Trading Convenience for Sustainability

I don’t tend to boycott a lot of things, but one thing that I never allow myself to buy or use is plastic (non-reusable) water bottles. I sometimes feel the inconvenience of having to take up space in my school bag with my empty water bottle, or not having water then I’m really thirsty and not being able to buy one (because I won’t allow myself). This is just a small price to pay for saving water and landfill space, which is all promoting sustainability.

Disposable water bottles may be super convenient in our culture but are an enormous source of waste many ways. First of all, the production of one water bottle will use 3 times more water than it can actually hold. As if that isn’t wasteful enough, 30 million bottles end up in landfills or in the ocean every day. Yes you read that correctly, 30 MILLION EVERY DAY. On top of all that, the plastic in those bottles take 700 years before they even start to decompose in the landfill and the ones that end up in the ocean can seriously harm marine life. If you are still going to consume bottled water, the least you can do at that point is to recycle the bottle.

The concept of an edible water bottle is certainly interesting and could, in theory, be the next greatest innovation, but I don’t think world is ready for it just yet. From what I see in this video, I think we should stick to reusable water bottles for a little while longer. Don’t get me wrong, the concept has potential, I just think it needs some improvement before I would actually buy it. 

To start off, it’s really tiny! It appears to only be able to hold a few sips of water. You’d have to pack many of them to be able to hold as much as a regular sized reusable water bottle. Secondly, it looks pretty flimsy… I wouldn’t want to be carrying that around in my bag, I’d be too afraid it would just burst if it gets tossed around too much or accidentally squished. That would defeat the entire purpose. Lastly, it doesn’t seem all that practical. The girl in the video that drank from it spilled it everywhere. I’m all for trading in convenience for sustainability, but this just makes no sense. I think we should stick to normal reusable water bottles for now!

Zero Waste Week at McGill

This week at McGill, ECOLE is hosting a series of events for The Zero Waste Challenge that will last all week. I’m excited to say that I’m joining in on this challenge, however I won’t be able to attend any events, with my crazy busy life. Today, they are screening The Clean Bin Project, which is a documentary about living in the city with the goal of producing no waste and not buying anything new. Throughout the week there are many events such as field trips to buy bulk groceries, used clothing and a trip to a recycling centre. At the end of the challenge, there is a little party and weigh-in of the waste produced by everyone who participated that I will make great efforts to try to attend.

This is my personal challenge for the week, and I invite you all to join in! I realize this is not easy, but it’s also not impossible. I’m very aware of the amount of waste I produce and I always make efforts to reduce it, but this week I’m going to be a little more extreme and careful, aiming to produce no waste at all.

Where to begin? How does one go about eliminating all waste? What are we considering as waste? Defining your own scope of what “zero waste” really means is key to this challenge. I tried to start a discussion about this at work to get some opinions and insightful perspectives, but was unsuccessful. This reinforces the fact that a lot of people don’t think about this the way I do and really have no idea of the impact of their consumption habits.

When defining your scope of zero waste, you need to consider what is feasible to you. Of course, there will rightfully be some inconvenience and compromise, but the important part is doing what you can to live more sustainably.

This week, I will consider waste to be anything that is a non-organic by-product of something I am consuming that cannot be re-used. For example, a compostable coffee cup and a recycled disposable water bottle are considered waste, but an apple core is not (as long as it is composted and not thrown in the trash). I believe this a reasonable scope of waste, although some may disagree and take it a step further.

The other week I was sitting on an extremely long bus ride and decided to pick up the Metro newspaper on the seat next me. I found a great article about a girl named Julie Gagné (she also has a wordpress blog!) who lives her everyday life, producing little to no waste and blogs all about it! If you can read and understand French I suggest you check her out on the link above. Some people would consider this to be a really extreme lifestyle, but I think she is inspirational, and she’s doing this-planet-saving-thing right! I don’t think there is such a thing as “too extreme” in terms of reducing waste and consumption because this is what our planet needs. If you take a look at the link to the trailer of the Clean Bin Project above, you’ll get the shocking facts of the waste problem that the western world is facing due to over consumption.

This is why I feel this Zero Waste Challenge is important. Even though it’s just one week, it will teach students and participants about more eco-friendly and sustainable ways of doing day-to-day tasks (such as grocery and clothing shopping) that are equally as feasible as their more wasteful counter-methods. Once you get into different habits, you’ll be likely to continue them after the challenge. It requires effort and compromise, but it is definitely worth it. It needs to be done to save our planet, the very thing that allows us to be what we are. We need to protect it and treat it right.