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Enjoy a Zero-Waste Summer

By Larraine Roulston:

Roll out those “Lazy-Hazy-Crazy Days of Summer.” When this song was popular in the 1960s, before blue box recycling, there was little waste. Holiday participants during that decade toted a lunch basket filled with homemade sandwiches and cookies, hard boiled eggs, cut veggies and beverages in a thermoses or returnable pop bottles. Chip bags were about the only waste. Today, we fill coolers with combinations of single-serving plastic containers of fruit and yogurt, pop cans, water bottles, salads in deli tubs, bagged junk food, meat on Styrofoam trays for a BBQ, processed meats individually packaged, cheese strips in plastic, frozen kids’ treats in mini tubes and supermarket bakery goodies encased in formed plastic containers. We also generally have a supply of disposable plates, cups and small white plastic utensils. All these indeed make becoming waste-free a challenge.

Before setting out on outdoor adventures (including neighborhood pot luck parties), think about taking homemade food placed in reusable containers, and opt for fruit such as watermelon that requires no packaging. At the end of the day, return home with recyclables and organic cores/peelings for composting.

If you are befuddled about knowing where to begin, these suggestions will help:

  • No straws! Non-recyclable single-use plastic straws create waste that takes 200 years to degrade into tiny pieces of plastic. If left behind, they become a problem for birds or sea life that mistake them for food. If you need a straw, there are reusable options made of silicone, bamboo and stainless steel. Paper straws also are available, which can later be put into your take home bag for composting.
  • BYOB: Besides the familiar amber liquid associated with “byob,” I’m referring to toting your own drinking bottle. Whether it be a mason jar or a thermos, a reusable container will endure throughout your summer outings. Restaurant servers will honor filling a bottle or mug, and most places offer a discount as well.
  • For the satisfaction and enjoyment of being garbage free, pack lightweight reusable plates, cups and cutlery. At ridiculously low prices, a variety of camping supplies can be found at your nearest thrift store.
  • While planning backyard activities, keep zero-waste in mind. If hosting a birthday party, eliminate balloons and cheap plastic toys as well as over-packaged candies that are frequently found in loot bags. One idea for guest treats could be “fishing” for a prize. Think about giving small books. Comic books and those with jokes, puzzles, riddles and adventure stories generally can be found in good condition at thrift stores. Let children know they were obtained secondhand.
  • During those hot days, many children wish to try their luck at selling lemonade. Whether their efforts be for self-profit or to raise money for a worthy cause, it’s easy to have a pail of water on hand for washing glasses and a small bag available forcollecting lemon rinds tocompost.

While aiming to go zero-waste, it’s important to create an atmosphere of fun and laughter. Families who take up the challenge can have just as much enjoyment without the waste. New habits will endure for all your year-round away-from-home activities.

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Larraine writes children’s illustrated books on composting and pollinating.  To view, please visit, www.castlecompost.com

About Larraine Roulston

A mother of 4 with 6 wonderful grandchildren, Larraine has been active in the environmental movement since the early l970s. When the first blue boxes for recycling were launched in her region, she began writing a local weekly newspaper column to promote the 3Rs. Since that time, she has been a freelance writer for several publications, including BioCycle magazine. As a composting advocate, Larraine authors children's adventure stories that combine composting facts with literature. Currently she is working on the 6th book of her Pee Wee at Castle Compost series, which can be viewed at www.castlecompost.com. As well, Larraine and her husband Pete have built a straw bale home and live in Ontario.

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