by Peter Speckner, Communications Coordinator

No, this is not a post about ghosts. It is however about the energy that is used by electronic equipment even when they are turned off.  That energy is called “phantom power” or “vampire power”, and it can represent up to 10% of your electricity bill. If you’re not sure when I’m talking about, read on.  You might be surprised to see just how prolific it is.

Phantom power can be found everywhere

The easiest way to describe a device that uses phantom power is anything uses a remote or has a digital clock display. Sounds like most of the electronics in your home? You’re right, it probably does. The convenience of having these items always at the ready for us to use comes at the cost of them constantly using power, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. With some items, it might not be much, but with others, they use almost as much power when turned off as they do when they’re on.

Check out this chart provided by the Ontario Ministry of Energy :

phantom power usage by device

As you can see, equipment like your desktop PC or video game console use more power when turned off then when they’re actually being used. The total cost of the power used by each device may not seem like much (maybe $10/year), but when you consider that you probably have upwards of 30 or 40 devices that use phantom power – it can really add up.

The worst offenders for phantom power use

According to Burlington Hydro, the top 10 products that use phantom or standby power are:

  1. Room Air Conditioner
  2. Answering Machines
  3. Clock Radios
  4. Clothes Washer
  5. Cordless Phones
  6. Desktop / Laptop Computer
  7. Fax Machine
  8. Microwave Oven
  9. Computer Speakers
  10. Video Game Console

This list is not nearly complete though. You could still add as major culprits; phone chargers, printers, dryers (digital display), cable boxes (especially with DVR’s), coffee makers, surround sound systems, and televisions.

And we still haven’t exhausted the list. Look around at the electronic devices near you.  If you see anything that is turned off but see has a light on or you know is always at the ready – it is using phantom power.  That is a lot of things consuming power when they’re not even being used!

How to curb phantom power

power bar with timerThe most effective way to eliminate phantom power is to unplug your electronics when not in use. While not a convenient method, it would be effective. For things that you don’t regularly unplug (printer, computer, stereo system), you could plug them into a power bar, and then turn off the power bar.  That would also eliminate any power they would potentially try and use when off.

Then there are power bars with energy saving built in. If devices are used on a regularly scheduled pattern, then a power bar with timers would kill the power during the down time of those devices.

For a coupon to save money on advanced power bars and other energy-saving products, check out saveONenergy.

energy star programAn even better opportunity to make changes is when you buy items. Look for the Energy Star label before you buy.  It identifies the most energy efficient products, with reduced energy use even in standby mode.

Phantom power: a by-product of a convenience-based society

There is no doubt that we have more conveniences today than at any time previously. Our coffee makers have coffee ready for us when we wake up.  Our DVR records our favourite shows when we’re not home, and we have digital clocks everywhere, making finding out the time easier than ever.  All this convenience comes with a cost though, one that some people may not be happy to pay.  How comfortable you are with the extra few dollars on your electrical bill every month is up to you.

One final thought: if we all decreased our phantom power use, even by little, and multiplied those savings by the millions of homes in Canada –that would save a lot of energy in the long run.  Just something to think about.

feature photo credit: aronalison Macro Buttons! via photopin (license)

by Corey Pembleton

In my last post, I covered some of the reasons why making individual lifestyle changes has a big impact on our communities and our country in terms of climate emissions. I left off by saying that the most effective way we can make a national change is through the ways we heat and cool our buildings, and keep them that way.

But just how important are buildings when it comes to energy reduction?

For starters, they comprise of the third largest national contributor to emissions following oil and gas and transportation sectors (first and second, respectively)–making buildings an ‘easy target’ in efficiency.

This same result was found in our own region – our houses are the third largest consumer of energy, and likely one of the easiest to change at the individual level. Second, for many of us it isn’t an easy choice to switch to cycling to work, or to buy a hybrid car. But making the move to retrofit our homes is often practical and affordable especially with the current Home Reno Rebate program.

