Now that the waste audit is all wrapped up it’s time for some Spring cleaning. Spring! Yes, I said it! Spring cleaning can be liberating. Organizing, minimizing and detoxifying the home can bring peace and calm to your space. Let’s look at some natural, economical cleaning ideas.
The Power of Vinegar
Vinegar has existed for centuries and was created from the fermentation of ethanol or sugars. Vinegar comes in acidity ranges from 3%-20% where anything in the 3-5% range is food grade, 10-12% is cleaning grade and 20% is weed killer.
Vinegar in Use
All-Purpose Cleaning – mix equal parts white vinegar and water. Optional: lemon rind and rosemary springs. Shake ingredients together and let brew for one week before use. If not using optional ingredients the mix can be used immediately.
Laundry – ¼ cup as fabric softener in the softener dispenser
Windows – equal parts white vinegar and water mixed in a spray bottle
Drip Coffee Maker – Use equal parts vinegar and water and run through a brew cycle. Run another brew cycle of cool water afterwards.
Polishing – Spritz full strength vinegar onto stainless steel and buff with a soft cloth
The Power of Castile Soap
Castile soap is named after the region it originated in Castile, Spain. It is made of vegetable oil and is high on the pH scale making it a great cleaner. Since it has highly alkalinity avoid using it with acids like vinegar as they react negatively. Also, since it is high on the pH scale dilution is necessary when using it around the house.
Castile Soap in Use
Dishes – Dilute castile soap 1:10 with water
Laundry – ¼ cup for HE waters
Floors – ½ cup in 3 gallons of hot water
All-Purpose Cleaning – ¼ cup in 4 cups of water, add ¼ tsp of tea tree oil for extra cleaning power
Other Cleaning Tools
Toilet – 1 cup baking soda, ¼ cup citric acid, 2 tbsp dish liquid (castile above). Mix dry ingredients then wet, mix well. Press into an ice cube tray and let sit overnight. Plop into the toilet, let it dissolve and scrub.
Scrubbing Paste – 1 cup grated household soap, 1 cup water, 2-3 cups baking soda – the rest of the recipe can be found here
Happy green cleaning!
What We Carry
We carry multisurface cleaner, cleaning vinegar, castile soap, borax, citric acid, soda ash and grated soap in store!
Got any tips on what you use around the house? Share them in the comments, our Facebook or Instagram!
Well I have completed two weeks of the audit experience and it has been interesting! Toting around my waste until I get home to stick it in a box to save it for later, trying not to change anything I do so I can fully account for the waste I create, and dealing with a non-waste reducer in my household all the while. The thing I really noticed is how much food packaging constantly rears its ugly head. It is absolutely the weakest link in our household. Working two full-time jobs (as a financial analyst and the shop) definitely makes it more difficult to grocery shop so I leave it up to my partner to get groceries and cook. With that comes some loss of control about what comes into the house. So, in other areas I reduce waste where else I can like takeaway cups, by substituting reusable mugs, or refusing freebies and items that come with excessive packaging if I go out to eat alone.
I started collecting February 13th in one box. I decided I didn’t want to lump my waste in with my partners so I could identify my personal areas of improvement so it became three boxes, one for each of us and one shared.
Let’s start unpacking!
My waste for two weeks consisted of some medical waste, a few receipts, some cardboard, two takeaways (a Beyond Meat burger is my easy way out when I forget to pack my lunch) and a Valentine’s gift from work:
All and all 100 grams was collected and 35 grams was trash so in a year that could potentially come to 2 pounds of trash if I don’t change anything. This isn’t the whole story though, food packaging comes next!
Our shared food packaging consisted of hard plastic, tin and glass containers, a couple chip bags, zipper packaging, foil lids, food stickers, a handful of receipts, a soft plastic bag, a tetra pack, a dozen pieces of cardboard, and plastic food wrapping. The non-food items are some of the cardboard/paper already mentioned and toilet paper rolls.
Luckily enough I can refill all my other non-food items in store!
The total collected was 2439 grams (glass is heavy!) with 150 grams of trash. Other items not collected include food that can’t be composted, tissues and cat litter. Sorry too stinky to keep around! My partner’s waste came to 533 grams with 63 grams of trash. If I assume half the shared waste plus my own I would produce 110 grams of waste every two weeks or 2,860 grams per year (just over 6 lbs) give or take.
Why spend the time doing a waste audit? Because it reveals critical information about areas that can be improved or even where you are doing well! I know I need to spend more time preparing meal lists instead of waiting until that last minute and grabbing what’s available. It will be so interesting to re-do this experience again next year (and hopefully I don’t miss the first two weeks again, ugh) and further, this is a huge improvement from the prior year!
