Saturday, June 27, 2009

how to survive a garbage strike!


If you live in Toronto like I do, you're faced with a conveniently timed garbage strike! The mercury is a-rising and people are getting increasingly inconsiderate about the whole thing (from my apartment above yonge street, I can smell the lovely putridness of dog poop baking in the mid morning sun).

If you're faced with a garbage strike, and don't really relish the thought of filling our parks with your refuse, and don't want your place to be filled with rotting stinkiness, here are some tips to cut down on your overall waste:

  1. Reduce! an oldie, but a goodie. This means using a multi-use bottle for your refreshing summer beverages instead of plastic bottles, skipping produce bags when grocery shopping where you can, buying food that doesn't come packaged in favour of unpackaged items - luckily now that it's summer and there are farmer's markets readily available, this is easier to do. This also means that when buying food at the store, only buy what you know you'll use. After a couple of experiences of half of my groceries going bad in the fridge, I quickly switched to just doing a mini shop every couple of days. Luckily we're in Toronto, where there's a grocers or market very close by, no matter where you live.
  2. byo. Bring your own. If you're going for takeout, or want delivery, bring your own containers to be used! You'll likely get a litte bit extra food, and if you can't finish it all, it'll already be in a container for saving leftovers! If you're going shopping, bring your own bag. If you're like me and keep forgetting and ending up having to stuff everything into an already very abused purse, keep a handy foldable tote in your purse at all times! If you're having a party, go beyond the byob and make it a byoabc affair (bring your own alcohol/ beer and cup)!
  3. reuse. Sometimes you just will end up with waste. Maybe you forgot to bring a bag when shopping and just didn't have room in your purse. Or maybe you didn't want to put that dripping lettuce bagless into your purse. Or you really wanted fresh olives from the olive bar or a container of spicy hummus or a jar of tomato sauce. Well, don't fret! Keep all your bags and next time you go grocery shopping, you'll have produce bags or shopping bags; or use them to bring potentially leaky containers to work for lunch. Rinse out and wash any leftover containers you have. These are tupperware gold! Use them to store leftovers or your own homemade sauces and nut butters. Reuse your newspaper to clean your windows and mirrors! OR really a exciting way to reuse is for the purpose of gardening!!! You could make your own pop bottle irrigation system, so that you can be lazy on really hot days and not have to fret about watering your plants; or make a mini green house from a plastic container; or use your daily metro fix to help seedlings grow!
  4. make your own. This is linked to the reducing aspect. Instead of buying hummus or fries or nut butter or tomato sauce, make your own! Not only will it likely taste way better, you'll know exactly what's in it, and will be able to customize it exactly to your tastes!
  5. good to the last drop. Do you have some bananas that are starting to brown, and you just can't eat them (because you're like me and only eat bananas when they're yellow with a green tinge)? Well, peel em and freeze em and then you can have deliciously creamy smoothies whenever you want, or make banana bread, a task grossly mushy bananas are particularly skilled at. Same goes with berries and most other fruits. When it comes to veggies, we often underestimate how much of them we can eat: Brocolli stalks, for instance, are delicious and tender when peeled and cooked. The green part of green onions are just as tasty as the white, sure less strong in onion-y flavour, but still good! Or, if you don't feel like peeling the stalks, toss them in the freezer, and when you have enough of such leftovers, use them to add flavour to the broth of your next soup! Also, for items that easily wilt or quickly become unappealing, such as spinach or easily rubbery'd or whitened carrots, don't underestimate the power of really cold water in refreshment and rejuvenation.
  6. Rinse and repeat. There are going to be some things that you can't or may not want to reuse, such as cans or plastic bottles. Or you may just not want more containers and jars in your house. Just make sure you wash these containers out well before putting them in your recycling bags or bins. Also, crush them when possible to take up as little room as possible. Then, you'll be able to store your recycling, without it smelling, until pickup has resumed.
  7. green your garden. One exciting possibility of a garbage strike, is the opportunity to create your own compost bin!!! This is easy to do and fun to watch and takes care of what's really the grossest part of our garbage sitting around for long periods of time. What's important to note though, is that your garden variety compost bin is not as lenient as the green bins you're probably used to. Unless you'd like to get to better know your friendly neighbourhood rats and racoons, leave the animal products (except egg shells) and any oil based food items away from your compost. Wondering what you're going to do with your compost? If you don't have a garden, give it to a green thumbed friend. Or just leave it in the bin, chances are you're not going to create too much of an overflow of black gold in one summer; it'll help your compost work more efficiently. Don't have any outdoor space? Try a vermicomposter! There are lots of resources for starting a compost bin and making your own bin. Here's the one I've made before that worked very nicely. As in my current place I have a bit more of a racoon issue than I did last time around, I'm going to set up a simple chicken wire cage type contraption around it. Here are some helpful tips for having a successful compost bin.

Well, here's wishing you a non-stinky summer! Hopefully other Torontonians will cease their jerkery and our parks and beaches will be able to remain beautiful.

There's some great ideas for repurosing items for your garden over at instructables.

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