Thursday, 2 July 2020

The Power is Yours!

I've never been a big fan of practices that are considered wasteful or that may be harmful to the environment.  Maybe that's because I grew up watching Captain Planet guard the earth and The Raccoons protect the forest.  I was taught to be aware of pollution and to be a good global citizen by putting litter in its place. 
Graphic by Charlene

As a kid, I was lucky enough to participate in programs and initiatives that supported the environment.  I took school field trips to logging sites, where we helped forestry services with tree planting.  I still remember how exhilarating it felt to physically place those tiny, baby trees in their new earthy homes.  I thoroughly enjoyed the fresh air, exercise, and the opportunity to make a difference.   

Since the invention of the internet, it has become exponentially easier to learn about and discuss our impact on this earth.  Knowledge is being shared across the globe every day.  While this has certainly been helpful, it's also made it clear that there's so much more work to be done. 

Graphic by Charlene

There are many simple and accessible changes that I’ve made to lessen my impact on our planet.  When I learn a new way to complete an everyday task that presents an environmentally-friendly alternative to the norm, I try to adjust my lifestyle.  I'd like to share a few practices that I've adopted.

Low-Impact Dusting

Let’s face it, dust bunnies are everywhere!  They congregate in corners and hide behind doors.  If you’re not careful, they invite all their friends and family over for a party.  My house regularly hosts conventions for a small army of the biggest dust bunnies known to man*.
*not scientifically proven

I’ve found vacuuming tends to leave a trace amount of dust behind, that's particularly noticeable on hard surfaces.  So I utilize a few tools that don’t produce the waste involved with disposable dusting products:
  • reusable container
  • cloth that’s not too fancy
  • small amount of tap water
For the container, I typically rinse and reuse a small plastic butter/margarine tub, but you could use the dish or bucket of your choice.  If you don't have the right container at home, the Reuse Centre carries an assortment of types and sizes, based on donations.  Reusable cloths are widely available, and there are many DIY options too.  For example, old holey t-shirts can be cut up into small squares, or you may already have a selection of dishcloths ready for retirement.  Face towels are good options too.  If you choose a reusable cloth, the impact can be further minimized by removing/rinsing as much dirt or grime as you can using your water bin, then tossing the cloth into a wash cycle with other clothes.  When I'm done dusting, I "donate" the dirty water to my compost farm!

Cardboard Creativity

I prefer cardboard to plastic, but end up with a lot of it at home!  I've begun shredding smaller packages and spreading them in my compost farm.  For those without compost worms, cardboard containers make great reuse!  Think... wrapping for presents, packaging for parcels, even everyday organization around the house.  Use cardboard to separate drawer contents and keep small objects contained.  Cardboard boxes are also great if you plan to move!

Have you discovered a great way to reduce, reuse and save?  

Please leave us a comment and share your ideas for supporting the environment!

Submission and artwork by Charlene (Volunteer)

Wednesday, 17 June 2020

Chef Saves

Today, let’s spend some time in the kitchen. No, I am not cooking a specific dish. I am going to share how simple changes in the kitchen can have an important and significant impact. Among some of the things wasted in our day-to-day life, food waste is a huge problem.The statistics say that 58% of all food produced in Canada is lost or wasted (Second Harvest and VCMI, 2019). 

An excellent place to start reducing food waste is to observe and make a list of what food and beverage items are being regularly thrown away in your home. This list will highlight if something is routinely being wasted. Once you make your list of commonly wasted items, find ideas on how to repurpose or store food instead of tossing it. Ask yourself “could these items be purchased in smaller quantities, be repurposed to avoid being thrown away, or be easily composted?” 

Vegetable scraps 
  • Use left-over veggie scraps to prepare a nice and healthy broth. Save up odds and ends of vegetables whenever you chop and cook with them. When you have enough scraps, throw everything in a pot and add water, stir and bring to a light boil. Then strain the mixture and store the broth in jars in your freezer. 
  • Bake or stir fry potato skins, add some cheese and serve as a side dish. This one is my husband’s favorite dishes.

Stale Bread
  • Another common ‘waste’ in our kitchen is stale bread and bread crusts. I make bread crumbs with these: I put them into a food processor, pulse them and store the crumbs in a jar for future use.

