Tools, tips & tricks to
reduce plastic waste and packaging
Newspaper bag for the compost bin
Sick of plastic compost bags!? Us too!
Learn how to make easy and truly biodegradable compost bags out of newspaper in under 3 minutes – they break down easily in your garden compost or through the City's green bin system, they're fun to fold, and they fit perfectly into your kitchen compost bin provided by the City of Toronto.
Why? Plastic compost bags take several hundred years to decompose, and biodegradable plastic compost bags do not decompose in the City of Toronto's composting facility (they require heat and more time).
Folded newspaper bags also make great gift bags, or bags to store fruits and veggies!
Make your own using this step-by-step manual by makeyourownzone.com.
Reuse your kitchen scraps to make soup stock
Every kitchen scrap has potential for stock. Food cuttings get one more contribution before they give it up and go in the compost bin. Give it a try! It's very simple: all (clean) veggie scraps, cuttings and bits that are no longer first round edible go in a plastic bag in the freezer. When you have enough, put the scraps into a big pot with water, and simmer for about 2 hours.
Use to make soup right away or freeze it for later. Freezing in one cup portions makes it easier to use later on.
Pro tip: You can also save chicken bones for the same purpose in a separate freezer bag. Keeping them separate is so that once the stock is made, the veggie leftovers can go in your backyard garden compost and the chicken bones in the green bin.
Label your jars with minimal waste!
Need stickers to label your jars or containers? Or need to glue on hearts for a Valentine’s Day card? Use MILK! Yes, a drop of milk spread by brush or finger works perfectly fine for gluing paper to paper, glass or plastic.
No single-use glue bottle or back of plastic stickers sent to the landfill!
Even toddlers can experiment with making a valentine’s card this way.
While we want things to last: let’s not go overboard! Why are all these industrial labels glued onto jars so strongly that they frustrate everyone who wants to reuse them for something else after they are empty? If you use milk, they easily come off.
It really works and best of all: it’s glue with nature in mind.
*This is not our invention: it’s from Bea Johnson’s book Zero Waste Home. Bea got it from her dad who attached wine labels this way. And if you need something stronger than that, she also has a recipe to cook up stronger glue made from flour, starch and vinegar.
Zero Waste Breakfast
2 pints of berries purchased at the produce corner store: pour them into your own container so you can immediately return the cartons to the store. Rinse and dry before freezing on cookie trays, and once frozen store into a freezer container.
The Storage Story: storing food without single-use plastics
OK – we have learned that we don’t need single-use plastic to shop for groceries. Whether it’s produce, nuts, beans or rice, you can use reusable produce bags or fabric bags and don’t have to come home with a pile of new plastic bags fresh off the roll or any other plastic packaging. However, that’s not the entire story. There is also the storage! Because you will run out of reused plastic bags soon. And that’s great! So let’s talk about storing food at home.
Beans, nuts, rice and things like to be stored in jars. A funnel is a handy tool because you will do a lot of refilling if you ditch plastic. (The one in the photo is a canning funnel from the hardware store that nicely fits on any mason jar.) Also handy for storage are beeswax wraps or beeswax bags – for cut or whole fruit and veggies. Beeswax bags are especially great for storing bread! While you can make your own wax wraps, it’s a bit trickier with the bags. The Canadian plastic free store Etee has them.
Wash beeswax wraps with cold water, with soap if needed. Never use warm water: it melts the wax.
Beeswax wraps made from 100% cotton, beeswax and natural resin are fully biodegradable but not currently accepted in Toronto's green bins. The best end-of-life solution is to use them as long as possible and compost them in a backyard compost.
When it comes to fruit and vegetables it’s a different story because they all like different conditions. Some prefer greenhouse-like conditions (a moist, air-tight container), some like to be loose in a bag in the crisper, and some keep best on the counter. Here are some tips from the Ecology Center in Berkeley California.
Remove tight bands and
loosen up your veggies.
Add a companion apple if you want to speed up ripening (avocado in a paper bag with an apple for ex.)
Carrots, lettuce, cherries, artichokes, fennel, herbs,
and greens (except spinach)
like a damp, air-tight
container in the
Basil likes an air-tight
container or jar with a
damp piece of paper for a
bit of humidity but does not
like being really cold (cool counter is best)
like to be
in a paper bag
(to absorb excess moisture)
in the fridge or
on a cool counter
Store loose in the crisper: cabbage, unhusked corn, spinach and green beans (loose in a bag or open container), green onion, sweet pepper
Apples (for longer
storage) like to be
in a cardboard
box in the fridge
Onion, garlic, potatoes, sweet potatoes, winter squash, pomegranates, melons like a cool, dark place outside the fridge
Tomatoes, peaches, nectarines, and apricots like to stay on the counter to ripen (refrigerate only when ripe; never refrigerate tomatoes)
in a bowl
Can fruit stickers stay on the peels that you compost?
No way! Those pesky little fruit and veggie stickers are made of plastic. They do not decompose: if you have a backyard compost you’ll learn that as soon as you turn it over: they are all still there! In the same way they contaminate the green bin.
What to do with them? Make it a family effort to always take them off and collect them on a piece of paper on your fridge! You can sort them by country of origin which is quite enlightening. This one we have been using for a few years. Even better: get more produce at the farmers’ market: no plastic sticker issue there!
Zero waste frozen fruit
Waste free frozen fruit can be easily made from blue-, rasp- and blackberries, banana, pineapple chunks, and more.
The sad legacy of stand-up pouches:
Stand-up pouches can't be recycled in Toronto and must go in the waste bin, and then to landfill, where they will stick around for hundreds of years. Every single one. Much longer than me, the eater.
Clean your oven glass door with zero waste
You can clean your oven glass door with wood ash! The door to the left was pretty gross but now it's clean.
Simply used an old rag, fireplace ash and water. No purchase, no plastic bottle, no harsh chemicals. Roncy Reduces' Ali suggests you keep a tin labeled 'Not Grandpa's Ashes'.
Stay tuned for more!
Zero waste self assessment
Check out our Going zero waste page for a handy self assessment tool and a list of many things you can do today to reduce your waste. Below are some specific tips in detail.