Waste not, want not: Make conscious choices now, before it’s too late!

As we enter the final week of the challenge, we’re focusing on waste and the significant impact it has on the environment. Discover effective strategies for waste reduction to create positive changes in your daily habits and contribute to a cleaner and healthier planet.

Waste’s Role in Emissions

Nearly 60% of Canada’s food production goes to waste. Daily, Canadians discard 450,000 eggs, pour 1 million cups of milk down the drain, and toss 2.4 million potatoes. Shockingly, 63% of disposed food is still edible. This waste emits 6.9 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2), equivalent to 2.1 million cars on the road, leading to global warming.

In addition to our massive collective food waste, we are generating significant waste from single-use disposable items that could easily be replaced by reusable items. This includes plastics that take centuries to degrade, releasing potent methane and ethylene. Alarmingly, 40% of the ocean’s surface is littered with plastic, and every single person’s daily choices play a role in this! Beyond our oceans, plastic poses threats on land where animals can get entangled and choke. Globally, plastics are responsible for 4-8% of GHG emissions.

The energy and resources used in producing and discarding products, known as embodied carbon, also contribute to emissions.

You can watch this video to learn more.

Did You Know? Food rotting in landfills emits methane gas, which is 25 times stronger than CO2 as a greenhouse gas. When methane interacts with oxygen, it generates additional CO2, exacerbating global warming. Methane is also the major GHG that comes from the production of animal-based foods like beef, pork, lamb, and chicken.

Understanding Your Impact

Our daily choices influence the amount of waste we create. Being smart about how we handle our waste, and making a conscious effort to reduce, reuse, compost, and recycle, are vital steps toward creating a more sustainable future.

It’s important we understand our waste not as just one person, but all of us together. Imagine this: you might use up to 300 toothbrushes in your lifetime, and those will all end up in landfill. That might not sound like a lot, but picture this pile of discarded toothbrushes times 9 billion people. And that’s not including all the people from past and future generations. Now think about all the other things we throw away like pens, coffee cups, disposable forks and spoons, egg cartons, and take-out containers.

If we all throw away so much, think about where it all goes. This waste uses up land, which if left in its natural state, could help clean the air instead and act as a carbon sink. As our plastic waste sits there, it can take hundreds of years to break down, releasing harmful greenhouse gases. This is bad for our planet, hurting wildlife and changing the climate.

Taking Action: Strategies for Waste Reduction

Here are some strategies for meeting UN Sustainability Goals beyond SDG 13, climate change, while reducing waste in your personal life and on campus:

  1. Smart Meal Management: Cut down food waste by planning your meals. Plan portion sizes, use older ingredients first, and get creative with leftovers. This reduces both waste and unnecessary spending. (Goals: 2, 3, 12, and 15)
  2. Composting: Use campus composting and start composting at home. It produces nutrient-rich soil helping you cut back on fertilizer which also produces GHGs and reduces harmful landfill methane gas emissions. If your campus does not compost, ask why. (Goals: 3, 11, 12, and 15)
  3. Responsible Consumption: Practice mindful purchasing by buying less, choosing quality over quantity, and considering the environmental impact of products. Opt for second-hand items, prioritize minimal packaging, choose sustainable materials and products such as upcycled or biodegradable products, as well as support brands that are locally made and with eco-friendly practices. (Goals: 3, 6, 9, 10, 11, 12, 14, and 15)
  4. Sorting: Properly sort your waste into recycling, compost, and garbage. Take the time to understand your city and institution’s waste disposal guidelines and follow them. (Goals: 11, 12, 14, and 15)
  5. Reduce Single-Use Plastics: Say no to single-use plastics such as straws, utensils, and bags. Choose reusable alternatives and encourage others to do the same. (Goals: 3, 6, 9, 11, 12, 14, and 15)
  6. E-Waste Recycling: Dispose of electronic waste properly by using designated e-waste recycling programs. Electronics contain valuable materials that can be recycled and reused. (Goals: 3, 6, 7, 9, and 12)
  7. Campus Initiatives: Advocate for waste reduction programs, such as zero-waste events, bulk purchasing options, and donation drives for unwanted items. Ask the cafeteria to offer smaller serving sizes as research shows large portions lead to more waste.(Goals: 4, 9, 11, 12, and 16)

By adopting sustainable waste management practices, we contribute to a cleaner environment and promote responsible consumption. Let’s work together to minimize waste, conserve resources, and create a brighter future for generations to come.

Get Inspired!

Canadians throw out about a billion pounds—nearly 500 million kilograms—of fashion and home items made of fabric each year.

Seneca College’s School of Fashion is actively addressing clothing waste by organizing textile diversion events. These events encompass a variety of activities aimed at minimizing discarded clothing destined for landfills. Initiatives have featured student exhibitions, the introduction of clothing donation bins, informative talks on sustainable fashion, creative styling sessions using pre-owned garments, and clothing exchange events.

Enter the Challenge to Win!

Commit to the challenge and complete the short quiz for your chance to win $350. Complete all six challenges to enter the grand prize draw for $1,000.

Zero Single-Use Plastic Challenge

Your Challenge: Commit to a week without single-use plastics. This means actively avoiding common plastic items that are used once and then discarded. Before you go shopping or eating out, think about what you can bring with you to actively avoid single-use plastics.

For this week, focus on eliminating:

  • Plastic bags: Replace with cloth or other reusable bags.
  • Plastic bottles: Use a reusable water bottle instead.
  • Plastic straws and cutlery: Bring your own from home or use plastic alternatives like wood.
  • Plastic wrap and sandwich bags: Switch to reusable containers for food storage.
  • Pre-packaged goods: Avoid items with excessive plastic packaging, especially in food shopping.
  • Plastic takeout containers: Choose restaurants that use eco-friendly packaging or dine in, you can even try bringing your own container.

This challenge demands dedication and mindfulness. By committing to zero single-use plastics, or even substantially reducing them, you play a pivotal role in lessening unnecessary and harmful waste.

Reflect on how your choices impacted the environment and your daily routine. Consider what habits you can adopt long-term to reduce the amount of plastic you waste.