The Reusable Revolution: Small Changes You Can Make Now

Canada has consistently ranked as one of the worst waste-producing countries in the world, with some studies even claiming that Canada’s total waste generation (including industrial waste) is the highest in the world. And with an average Canadian producing nearly 673 kilograms of waste per year, it’s no surprise. 

Among this hefty trash is one of the worst polluters – plastics. More than 85% of plastic waste (around half of which is single-use plastics) produced in Canada ends up in over 10,000 landfill sites across the country. The decomposition of this rash releases methane, a greenhouse gas that’s 21 times more damaging than carbon dioxide. 

Recycling is not the answer to our plastic addiction – only 9% of our plastic waste gets recycled! If we want to get out of this literal garbage dump of a situation, we have to switch from single-use plastics to reusable and sustainable options. While it may seem overwhelming when you start to examine how pervasive plastics are in our life – everything from toothbrushes and shampoo bottles to that go-to morning coffee – there are so many sustainable alternatives that are easy and cost-effective. Here are some swaps you can make in your home to start your reusable revolution today. 

In Your Kitchen

  1. 1. Stainless steel lunch boxes and reusable cutlery – if you’re always on the go, a set of stainless steel lunch boxes and cutlery is a necessity, so you don’t have to keep throwing out takeout cutlery. 
  2. 2. Reusable cups and water bottles – Canadians use approximately 4.2 billion cups of to-go coffee a year and as many as 65 million plastic water bottles end up in the garbage. That convenient coffee cup will take 20 years to decompose and the water bottle will take a whopping 450 years to break down! Reusable coffee cups and water bottles is an easy swap that can have a significant impact.  
  3. 3. Reusable straws – 57 million plastic straws are used in Canada every day! Switching to reusable stainless steel straws has never been easier and you can find them everywhere from Amazon to Canadian Tire. 
  4. 4. Glass jars and bulk food purchases – The next time you go for a grocery run, take a look at all the food items sold in plastic containers. It’s shocking and it may seem like an impossible task to stop buying plastic entirely. But many of those same items can be found at bulk food stores like Bulk Barn and Farmers Markets, which are good for the planet and your wallet. If you can’t find your favourite items there, opt for products in glass jars or aluminum tins.
  5. 5. Mesh produce bags and reusable grocery/tote bags – Innocuous plastic produce and grocery bags create a ton of garbage, 15 billion end up in the landfill every year! Mesh produce bags are a great alternative and come in a variety of sizes to suit your needs. 
  6. 6. Beeswax wrap – these wonderful wraps are washable, reusable and compostable and a great way to get rid of unnecessary waste created by cling film. 
  7. 7. Dish towels and sponge cloths – these magic sponge cloths are machine-washable and biodegradable and a great alternative to paper towels to clean up messes. 
  8. 8. Make your own cleaning products – here’s a great recipe for an all-purpose cleaner that’s better for you and the planet.  
  9. 9. Coconut scrub pads – these pads will get rid of tough stains without scratching delicate surfaces, plus they’re organic and biodegradable. 
  10. 10. Sandwich pouch – reusable sandwich bags are environmentally friendly and cute! These ones can be tossed in the dishwasher and reused. 

In Your Bathroom

  • 1. Bamboo toothbrush – Bamboo is the fastest growing plant on the planet, it releases 30% more oxygen and absorbs more carbon dioxide as compared to other plants. Bamboo is a great plant for all things eco-friendly, like these bamboo toothbrushes
  • 2. Stainless steel razors – ditch disposable plastic razors for these beautiful and eco-friendly stainless steel razors that only need replacement blades. 
  • 3. Shampoo and conditioner bars and soap bars – So much of our everyday items come in plastic packaging and those same items need to be replaced on a regular basis. All of those shampoo, conditioner and shower gel bottles can be replaced with bars. Lush has a substantial selection of shampoo and conditioner bars that will quickly become your new favourites. 
  • 4. Reusable bamboo pads – these bamboo pads can easily replace your single-use cotton pads and can be washed and reused up to 2,000 times. 
  • 5. Microfibre face cloths – It’s tempting to reach for makeup wipes after a long day but these face cloths are machine washable and can even remove water-proof mascara.  
  • 6. Biodegradable cotton swabs – made of bamboo and cotton, these are 100% biodegradable. 
  • 7. Bamboo toilet paper – we’ve already talked about the wonders of bamboo and they extend to toilet paper
  • 8. Silk floss – made from natural silk and plant-based wax, this floss is 100% biodegradable. 
  • 9. Reusable sanitary pads and menstrual cups – Sanitary products and their packaging generate more than 200,000 tonnes of waste every year. Cloth sanitary pads, menstrual cups or these Knix Leakproof Underwear reduce a lot of this waste but the switch can be difficult. You can start by switching to applicator free tampons. 
  • 10. Natural deodorant and toothpaste – While this may be a difficult swap, Lush and other companies make great all natural deodorant and toothpaste alternatives that come in glass jars. 

In Your Home

  • 1. Say no to new clothes – 10 million tonnes of clothing end up in North American landfills every year. Before you head to the stores, try thrift stores, organize a clothing swap with friends or look for inspiration for new outfit ideas using your existing clothes. 
  • 2. Book swap – instead of buying new books constantly, swap with your friends for new reads and less waste, or head to your local library. You can also switch to e-books and audio books, Libby is a great resource for avid readers. Just load your library card and you can borrow thousands of free e-books and audio books available through your local library
  • 4. Laundry – While laundry detergent bottles are recyclable, many of them still end up in landfills. Instead, try these eco-friendly laundry strips and dryer balls
  • 5. Eco-friendly phone cases – While this may seem innocuous, it’s also such a simple swap! Pela phone cases are compostable, zero-waste and made in Canada. 
  • 6. Learn about proper recycling and composting – clean out your containers and learn what can and can’t be recycled and composted from your local government website.

While this list may seem daunting, it’s meant as a resource for many of the swaps you can make around your home. Start with what’s easiest for you and work your way up to your reusable revolution. When you’re ready to start making some of these small changes, check out bare market—Toronto’s newest one-stop-shop for package-free goods. They feature a body, home, and food section that sells many of the items listed above. You can check out their full product list here. 

They buy items like soap, olive oil and popcorn in bulk from local producers and let you bring in your own containers to fill. Their clever yet easy to use weighing system means you’re only paying for the contents inside, kind of like a chic, eco-friendly Bulk Barn. Check them out at 1480 Danforth for their opening on February 1st.

  • Bottom image credit of @jakegrahamphoto and @megangloverphoto found on Instagram.