Bread crusts turned into bread crumb

  • I used to throw away more than half of my fresh herbs - coriander, parsley, and mint leaves - but have learned a great way to store them for longer use. I chop the leaves and freeze them in an ice cube tray. As I need them, I take them out to defrost, and use.

Herbs stored this way can stay much longer

Tea and Coffee 
  • My mother has beautiful indoor plants and credits this success to used tea leaves. Once tea is prepared, the steeped tea leaves (not containing sugar or dairy) are placed directly in the pot. The plants benefit from the extra nutrients. 
  • Did you know that some tea bags have plastic in them? Steeping loose tea leaves in boiling water is the best way to avoid the added plastic. 
  • Use coffee grinds as a deodorizer in the trash can or refrigerator. You can also spread them in your yard as a natural pest-repellent.

 Tea leaves used as plant nutrients

  • Lemon and orange peels make great scrubs for your face and body. Dry the peels and grind them to make a fine powder and use it as a scrub. Some people also make facial creams with orange peels.
  • Banana peels are rich in nutrients, so instead of throwing them away, try adding them to smoothies and shakes. You can also mix them in flour and bake or fry them for a tasty snack. You can use ripe banana flesh as a face mask for a soft and fresh look. 
  • Instead of throwing away bruised fruit, toss them into a salad or make popsicles.

The possibilities are endless with what can be done to avoid food waste. I learned recently from a friend that she even grinds eggshells into a powder and uses it as a calcium supplement for her dogs. Please check with your veterinarian before giving this a try.

For potential food waste that you cannot otherwise repurpose or consume, consider composting. If the idea of home composting is new to you, learn more here.

No discussion about kitchen waste can be complete without talking about reducing the use of plastics. Try and carry your reusable bags for grocery shopping. Nowadays, good reusable cloth bags for produce are available in the market. You can replace plastic containers with glass jars, paper, and cloth bags. It’s an investment worth making and an impact you can make towards saving our planet. Many stores still sell fruits and veggies in single-use plastic wraps or boxes, but you can try and avoid buying such boxes if other options are available. Buying plastic-free groceries is hard, and you cannot always win, but it’s important to do your best.

Let us make these small important changes in how we shop for, store and use groceries to reduce food waste. Let us pledge towards a zero-waste or low-waste  lifestyle, starting with the kitchen.

Photos and Submission by Sunanda (Volunteer)

Thursday, 4 June 2020

DIY Spring Cleaning and Reusing

It is finally spring and we are through with yet another winter! The first thing that comes to my mind when spring approaches is warmer days but also spring cleaning. Spring cleaning is currently a trend as many people are finding themselves without things to do at home. Like a lot of people, if you are also at home socially distancing from others, you can spend your time doing some cleaning and decluttering.

As a teenager, my mom and I used to work really hard when it came to spring cleaning. We’d clean all the wooden cabinets, all the dusty corners, cluttered drawers and closets, and wiping down all the walls in our house. Most importantly, we made our own spring cleaning products and supplies at home.

In this post, I will be focusing on how you can clean using everyday household items that don’t require you to travel to a store as often.

A great way to divide spring cleaning around the house is to divide it by each room. 

Living Room

Deep cleaning living rooms involves cleaning couches, floors, rugs, and wiping down surfaces that have accumulated dust on them.

A good recipe for a DIY carpet shampoo is:

  • ½ cup of 3% hydrogen peroxide
  • 4 tbsp white vinegar 
  • 2 tsp non-bleach laundry detergent
  • ½ cup of fabric softener

The carpet shampoo can be used for deep cleaning carpets and couches.

*Always be sure to test the product on your fabric in a small inconspicuous area first and check and follow manufacturer cleaning instructions.


Kitchen cabinets usually have grease collected on their surfaces. To combat the grease use a mixture of: 
  • ½ cup lemon juice 
  • 2 cups of white vinegar
Gently scrub the cabinets using a soft scrubby and an old toothbrush to get in the grooves.

To simply clean and polish your cabinets, use a mixture of 
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
Apply the mixture using a rag or a cloth all over the wooden cabinets, rub, and clean. The mixture does need to be stirred frequently as the oil tends to separate from the vinegar and water.

*Always be sure to patch test your surface in a small inconspicuous area first and check manufacturer cleaning instructions.

To clean the dishwasher, scrub the bottom of the dishwasher using baking soda, a spray of white vinegar, and an old toothbrush. After, put some white vinegar in a bowl and place it on the top rack of the dishwasher and run the hottest cycle with the vinegar inside. Vinegar will do the work of disinfecting the dishwasher while removing any buildup of foods and bacteria.

