Tracking their waste proved to be an eye-opening experience for the Glenbrook residents who took on the Zero Waste Challenge. See how how they reduced their impact on the waste stream through some simple and easy changes in the household routine.
It’s a quiet street in New Westminster that looks much like any other. But behind these doors are the makings of a quiet revolution. A revolution that focuses on what goes into every household’s garbage can. The people living in these 14 households decided to take on Metro Vancouver’s Zero waste challenge, aiming to divert as much garbage as possible from the waste stream.
“I had a thing for garbage, for reducing garbage, and composting as much as possible and recycling as much as possible,” says Jane Armstrong who helped spearhead the initiative. “For me personally it was something important and something I was willing to champion.”
And get aware of it they did, in some people’s cases, more than anyone could have ever anticipated.
“This was a family of two,” says Armstrong, holding up a potato chip bag. “A husband and wife, and they actually saved their garbage for eight weeks, and this is it, and this only weighs 550 grams it’s such a visual reminder of what taking seriously reducing your garbage can look like. In the same period of time, the city would have taken 16 garbage cans full of garbage.”
Another family began collecting compost for the first time, breaking a lifelong habit of sending organic material into the wastewater treatment system, by garburating it.
“It’s made us really much more aware of what we’re putting in the garbage, says Zero Waste participant Barb Simpson. “Initially we had to weigh everything and I had to weigh the food going into the garburator. And I thought this is really stupid, so I just stopped garburating. I use it more or less once a week just to freshen the sink. We are still way down on our garbage. We don’t even use a third of a bin every two weeks of regular garbage. The rest is just green waste or blue waste.”
Styrofoam was a particular challenge
“We said that we would take everyone’s styrofoam,” says Rani MacInnes. “We started stockpiling it at our home and i guess reeducating people about what it meant to have styrofoam in the landfill. It was a lot. Bags and bags and bags of it. And at the time the place we were taking it to had these huge immense bags so we would have two three big bags on our front porch, full of styrofoam. Now in New West they have a styrofoam drop-off so, I think pretty much everyone on the street is recycling styrofoam now!”
And other habits have changed too.
“We discovered we were throwing a lot of food away so we started to change our habits about how we’d go shopping,” explains Glen Henderson. “We started to plan our meals for the week, and once we figured out and started to menu plan we discovered we were throwing less food away as well as we were spending less money at the store. We used to put out two large garbage cans once a week and now we put out a very small amount once a month.
It’s been several years now since Glenbrook North’s Zero waste challenge ended. And while the event itself was temporary – just eight weeks – for several households on the street, the change in behavior has become permanent. Jane Armstrong is proud of the results.
“At least half of the families had dramatic differences, it really opened their eyes to their waste habits. and they established some good new healthy habits. Healthy for the planet. And healthy for them too.”