There are others things we can do to reduce our carbon footprint and save money: changing driving patterns, consuming less water, and recycling and composting waste are some; but in terms of effectiveness regarding money spent and emissions reduced residential and home upgrades are on top.

So what does this mean on the national and individual level? On that national stage, Canadians decreasing the energy consumed at home means we can remove ourselves from the infamous first place position of top energy users in the world. On the individual front, it means saving money and energy by reducing the amount of energy needed to keep our houses cool or warm.

A “tight” house is a good house!

When it comes to retrofitting there are some key aspects laid out by the government and home industry leaders which together keep our homes efficient: the building envelope, the mechanical system, and the people who live in them. We were missing this system-approach in our family home, and missing out on all the long-term benefits of investing in an efficient home.

Regardless of what your motivating factor is, an efficient and effective way we as individuals can collectively improve our standard of living: retrofitting your home brings clear and quick benefits such as increasing home comfort, saving money, and reducing your carbon footprint.

Like many Canadians, I was born and raised in an old, drafty house. It was impossible to keep cool in the summer or warm in the winter, and I was always put into a state of disbelief when I heard about my parents’ natural gas and electricity bills. Growing up, I assumed that this is the way it is with “old drafty houses”, it’s just part a parcel of living in an old home. In the 90s, the house got some retrofitting consisting mainly of new insulation in the walls and roof. These upgrades were a good start, but when it came to keeping the heat in, a few major things were missing: the house still wasn’t ‘tight’.

Different needs for retrofitting vary from house to house which is why it’s important to have a home energy evaluation before you start. But what they have in common is that we’re aiming to keep our buildings as tightly sealed as possible. The longer that temperature change can maintain itself after heating or cooling without needing more energy (such as turning on the furnace or air conditioner) the better off we are for comfort, time and energy consumption reasons.

In the most basic sense, keeping a tight house matters because:

  • Heat easily leaves the house from the ceiling, walls, windows and basement
  • Airflow between indoors and outdoors causes major heat loss
  • Heat and humidity levels varying between the indoors and outdoors can cause moisture to remain in undesirable quantities resulting in damage

How to upgrade your home’s energy efficiency

When considering what changes are best to be made, priorities vary house to house and are dependent upon what upgrades are in place (such as insulation and caulking), how old the house is, and how the house currently consumes energy. To find out more on how you can retrofit your house, and what retrofits may be best for you check out the Home Energy 101 posts on the REEP Green Solutions website, or the following great free resources:

  1. Natural Resources Canada: Keeping the Heat In
  2. Canadian Energy Efficiency Alliance: Energy Efficiency Tips
  3. Ontario SaveOnEnergy: Tips, rebates, savings

Together, we can make a greater impact!

In the Waterloo Region, energy use in homes is accountable for nearly a quarter of all energy in the region and half of the region’s total natural gas consumption. Because of this, energy use in our homes is one of the key areas of focus of the ClimateActionWR Plan which has set ambitious goals for energy reduction in total energy use measured through greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions at the household level which carry a strong collective impact.

Already work being done by individual households taking on small individual changes at the community level has contributed to a reduction of nearly 25,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas–no small amount, which is only growing as more and more residents get involved.

When we make a small change at home such as putting new windows in, sealing our houses with caulking, installing more efficient furnaces or water heaters  we save money and reduce our carbon footprint. At the same time, we’re making our region a better place to live and reducing our impact on our planet.

Meeting our goal of reducing our entire region’s collective carbon footprint by 6% by 2020 is no small feat when considering the massive population and economic increases we’re anticipating. But by taking part and making changes in our homes from the small to the large we’re all contributing however we can, continuing to change and make Waterloo Region a leader in climate change mitigation in the country.

By Corey Pembleton

It wasn’t until long ago that I doubted the importance of individual action on our collective fight against a rapidly changing climate. In the face of such massive national and international carbon emissions, I considered what difference my ‘little’ impact would even have?

Our actions have a massive collective impact on the planet

The answer is, our individual actions have a massive collective impact on the planet. In many instances, the small changes we can make daily are the ones that can collectively have the largest impact on the planet; such as the ways we commute to work, or being in Canada, the ways we heat and cool our homes.