Sinks can be cleaned by sprinkling baking soda all over them and a little bit of dish soap. Scrub the mixture all around the sink and faucet then rinse with hot water.


For my bedroom, I usually strip down all the sheets, pillow cases, and blankets and put them in the washer. I also wash my pillows then put a couple of tennis balls in the dryer with the pillows to fluff them up. 

As I keep my windows open most of the time, the rest of my room usually accumulates a lot of dust on my nightstand, dresser, headboard, fan, and light fixtures. If you have ever bought a commercial duster wand, and still have the handle you can make your own duster using fleece or flannel. I use this to dust all the dusty areas.

I started off by ripping my old flannel shirt and tying each piece on a handle that I kept.

Image of the duster halfway complete

This is what it finally looked like.  I used it to dust off my fans, and all the dusty areas in my room, it worked really great. Once it is extremely dirty, the pieces can be untied, washed and reused again.

The finished duster ready to be used

Lastly, I finish shampooing the carpet in my room and cleaning any glass or mirror surfaces with a glass cleaner and flyer papers or newspapers.
The bathroom is my favourite area to clean, I think because it is the smallest. I usually start by cleaning the sink and counter top with baking soda and dish soap. I sweep and mop the floors thoroughly. Now, to clean the tiles there are a lot of different homemade recipes you can use. I wanted to find a mixture that was non-toxic and still did the job well. Here is what I found:
  • 7 cups of water
  • ½ cup of baking soda
  • ⅓ cup lemon juice
  • ¼ cup white vinegar
Put the mixture in a spray bottle, spray it all over the tiles and scrub using a scrubby and an old toothbrush and voila, grout is now clean. 

Besides all the cleaning, I also go around the house and declutter drawers and closets. Stuff that I have no use for anymore gets reused or recycled. 

Some examples of reused items are:

My mom sewed her own cushion covers from old bed sheets. 

DIY cushion covers from old sheets
This is an old project but a few years ago I turned my old bookshelf into a bench. It works great.

I turned my bookshelf into a bench

I would really encourage this season for everyone to get creative and work with the things you already have at home. It can be a challenge but there are a lot of resources on our Reuse-It blog and Pinterest page on reusing items to create something you need. Share your reuse creations and recipes in the comment section below!

Submission and photographs by Radhika (Volunteer)

Thursday, 5 March 2020

2020 Family Day Festivities at the Reuse Centre

This year was the first year I actually did something for Family Day. I took my brother and my grandpa to the Reuse Centre for Family Day festivities. We stayed for about 2 hours making a wind chime, envelopes with calligraphy, and visiting some educational booths. For younger kids, it seemed like the glitter tattoo station and DIY wind chimes were the most popular, there were lineups for both activities. My brother isn’t a big fan of glitter tattoos, so we opted to make a DIY wind chime, which was a lot of fun. There were a lot of reusable items supplied such as CDs, keychains, pearl strings, ribbons, bells, hoops, pop can tabs, etc., to make the wind chimes. My brother and I were able to get very creative because there were so many items to work with. My grandpa gave us motivational support and by the time the wind chime was complete, he was willing to get photographed with our finished craft. 

Image: Brother, Grandpa, and DIY wind chime
I think the wind chime we made is cute and the pop can tabs actually make a soothing sound when the wind moves them around. So, the project was a success. 

Another cool thing we made were envelopes out of old calendars. There were many options for types of calendars; I picked the calendar with European buildings and my brother picked an animal-themed calendar. 

On the left is the envelope that I made and on the right is the envelope my brother made.
Calligraphy by the Edmonton Calligraphic Society
The calligraphy is really beautiful, and the envelopes are very unique. We were given the option of putting a label with the name of the person we want to mail it to. My brother put his own name, later he decided he can add “from” before his name, if he wants to give it to someone else. I put “grandpa” on my envelope and will be giving it to him with a small letter inside before he leaves to go back home.

There were also educational booths with volunteers at the event. The two booths we attended were Change for Climate and Waste Services. Change for Climate had a wheel with different categories for testing peoples' knowledge of various climate-related issues. After spinning the wheel, my brother landed on “water saving at home”, then he was asked to provide ways to save water at home. This was a good way to have a conversation and we got some candy and stickers. They also had a variety of resources to share.

