Hello everyone! One way to brighten your days is to take on a new challenge! For 2022, the Green Initiatives Committee has developed a series of monthly challenges to help us all make some simple changes for a greener lifestyle. We are hoping that some of our ideas will interest you, because lots of us making small changes can add up to a big difference.
Recycling and the Circular Economy
We know that putting your recyclables into your blue cart is of course a good thing. Most of us have gotten pretty adept at knowing what goes in which bin, and if you ever need guidance, the City of Calgary has a great website – you can Google search on “Calgary What Goes Where” and there’s an easy-to-use alphabetical list of items with great explanations and examples.
To complete the cycle of recycling, we also need to think about next steps. Not all products which are technically “recyclable” actually get recycled. In our current linear economy, often called the Take-Make-Use-Waste economy, many products are not designed for either durability nor recyclability. “Fast fashion” has been in the news a lot recently; those seemingly-bargain prices may not be the deal you think, for cheap clothing that won’t last and often quickly ends up in the landfill.
As consumers, we can help drive the demand for change! For the recycling process to work, there must be a market demand for products made of recycled materials. There needs to be a sufficient demand for companies to invest the effort to create new products out of recycled materials instead of virgin materials. It’s exciting to see products popping up with labels that brag about being made from recycled materials, for example, a major-brand dish soap in a bottle made of 100% recycled plastic!
Challenge: Next time you search for or purchase something on-line, make sure you include the word “recycled” in your search terms. As an example, if you’re looking for office or school supplies, Staples now carries many standard products that are now made of recycled materials. The more of us that search on “recycled”, the more demand it shows. Sometimes you may pay a little more but you can feel better about your purchase. As demand increases then production can become more efficient to help prices come down. As the saying goes, put your money where your mouth is…
Challenge: In the grocery store, take a few extra minutes to do some brand comparison shopping to look for products available in containers or packaging made of recycled materials. Look for the word “recycled”, not just “recyclable”. Also look for “post-consumer” recycled content – sometimes you can luck out and get things made of 100% post-consumer materials! This is exciting because it means those items that we so carefully recycle, are getting made into these new products! Sometimes labels will say “majority post-consumer” which likely means just over 50%. It does take a little time to carefully read labels, but it’s best to support those products and brands that are making a real effort to be part of the circular economy!
Challenge: Even better than recycling of course is reducing. The next challenge is to look for grocery products with the least packaging or no containers at all! For example, lots of people still like to use those clear plastic bags to bag each type of produce, but think about whether you actually need to do that or not. Most items don’t each need separate bags as you’ll wash them at home anyways. Or you could bring leftover bags from home (from a previous trip) next time if you do feel the need to use extra bags.
Challenge: Do an audit of your garbage and think about one way you or your family could produce less garbage. If you have kids, engage them in the discussion as they’ll often have creative outside-the-box thinking! You can also look for trends in your recycling bin to see what you might be able to reduce there, or perhaps think about products with less packaging overall.
In addition to the recycling we all do, important words to think about in the Circular Economy are Repair, Re-Use, Return and Share. We also need to re-think our constant desire for “new” things; sometimes less is better! With inflation driving prices up, there’s even more incentive to shop for used items to save money. And at the front end we need to get better about designing products to be taken apart so they can be fixed, refurbished and to allow for material recovery and recycling, and to focus on increasing use of recycled materials.
As responsible consumers, we can help reduce waste and drive the transition from a linear to a circular economy and make a positive difference for our world.
If you want to get involved to help make Mount Pleasant a greener community, please email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to join our new mailing list. Please check out the Mount Pleasant Green Initiative Group on Facebook, found on the Mount Pleasant Community Association page. The Facebook group is also a great place to share your completed challenges and see what others are doing.
Have a great month,
The MPCA Green Initiatives Committee