Looking at the national data closer, we can see how the small aspects of our everyday lives are what collectively add up to large national emissions levels. On a national scale, our carbon footprint is rapidly increasing. Since 1990 there has been a 20% increase in total greenhouse gas emissions in Canada, with the largest sectoral emitters being the oil and gas sector (26% of the total) and the transportation sector (23% of the total). The other main emissions sources are from buildings, agriculture, emissions & trade-exposed industries, and waste sectors.

Opposed to thinking that the main contributors to our very large climate emissions comes from big industry only, it becomes clear that it is the cumulative impact that small actions have: how we get around, what we consume, and how and where we live. The impacts of these individual actions become especially apparent when combined at the municipal and provincial levels.

Waterloo Region’s collective action on climate change

Canadian municipalities have begun tackling emissions at the grassroots level, including Waterloo Region through the ClimateActionWR plan, which collectively measures the emissions reductions at the individual, regional and provincial levels.

Small daily changes mean collective results

Through the ClimateActionWR plan, I can see how my individual actions help to contribute to regional goals, which in turn scale up at the national level by millions of Canadians contributing in whatever way they can. A decrease in my carbon footprint is possible due to a series of small decisions that add up to something bigger.

I intentionally restricted where I would move to be nearer the core (closer to cycle paths and transit in winter), and take the bus or train whenever I go into Toronto or Montreal (16 car trips to Toronto = 1 tonne Co2!). As fairly transient person in my late 20s, this is how I can mitigate my own footprint, which differs from person to person, family to family and must be feasible, practical, and beneficial.

Building emissions: an easy target for homeowners

As the third largest source of emissions in the country after the oil and gas and transportation sectors, heating and cooling our buildings is the next largest emitter – making it an easy target for where emissions can be cut.

For Canadians homeowners, a great way to reduce your carbon footprint is through making home efficiency upgrades (even on heritage homes). Take a look at our new dashboard to see the impact when individual actions are considered as the collective results of a community working together.

We’ll examine how this works in more detail in a subsequent blog post about how individual home improvements bring big changes to our national emissions outputs.

Helping a homeowner maximize savings on energy

by Kristin Koetsier

Cambridge resident Normand Genest had been meaning to redo his kitchen and basement for a long time, and had already planned to make replacing windows and adding insulation a part of the project. He was just about to put his plans into action when he heard about the Union Gas Home Reno Rebate program on TV, and decided to take advantage of the opportunity to maximize his savings by getting in touch with Reep Green Solutions.

Quick response on home energy evaluation

Genest was impressed by how quickly the Home Energy Evaluation was arranged after he first called. “They were very accommodating because they came the next day to do the initial evaluation,” he says. “So that was great for me because it had to be done before the renovation would begin.”

Renovations include home energy upgrades

Genest had previously installed a new furnace and air conditioning system as well as extra insulation in the attic. He’d also recently installed a new water heater with an electric shut-off vent.

This most recent renovation involved redoing the kitchen and family room, so Genest had four windows plus one large bay window replaced while they were at it. They also put foam insulation in the basement walls and installed an air exchanger. As the Certified Energy Advisor who performed the evaluation recommended, they installed the air exchanger before having the foam insulation put in, so that it could be sealed properly.
basement mid-renovation installing insulationThe comfort of the basement has definitely improved since the renovation, as it is now much warmer than before, and the energy efficiency of the house has improved significantly. The house will use 1,138 cubic metres less natural gas per year, keeping 2.2 tonnes of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. Genest expects to receive a rebate cheque from Union Gas because of these improvements.

Saving energy requires changing behaviours

In addition to making structural changes to their home, Genest and his wife have long employed energy saving techniques such as turning the water heater on vacation mode when they’re away, and avoiding peak hydro times.

“People have to change their behaviour,” Genest says.

