällräven provides backpacks with life-time warranties (DiBenedetto, 2022).
However, it is important to know that some companies engage in a practice called greenwashing, where they falsely advertise their products as sustainable so that they can sell them for a higher price.
One strategy to help you avoid buying items that have been greenwashed involves using the platform Good On You. This website allows you to research brands and assess their impact on the environment, labourers, and animals.
Take the brand Herschel Supply Co. as an example. Good On You rates the brand as “not good enough” because its products are reported to include harmful chemicals, and it has failed to openly share essential details about its worker protection policies.
With the Good On You platform, you can avoid brands that greenwash and make thoughtful back-to-school purchases that are good for the environment and those living in it.
With the back-to-school season prompting students to search for new supplies, it is important to give equal attention to waste reduction.
By adopting the three REs mentioned in this article—REuse, REduce, and REcycle—a more sustainable approach can be taken. Reusing old supplies cuts down waste and expenses, focusing on quality over quantity reduces environmental impact, and considering recycled options and avoiding ‘greenwashing’ aligns choices with sustainability.
This marks a new era of conscious back-to-school shopping—one that celebrates mindful choices, sustainability, and a brighter future for all!
By Jess Blackwell and Julia Hernández Malagón
1. What the WRG is and what we do
The WRG is a highly active non-profit group operating in downtown Toronto, and our events and other initiatives focus on raising environmental awareness and reducing waste in our local communities.
To this end, we host a triennial event called REmarket, which encourages community members to rethink their consumption and disposal habits while promoting a circular, equitable, accessible economy in which all individuals are empowered.
At this event, we collect post-consumer items for donation, run a totally free market (called FreeMarket), repair common household items and bikes (with the help of organizations such as Repair Cafe Toronto and CultureLink Bike Hub), raise awareness about waste reduction and other environmental concerns, and collect difficult-to-recycle items.
We also run initiatives such as St. Lawrence Reduces, which encourages local businesses to join the bring-your-own (BYO) container movement, and our cigarette-waste-recycling program in partnership with Terracycle.
2. Our team
We currently have around 30 volunteer team members, each with different roles and interests.
Because we do not receive any formal funding to support our operations, we rely entirely on the skills and generosity of our ever-growing team of volunteers.
We are proud of the diversity, passion, and unique skills our team offers, and we are always looking for new recruits to join our team and help us make Toronto a better, more sustainable place to live.
3. The benefits of volunteering with us
Lead a more sustainable lifestyle and help others do the same
Whether you are already leading a sustainable lifestyle and want to get more involved, or are just getting started and want to learn more about sustainable practices, the WRG is a great place for you.
The group is made up of a friendly, fun, diverse group of people united by a common mission: reducing waste in our local communities.
Widen your social network
Volunteering with the WRG is a great opportunity to make meaningful connections, share ideas, and exchange information about events and interesting activities. The diversity of the group helps generate different perspectives and points of view.
For those who are new to Canada, it can be a great way to get more involved in the community.
Upskill and try new things
For example, are you interested in practicing your writing skills? Your graphic design skills? Volunteering is a great opportunity to upskill or develop new skills, as well as try new things that might help you in your professional or personal journey.
The WRG offers a wide variety of positions depending on your interests and skills, and many of our members have been able to widen their professional networks as a result of working with us.
4. The volunteer positions and opportunities we offer
So what does it mean to be a volunteer with the WRG, and how can I get involved?
We offer a variety of volunteer opportunities, including the following positions:
General volunteer: Contribute to as many of our initiatives as you would like to by actively participating in our Zoom meetings, voting process, and individual initiatives.
In-person REmarket volunteer: Contribute to the success of our REmarket event by helping us greet guests, accept and sort donations, run the FreeMarket, manage the recycling table, and take photos and videos of the event.
Marketing team volunteer: Contribute to our marketing efforts by helping us create Instagram content, design online posts, design print posters and others ads, write blog articles, or manage our social media channels.
St. Lawrence Reduces volunteer: Canvas local businesses to encourage them to join the BYO movement and make their operations more sustainable.
On average, our volunteers spend no more than 1–2 hours per week on their volunteer activities, although some of our team members generously donate more of their time as they are able to.
Members vs. Contributors
To maximize the flexibility we offer our volunteers, the WRG distinguishes between volunteer members and volunteer contributors.
Members are required to join the group’s electronic mailing list, consistently and actively participate in the group’s Zoom meetings, and contribute to initiatives in whatever way(s) they can. In exchange, members have the right to vote on important group issues.
