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Zero-Waste Challenge Recap

Plastic Waste

Here is all the single-use plastic waste we generated in April after our zero-waste challenge – enough to fill two plastic bags. I’m not sure if that’s a success or a failure. It’s a lot less than the average family but I thought we could do better.

A third of it was recyclable – hard plastics and tetra-paks. A third was soft plastic that London Drugs will take for recycling – although I’m skeptical of what they actually do with it. A third, sadly, went straight into the garbage.

We were pretty good at not buying new products with plastic packaging, but that didn’t stop us from using what we already had in the fridge and cupboards. Most of the plastic waste we generated was from food products we bought back in March.

Everytime we generated plastic waste, we tried hard to find a replacement that didn’t have plastic packaging. Some things we managed to find plastic-free alternatives for, but it was shocking how much of the grocery store is covered in plastic. If it wasn’t for Nada, we would have generated a lot more plastic waste.

The hardest plastic packaging to avoid:

  • Anything medical, like Astrid’s medications
  • Vitamin containers
  • Cereal – we can get bulk granola but not cereal flakes
  • Garden seedlings, fertilizers, and soil
  • Tetra paks from juice and plant-based milks
  • Frozen fruits and vegetables
  • Convenience foods, like perogies and sausages

The only plastic that was easier than expected to avoid was take-out containers. A lot of food carts and restaurants in Vancouver use compostable packaging, and all of them will once the styrofoam ban comes into effect in April 2020.

I’m happy to see more cities jumping on the zero-waste bandwagon and banning plastic and styrofoam: Montreal ‘going to war’ against single-use plastic and styrofoam food containers.

But the biggest change has to come from grocery stores. They are the only ones with the power to influence suppliers. If some of the big chains in Canada (like Loblaws, Sobeys, or Overwaitea) made a concerted effort to cut down on plastic packaging, it would make a huge difference.

Now that our challenge is over, there are a few habits we picked up last month that we will continue with.

  1. Being conscious of plastic packaging and choosing products without plastic where possible.
  2. Doing more shopping at the zero-waste stores in Vancouver.
  3. Buying fresh vegetables that aren’t in plastic (like field cucumbers)
  4. Making our own pizza dough instead of buying it.
  5. Making own own hemp milk (see recipe below) instead of buying plant-based milks in tetra paks.
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Nada – Early Sneak Peek Review

Nada Grocery Soft Launch
Vancouver’s zero waste grocery store, Nada, officially opens on Wednesday June 20. As an early supporter and crowd-funder, I got to do some shopping and help test out their systems at a soft launch yesterday.

The store is roomy with a clean, modern aesthetic. It speaks a lot to the philosophy of the company that they were conscious during construction to minimize their footprint, which you can read all about in their blog series Building A Low-Impact Grocery Store.

I’m really impressed and can’t wait to do more shopping at Nada.

How does it work?

Nada is a packaging-free grocery store. You bring your own containers and pay for everything by weight. When you enter the store, you go to a self-serve weigh station to tag your jars and containers. It’s really simple. They have these fancy NFC stickers (dishwasher safe) that you stick to the bottom of your containers and it remembers the empty weight of the container. You then wander around the store, filling your containers with food, and pay at the front. When you pay, they scan the NFC stickers, weigh your stuff, and automatically subtract the weight of the empty container so you only pay for what you bought. The bins all have numbers on them, but you don’t have to write them down. They figure that out on checkout. Read more here.

Nada

Seconds after paying for your order, you’ll get an email with the receipt. A lot of stores do this now, which I appreciate. But I was really amused to read the product descriptions that Nada has included in theirs, like: “Hummus is where the heart is, but these versatile beans are good for a falafel lot more” and “Don’t like legumes? You’ve now bean blacklisted.”

Nada Receipt

I recommend bringing a bunch of wide mouthed jars (Adams peanut butter and Vega protein powder are my favourites) plus some bags (cloth or plastic) to do your shopping with. The jars can be tagged with NFC stickers the first time you buy something and then reused on future shopping trips. With the bags you can weigh them if you want, but the weight is often so negligible it doesn’t make a difference.

Seeds

What do they carry?

They didn’t have everything setup on Saturday, but they already had a good selection of nuts, beans, grains, dried fruit, baking supplies, loose-leaf teas, and granola available. Brianne showed me a stack of labels 6 inches thick of products that still need to be put out, so expect a lot more. They also had liquid containers with oils and vinegars, plus liquid soaps. The fridges will have produce and the freezers will have frozen fruit, perogies, and other frozen products they can source without packaging.

Loose Leaf Teas

It’s worth noting that although there are a lot of gluten-free products in the store, nothing is labelled as such because they can’t guarantee a customer hasn’t contaminated it, even though every bin has its own scoop.