Take advantage of Reep House displays

Although Genest was already fairly confident making home renovation decisions, he found the Home Energy Evaluation helpful in identifying leaks and ways to improve air tightness, as well as advice on how to prioritize spending. He also enjoyed seeing the many different kinds of insulation on display at the REEP House for Sustainable Living at 20 Mill Street – something he thinks could be especially helpful for someone who is new to home renovations. The display of shower heads of varying water efficiencies was similarly helpful.

Renovate as soon as possible to maximize savings

If Genest could recommend one thing to other homeowners, it’s to do their renovations as early as possible in order to maximize their savings.

“If I would have done [the basement reno] ten years ago, it would have paid for itself by now from the energy savings,” he says. “Don’t wait too long – do it as soon as you can, so you can reap the maximum benefits.”

If your house is in need of renovations, it’s best for both your pocketbook and the environment to do those renovations as soon as you can.

Basement reno improves energy efficiency

by Kristin Koetsier

Renovating your basement usually brings greater comfort and an improved living space, but when done with the environment in mind, it can also reduce your impact on the planet.

Landers and Bergey in renovated basementThis was the case for St. Agatha homeowners Robyn Landers and Susan Bergey, who first had a Home Energy Evaluation done several years ago when doing renovations to install a solar PV system on their home through the Mennonite Initiative Solar Energy (MISE) project. They made some improvements at that time to their home’s insulation, windows, and doors.

Last year, they wanted to renovate the basement. In order to qualify for the Home Reno Rebate program, they required a new Home Energy Evaluation.

Taking action on home energy upgrades

Doubling stud depth to accept 3 inch insulation

Doubling stud depth to accept 3 inch insulation

Using Way-Mar as a project manager and Bast Home Comfort as an HVAC company (see our list of contractors), the couple replaced their 17-yr-old furnace and air conditioner with a highly efficient new unit, and significantly modified the ductwork while retaining an HRV for energy-efficient air exchange. They also had the basement gutted in order to double the stud depth to three inches, spray urethane foam insulation, and insulate the water pipes. Four leaky single-pane windows were also replaced, and the door between the basement and garage was upgraded from hollow wood to insulated steel.

Landers and Bergey also chose to install cork flooring – a renewable and natural option – instead of high volatile organic compound (VOC) vinyl flooring in the bedroom and bathroom. Cork floors have more going for them than just the environmental angle as well; as Landers notes, “They’re warm and comfortable underfoot, and have a beautiful appearance with a variety of colours and textures available.” For the rec room, they are thinking of installing linseed-oil linoleum, another environmentally friendly and stylish choice which is anti-microbial, anti-static, and very durable.

Greater comfort achieved by improving energy efficiency

As a result of these renovations, there is much less heat loss through the foundation and windows, as well as an improved vapour seal. Thanks to this reduced heat loss and the 97+% efficiency furnace, the couple expects to use less natural gas this winter, leading to some monetary savings. They’ve further found that, on top of being quieter and more energy efficient, their new heating/cooling system allows for finer temperature control, with better air circulation – particularly in the basement. They have even converted a former storage room into a bedroom now that the space is more comfortable.

This renovation is a great example of how energy efficiency and comfort can often go hand-in-hand.

Reduced use of natural gas helps fight climate change

And the benefits don’t stop with comfort; a second Home Energy Evaluation done after these renovations found that the home’s EnerGuide Rating had changed from 54 to 66, so Landers and Bergey expect to receive a Home Reno Rebate to assist with the cost.

As far as fighting climate change goes, these renos will allow the couple to save 1410 cubic metres of natural gas each year, keeping 2.7 tonnes of CO2 out of the atmosphere. So their work on their home is helping our local climate action plan achieve its target for Waterloo Region.

Every home can benefit from a home energy evaluation

Although this scale of renovation may be more than many homeowners can manage, Landers strongly recommends getting a Home Energy Evaluation done, as he found it helped him and Bergey to assess the cost-effectiveness of different options, as well as to identify problem spots and sources of leaks.