The Waste Services booth had a sorting activity with pictures of various waste items, and the person playing the game would have to sort them into compost, recycle, reuse, Eco Station, or garbage. My brother had fun playing that game, he surprisingly knew a lot about different waste categories, but still learned a bit more. As a prize we got two free recycling blue bags.

Overall, this event was amazing. It gave my brother something to do over his long weekend break other than playing video games and I was able to show my grandpa what a Reuse Centre is and what its purpose is. The centre was busy and full of families participating in activities and also shopping. There were staff leading families in the right direction and cookies being offered as a treat for attendees. I would definitely go again next year and recommend the Reuse Centre for anyone looking to do something fun and eco-friendly on Family Day. 

Follow City of Edmonton Reuse Centre on Facebook to stay informed about monthly, family-friendly events.
Submission by Radhika (Volunteer)

Monday, 24 February 2020

Reuse Centre: A Wedding Store

When I got married 10 years ago, I didn't have a huge budget. I made my own invitations, and my best friend helped me with the decor and planning. Yes, it was stressful (mostly for my friend, haha), but at the end of our day, we were so proud of what we were able to do with a limited budget. I think most people take pride in showcasing something they have made themselves. It is very fulfilling to be able to create a beautiful and personal thing for your special day.

For this post, I will share some wedding decor ideas, and create wedding items from materials at the Reuse Centre. You might ask, "What can I possibly get there that I can use for a wedding?" So, I'm going to show you a few easy projects you can do to not only save money (only $5 per 25 kg), but also help you reduce waste created from planning your special event.

1. Egg carton flowers and mini-cupcake/mini-donut holders

Paper flowers have slowly been taking the place of balloons, which is awesome since balloons end up in landfills. Instead of using card stock, you make roses out of the egg cartons.

It took me one carton to make five roses and other flowers

Hand-painted each rose with red acrylic paint.
 (I think they turned out eggcellent!)  

Painted with food safe acrylic paint

2. Empty containers for a candy buffet or favours

Instead of buying a box of jars for your candy buffet, check out the Reuse Centre for an amazing variety of tin cans, bottles, and jars. Start collecting empty containers from your own home. Take the labels off, wash thoroughly and voila, you have candy containers! Baby food jars are perfect for holding wedding favours such as mints, tea leaves, plant seeds, etc. 

Just a few empty containers from my kitchen

A bin of baby food jars at the Reuse Centre

3. Old picture frames are multi-functional

The Reuse Centre has a lot of  picture frames that you can use to show the seating chart for the guests, or to simply display pictures of the couple. Large-sized frames can become fun props for wedding pictures or photo booths. 

Perfect for a rustic feel

My models!
4. Broken crayons to wax seal invitations

There is an area at the Reuse Centre with all the school supplies to stock up on crayons, envelopes or stationary. But if you, your friends or family members have kids, chances are they have broken crayons lying around the house. For this project, all you need are crayons, a glue stick, a candle, and an old metal spoon. Melt a piece of the glue stick and crayon in a spoon and pour it onto your envelope. At this time, you can either stamp it with a personalized stamp or let cool.
You can also mix different crayons for a rainbow effect.

5. Tissue paper/gift wrap rolls can become napkin ring holders 
From these rolls (photo taken at The Reuse Centre)

To these cute napkin rings

There is not much to say here. Simply cut the rolls to the desired size and paint in the colours of your choice.

6. Books used as centerpieces

I saved the best for last. Honestly, this is something I wish I had thought of when I got married: using books as centerpieces.This idea is genius because I can't think of a more personal centerpiece than books specifically picked by the couple according to their tastes or motif. Not only that, but having books as centerpieces eliminates the need for wedding favours because the guests can bring home whichever book they want. There will be zero waste with this idea. I mean, what more can guests ask for? Food. Party. Books.

So, there you have it, just a few ideas for you! I'm sure once you enter the Reuse Centre and see all of the items in there, your mind will light up with other projects. Please comment with your own Reuse Centre ideas or creations.

Enjoy planning!