Contributors do not have the same general responsibilities as members and usually contribute to initiatives in very specific ways, such as by designing Instagram posts or writing blog articles. However, contributors do not have the right to vote on important group issues.
New team members are able to get involved with us in whichever capacity they prefer, and we strive to be as flexible as possible!
5. What it's like volunteering with us
Volunteering with the WRG is a flexible commitment in terms of time and tasks. Most tasks can be done online, and the group only arranges meetings approximately once a month.
In the group meetings, the group discusses its different initiatives, community feedback, potential opportunities for improvement, and future activities. On occasion, the group invites other organizations that might want to partner with the WRG or that share mutual goals or interests.
These meetings are especially interesting, because you can learn a lot from the practices and initiatives of other organizations while sharing ideas with other people on the team.
The best parts of volunteering can be different for everyone, but we find that seeing the impact of our actions is incredibly motivating. For example, it is inspiring to see the acceptance and usefulness of the work being done at REmarket and to experience how your skills can be put to good use and improved.
6. Ready to get involved?
Volunteering with the WRG is a great opportunity to serve your community and help reduce waste. Contributing feels good, and it can also be beneficial for your personal and professional development, such as by helping you widen your social network, hone your skills, or gain new skills.
Think this is the right volunteer opportunity for you? Email email@example.com for more information.
This article was edited by Lumida Editing & Proofreading.
By Beatrix Maddocks
Hello! My name is Beatrix Maddocks, and I have spent the summer working as an intern with the Green Neighbours Network of Toronto (GNN) and Canada Summer Jobs in collaboration with the St. Lawrence Neighbourhood Association Waste Reduction Group (SLNA-WRG).
During this internship, I have conducted surveys on single-use plastic items with restaurants and cafes in the St. Lawrence neighbourhood. I am very pleased to say that I have had a wonderful experience interacting with numerous owners and managers in the area. It has been amazing to see the number of businesses taking action on the important issue of reducing waste.
The surveys I’ve been conducting involve discussing the use of reusable takeout services as an alternative to single-use takeaway items. While these services are just beginning to expand within restaurants and cafes, I am confident that their popularity will grow in the near future, as many businesses are interested in the potential of introducing them to their customers.
Another aspect of the survey that connects to the SLNA-WRG is asking whether businesses allow their customers to bring their own container. One amazing way that the SLNA-WRG has reduced waste in its community has been through the creation of "bring your own" (BYO) stickers that it offers to restaurants, cafes, and vendors within the St. Lawrence Market and surrounding area. This initiative, called St. Lawrence Reduces, shows how customers can contribute to reducing waste in their community and how businesses can support this initiative and show concern for the environment.
In addition to conducting surveys, I have also been promoting a website called WalkRollMap.org within the St. Lawrence neighbourhood. Through this website, accessibility issues, hazards, missing amenities, and incidents can be reported. Some examples of items that might be reported include large sidewalk cracks, which could disrupt travel for people using wheelchairs, unsafe intersections, and areas that could benefit from the addition of benches.
I can only say positive things about my experience working within the St. Lawrence neighbourhood for my summer internship. The willingness of most managers and owners to complete our short survey and discuss this important environmental issue has been incredible. It is clear that a majority of the restaurants and cafes in the St. Lawrence neighbourhood have a strong desire to make change within their industry.
This experience and internship have given me hope that change is upon us, especially in regards to the environment.
By Philippe Edde
Canada produces a whopping 31 million tonnes of garbage a year! That's more per capita than any other country on earth. Because of this, you probably think that Canada has great infrastructure for taking care of this trash. But, unfortunately, this is not the case.
Instead of managing and recycling all the waste Canadians create, Canadian governments and companies take the easy way out and dump much of this trash onto other countries. Unfortunately, the incentive for this has nothing to do with sustainability. Instead, it is done simply because it is cheaper to export waste than to develop local infrastructure to deal with it sustainably.
To make matters worse, the countries that are receiving our trash are often developing countries like China, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, and the Philippines. These countries tend to have even worse waste management infrastructure than Canada, so the trash we send to them often gets incinerated, releasing dangerous pollutants into the atmosphere, or dumped into unregulated landfills, eventually making its way back into our oceans.
Sometimes, the waste Canada exports is deemed contaminated by international recipients and is subsequently sent back, leaving us with both poor waste management infrastructure and a whole load of waste that will be dumped into local landfills. Of course, that’s on top of the extremely high carbon emissions that go into shipping tonnes of waste halfway across the world and back.