“Aside from the big ticket items that people probably think of, a home energy evaluation can also reveal simple inexpensive small things you can do that will add up,” says Landers. “And no matter how much you do, there’s usually something more, if you’re willing to go that far.”

Dreams for the future

As for themselves, Landers and Bergey have done enough renovating for now, but dream of switching to geothermal heating once this new furnace runs its course. They would also like to rewire their solar photovoltaic system to provide electricity directly to the house once their MicroFIT contract expires.

Landers hopes that public opinion will shift to support the subsidization of renewable energy companies rather than oil, noting that it doesn’t make sense to think that we can continue to use high-carbon energy indefinitely at a cheap price.


Learn more about Home Energy Evaluations and how they help you access up to $5000 in the Home Reno Rebate program.


Mary Jane Patterson, Executive DirectorOn January 16, Mary Jane Patterson, executive director of Reep Green Solutions, made this presentation to Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa as part of his pre-budget consultations.

As an organization that works in energy efficiency and co-leads our community’s Climate Action Plan, we are pleased to give our recommendations for Ontario’s budget, with a particular focus on climate change, conservation and a low carbon economy. Our recommendations also benefit the economic development of Ontario, especially small businesses.

  1. To facilitate the movement away from fossil fuel heating, we strongly recommend that the current, temporary infusion of provincial funds to the natural gas utilities’ incentive programs become a long term, stable residential energy efficiency retrofit incentive program, verified by independent third party professional energy audits.
  2. We serve Waterloo Region, which includes Kitchener, one of the two cities in the province with a locally owned natural gas utility. These citizens will be left out when the province’s current contribution to Enbridge and Union Gas conservation programs ends. The utilities may provide incentives for their customers, but homes not served by them will not have access. Incentives should be easily accessible to all Ontarians–regardless of where they live or their choice of heating fuel.
  3. The incentive program should be stable and long term, to give time for people to learn about a program, and integrate it into their home renovation plans. These are big decisions for homeowners that take time to make and implement. As an organization on the front lines, we see how difficult it is to engage the public in something fleeting, with a limited commitment from the government.
  4. Small and medium-sized renovation, insulation, and heating and cooling businesses thrive when homes are upgraded to become more energy efficient. Our participants contribute an average of $9,000 per home to the local economy when they take part in the incentive program and make their homes more energy efficient. That is $1 million in the last two years from a little over 100 households in Waterloo Region. It is good for the economy when we reduce our reliance on fossil fuels.
  5. We need to provide much more financial assistance for lower-income households to make the kinds of home energy efficiency upgrades that are provided through the incentive program. People who cannot afford to make changes to their home will otherwise be left out of the low carbon economy, and suffer the most under the carbon tax regime.
  6. In support of small businesses and of economic growth, energy literacy education should include and support the concept of local energy security, to encourage communities to work together to keep energy dollars local, through energy conservation and local generation.

We look forward to working with the province of Ontario in building together an economy and environment that are sustainable.



58 Hazelglen Drive is a 6-unit townhouse, built in 1975, in the Victoria Hills neighbourhood. It is one of several owned and managed by George Lavallee in Kitchener-Waterloo. As an experienced realtor George has made his living by thinking ahead of the curve. So with the trend in rising utility rates he saw an opportunity to convert the lawn at Hazelglen to a rain garden that would be eligible for stormwater credits to help offset these rising operational costs.


A downspout at the front of the building directed water to the residents’ parking lot. According to George Lavallee “in the winter the ice builds up regularly in the parking lot and causes a huge demand for salt” to prevent slips and falls for tenants and their visitors. Another downspout dumped water close to the building’s foundation which put the basement at risk of flooding. George also wanted to improve the curb appeal of the property without significantly increasing its maintenance budget.