This sounds like the Soap Dispensary

Nada is a lot like the Soap Dispensary, one of my favourite shops on Main Street. While the Soap Dispensary focuses on cleaning and beauty products, but also has food in their recently expanded store, Nada will focus on food with some cleaning products. The other big difference is the Soap Dispensary does all the filling for you where Nada is self-serve. Hopefully this will eliminate the long waits that seem to plague the Soap Dispensary every time I visit. There also seems to be a some slight difference in philosophy between the two stores. Both stores do a great job reducing waste by helping consumers refill containers, but it seems like Nada is taking a harder line against plastic with nothing plastic for sale in the store.

Hours and Location

Nada is located on Broadway at Fraser Street, right next to a B-line stop. There aren’t any bike racks in front of the store, but there are two big racks just around the corner on Fraser Street.

Starting on Wednesday June 20, they’ll be open 7-days a week from 10am – 7pm.

Happy zero-waste shopping everyone.

The Soap Dispensary

Vancouver's Soap Dispensary
A few months ago I didn’t know it existed and now it feels like I’m there every few weeks. We used to buy all of our soaps at the grocery store, but as the bottles have emptied I’ve been refilling them at the Soap Dispensary. It’s an amazing store.

Dish soap, laundry soap, shampoo, conditioner, shea butter, coconut oil, Dr. Bronner’s – just a sampling of the products I’ve started refilling from the Soap Dispensary. No more plastic waste and it’s cheaper. Plus they have unscented shampoo and conditioner. You can add essential oils if you want, but we prefer the unscented versions. Check out there extensive list of products.

My Dad Is a Superhero

New FurnitureThe silence on the lj has has been deafening, but I have been keeping busy. A few weeks ago we had Boardgames and Booze Night on Beach. It was a resounding success, and we played Blokus, Carcassonne, Mafia, Taboo, and Apples 2 Apples from 7 pm until 4 in the morning. It helped restore my faith in my ability to host a good party, after the last disaster.

The 2nd car-free festival on Commercial Drive was also 2 weeks ago. It was another success although the weather was drizzly.

Ultimate is winding down. I missed parts of the last 2 games because of a sore ankle which I rolled a few weeks ago, and I’m missing our last game because of dental surgery on Monday. But there’s the end of season tournament coming up and I’ll probably spare in the Fall league.

I bought a shiny new futon. It’s pretty sweet and infinitely more comfortable than the free one we found in the basement last year, which we finally got rid of. The other piece of new furniture in our living room is an amazing book case that my dad made for me for my birthday.

Classics - Slo-Pitch ChampionsThe long weekend was a small family reunion, with my parents and Kelsey all in town. My dad was here for the 55+ slo-pitch nationals, which his team won and he was named MVP (what a super star). It was great seeing my parents and Kelsey again. It was a great visit. We were able to watch some great baseball, eat at some great restaurants, assemble a bookcase, watch the grand finale of the fireforks festival, see the Pride Parade, play bocce ball, and spend an afternoon hiking and relaxing at Lynn Canyon.

In case you missed it, Vancouver is the best city in Canada. Even if there’s a municipal strike going on. I really haven’t noticed. Most garbage isn’t being picked up, but our apartment has private pickup, so we’re not affected. I am trying to get a worm composting bin anyway, so we can cut down on our garbage output. I feel horrible whenever I throw out vegetable scraps.

I just finished reading Soon I will be Invincible by Austin Grossman. Wired gave it 9/10 and I have to agree. It was a great read. Super heroes and bad guys with personal problems. Reminded me a lot of Douglas Coupland’s writing. Now I’m finishing off the last Harry Potter book.

Don’t Drink the Water

There’s blood in the water. Or at least diarrhea causing bacteria.

Vancouver was hammered over the past few days with a “winter storm”. When I think of winter storms, I picture blowing snow, white-outs, and icy roads. Not 100 km/h winds, torrential rain, and mudslides. But this is the west coast and it doesn’t actually snow here. Well it does, just not in Vancouver.

The good news is that it was cold enough in the mountains that all that rain we got in the city fell as snow on the ski hills. Cypress (which I bought a pass for) opened today with snow over a metre deep. They’re not open for night time skiing yet, but hopefully soon. So, this weekend I’m going snowboard shopping.

Earthshaking

On Saturday I bought my first pair of $100 jeans. No more Zeller’s specials for me. These are styling jeans from Mavi. They’re nice, and more importantly they fit well. I can’t remember the last time I had a pair of pants that were the right length and width. Mom, take note: 30 waste, 34 length.

I was pretty much forced into buying a new pair of jeans. My old pair had a giant whole in the crotch, not that it stopped me from frequently wearing them. I just figured it was a good sign to invest in a new pair, and the hole made me vulnerable to unpleasant probing.

In other earthshaking news, I was awoken at 4:30 this morning by what I thought was an earthquake. In reality it was just severe wind gusting at over 50 km/h coming off Georgian Bay and rattling our windows. The wind was actually strong enough to open the sliding window in the living room, so I had to bungy-cord it shut. For a while I thought our building was actually swaying in the wind, but it was just the grogginess wearing off.

It definitely reminded me of the recent discussions I’ve had with people at work about earthquakes. It’s weird living in an area that could experience a quake, even if a minor one. Maybe I’ll go through the earthquake preparedness check list and see what I should buy.