Waste export bans
Thankfully, some countries have begun to take a stand against this. Since 2018, China has banned imports of 24 types of solid waste, greatly reducing the amount of garbage imported into the country. A handful of other Asian countries have followed suit due to the increasing environmental cost this practice has for their nations.
The Canadian government has also seemingly taken a stand against this, having issued no new overseas trash-export permits since 2017. In 2021, Canada also signed the United Nations Basel Convention on hazardous waste, which aims to reduce the harm of transporting and exporting waste by ensuring that such materials are managed and disposed of in an environmentally sound manner.
Waste export ban loopholes
While committing to the Basel Convention, Canada also signed an agreement with the USA that allows our nation to send its waste to this southern neighbor. This means that while it is illegal to send trash overseas, we can still send it to recycling brokers in the USA.
Once it is sent to America, the Canadian government can no longer track or regulate it. The Americans then send it straight to our east Asian friends in Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, and the Philippines.
Another loophole is found in the practice of simply not listening to the government and illegally shipping waste anyways. While it is difficult to find stats regarding illegal activities, we know that in the past five years, over 120 shipping containers full of waste have been returned to Canada due to the materials being contaminated.
This reveals the unfortunate truth that Canadian companies continue to ship their waste to developing countries with poor infrastructure. What is especially surprising and distressing is that the Canadian government has chosen to keep the names of these companies anonymous, and most of them have simply been let off with a warning.
Since 2017, nine warning letters and six fines have been sent to these companies, with the fines totalling less than $9,000. This lack of transparency helps protect those companies from real repercussions that consumers can face.
What can we do?
Perhaps all this talk about illegal dumping and government complacency has left you feeling powerless in the face of these systemic issues. But worry not: there are initiatives you can support that can make a difference.
For example, Nina Azzahra is a 14-year-old Indonesian environmentalist who has raised awareness about this issue on social media and who has even been able to get representatives from Germany, Australia, and the Netherlands to promise to change their export policies. She has also reached out to Trudeau--twice—but has yet to receive any meaningful response.
To get involved, you can petition your city councilors to push Canada to make a meaningful commitment to this cause, or follow Nina online and spread her message to raise awareness about this issue.
You can also work on reducing waste on an individual and community level by limiting your plastic consumption, promoting upcycling, and encouraging the use of reusable materials. Aditionally, you can support local recycling initiatives. Check out this blog for a great list of recycling initiatives.
Canada's plastic waste exportation underscores the need for immediate and collective action to address the global plastic pollution crisis. Canada must take on this challenge and invest in domestic recycling capabilities while reducing plastic consumption and promoting eco-friendly alternatives.
By taking a proactive approach and working together on a global scale, we can create a future where plastic waste exportation is an outdated practice and the well-being of the planet takes precedence over short-term convenience.
This post was edited by Lumida Editing & Proofreading
By Philippe Edde
Ever go on vacation and find it difficult to keep up the habits you've mastered at home? Maybe you tend to only use reusable packaging at home, or you have an effective method of recycling and upcycling your packaging waste.
But when you're on the go all the time, it can be hard to keep your commitment to the planet.
Luckily for us, there are ways that we can minimize our waste production and carbon footprint while traveling. By adopting plastic-free travel practices, we can significantly reduce our contribution to the global plastic waste problem.
In this article, we explore sustainable strategies and practical tips for responsible travelers committed to minimizing plastic waste during their journeys.
1. Plan ahead and pack wisely
Before embarking on your trip, take the time to plan and pack thoughtfully. Opt for reusable alternatives instead of single-use plastics. For example, carry a reusable water bottle—trust me, this one makes a difference. Not only does it prevent waste but it is much cheaper and more convenient than constantly buying plastic bottles.
Planning where or what you will eat during the day can also help you prevent pollution. You can plan to eat at restaurants where single-use plastic cutlery and cups aren’t provided. Or if you're a bit more adventurous, traveling more off the grid, you can take finger foods or sandwiches that don't require plastic cutlery to eat. If you must eat something with cutlery, be sure to bring your own reusable or biodegradable cutlery.
Carrying a reusable bag for your shopping trips or souvenirs can also greatly reduce your plastic consumption.
Finally, those tiny shampoo bottles you see in hotels may be cute, but they definitely use up lots of plastic. You can avoid this waste by bringing your own eco-friendly alternatives or opting for bar soaps and shampoo bars.
