Living in Whistler, we are lucky enough to witness the beauty of the natural world on a daily basis. For some, with that gratitude comes a sense of responsibility to protect the environment we call home. Adopting a zero waste lifestyle is a fantastic way to do this, and is simple, cost-effective and possible for everyone. By clicking on this article, you've just taken your first steps towards reducing your waste output and embarking on your zero-waste journey, woohoo! Let's go over the 10 steps to help you do your bit to save the planet right here in Whistler, B.C.
1. Ditch the plastic bags.
Yes, we've all heard about this, but it's not just your bags at the checkout you can boycott - what about those pesky plastic film bags in the produce section? You know, the ones that stretch and split when they're almost full, meaning you drop your apples all over the floor? The Market Bags out of Kelowna have created a gorgeous line of reusable fresh produce bags, made from recycled cotton and organic cotton/hemp blends. They make it super easy to separate your delicate fruit and veg from the rest of your groceries, and you can feel good knowing that partial proceeds from the sale of each bag is donated to charity. Leave the roll of flimsy plastic to itself and have the cutest shopping cart in The Grocery Store.
If you're not quite ready to up your bag game, opt for the paper bags usually located by the mushrooms in lieu of the plastic ones - these are much better.
2. Switch Ziplocs for food wraps.
Yes, Ziplocs are cheap and pretty good at keeping your food separated. More and more people are washing them and reusing them, which is great, but at the end of the day they are still plastic. And what's more, since they are made of three different kinds of plastic, they are almost impossible to recycle. Check out Westerly Creations' handmade beeswax food wraps, a beautiful alternative to Ziplocs that comes in all shapes and sizes to keep your avocados fresh AF. They are the perfect, eco-friendly way to pack your lunchtime snacks, and you can feel great about supporting a local business; each wrap is hand made with love in Squamish!
3. Drink tap water!
Whistler has some of the best tasting and cleanest tap water in the world, coming straight from our mountains and glaciers. Water quality is tested at multiple locations every week by the Municipality to ensure it's up to scratch. To reduce single-use plastic waste, choose tap water over bottled water. Buy one of Whistler's many funky reusable water bottles and carry it around to remind you to refill your own and save plastic from the trash.
4. Be a conscious consumer.
One of our absolute favourite zero-waste retailers is Refill Road. Out of her cabin-on-wheels, Sandra Teto travels to markets throughout the Sea to Sky showcasing her gorgeous hand made soaps, beeswax wraps, skincare and zero waste products. Luckily, she also has an online store where you can order all kinds of products to kick-start your zero waste lifestyle right here in Whistler.
When you are craving a wardrobe revamp, head to one of Whistler's awesome up-cycling and second hand stores. There are four of note: The Re-Use-It Centre, The Velvet Underground, Deja Vogue and Vula. The latter three specialize in vintage pieces and have a fantastic selection. You can often find clothes brand new with the tags still on, or at the very least in great condition. Purchasing second hand clothes extends the lifespan of the garment, diverting it from landfill when it still has plenty of years left in it. The textile industry is notoriously wasteful and consumes huge amounts of water. Buy second hand and feel great knowing you've saved over 1000 gallons of water by purchasing your pair of jeans second hand! Donating to the Re-Use-It Centre also makes quality clothes affordable for others who otherwise may not be able to purchase them new. Win-win!
5. Endorse local companies that make products from recycled or 'up-cycled' materials.
Raven Upcycling make gorgeous accessories out of recycled bicycle inner tubes. After noticing the incredibly large amount of discarded inner tubes in Whistler, they decided to take the matter in their own hands and give those inner tubes a second life. You can buy their collection of feather earrings and more in Blenz Coffee near Marketplace.
Hold My Unicorn Apparel offer a beautiful clothing line, all handmade in Whistler, using the softest bamboo fleece and up-cycled fabric. Owner-operator Amy Rafferty makes predominantly hoodies, but their collection also includes t-shirts, dresses and skirts — all one-of-a-kind pieces incorporating second-hand clothing. Shop for these products, as well as their giant vintage collection at The Velvet Underground Store in Function Junction.
Lovestones Whistler create one of a kind jewelry pieces out of sustainable materials. Using primarily raw locally sourced quartz, which is then soldered to up-cycled copper from old stripped electrical cords, the results are stunning pendants on biodegradable hemp ropes. Find the perfect one for you at the Whistler Farmer's Market every Sunday.
