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My Journey to Zero Waste

Over the last year, especially for plastic-free July, I’ve really started to think about our impact on the environment and how we can make changes in our life in an effort to reduce waste. Well, let’s just say it’s snowballed from there! LOL! I really wanted to take the time to learn about recycling and ensure that we were doing it right and it turns out, there is a LOT that we didn’t know!

It’s important to note that every municipality is different and I’d recommend researching yours here. I found a lot of information online, especially from this app called The Recycle Coach, that shows you what is recyclable in your local pickup, and it even includes collection reminders so you never miss getting that blue bin out in time! If it’s not recyclable in your local pickup, they help you figure out where to drop it off, usually at your local recycling depot. I’ve taken MANY trips to our local recycling depot and I’ve learned a lot from the staff there who have been super helpful in answering my questions!

Once you know what you can recycle and where it can be recycled, it really helps you set up your house to reduce the time it takes to recycle! I just use a couple of recycling bins and then I throw them in my vehicle and take them to the recycling depot. Voila!

I really believe that recycling is extremely important but what I’ve realized more than that, is we ultimately need to reduce our waste. From Easton’s trip to the landfill, we learned a lot about how our garbage is disposed of and the idea that our garbage from 40 years ago is STILL sitting in the landfill, barely decomposed, that tidbit of info really made me think! That’s right, that Mars bar package from 1979, is still in the landfill and it will probably never decompose! 😲

Jillian Harris Landfill
Jillian Harris Landfill

Needless to say, the smallest steps we’ve taken so far have really opened my eyes up to everything, to every purchase we make, the amount of packaging we get with gifts, how we dispose of our food (read about my composting journey here!), and what happens to our garbage/recycling when it leaves our curb! It’s crazy to think that so much packaging that we consume cannot be recycled AT ALL.

A few years ago we took a team trip to the recycling center here in Kelowna to learn more about the process in our area. What we learned was that there is a lot less we can recycle through the current recycling system than we thought. For instance, the crunchy plastic that your potato chips come in? It’s not recyclable in our local municipality recycling system, and although the recycling depot will take it, they currently are burning it for fuel trying to research how to recycle it! How crazy is that? This includes all crunchy plastic, like coffee bean packaging, pretzel bags, granola bars, crinkly pasta bags, dog food bags, cheese bags, and bubble wrap. Any packaging that you can’t put your finger through currently is NOT RECYCLABLE! I repeat it’s NOT RECYCLABLE!

Although we can recycle plastics, actually thinking about the process made me think more and more about zero waste. The lifecycle of plastics is an average of 7, so although we can recycle the plastic, its lifecycle is very short. What happens with the plastics after its lifecycle is over? Again, this made me sit and think … yes, we are doing good by recycling, but is this a sustainable solution? What are our other alternatives?

Did you know that glass and metal have an infinite life cycle? These are the most easily recycled items and they continue to be of use an infinite amount of times, unlike plastic. Therefore, I’d highly recommend switching over to as much glass and metal as possible. It’s easy to store it until you take it to the depot to recycle it, but you can also make some money back!

I recently signed up for the Return-It express program (I would highly recommend doing this if it’s available in your area!). All you have to do is give them your direct deposit info, print off a label with all of your info and stick it to your blue bags and you can leave your bottles with them and they’ll actually sort them for you and automatically deposit your bottle refund into your account! It’s seriously that easy!! LOL

Jillian Harris Pastic Free July

So far on this journey, I’ve realized that more than ever how important it is to buy less and to buy as many unpackaged items as possible. There are a ton of zero waste stores within Canada & the U.S. and they have dedicated their stores to reducing waste, especially around food and household waste. I’d highly recommend Googling one near you and checking it out! It’s so cool to see how they are set up and how much waste you really can reduce by shopping at places like these. In Kelowna, we have Farm Bound Zero Waste!

Thinking of each and every purchase and what to do with that waste can be daunting and none of us are perfect, but if we continue to be mindful we can really make an impact. For instance, even going to the grocery store and bringing your own shopping bag makes a difference. Fun fact! We learned at the recycling center, those plastic bags are not recyclable in our municipality. That’s important to note, that although there is a recycling symbol, it is not always recyclable. I have trained my brain and committed to NEVER using a plastic shopping bag.

Jillian Harris Plastic Free July
Jillian Harris Plastic Free July

In learning all about zero waste I wanted to share with you a few options that you can make a transition to zero-waste. I created a table with categories from baby/child, bathroom, food packaging, kitchen, organic matter, shopping, and cleaning! This list will continue to evolve and we would love your input too!