Project Details:

  • 5,000 Litre capacityLocation: 58 Hazelglen Dr., Kitchener
  • Maximum Capacity: 5,000 L
  • Estimated Diversion Per Year: 27,000 L
Filsinger Park Naturalization:

The Victoria Hills is home to Filsinger Park, which features a natural urban creek. The creek was straightened and lined with concrete in the 1970s so that it could remove water from neighbouring properties as quickly as possible and send it downstream. In 2014-2015, it underwent a facelift that reflects updated perceptions on how best to manage stormwater. The City of Kitchener removed the concrete and replaced it with a meandering stream surrounded by native plants on its banks. This project was a pilot to determine the capacity of a naturalized stream to handle big storm events and reduce downstream impacts. Hand in hand with this naturalization work, the City of Kitchener is providing incentives for property owners to manage rain where it falls.

By soaking up water on their own properties, such as at the rain garden at 58 Hazelglen, people can do their part to help protect urban waterways.


To address these concerns, George Lavallee partnered with REEP Green Solutions on a RAIN Demonstration Project, made possible by a grant from the City of Kitchener. The downspouts at the front of the building were re-configured to outlet away from the parking lot and buried under the sidewalk so that any runoff flows into a rain garden. This effectively addressed the ice build-up in the parking lot so that less salt is required over the winter months, thereby reducing maintenance costs.

The rain garden is specially designed to capture a large volume of water that will slowly percolate into the ground within 24-48 hours. Rain gardens differ from regular gardens because they are dug out and filled with a mixture of compost, soil and mulch with a large percentage of sand. Sand has more pore space which enables the garden to act like a sponge and hold larger volumes of water. Once the rain garden excavation was complete, residents from the neighbourhood participated in a RAIN Garden Party to learn how to make their own rain garden and plant the one at 58 Hazelglen. Native plants were selected because they are able to thrive in extreme wet and dry conditions. As their root systems grow, the rain garden will be able to better infiltrate water into the ground.

hazelglen stormwater solution

RAIN Partners & Funders

City of Cambridge logo

Check out REEP Green Solutions Zero Waste 101 for blog posts and videos on how you can reduce your waste and live a more sustainable lifestyle!

Here’s our prize winners in the Zero Waste Challenge. They were randomly selected from among the 27 participants who completed our end-of-challenge survey by November 3.


Carolyn Withrow – Avocado Coop: A Sample Care Package (Dishwasher tabs from Bio-Vert with divertible packaging, Plastic composting bags from Eco II, Garbage bags made from 100% industrial plastics, Tissue box from Cascades made from 100% post consumer paper, and a pack of 6 paper towel from Cascades made from 100% post consumer paper).

Tracey RaynorTracey Raynor

Brush with Bamboo: An Oral Care Set (toothbrush, tongue scraper, and bamboo toothbrush travel case)

Community Carshare winners


Natalie Heldsinger & Jackson Smith – Community CarShare: A waived application fee and $60 in driving credit with the purchase of a new driving membership ($101.70 value, taxes included).







Check out REEP Green Solutions Zero Waste 101 for blog posts and videos on how you can reduce your waste and live a more sustainable lifestyle!

More than 80% succeeded

We asked our 123 participants in the Zero Waste Challenge Waterloo Region from 69 households to let us know how they did and 27 households responded.

  • 11 fit their garbage destined for the landfill into a one litre mason jar with room to spare
  • 11 filled their mason jar

So 81% of survey respondents successfully met the 5 day challenge. And it’s safe to say that everyone who attempted the challenge found that they thought about their habits and choices related to waste.

Congratulations everyone!

What was most difficult about the challenge?

We asked our participants to reflect on what they found most challenging.

Here’s some of their responses:

