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Beyond the Straw: Part 2 – Earth Day Erryday

Last month I highlighted restaurants and food and drink purveyors in the area that care about our planet enough to reduce their waste beyond the plastic straw. More and more often we are seeing videos, ads, articles and photos of the destruction that our wasteful way of life is causing to our precious planet; Mother Earth is in desperate need of our help and tender loving care.

And with Earth Day right around the corner, what better time to start than this very minute? Here are ten easy and approachable ways for you to take better care of our planet (and often yourself too):

  1. Aim for zero waste: I say aim because going zero-waste can seem daunting and downright impossible, so start small. Something as simple as a reusable grocery bag is a start. You can also begin with a room; then find items in that room with single-use packaging that you can replace with refillable options. In the kitchen? Buy spices, grains, and flours in bulk and store them in mason jars (plus they stay fresher longer this way) and use beeswax wraps over plastic wrap. Looking at your bathroom? Try deodorant in reusable glass jars, bars over bottles, and biodegradable bamboo instead of plastic for things like toothbrushes and hair brushes. You can even hit up Garden City Essentials in downtown St. Catharines for newly available zero waste skincare.
  2. Buy local and handmade: Try markets first for food… local is always better because it travels less, so not only are there less emissions, but there will be more nutrients in your food. Plus, most produce at the market is not wrapped in plastic, so that’s another win. Another option is going straight to the farm for what you need. You can also buy local when it comes to local makers. From honey to handbags, hand cream to clothing, there is an endless supply of things made here in Niagara that are really awesome. Sarah Jarvis at Craft Arts Market keeps things as local as she can, and gives back to the local art community every year through proceeds of her sales.
  3. Avoid conventional farming: I cannot stress this point enough. To everyone. Yes, even you vegans out there. Conventional animal farming should be avoided due to the horrible conditions the animals live in, the awful hormones that they inject into them that subsequently end up in us, and the destruction these farms have done to our planet’s forests. However, conventional farming of wheat, soy and corn should also be avoided. Some of these seeds are genetically modified to withstand the spraying of pesticides… How messed up is that? Large fields of one plant, called monocrops, also wreak havoc on our soil, depleting it of nutrients, and are heavily sprayed. This spraying, and the fact that insects like variety, is killing off our bee and earthworm population at an alarming rate, in addition to many other helpful critters. Think honey is bad for bees, vegans? That soy burger or corn tortilla is much worse.
  4. DIY: Jump on the trend, hit up a workshop, and make your own laundry detergent, dish soap, skin care… Before we had crappy, chemical versions of everything there were natural remedies that worked too. Right now, I am loving my homemade dry shampoo, and it’s less harmful to our air and contains zero chemicals, unlike that spray can store-bought version that you are probably using these days. South Coast Guesthouse in Port Colborne offers DIY workshops all of the time, so check them out.
  5. Upcycle: Upcycling is the process of converting discarded items into something useful. I have seen everything from turning plastic bottles into planters, weeping tiles into wine racks, and wooden pallets into, well, everything. You can also upcycle by painting things instead of replacing them… a little ecofriendly paint can go a long way in giving something a refreshed, new look. Plus, it’s almost always less costly than going the new route.
  6. Go thrifting: Thrifting is the new shopping; you can’t turn a magazine page without seeing a celebrity in an “everything old is new again” piece of clothing. Rather than buying into the latest and greatest from your favourite brands, find the old school versions instead. If we vote with our dollar, the demand for creating new can be decreased. You can check out Out of the Past in downtown St. Catharines for some pretty rad finds.
  7. Beg, borrow and steal: Not in the literal sense. But your network of friends may be your best bet when you need something. Ask them if you can have something they don’t want, borrow something instead of buying new, and well, don’t ever steal. That’s just not nice.
  8. Staycation: While everyone deserves a great vaycay, why not save the gas and spend some time exploring all of the amazing things the Niagara region has to offer. We are surrounded by beautiful wineries, have terrific hiking, boast the newly dubbed 8th Wonder of the World, and are home to some of the best restaurants in Southern Ontario. New performance venues, concerts and festivals are popping up all over. Check out a show at the Warehouse in downtown St. Catharines if you haven’t already. And if you want to escape your home for a night or two, spend a night in the absolutely stunning Airbnb ‘Cabin In The 905’… Look it up; it’s beautiful. Keep your dollars local and reduce your use of fossil fuels.
  9. Use less & share: Use less paper, buy less everything… Many of us have more than we need. And we would all be good to share what we don’t need with those who do. Marie Kondo might want you to get rid of what doesn’t bring you joy, but what if it could bring joy to someone else? After you minimize your life and have a pile of things to get rid of, don’t just drop those off at Value Village. Find organizations in Niagara that might need things like office wear for women, furniture for refugees, blankets and coats for shelters… Our region is full of people in need who need people like you.
  10. Replace chemicals with natural alternatives: From kitchen to bathroom to self-care to outdoor, chemical cleaners and products end up in our waterways no matter which way you slice it, and it’s not doing great things for your home air quality or your body either. You can DIY, or you can purchase great products from companies that really care about what they are putting in their stuff. Want to hit all of the bases? Try Bare Cleaning Essentials on Merritt Street in St. Catharines for local, handmade, and awesome home cleaning and soap options.

The bottom line? Don’t think that helping our planet is in despair, or out of your reach. Every little bit we all do helps out our one and only home we have. Voting with your dollar by not buying from big corporations that don’t give a shit about you or the earth is a great place to start, and impacts them where they hate it most…their wallets. If we all make change, no matter how small, we can make a noticeable and impactful difference. I promise.

Written by Kate Notwell

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  1. Wow – that is awesome! Very well researched, written and so accessible. I have some young friends in Montreal and they are fantastic up-cyclers as well as recyclers, zero-wasters (that term will give some UK folks a giggle!!) and DIYers – you’d love them! I will try to connect you both at some point. You are doing something super important here. When your mom and I were at uni (back when the dinosaurs roamed the earth) I had a couple of friends who started a group called Pollution Probe on our campus (it had been around for a while – started @ U of T, I think) They would carry a plastic bag and pick up trash as they walked anywhere (got me doing it too) and were involved in addressing significant issues of manufacturing pollution of the Speed River. Their influence changed my world view for life. This work you are doing really matters!!!

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