I’ve ranked the difficulty of each task from 1-3, with one being the easiest. My goal is that you find at least one feasible change to make because let’s be real, even one small change can go a long way!

Under the categories baby/child and bathroom my biggest takeaways are brands that offer big reusable containers that come with sustainable packaging. This has changed the way I buy our bath products, including makeup! For a higher difficulty level, there is also a lot of DIY options on Pinterest!

It became really apparent that there are tons of options for women with their monthly cycle. Now, I know that some are better than others and we are all different, but it’s really amazing to see all of these companies working towards zero waste!

In the food packaging and kitchen category, it was surprising to me how many options for zero waste there were! I’ve been using Goldilocks for a long time now and LOVE them! There are options for Ziplocs, like Stasher, and even including some for your freezer! Plus, baking alternatives to tinfoil and muffin wrappers.

Jillian Harris Plastic Free July

There seems to be more and more options for reusable bags, from Market Bags to produce bags and everything in between. You guys! There are SO many cute options out there!!

There are also SO many options out there for cleaning supplies! It amazes me how many companies are creating products that are zero waste!! The best part about all of these products? Most of them are on Amazon, so if you’re ready to start your journey to zero waste, load your cart up and it will all arrive at your door shortly!

I highly recommend that you download the PDF below, print it out and have fun with your kiddos making changes together!

Jillian Harris – Zero Waste Alternatives

Or simply save (or pin!) these images.

What change do you think is feasible? Big or small! Please remember that none of us are perfect and that even by making small changes we are making a big difference. I’m doing better, but I’m still struggling and that’s okay! It’s a work-in-progress, and together, we got this!!



Leave a Reply

  1. Just bought my Market Bags to take to the grocery store! Can’t wait to start using them! I also bought these awesome sponge towels a few weeks ago from Ten & Co to replace our paper towels and it’s been a game changer! I’m already noticing we’re using WAY less paper towel.
    Thanks for the great tips Jilly!

  2. Beautycounter is also an amazing alternative choice for make up, skin care, bath and body! They focus on sustainable packing!!!

  3. For DIY wipes I bought small, thin washcloths and I use Rocky Mountain baby bum spray. I spray the bum spray directly onto my baby’s bum and then wipe with the cloth. Very easy! I still keep disposable wipes on hand for travel and really messy diaper changes. I use Grovia Cloth diapers and they provide so much information and tips for cloth diapers. It’s very helpful for getting started!

  4. Ever since I was little my mum instilled the importance of recycling properly. You know those Hershey’s kisses? Well if she saw I put the entire thing in the garbage she’d get me to put the little paper part in the organic bin. What we didn’t focus on though, was buying stuff with little to no packaging. Your Instagram stories about zero waste made me look into more options in my area (Halifax) to look for zero waste options out there and there are a few pages. It even led me to find a zero waste Facebook page from my area which I’ve since joined. I’m making little goals one step at a time. My next vow is to never buy shampoo or conditioner from a bottle again. I just bought some shampoo/conditioner bars from Lush and look forward to never buying a shampoo bottle ever again. That’s my starting point and I’m looking forward to continuing on this ever so important journey!

  5. I literally just came on here to ask if you recommend any zero waste/sustainably packaged skin creams and was surprised to see this post!! Going to check out Lush and Unwrapped Life, thank you for this!
    You can add Rocky Mountain Soap Co. To the list, check out their website, a bunch of body products that come in the form of hand made label-less bars from Canmore, AB. Distributed in Edmonton and Calgary, maybe BC too?

  6. This is awesome, the journey to zero waste is a long one! Question for you, how do you freeze food without using plastic freezer bags or plastic wrap?! If I could find an alternative that didn’t freezer burn my food I would be all over it. I have read to use wax paper and aluminum foil but aluminum foil is still waste and is pretty expensive…. any help would be amazing!

  7. I really enjoyed this post. I have found a local store in our rural area that supplies bulk detergents, shampoos, etc. Since we have switched to Enjo, I have become very aware of all our little containers that come into our home. Enjo has a skin care line that we love – bath gloves, eye makeup remover, and diaper cloths. I don’t sell, but I do love their products.

  8. I love this post! So informative and inspiring. I’ve taken similar steps in my home and this post inspires me to do more. Thank you. XO!

  9. Hi!
    I love all these ideas! Have you guys ever looked into challenging the big box stores or manufacturers on their use of non recyclable plastic ex. tortilla bread like Old el Paso – to change to recyclable kinds? Or the Walmart Great Value brand? As big box stores they must have some kind of incentive to at least look into more sustainable alternatives?
    Elisabeth Seguin

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