6. Compost everything you can!
Top tip: if you can digest it, you can definitely compost it! Compostable items include raw and cooked food, plate scrapings, leftovers, expired food, meat, bones, dairy products and more. Have a countertop compost bin to remind you to quickly dispose of your trimmings or food scraps. If you are having issues with smell or space, try freezing your compost until you can take it to the recycling station at Function or Nesters. If you don't want to fork out for a new compost container, Cows Ice Cream give away their tubs for free! They have a great locking mechanism and are the perfect food waste container, not to mention it gives you an excuse to grab some yummy ice cream (remember - go for an edible cone, not a single use cup!).
7. Bring your own food and drink containers for your litter-less lunch!
Every time you get some food or a coffee to go, bring your own container. This will save a box, lid, and potentially cutlery from going to landfill each time you eat out. You'll feel great and can enjoy your panini or poutine guilt free, without having to search for the nearest bin right afterwards! Whistler has some awesome flasks and re-usable coffee cups to choose from, and most places give you a discount for bringing your own! Score.
You can even bring your own container to The Velvet Underground in Function Junction to fill up on some delicious nut milk. Just give the lovely ladies 24 hours notice, and you can take home a litre of homemade almond, cashew, coconut, hazelnut or hemp milk for just $6.50/litre.
8. Make your own multi-purpose cleaner!
Aware Whistler have an awesome money-saving solution for cleaning at home. For a simple do-it-yourself all-purpose cleaner recipe, mix 2 teaspoons of baking soda, 1/2 cup of white vinegar and 400 mL of water. Place the ingredients in a spray bottle, shake well to mix, and clean away. Make the product your own by adding a few drops of your favourite essential oil, such as tea tree, eucalyptus, peppermint or lemon.
9. Buy refillable toiletries.
The Spa at Nita Lake Lodge now offers refills for Carina Organics products. For $12 per refill, you can enjoy their beautiful, all-natural products and waste less plastic! Quantum Health on Main Street also stock bulk Oneka Organic Shampoo and Conditioner - bring your own bottle (or purchase one for $1.50) and pay just 73 cents per oz! Switching to refills is an awesome way to save money, save the environment and endorse organic, sustainable products.
In Squamish, hit up Be Clean Naturally Soap Shoppe on Cleveland Avenue. They make their own toothpaste, shampoo and conditioner bars as well as a great variety of soaps. They also offer workshops throughout the year to learn how to make your own soaps!
If you're headed down the the city, head to The Soap Dispensary, Vancouver’s first dedicated refill shop specializing in premium soaps, household cleaners, personal products and lifestyle goods that support zero waste living. Bring your own, or purchase a reusable container and have them refilled again and again. Their products are biodegradable and selected for minimal impact on human and environmental health. Find them at 3718 Main Street, Mount Pleasant.
For a plastic-free grocery experience, head to Nada at 675 East Broadway, the store revolutionizing the grocery shopping experience. Bring your own containers, fill up with fresh goods, and pay by weight - meaning you only buy what you need. Want three eggs instead of a dozen? Go for it! One sprig of cilantro instead of the whole bunch? You bet! Their goal is to decrease food waste and unnecessary packaging, making your food shopping experience more enjoyable and less wasteful.
10. Ditch the gas.
One of the simplest ways to reduce wasteful emissions is to opt for travel on foot, bicycle or public transport. Whistler has an awesome transit system, making is easy and affordable to commute between neighbourhoods by bus. We also have a purpose built Valley Trail system to encourage less traffic on the roads! It is a 40km stretch of zero-emissions, smoothly paved tarmac that connects all of Whistler’s neighbourhoods to the village.
Biking to work is a fantastic way to start the day, get those endorphins going, and is much more enjoyable than sitting in traffic. The gentle exercise is good for you (mentally and physically) and also saves you money on gas. You can pick up a great condition commuter bike second hand in Whistler for $100 on the Buy and Sell pages or at the annual WORCA Bike Swap - where proceeds go towards supporting mountain biking in Whistler!
"Sneaking the health benefits of biking into your daily commute is so easy it almost feels like cheating!" - Momentum Magazine 2015
Congrats, you just took your first step towards reducing your waste output!
By reading this article, you've learned some new methods to reduce your waste production. Well done! Remember, becoming zero-waste is a journey, it doesn't happen overnight (so don't go chucking out those razor refills you just got on special in disgust!). Use up all your current products first, and as they run out, try replacing them with new, zero-waste alternatives.
If you're feeling inspired and want to learn more, check out some of Aware Whistler's Eco-Tips, which were created to inspire and educate on the many ways in which we can each live a more environmentally conscious and sustainable life.