By Kirk Grayson/Special to The News
Did you know this is Zero Waste October?
Yes, that’s really a thing.
It was started by a middle school teacher in California, who was miffed that her class couldn’t participate in Plastic Free July (which launched in Australia, where the school year is also upside down).
October is a good time to re-think our wasteful ways.
Thanksgiving, known as a weekend of feasting, is often the kick-off to a season of excess, with Halloween costumes, decorations, and candy coming up soon, followed shortly afterward by Christmas gifts, wrap, and more feasting.
Why does it matter whether we generate a tonne of waste a week or a kilo a year?
Enter Earth Overshoot Day.
Not a day to celebrate, Earth Overshoot Day marks the point each year when the worldwide demand for the earth’s resources and services exceeds what Earth can regenerate in a year. In 1970, Earth Overshoot Day was Dec. 30. In 1995, it was Oct. 3. This year, the date was July 29.
You see where we’re going here?
Literally down the drain and into the landfill. We’re making and using far more stuff than the earth can endlessly provide, at a faster pace. The payback is pollution, biodiversity loss, and climate change. Not good.
Why don’t we just recycle stuff more and better? Wouldn’t that stop the madness?
The answer is: it’s complicated.
Here in B.C., and particularly in Maple Ridge, recycling is done better than in other provinces and jurisdictions.
Our local recycling society (full disclosure: I’m proud to say I’m on the board of the Ridge Meadows Recycling Society) is a community leader that others look to for inspiration.
The provincial government also deserves massive kudos for bringing in and continually expanding regulations to make producers responsible for disposing of their products at end of life.
But recycling is actually the very last step in the five steps of waste reduction: Rethink, refuse, reduce, reuse, and lastly, recycle.
Truthfully, Canadians have it great.
Lots of fresh air here. Unless you count the smoke from forest fires and emissions from industry. And transportation. And home heating and cooling. But we have plenty of fresh water. Although we will likely run short on that in the future, as climate change closes its death grip on our much-loved, poorly stewarded natural environment. And this all leads back to that pesky Earth Overshoot Day.
We’re literally making a mess of things. But we don’t have to.
We can Rethink our daily choices and consider low-waste options. We can Refuse single-use items like plastic shopping bags and drinking straws. We can Reduce the products we purchase (think Fast Fashion, now recognized as a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions). We can Reuse many of our used items by Repairing (there’s another R!) or donating them.
You can put those last Rs to good use right away. The Recycling Society’s wonderful Repair Café is back, from 10:00 – 2:00 on Oct. 23 at the Maple Ridge Seniors Activity Centre. And Katzie First Nation is running a clothing drive this month, looking for gently used winter wear for elders and youth.
The dream is a fully circular economy, where products are designed to be recycled when they reach the end of their useful lives.
That nirvana state may be in the future, but there’s a lot to we can do right now to stem the tide of garbage.
Pick out a few actions from the Zero Waste Challenge, and have a fine time protecting the planet.
– Kirk Grayson is a digital strategy consultant and founding member of the Maple Ridge Climate Hub
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