Wednesday, 14 October 2020

Community Shared Agriculture Reflections

One of my favourite weekend outings is to visit our local farmer’s market. I love seeing all the artisanal baked goods, gourmet dips, cheese, cured meats and handcrafted trinkets and products. 

My favourite part about the market is buying my weekly supply of fresh produce. Most Edmonton markets have had to adjust their operations this year with many offering curbside pick-up, ensuring physical distancing among guests, reducing capacity, etc. In the early spring, I wasn’t sure what this summer’s markets would bring and I really wanted to continue enjoying locally grown fresh produce during our short growing season. I started to explore some other ways I could support local businesses and still get my fix of delicious fruits and veggies. One day, my partner brought home a flyer from a colleague about a Community Shared/Supported Agriculture (CSA) that she operates. 

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is an organized process involving the distribution and growth of organic produce. This connects farmers with the community at large. Every spring, residents reach out to a local organic farm to subscribe for a “share” of the year’s harvest.

There are a number of environmental benefits to CSAs. 

  • Most producers use little or no chemical fertilizers and pesticides. 
  • There is a lower carbon footprint as a result of the small scale local production and distribution of food.
  • There is less packaging required and items are usually distributed in reusable boxes or bags. 
  • This is also a great way to support local economies and small business owners. 

A CSA seemed like a perfect fit to my market dilemma. We signed up for two shares of vegetables and two shares of fruit. Share sizes vary with each CSA, usually one share is sufficient for each person per week. This worked out to about $30/week. We picked up our shares once a week at a convenient location about 10 minutes from our neighborhood. Every week was a new surprise of what we would receive. There were some weeks that I needed to be creative with finding new recipes or ways to prepare some of the items. The trickiest item was fennel. I ended up using it in salads, stir fries, seasonings and freezing it to use this winter. The number of shares that we selected was a perfect match for our family’s needs. We were often using up the last bit of the previous week’s shares the day that we were picking up our new batch. 

Part of our last share of the season

Over the course of our subscription, we learned so much about where our food was grown and what kind of issues each crop was having. There was a sense of investment and connection that we had to the food that we were getting. It helped me think outside the box and reimagine how our food could be used. There were a few occasions that we had too much of one thing; green onions and beet greens are a couple of examples. Instead of tossing what I couldn’t use, I made sure to chop them up and freeze them to use later. We also had a surplus of carrots and green beans at one point, so I tried pickling them to preserve them for later. They turned out to be quite yummy!


Canned and Frozen Surplus Produce

Overall, our CSA experience was positive and inspiring. We will definitely sign up again next year. Perhaps, I’ll even venture into trying to grow some easy vegetables in my own backyard. It doesn’t get more “local” than that!

Has anyone else participated in a CSA? Share your thoughts and comments below.

Vanessa (Staff)

Tuesday, 1 September 2020

If You Can't Repair, Reuse

Our house is significantly clutter-free. Every few months, my family looks around to see what we do not need or use any longer. We categorize these items into three groups: donations for  charities, the Reuse Centre or an Eco Station. 

Before making a decision on an item, we ask “can it be repaired, reused or recycled?” Phones, computers, CDs, light bulbs and cables are tricky items to know what to do with. Does this sound familiar? Do you feel the same way?

E-waste can be very harmful to the environment. It contaminates soil and groundwater supply and exposes us to hazardous chemicals. Technology is beyond an average consumer’s grasp to repair. Moreover, it is often cheaper to buy a new product than to repair a broken one.

While repair is complicated, there are still options to reuse these items. Here are a few ways to reuse that I think are worth sharing.

Let me start with old cell phones that you no longer want to use:
  • Use your old cell phone as an alarm clock or convert it into your offline GPS for the car. 
  • Turn it into a security camera and set it up as a doorbell with a camera. There are apps available to do such a setup.
  • Use it as an emergency phone and keep it in a place where you might need to call an emergency line, say in your kitchen or bathroom.
  • Give your old phone to children as a wifi-only device.

An old smartphone from 2013 running on the custom lightweight operating system.
Photo: Sunanda

Compact discs are another common unwanted/unused item in many households. Instead of throwing these away, you can reuse these for household décor items like lampshades, photo frames or a pen stand.

You can make similar décor items with old video or audio cassettes and floppy discs.

Photo: City of Edmonton Reuse Centre

Earlier this year, I went on a trip and forgot to pack my phone charger. I could avoid this problem if I had a backup charger packed in my travel bag. If you have a new phone or laptop charger, consider using the old chargers as backup chargers. Check to ensure that they are compatible with your new device. You can use backup chargers in your car, or in different rooms in the house.

Here are a few more ideas for reuse: 

  • Reuse old and slow laptops with lighter Linux operating systems. 
  • Use an old desktop hard disk for additional storage or network storage to share files within your home.
  • Repurpose circuit boards into jewelry 

If you have electronic cables that you do not use any longer, you can donate them to the Reuse Centre (computer, phone and TV only). Or, you can drop these off at any City of Edmonton Eco Station. Some retail stores also accept cables, batteries and chargers. 