Remember, we need to celebrate where we come from before we address where we are going.
Recycling in Sarnia
Waste diversion is important when evaluating a waste audit. The best course of action is reducing and reusing but sometimes that isn't be the case. I've identified how many grams of my waste is going to the landfill but let's review the recyclable items.
Cardboard and paper can be recycled as long as it is clean and has no plastic glitter, foil or lamination on it. For pizza boxes I compost the piece that has grease stain so it doesn't end up in the trash. You can also bring back egg cartons to the farmer's market for reuse.
Glass can be reused for bulk food or repurposed around the home. When the cupboards get full you can place them in the blue bin or bring clean, unchipped and smell-free containers to the shop for our take a jar, leave a jar program. Note that glass is cheaper to manufacture then recycle so be mindful when choosing glass if only considering recyclability rather then rate of recycling and what it gets recycled into.
Aluminum can be recycled and is at pretty high rates because it is cheaper then processing new materials. I have seen recycling rates anywhere from 40-66% and at 3x more then glass. There are issues drawn from them having BPA in their liners; however, many companies have reported removal of the compound from their cans. Remember to bring your empties back to The Beer Store to improve their chances of getting properly recycled rather then contaminated in Sarnia's current single stream recycling.
Plastic coded 1-7, ziplock bags, and soft stretchable plastic bags are recyclable; however, the recycling rate for these products are dismal. Higher quality PET #1 and HDPE #2 have much more hope then the rest. Make sure these items are clean!
You can find more info here for Sarnia but there is some conflicting information between the website, their Facebook page and the MyWaste app. I am working on getting the most accurate info but default to the MyWaste app as we have a new contract coming up July 1, 2019.
I see this so often in the zero waste community “people say since I’m not doing xyz I’m not an environmentalist” when by just making small progressive steps is the most impactful thing you can do because it is more the zero. Perhaps we should reshape the movement into “conscious waste” to remove the shame and stigma that perfectionists try to place on everyone that isn’t doing what they have defined as ‘enough’. Forget about everyone else. It is so much easier to criticize then take action, so let’s try and show people that a habitable planet is worth fighting for rather than condemning those who try with subjective opinions.
So sometimes life happens. I fully intended to write a blog post last week and post about the new month of February. Or as I will now call it Janfebruary because it’s all blending into one month for me. Working fulltime and co-running a small business can become overwhelming when it gets to my busy time of year at the college. I am trying not to kick myself for not writing as much as I would like to, but the past two weeks have certainly been a challenge. How do you manage busy times of the year? I need to come up with an action plan to keep kicking butt!
February is a perfect time to do a waste audit. It comes after all the festivities of the holiday season have wrapped up and you are settled into a routine. Maybe you have broken a new year’s resolution or two, so it is time to get back on track. Waste audits allow you to become more conscious about the waste you produce in an average day, week or month. It becomes such a visual and visceral experience that gives you an appreciation for the world we live in – a linear economy that is built to produce so much stuff that we don’t know what to do with it all and it most likely ends up trashed.
Waste Audit How-To:
1. Choose the period of time
2. Choose the area
3. Setup collection bins
c) Food and pet waste
4. Add what you accumulate in the day to the appropriate bin
5. Put food and pet waste in the trash to be picked up as necessary (we won’t let the stink stay)
6. Lay out all other items when the time period is complete
7. Categorize into like items that makes the most sense to you (cardboard, plastic, glass, tetra containers, etc.)
8. Document (i.e. count & list) and photograph (even weigh it if you want!)
9. Remember to not change your behaviour! This is an assessment of a normalized week for the segmented area/time
Evaluate your waste audit
10. Calculate the diversion rate of recycling to garbage (if you are a nerd like me)
11. Post your findings to your accountabili-buddies – whether that be friends, family or social media
12. Determine where you can improve
Identify where your largest areas of trash stem from and ask yourself these questions:
1. Are there substitutions ie. package free?
2. Can you go without?
3. Is it preventable?
4. Is there a better packaged version?
5. Can you repurpose the waste?
6. Is there an easily identifiable area to tackle first? (i.e. coffee cups)
7. Is the trash coming locally or from larger corporations?
Remember that this is not easy and the waste each household creates is small in comparison to what Sarnia-Lambton collects as a whole. The world is not built to make things like this easy for people because they want us to consume more. It most certainly is a liberating experience; however, how can you rely less on corporations to fulfill your needs and rely more on yourself to make better decisions, eat healthier food, or just empower yourself. Most importantly, even if we are a small fraction of the problem, we can certainly be a part of the solution!
Let us know if you're doing a waste audit and how it's going!