2. Choose accommodations that prioritize sustainability
When selecting accommodations, prioritize establishments that have sustainable practices in place. A number of booking websites, like Booking.com and Expedia, recently implemented eco-friendly badges to help you identify accommodations that have put effort into being sustainable.
If that’s not your style, there are entire websites dedicated to helping you find sustainable lodging, including Ecohotels, Bookdifferent, and Select Green Hotels. Supporting these establishments sends a message that sustainability matters to travelers, encouraging more businesses to adopt plastic-free practices.
Even after checking into your new abode, be sure to ask for the recycling instructions, as recycling protocols can change drastically between countries and even cities!
3. Support local markets and sustainable food practices
Explore local markets and food vendors that prioritize sustainable practices. International chain restaurants are terrible polluters, and fast food restaurants are especially bad: most American fast food restaurants do not meet the Natural Resources Defense Council’s criteria for sustainable packaging.
Instead of going for the same old stuff, purchase fresh produce and snacks from local markets and ask for your food without plastic packaging (unless you absolutely need it). By shopping locally, you also stimulate the economy of the country you are visiting instead of giving more money to the corporate giants that pollute our lands and oceans.
4. Embrace eco-friendly transportation options
Transportation plays a significant role in the carbon footprint we generate while traveling. Opt for eco-friendly transportation options. Consider cycling, walking, or taking public transit whenever possible. Google Maps is a wonderful tool for planning your use of these methods of transportation, wherever you are.
If you need to rent a vehicle, choose a company that promotes sustainability and offers hybrid or electric cars. Alternatively, be sure to carpool with friends or other travellers in similar situations. BlaBlacar.com has a number of carpool routes in Europe that you can use to get to your destination in a greener way. By reducing your reliance on fossil fuel–powered transportation and supporting greener alternatives, you contribute to lowering greenhouse gas emissions, making your travel more sustainable overall.
5. Participate in beach and community cleanups
Lastly, if you want to be a super soldier in the fight to clean up the earth, you can participate in local cleanups or community-led initiatives during your travels. Many coastal destinations organize regular cleanups to tackle plastic pollution. Joining these efforts allows you to directly contribute to the reduction of plastic waste and create awareness within local communities. It's a meaningful way to connect with fellow travellers and locals who share your commitment to a cleaner environment.
The bottom line
By adopting plastic-free and low-carbon travel practices, we can safeguard the natural beauty of our planet and protect fragile ecosystems for future generations. Through conscious planning, responsible choices, and supporting sustainable businesses, we can significantly reduce our contribution to the plastic waste crisis.
Let's become ambassadors of change and inspire others to embrace sustainable practices while exploring the world.
This post was edited by Lumida Editing & Proofreading.
By Julia Hernández Malagón
This year's celebration is a great opportunity for you to do your part to reduce the environmental impact of your participation.
Want to contribute to a greener city and festival? Keep reading!
1. Choose a sustainable costume
Trying to think of what your this year’s costume will look like? Try upcycling!
Chances are that you have old shoes, masks, or T-shirts that you have been stockpiling. Well, this is the time to use them! Maybe you could use that old dress in the corner of your wardrobe to make a fun and creative costume.
Try to find better uses for your old clothes and accessories and get innovative by using recycled materials—such as newspapers, cardboard, and packaging—to complement your costumes.
Involve your kids and encourage them to participate in making their own costumes. They’ll be blown away by all the creative ideas, and it’ll be good for them to learn how to make things for themselves.
You can find some fun ideas on Pinterest here.
If you don’t have the time to create your costume from scratch, you can always borrow it from a friend, swap for it, or rent it.
If you do end up buying your costume new, try to use it for as long as you can or donate it at the end of its shelf-life.
2. Try to avoid glitter
Glitter can be a big part of the celebration of the Caribbean Carnival. However, due to its composition of aluminum and plastic, it’s very detrimental to the environment (Yurtsever, 2019). Because we’re just using it for fun, is it really worth the environmental consequences?
This year, consider using alternatives to complement your costume!
Some neat options include:
3. Use public transit, walk, or bike to the event if you can
Not only will this help you to avoid traffic and maybe even get to the event faster, but by using public transport, cycling, or going on foot, you will also contribute to reducing the environmental impact of your celebrations.
Travel usually constitutes a great amount of the emissions from events. Each year, the Toronto Caribbean Carnival attracts millions of visitors and is considered the largest cultural celebration in all of North America.
If each of us does our part, we can make a meaningful difference.
4. Minimize your waste
Among the most unsustainable aspects of the Caribbean Carnival is the ensuing waste, including plastic cups, throwaway plates and utensils, and food scraps.