So next time, before you discard your electronics, give reuse a chance.

- Submission by Sunanda (Volunteer)

Thursday, 20 August 2020

What Happens at the Reuse Centre....Turns into a Blog!

Since its temporary closure in April, many of our customers are missing the Reuse Centre. We want to share this post written by one of our volunteer bloggers. Radhika shadowed two of our attendants in January and describes her behind-the-scenes experience. In January, I had the chance to meet and talk with two of the Reuse Centre employees about their roles and what their day-to-day looks like at the Reuse Centre. I wanted to ask questions specific to their job duties and also get an idea of the Reuse Centre culture and what items are available for the visiting customers. The two employees I spoke with were Jon and Liane. Jon started as a Recreation Technician in September 2018 and Liane’s been a Reuse Centre Attendant for five years. The goal of their jobs is to divert waste from landfill through reusing and educating the public on what items can be brought to the Reuse Centre. Some of Jon and Liane’s job duties when residents bring in donated items are: quickly screening items; weighing sorted items; and stocking items onto shelves. There is also a lot of customer service required from these employees; they have to help customers and volunteers by answering their questions, complete cash duties and sometimes act as mediators when popular items are in high demand. Jon and Liane both have been personally influenced by working at the Reuse Centre. Jon bravely admitted that he used to throw everything in the garbage. Now he divides his waste more carefully into garbage, recycle, compost and donations for the Reuse Centre. Liane is also very detail-oriented with recycling and reusing. She tries to create as little waste as possible and reuse as much as she can at home. Another employee acknowledged that she even has her family collect donations for her to take to the Reuse Centre every time she visits them. With all the events that occur at the Reuse Centre, I had to ask the staff about their favourite events. Jon likes the DIY drop-in events that give people the opportunity to explore and get creative. He really likes when families come in for them. Liane really liked the 2019 Family Day event where families came in to get their names written in calligraphy on reused bookmarks, made animal balloons, and checked out some of the educational programs. As I walked around the Reuse Centre, I got a sense of the type of environment and work culture that it possesses. Jon and Liane describe this as a very unique culture. It consists of employees and customers with very diverse ethnicities, professions and age groups (everyone is also very nice). The employees definitely seem to enjoy their jobs and have a lot of fun. At times the Reuse Centre definitely has library vibes and attracts clientele who are committed to environmental friendliness, different from a typical thrift or retail store.
One of the book Shelves - Reuse Centre
A routine day at the Reuse Centre usually has about 70 people come by to drop off their items and about the same number of visitors seeking to purchase items for reuse. Tuesdays and Saturdays are the busiest since the Reuse Centre is closed on Sundays and Mondays. The employees get to see teachers, daycare staff, readers, gardeners, artists, farmers, students, resellers, and personal buyers visit the centre to purchase items. This again reflects the Reuse Centre’s culture of diverse customers and employees who come together for a common good. Out of the thousands of items donated and sold on a typical day, high demand items are: books, jewellery, CDs, DVDs, sewing supplies, fabric, canning jars, and egg cartons. Competing with those items, 6-pack rings, coffee cans, yogurt containers, mesh fruit bags, and National Geographic seem to be the least favorites. The Reuse Centre is well known for receiving cardboard boxes, egg cartons, greeting cards (Christmas, birthdays, etc.), media, books, and binders in their donations.
Mesh bags and six pack rings
-Reuse Centre

Shelf of egg cartons
-Reuse Centre

Collection of cards and National Geographic
 -Reuse Centre

Big bins of coffee containers 
-Reuse Centre

If after reading this post, you realize you have a lot of the items mentioned above lying around or have a need for one of the items, please go to the Reuse Centre’s website to check out the list of more than 200 items that you can donate or find at the Reuse Centre. I recently found out that I could have been purchasing all of my and my brother’s school supplies at the Reuse Centre rather than buying them brand new from stationery stores. I appreciate Reuse Centre employees for doing their day-to-day jobs to keep the Reuse Centre organized and promoting an alternative to wasting otherwise useful materials. *The Reuse Centre is currently closed and will remain closed at least until Stage 3 of the province’s relaunch plan. Please save your donations for when we reopen or donate to your local donation centre.
Submission by Radhika (volunteer)

Tuesday, 28 July 2020

A New Zero-Waste Market is Here!

* This post represents the views and opinions of the writer. The views and opinions are not those of the City of Edmonton or the Reuse Centre. These views are not intended to endorse any one particular individual or company but provide a list of resources and services to readers.

Many people make goals to adopt more sustainable behaviors. If you are like me and "reusing and reducing waste" is one of your priorities, then I have some great news to share!

Earlier this year, a new zero-waste market opened its doors. Re:Plenish is one of Edmonton's bulk shopping markets and offers household cleaning products, along with zero-waste options for personal hygiene products such as shampoo, conditioners, soap and makeup remover wipes. Inspired by seeing the amount of their own waste, owner Karina and Meghann wished for more alternatives and options for shoppers experiencing "eco-grief" as a result of waste that comes with purchasing conventional household products.