                                                                                        Photos and Submission by Mariz F (volunteer)

Thursday, 23 January 2020

My First 'Real' Reuse Shopping Trip

In my real world, outside of my computer, I work for a bank that runs a super cool kids program for elementary children to teach financial literacy and responsibility. Older elementary-aged children create their own bank within their school--taking on roles like teller, CEO, or treasurer. My part in this picture is helping the kids create promotions to encourage other students to save money. This means that together we dream up ways to educate and incentivize saving money; most importantly, we try to make it fun for the whole school. This laundry list of intentions tends to use a fair bit of construction paper, as you'd imagine.

                                                          Photo taken by Jessica B.

Naturally, my first thought when given nearly a year full of programming was to visit the Reuse Centre! With the help of my co-lead, we put together a crafty Tickle Trunk that could rival even the most impressive DIYer collections. We found cool paper, felt bits, lace, colouring tools and even some administrative essentials like binders and duotangs for our board members. Being there made me realize how very possible it is to utilize the centre in a more regular, everyday way, especially when it comes to creative projects and the classroom. 

More than anything, I was inspired by Edmonton’s reuse community. Walking through the aisles of the Reuse Centre made me aware not only of the people who, in the middle of the Tuesday workday, took the time to shop unconventionally, but also of the people who realized that they had too much tile, paper, or too many bottle caps. These people saw value in these items beyond their own personal use and they took active steps to keep their unwanted items out of the waste system. These people believe in a community where trash is often also treasure, and I feel pretty proud to be part of it.

Many acknowledge that the best way to create a shift in our culture's value and waste practices is to start at home--shifting the way we, individually, interact with the endless mass of things that surround us and make way into our lives. Continuing to shop at the Reuse Centre and incorporating it into my programming allows me, in very small subtle ways, to start conversations about what these changes could look like in the worlds of students, customers and colleagues. For example, what if we reused our posters from week to week with minor tweaks, or what if we sought out promotional incentives that focused on experiences rather than new things? One member of my board of directors even suggested that we run tours of our "bank" for other students instead of sending them home with sugary treats or fidget spinners. Brilliant.

Onwards through 2020!

Photo and submission by Jess (Volunteer)

Friday, 3 January 2020

Tales from the Sales

Winter has a firm hold! I say that with a huge sigh because I love summer. This was my first summer in Edmonton and boy, was it a treat! The long days of sunshine, beautiful hikes, smell of fresh-cut grass, barbecues and of course, the GARAGE SALES! I had no idea how cool a garage sale was until I moved to Edmonton. My mind was blown!

I think that sustainability is a journey that starts from within our own homes and spreads to the community. As the saying goes, “droplets of water become an ocean.” Garage sales are a phenomenal sustainability practice. 

Let me get a bit technical here and take you through the manifestation of the three pillars of sustainability in a typical garage sale.

1.      Economical: Garage sales are one of the most economical ways of buying items you want!
2.      Environmental: You are literally diverting waste from landfills, so kudos!
3.      Social: One person’s trash is another person’s treasure, so both of you are happy! 

I know garage sales have been a part of the culture in this part of the world for quite some time. But as a newbie to Canada, I know that some people have genuine apprehensions about getting stuff from a garage sale. It might be that you don’t want to buy stuff from somebody else’s home. It might be that you don’t expect to find anything worthwhile and think that you might be wasting time. Or, it might be that you don’t know how awesome these sales actually are. 

Initially, I was not a fan of garage sales. But I am married to my polar opposite. He loves vintage collectibles and the like, so we went on a garage sale-hopping adventure this summer. I lost count after 10 sales. (I know, it’s crazy). What we purchased from these sales blew our minds.

All the precious wooden sculptures
Check out these  immaculately intricate wooden sculptures of people, animals and much more! To be frank, beyond the artistic appeal, what caught my attention was the story behind each collectible. For instance, I purchased a small storage box that the nice garage sale host had used when she was a little girl. She wanted me to take special care of it as it had a lot of childhood memories.

Ceramic dog figurines
Apart from all the economic gains, these garage sales are an opportunity to meet new people and hear their stories while living more sustainably. 

If you are looking for tips to land your own amazing finds, try checking out some of your local buy-and-sell forums and websites. Most of the sale notifications come with pictures of things for sale and approximate prices, so you can go prepared. Also, keep your eyes open while walking around your neighborhood as there are definitely sales around every nook and corner. Winter sales are mostly indoor, and notifications are normally through online platforms.

For those who missed out this year, please do try your luck during our next summer garage sale season, and keep an eye out for indoor winter sales too!

Submission by Roshni Mary Sebastian (Volunteer)