To avoid having to use plastic cups, bring a reusable cup, which you can also decorate to match your costume. You can also bring your own reusable utensils to avoid the use of plastic ones, and politely decline drinks with plastic straws.
And when you’re done with the party, just make sure that you put each kind of waste in the proper disposal receptacle. If you’re not sure whether something should go in the recycling bin, organics bin, or garbage bin, you can reference your city’s or waste collector’s resources for more information.
For example, did you know that the City of Toronto has a handy tool called the Waste Wizard? This searchable feature helps you figure out exactly where each item should go!
5. Finally, spread the word
Encourage your friends and family members to reduce their environmental impact with these simple tips.
We can implement the principles of the circular economy both in our daily lives and during special events such as the Toronto Caribbean Carnival. Not only will doing so be beneficial for you in many ways (such as by helping you save money, get creative, and have fun while also getting rid of old stuff) but you’ll also contribute to a more sustainable world.
Happy Caribbean Carnival!
Yurtsever, M. (2019). “Tiny, shiny, and colorful microplastics: Are regular glitters a significant source of microplastics?, Marine Pollution Bulletin; Perosa M, et al. (2021) “Taking the sparkle off the sparkling time, Marine Pollution Bulletin, 2021.
This post was edited by Lumida Editing & Proofreading.
By Philippe Edde
Have you ever stopped to think about your plastic consumption? Perhaps you've mindlessly disposed of plastic without considering its long-term impact on our environment. Maybe you try to reuse and repurpose plastic whenever you can, or maybe you try to avoid using plastic altogether.
Whatever your stance on this topic may be, it is undeniable that plastic is all around us, with single-use plastics being especially prominent.
While there are many initiatives to remove our dependency on this kind of plastic, the reality is that it will continue to persist in our lives for a very long time. For instance, the personal protective equipment used by hospital staff is designed to be thrown away; it is a matter of safety that it is not reused.
Furthermore, plastics possess a myriad of useful qualities, like being durable, easily moldable, lightweight, and chemically stable. As such, they are also a great material for reusable products.
But even reusable products eventually break, and we should aim to recycle them instead of throwing them in a landfill. Did you know that plastic waste makes up 80% of all marine pollution and that around 8‒10 million metric tons of plastic ends up in the ocean each year? Cleanup initiatives would be most effective if we could take these materials and recycle them into new plastics.
The crux of managing plastics and reducing pollution lies in the development of infrastructure capable of easily transforming plastic waste into new, functional plastics. Unfortunately, our current recycling methods are far from satisfactory.
In Canada, less than 10% of our plastic waste actually gets recycled, highlighting the alarming reality of our linear plastic economy—where plastic is used once and then discarded as waste. However, what if we could break free from this mold and embrace a circular plastic economy?
What is a circular plastic economy? It’s a production system wherein all the new plastics produced come mostly from recycled plastics. This way, the amount of waste in the environment is reduced while limiting the amount of new petroleum needed to create plastic. Basically, it’s two birds with one stone. Easy, right?
Well, not quite. Restructuring the entire plastic economy is no simple feat. But there must be somewhere we can start. Authorities on the circular plastic economy agree that three major components must be a part of the circular economy: reduction, innovation, and circulation.
Component 1: Reduction
Reducing plastic waste starts with reducing its production. By replacing plastics with alternative materials like glass, cardboard, and paper, we can immediately make progress. Given that plastic demand is projected to double by 2050, offsetting this demand is crucial to realizing a circular plastic economy.
Component 2: Innovation
The second component of a circular plastic economy is creating new, intelligently designed plastic. Currently, plastics are made to look good and be functional. As such, a plastic bottle can be made of several different kinds of plastic polymers—one for the cap, another for the clear bottle, and a third for the plastic sleeve around it. Each of these pieces can be filled with dyes, making them even more difficult to recycle, especially if they are thrown into the same recycling bin (which is often the case).
Simplifying plastic packaging and ensuring its compatibility with recycling systems will pave the way for increased recycling rates. Organizations like CEFLEX in Europe are already achieving great progress in making flexible packaging recyclable, signaling the initial stages of a circular economy. However, this is not the only issue.
Actually getting plastic manufacturers to begin using these more sustainable plastics would require a lot of convincing. There are a couple of ways in which we could get around this.
First, we could get the government to incentivize or subsidize the production of easily recyclable plastics. Alternatively, we could make these kinds of plastics easily recognizable and then encourage the public to purchase the products they recognize as sustainably made plastics.