  • Packaging on fresh fruit and veggies, and cold meds (the family was sick during this). Also, packaging on frozen items. I would love to be able to go get fresh fish and food from the market every time, but that doesn’t always work with the budget or the schedule. It is certainly easier in the summer, especially with a veggie/herb patch. We don’t do much in the way of ready-made food at all but still had a lot of packaging.
  • I live in an apartment that doesn’t have green bins or compost pickup.
  • There were some snack habits that I had that resulted in waste that were hard to refuse because of convenience.
  • I don’t throw many items in the garbage but I felt frustrated that I could not eliminate more.
  • Not allowing the waste to come into my home in the first place (reduce & refuse) requires much more thought and planning, making it more difficult.
  • I guess I found the recycle part of the challenge the most difficult, mainly because it involved the most research to find out what was and wasn’t recyclable in the challenge. I also discovered that recyclable goods made up the bulk of our waste and have set myself the challenge to reduce this by using the other 4 Rs.
  • Items that are common purchases in stores come packed in non-recyclable material, including such things as certain plastics, and food packaging. eg. styrofoam, bubble wrap, absorbent pad in meat packages, certain plastic wraps.
  • Limited opportunities to reuse certain products.
  • Refusing often means not buying a product due to its packaging and sometimes one needs the product and doesn’t have time to find alternatives.
  • When purchasing items they often give you unnecessary things like brown paper bags for your muffins or receipts that just get recycled.
  • I found that the things I was throwing out, weren’t able to be reused at all.
  • Consumerism is alive an well! For decades I’ve been taught to want all the nice new things and all the neat toys. I’ve been taught that you are a bad person, and people will get upset with you if you don’t buy them gifts, even if the gifts are unneeded and wasteful. Even if you try to get “green” gifts, like reusable bags or something that’s handmade, it’s still wasteful if they don’t want it or won’t use or reuse it.
  • Buying food is really really hard. Everything is packaged in plastic. You can bring your own produce bags and shopping bags, but want a cucumber? It’s in plastic wrap. Organic peppers? Also in plastic. Crackers, cereal, granola bars – also come with wrappings. This was easier when the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program was in season, but is really overwhelming to try at the grocery store.
  • It is hard to find certain certain products that you need in a litter-less form. Most of my jar contents were plastic food wrappers.
  • Sometimes there are no other options (out for lunch, etc.). Also, the majority of meat comes packaged in styrofoam dishes.
  • It’s often very difficult to turn down free stuff, or to spend more on quality items, than to buy cheap junk that I’ll end up throwing out, even though I want too.
  • I found that I use disposable one-use plastics for foods more often and with less thought than I should!
  • I don’t buy a lot in general, so refuse/reduce have started to come naturally. But I think I’m not very careful about sorting my waste. I think there’s a lot that I throw away that could be recycled. Still find myself confused and second guessing about what belongs in the blue bin.
  • In public spaces, it’s not always easy to find recycling. I think I could be a lot better about reusable solutions to disposable items.
  • Composting is easy, but I think I have some work to do when it comes to buying the right amount of produce and making sure nothing ever gets wasted.
  • Refuse and reduce were equally difficult due to the packaging of some regularly-used consumer products. It can be difficult to stop using a product you’ve used for years because of the packaging it comes in. The biggest challenge for me was sourcing relative products with less post-consumer packaging.
  • I live in an apartment with no composting capabilities. My business office also has no composting capabilities. With no family in the area, and friends that live either out of town or in their own apartment complexes with no composting capabilities, it was quite difficult to find a place to compost, which was the vast majority of my waste. Living in uptown Waterloo, I would have to travel out to the Waterloo landfill to dispose of my compost, which defeats the purpose by introducing excess carbon through travel. The community gardens in the area had no green bins available. I eventually found a housing complex and threw my compost in an unsuspecting family’s green bin.
  • I really couldn’t think what I could reuse. It didn’t seem to apply
  • Refuse proved to be the most challenging especially when it came to buying organic groceries. Most of the organic produce, meats and other products are heavily wrapped in plastic or other non-recyclable wrapping. In some cases, we sacrificed buying organic foods (which is very important to us) in order to limit the amount of garbage.
  • The biggest problem for me was meat trays which aren’t recyclable and can’t be reused. I also had a crazy busy work week so I ended up purchasing food that came wrapped in plastic.
  • I took free things without thinking. Then regretted it.

What is your experience?

Have you tried to reduce your life generates? What was your most difficult challenge? Let us know in the comments below.

Advice to reduce your waste

If you’re looking to reduce your waste, check out the ideas found on our zero waste 101 page.

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