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Queen of Green Journey – Rethink Waste

Spring is definitely here, and with it comes a recap of my first 2 weeks of my personal journey with the David Suzuki Foundation’s Queen of Green challenge and my experience learning from my two Green Coaches Evelyn Tanaka and Meghan Vesey.

As a busy working professional of two businesses, I had noticed my lifestyle slowly slipping into an unhealthy territory lately.  You know the feeling, the overindulged after a long Winter, lazy-but-should-know-better, well intentioned feeling of getting your health and life organized in a way that feels good both physically, spiritually and emotionally fulfilling.  Living in a condominium suited me for convenience, but was always challenging to get in the habit of recycling. Frozen meal options and eating out had become a norm, even though it was making me feel sluggish. To date, my life had become one that was consumed by tight timelines and socializing (one of the perks but also excuses I have made), easy yet not always the greenest choices to fit my busy day-to-day schedule.  That feeling of neglecting my health and  emotional connection nature and to social responsibility needed a lifeline stat!  So when the opportunity to join an 8 week challenge came about, I was on board and grateful for an opportunity to kickstart my transition.

First off, I have known my coaches for numerous years, having been involved in a number of their events for their  non-profit organization True Vision Ghana.  Both ladies have been on their own green journeys for the past several years and were excited to have been selected by the David Suzuki Foundation to be green co-coaches.

Evelyn Tanaka

Evelyn is a green Mama and has a 3-year old boy named Alex and another boy on the way due around Mother’s Day.  She also had a schnauzer poodle cross named Molly.  Her husband Geoff is awesome and supportive of all her crazy endeavours which include a full-time job at an environmental organization in Calgary (ECO Canada), multiple volunteer jobs, and many varied interests including curling, music (piano/guitar), West African dancing, cooking,
hiking, camping, traveling, and reading books on international development and African history.

Meghan Vesey

Meghan is married to Kwesi, who is also supportive of all the various organizations she gets herself involved with! (Although, Kwesi is a member of a fair number of boards himself…) Meghan just (in April) finished a BA degree in International Development and has always had an interest in learning the complexities of inequality in the world. Meghan has worked in IT for many years in various organizations in Calgary. Meghan started the path to “green living” several years ago and hopes to share some of the fun facts about Calgary! Meghan and Kwesi both spend a lot of time creating food in the kitchen.

THE INTRO

A fabulous kick-off party was hosted by Evelyn on April 21st  to celebrate Earth Day and the beginning of this journey. It was a great way to bond over a healthy, home-cooked dinner or locally grown and sourced ingredients, and meet all of the other families participating in this challenge.  A very candid time where we got to talk and assess our knowledge of green living. I have to admit, it felt less intimidating hearing about everyone else’s challenges to implement changes, knowing I was in good company and having the support felt like I could be honest with my own challenges.

Our group will be meeting every two weeks to go over a new unit in the Queen of Green curriculum comprised of Waste, Toxins, Food and Community.  A variety of optional workshops, field trips, books and documentaries are supplemented to our group, giving as much breadth and interest as possible in all areas of green living.

Module 1 – WASTE 

We were asked to set 3 goals for the waste module, which we would work towards implementing over the course of the challenge and into our life.  Here were mine and my progress so far:

1. Reduce amount of waste production by packing waste-free lunches (tiffin containers) & buying in bulk at the grocery store.

This was the easiest to implement over the past 2 weeks, as I love going to Community Natural Foods and Farmer’s Markets now that the weather is warming up.  I found that by avoiding the traditional grocery stores helped avoid the tempting aisles of impulse buys and generally resulted in healthier choices in my basket. Granted, the grocery bill did not see a drastic change however it felt good to stock my fridge of colourful veggies and fruit that were grown locally.  I went on somewhat of a processed food and sugar withdrawal, and that did not feel great however the body is adjusting to the fresh eating. Upon Meghan’s recommendation, I picked up my very own metal Tiffin container from Riva’s in Inglewood, as these are stackable compartments much lighter than glass-lock containers.

I even picked up a set of bamboo utensils (yay for chopsticks!) to carry in my purse and started to be more conscious of bringing my insulated coffee mug in efforts to cut down on unnecessary packaging waste.

All of those paper cups and styrofoam takeout boxes add up at the landfill, and it felt so much better despite the little bit of extra work to prep and pack more of my lunches for work.  I also buy a set of some cute reusable sandwich and snack bags (can be washed/wiped down easily) off a Kijiji seller, to minimize the use of plastic sandwich bags that often gets thrown out after a single or double use.

As for the bulk buying, it does eliminate excessive packaging and works out great for group buys to cut down on costs.  I am thinking of buying a few items like brown rice, flour and some lentils from Grainworks but working on finding someone to share a 22 lb sack with!  Not used to buying in “family sized” portions.

2. Reuse and repurpose products and household items by washing and using more glass containers to hold bulk items, aiming to buy less plastics.

I am more mindful of the packaging when I buy products now, as plastics can only be down-cycled and take up enormous room in landfills.  Even with my chemistry background, I know many plastic leach over time, and there is great controversy on what we should and shouldn’t use to come in contact with our food. Overall, plastic containers, bottles, etc. are so ubiquitous in our modern lives that we forget it is not the best alternative to store our food in.  I have decided to transition my crowded drawer of tupperware and plastic containers and attempting to either recycle or find uses for glass containers (ie. to hold spices and ingredients bought in bulk). Might even make it a DIY project and paint chalkboard labels on the glassware to help identify the contents.  I am also making more use out of my glass water bottle in efforts to minimize the amount of plastic water bottles I have to buy on a whim.  It takes getting used to filling it up and ensuring it’s nicely chilled by keeping a handful of bottled stocked in the fridge.

3. Attempt Vermi composting as a means to control food waste.

This goal I am on the fence about and hesitant because it involves worms.  A little queasy about having “pet worms” and having to freeze my garbage and blend them before feeding them.  A hold being placed on composting, as I have to reconcile where to put a Vermi composter inside my condo unit!  If you are curious about this, this is a great resource: http://www.compostmania.com/Composting/Worm-Bins

I am also following a couple great blogs and websites for daily doses of inspiration:

https://www.facebook.com/DavidSuzukisQueenofGreen

http://www.locavoresgoneglobal.com/

http://www.greencalgary.org

Stay tuned for one of my favorite modules so far – FOOD, on next week’s blog recap!

Live Green,

Joyce

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