Component 3: Circulation
Once we have reduced plastic demand and made plastics easier to recycle, those products will actually need to be recycled and made to take over other plastics in the market. To fully close the loop, we must explore innovative recycling methods.
One emerging superpower in this field is chemical recycling. Chemical recycling involves breaking down plastics into their chemical building blocks. They can then be easily resynthesized into high-quality plastics indefinitely.
Compared to our current mechanical recycling methods, which are susceptible to contamination and issues regarding material separation, chemical recycling seems like a promising step forward.
Currently, a number of companies are working on this technology. One called Loop has even signed deals with a number of industrial plastic manufacturers and distributors to aid in the transition to a circular plastic economy.
Building a circular plastic economy requires collective efforts from governments, manufacturers, and consumers alike. It demands a fundamental shift in our approach to plastic, including the reevaluation of its role and impact on our environment. By reducing plastic demand, promoting intelligently designed plastics, and embracing innovative recycling methods, we can pave the way toward a more sustainable future.
Edited by Lumida Editing & Proofreading
By Philippe Edde
Have you ever stared at a piece of packaging, trying to decipher whether it's recyclable? Maybe you believe that you just need to look for that little recycling symbol on packaging to figure it out. We've all been there.
But guess what? That symbol only tells you what kind of plastic a product is made of, not whether it's actually recyclable.
To make matters worse, different cities have different recycling rules, turning this puzzle into a real head-scratcher. In Toronto, black plastic is one of the biggest culprits of this confusion.
Black plastics: The black sheep
Remember those black plastic takeout containers many of us received a million of while ordering food during the pandemic? Well, in Toronto, those containers and pretty much any black plastic are a recycling no-no.
The recycling plants in Toronto employ near infra-red technology to sort plastic, but here's the catch: black plastic, often colored using carbon black pigments, cannot be detected by this technology, making it unrecyclable.
What's worse is that black plastics often end up covering other recyclable plastics, leading to further recycling contamination and a real recycling nightmare. Nearly one third of what is thrown in the blue recycling bins in Toronto is not recyclable, and it's estimated that reducing recycling contamination by even 1% could save Toronto up to $1 million a year!
Here's the mind-boggling part: just a short distance away—a mere 45 km—the Peel region happily recycles black plastic. Their optical sorting technology easily handles these troublesome plastics. The discrepancy between these neighbouring regions of the GTA adds confusion to the recycling process, potentially resulting in contamination and the disposal of recyclable materials in landfills or incinerators.
Solving the riddle
So what can be done to fix this chaotic recycling landscape?
One solution is to implement consistent plastic-sorting technology across all regions. By aligning these recycling systems, we can eliminate confusion and ensure uniformity in recyclability. In other words, if you know how to recycle in Toronto, you should know how to recycle in Peel, Scarborough, and anywhere else in Ontario. Of course, this transformation will take time and effort, as it will require major changes to Ontario’s plastic sorting and recycling facilities.
Education is another crucial piece of the puzzle. Clear signage above recycling bins can offer guidance about what to throw in each bin, minimizing contamination risks. In fact, the city of Toronto recognizes this and has developed an app that provides detailed recycling information for over 2,500 materials, making it easier than ever to navigate the recycling maze. You can find that app here.
Embracing the opportunity
Living in Toronto and don't want to drive up to Peel just to recycle your black plastic? Fear not! Case, a Toronto-based entrepreneurial company, has got your back. It takes charge of your black plastic takeout containers, ensuring that they find a new life.
First, Case sanitizes and evaluates each container. The ones in good condition are sent back to takeout restaurants for reuse. However, the containers that are a little too banged up are delivered to the company's trusted recycling partners, where they are transformed into pellets and efficiently recycled.
Case works with both offices and condos, so if you have a lot of black plastic stacking up, contact your condo board or talk to your human resources department to get a bin set up.
The steps we can take
Recycling doesn't have to be a mind-bending mystery. By implementing systemic changes, educating the public, and embracing innovative solutions like Case, we can unravel Toronto’s black plastic problem and create a cleaner, more sustainable future.
From advocating for increased recycling-related education and improved recycling infrastructure to promoting existing tools, such as Toronto’s Waste Wizard, and even taking the problem into our own hands with Case, there are many little things we can do to create a more sustainable Toronto.
Welcome to our blog!
This is where you can find more in-depth information on how to reduce waste in our local communities and live more sustainably.
Community info below is related to the SLNA itself and not the WRG committee.