Hi, I’m Gabrielle and this is Leafy Thoughts. Yes, I am a Geo, but loving the Earth is not discipline-dependent. In fact, one could argue that Geos love the outdoors more than Enviros because our dream jobs are out in the forest eating bugs and licking rocks, but I digress. This column is about environmental topics that pique my interest and tips and tricks that you can do to help this little planet of ours.
Topic one is about TRASH; how you can reduce it, what to put in it, and what the university is doing well (and not so well).
Let’s talk about food in garbage. A 2015 study by the Food and Drink Federation found that approximately 7% of the world’s methane is produced by food waste in landfills. Methane is the same greenhouse gas that cows emit and it is 21 times better at heating up the planet than CO2. Luckily, it is very easy to keep food out of the garbage: composting! But composting on campus is not always possible; you may have noticed that there are very few greenbins. Luckily there’s a new sticker in the washrooms at UW. It’s big and green and it’s stuck on the side of garbage bins, and in big white lettering it says: ORGANICS ONLY. Yes, that means you should be putting paper towels in there, but you can also put apple cores, lunch leftovers, tea bags, and whatever else might go in a typical compost bin. You cannot put feminine products in them, nor should you need to because there are boxes provided in the stalls for those. You should also refrain from putting anything in them that is not organic; there are enough trash bins on campus that you won’t have to walk far to find one. If you’ve ever been upset at the lack of greenbins on campus – where can I put my banana peel!? – then this is your perfect solution!
What about reducing trash production? Well, the “zero-waste” movement is finally catching up to Waterloo. Not only did Orientation kits this year include swanky waterbottles (that don’t look leaky for once!) but they also included a re-useable cutlery set! Plastic forks and knives are some of the most easily reduced plastics, and always having a set in your backpack ensures you’re ready any time you want to grab take-out or food on the go. If you’re looking to go low-waste, but don’t know where to start, don’t go out and buy re-useable alternatives to everything you already own! Finish what you have first and see what you have that might be converted from trash to treasure. Something like the re-sealable frozen fruit bags make really good Ziplocks alternatives; yes, you can buy fun colourful bags for $15 each, but these ones are already in your fridge! Pasta sauce jars are really good for bulk food items if you want to start reducing packaging, and you can save money on paper compost bags by keeping your LCBO bags!
Of course, there’s always room for improvement, so here’s my call to Waterloo. We shouldn’t be selling anything in Styrofoam cups or bowls anymore. Styrofoam is one of the worst materials because it is literally nothing but trash once it has been used; it cannot be recycled or composted or re-used with much success. As 2019 draws to a close I challenge the university to drop all use of Styrofoam products, there’s no need for Styrofoam in 2020!
Think and do something green and I’ll see you again next issue!