The market is located at 9912 77 Ave NW. See their website for current hours of operation. They also offer home deliveries and curb side pick up.

Although Re:Plenish is one of Edmonton's first bulk and zero-waste markets to open in Edmonton, this culture has been long upheld by other companies in our city. Earth's General Store "opened in 1991 and offered bulk cleaning products, bulk personal care products, cloth diapers, recycled paper, composters, composting worms, and a lot of other items that people could not easily find elsewhere in Edmonton." Over the years, they've offered “Refill Tuesdays” that supported their campaigns such as "Plastic Free July”. They also championed the complete elimination of plastic bags in their store on May 1st, 2019. To learn more about the services or products that they offer, visit their website.

Looking for more options to retail shop sustainably, check out this guide by The Eco Hub that highlights food, clothing, beauty, health, and household shopping alternatives in Alberta (with many options provided in Edmonton), or this resource list created by Wastefree Edmonton.

On a final note, I am so excited to see the awareness and momentum growing within Edmonton's consumerism culture, and even more excited to learn about the increasing sustainable options available to us! Remember readers - this is all made possible because of your advocacy on this issue - so let's continue to champion for a greater reduce and reuse culture! 

Jessica T. (Volunteer)

Wednesday, 8 July 2020

Lets Compost!

This post is a summary of how to start composting. For a thorough and detailed guide, check out

Composting is reusing your waste and turning it into useful decayed organic matter. This is the stuff you can mix with your garden soil to provide your plants and flowers with rich nutrients. Home-produced compost will enrich soil and reduce the need for chemical fertilizers for your garden. Reduce the amount of organic waste that ends up in the landfill and have a blooming and healthy lawn and plants during summer, it’s a win-win!

Food scraps that end up at the bottom of landfills, decay in an environment that has no oxygen present. Lack of oxygen promotes formation of methane gas, which is a harmful greenhouse gas that is 26 times more potent than carbon dioxide. However, composting is done in the presence of oxygen. So, food scraps that are composted in your backyard will instead release carbon dioxide (like it should in the natural carbon cycle). Carbon and nitrogen also stay in the finished compost and are great for the health of your garden.

Thinking of giving composting a try? This is what you can do:

Purchase or Make a Compost Bin

The bin should have enough holes for air to pass through. This how to guide has a number of styles to choose from. For more information on composters, visit

Learn What to Compost

Image Credit: Radhika

Get Started

Now, composting is pretty easy. It should have a good balance of green stuff (nitrogen) and brown stuff (carbon).

Image Credit: Radhika

Put a layer of brown stuff at bottom to start. Alternate between putting a layer of green stuff and then brown stuff. Make sure clumps are broken into small pieces. Mix fresh material in with the layer below. Add water to the bin, if it is too dry. Make sure your compost is turned or fluffed once every week or so. 


If your compost runs out of oxygen it can start to smell. Make sure it is getting enough air by fluffing compost and breaking up clumps. 

Nitrogen is rich in moisture, so too much nitrogen can lead to a very wet and stinky compost. Whereas carbon is dry, so too much carbon will lead to a lack of moisture needed to decay waste properly. So the key is to have a good balance. If compost is too wet, add more brown material and aerate. If compost is too dry, add more green stuff or some water.

In winter, to protect the compost from excessive moisture, the bin can be moved to the garage or a shed. If compost is kept outside in winter, it should receive some sunlight whenever it can. It can also have straw bales stacked around the bin to provide it with some insulation. 

A Fun Alternative to Outdoor Composting:

Not everyone can compost in their backyards or patios. Vermicomposting is a good alternative. Vermicomposting uses red wiggler worms, as they are incredible garbage eaters and they produce rich compost. All you need is a small bin with a few red worms and your food waste. Oh, and worms also speed up the decaying process so it’s a win-win-win!

You can reuse a plastic bin for vermicomposting with small sized holes in the top for airflow. 

For vermicomposting, add newsprint torn into long strips to your bin. You can also include small amounts of potting soil, along with straw, dried leaves, dry houseplants and crushed eggshell to your container. This bedding will ensure your worms’ proper health. After the bin is full of these materials, sprinkle it with some water so it is as damp as a wrung out sponge. Add your worms. Now you can start feeding the bin and worms with green scraps (fruit, vegetables, plant leaves), make sure to use a different part of the bin each time you feed them.

Vermicomposting bin with the bedding


After about three months, the original bedding will have decreased in size. At this point compost can be harvested and new bedding can be added for the cycle to repeat (leaving the worms in the bin)!

If you want to use worms for your outdoor composting, brown earthworms eat organic waste in gardens. Red wiggler worms can’t survive our climate, which is why they are used in indoor composting.

Final tips!

  • Compost should stay as wet as a wrung-out sponge. 

  • Worms like to be at room temperature.

  • Keep compost bins on bricks to leave room at the bottom for air to circulate.

  • You can store food waste under the sink in a bin throughout the day and throw it in your compost pile all at once.

Submission by Radhika (Volunteer)

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)