Canadians are getting ever better at the "reuse" part of the three-part environmental protection message: Just look at the rise of online sites such as Kijiji and Freecycle, where you can find pretty much any used item you're looking for; the increasing popularity of stores selling gently used clothing and household products; and even car- and bicycle-sharing services. We're also making "recycle" a part of our lives: Many municipalities across Canada are collecting our used product packaging, which manufacturers are increasingly using to make recycled products.
But where there's room for improvement is with "reduce." If we all sacrificed a little bit of convenience, we'd be making a bigger difference when it comes to the environment. On Earth Day or any day, here are five ways to reduce that you might not have thought of. And here's a bonus: Most of these ideas will reduce your household expenses, too.
1. Limit the purchase of one-time-use plastic water bottles. Instead, go for refillable glass or metal bottles, or reusable, BPA-free plastic bottles.
2. Avoid coffeemakers that use those little plastic, one-time-use pods. Try a French press instead: Just add boiling water to ground coffee, wait a minute or two, press down and voilà: delicious coffee. These don't even use paper filters, so the only thing you throw out are the coffee grounds — and those go into the green bin or compost heap, not the garbage. Bonus: You can use a French press with loose tea leaves, too, eliminating the need for teabags.
3. Choose concentrated laundry detergent to reduce the frequency of purchase and the amount of packaging needed. Bonus: Ultra-concentrates are now appearing on the market. Some brands now come in leak-proof bags instead of large plastic bottles. If you like, transfer the bagged liquid detergent into a pretty jug – anything to make doing laundry a little bit enjoyable!
4. Stock your home office with recycled paper. To reduce your paper use, set your printer to print on both sides, and use the back of drafts and junk-mail flyers for shopping lists. And while we're on the topic of paper: Opt to receive household utility bills via email.
5. Love a bottle of sparkling water on the table for dinner? The occasional pop? Consider a soda maker. There are automatic ones on the market that require no batteries or power outlet (just a CO2 cartridge), but you can also find retro seltzer bottles that do the same thing. No more pop bottles or cans in the recycling bin! Bonus: These add fizz on an as-needed basis, so you won't end up with flat pop in a huge bottle you opened but used only a little bit of.