Canadians produce quite a lot of plastic waste; an estimated 3.3 million tonnes per year. About 2.8 million tonnes of plastic waste ends up in Canadian landfills every year, which is equivalent to the weight of 24 CN towers! Paper and paper products account for more than 1/3 of all Canada’s waste, with Canadians using about 6 million tonnes of paper and paperboard annually.
It’s a bit overwhelming when you look at those numbers, but you can make a difference in your own family simply by being mindful of how much waste you’re creating. That’s why we have challenged ourselves to come up with ways to reduce waste while getting the kids to help, including crafts, games, outdoor activities and even some recipes!
- Make seed paper (see instructions at the end of this list) or seed paper bombs (just skip the last flattening step and form the paper-seed mixture into disks or balls.
- Make a stool or table out of stacked books or magazines you no longer read or need.
- Make “trash” art with pieces of plastic, metal and paper (have you seen the amazing trash animals at the Toronto Zoo?).
- Make a blanket or quilt from old clothes and tea towels.
- Make a wind chime out of bottles, metal containers, lids or cutlery.
- Recycle old crayons by melting them into larger, colourful crayons.
- Clean out and paint empty food cans and use them to hold pens, cutlery, garden tools, crayons…etc.
- Make paper mache flower pots out of the bottoms of old laundry detergent bottles, pop bottles or juice containers (paper mache over the container and keep the container inside so it remains waterproof).
- Make puppets or small dolls from old socks, gloves or hats.
- Make a rug out of old t-shirts by shredding the fabric and braiding it, then winding them into a circle and stitch them together.
- Make throw pillows out of old shirts, dresses, sweaters or tees.
- Go on a nature scavenger hunt (instead of bringing everything home, snap pics on a phone or have a list on your phone and check things off when they find them).
- Make rock art and leave it where you find them; form them into miniature Inukshucks, make a pattern in a clearing or just pile them up in one spot.
- Organize a neighbourhood lawn/porch swap rather than a yard sale. Less garbage and new stuff. It’s a win/win!
- Make a nature wand or walking stick. Have kids gather leaves and flowers and even small rocks that can be attached (use eco-friendly glue or use twine or cotton string) and then paint with water-based paint.
- Forest bathe. Is there a forest near where you live? Go for a walk and listen to all the sounds you don’t normally hear like birds, critters, the wind in the trees and even the sound of your own feet in the leaves or mud.
- Take a trip to your local library where books are reused every single day!
- Plant seeds and/or seedlings in small clear plastic containers (like the ones you get berries and muffins in. Even better: plant them in halved eggshells and then in the plastic containers.
- Use old coffee grounds and eggshells in your soil for your gardening.
- Start a garden compost bin for your kitchen scraps (peels, egg shells, coffee grounds, veggies…no meat and no dairy).
- Cut the tops off old empty laundry detergent bottles and leave in a tray outside when it rains (kids could paint them too). Use the collected water to water your garden or your plants!
BAKE, COOK & EAT
- Eat only green foods all day (eggs with spinach, pasta with pesto, chicken with chimichurri sauce, grapes, apples, broccoli, lettuce wraps…).
- Make bird feeder ornaments to hang outside by mixing birdseed with gelatin and water. Dry in a shape (or in a cookie-cutter) and hang outside.
- Make homemade bath products from used coffee grounds, tea leaves, vegetable oils and even fruit seeds and ground nutshells.
- Save all vegetable peels and discards for the week and make amazing vegetable stock at the end of the week. Have kids help store the scraps and help make the stock.
- Make your own beeswax wraps to use in place of saran wrap.
- Drink and serve tap water (filtered or unfiltered)—it’s way better for the environment than bottled water! Talk about why reusable bottles are better than plastic, disposable ones with your kids.
- Pack a no-litter picnic (and take it on your forest bath or scavenger hunt).
- Make a no-electricity meal; raw veggies with a homemade dip or hummus, veggie tacos, rice paper rolls, iced tea, no-bake cookies, salad or even no-heat leftovers!
- Make your own oat milk, almond milk, soy milk or even your own yogurt!
- Instead of tossing the dregs of your coffee or tea pot, have your kids make ice cubes from that last cup or few spoonfuls. It’ll be great in iced drinks when it’s warm outside. And maybe they’ll be more likely to get you that cup of ice coffee or tea when the time comes too!
Have you tried any of these ideas? Which ones do you think you could successfully complete this Earth month?
How to Make Seed Paper
Seed papers (or seed paper bombs) are so easy to make and use up paper around the house like egg cartons, paper rolls, wrapping paper, paper bags, food wrappers and even old agenda pages. Once made, seed paper can be used for things like note cards, invitations, or postcards, and once they are placed in soil and watered they will grow. It makes a useful product out of what was once garbage. A card made from seed paper is the only thing that is okay to litter!
- Gather paper, tear it into very small pieces and fill a blender half-full with the torn paper.
- Pour warm water over the paper to the top fill line and turn on the capped blender on low for about ten seconds. After ten seconds on low, increase it for about thirty seconds more. After this, there should be no visible paper flakes remaining.
- Pour your “smoothie” into a bowl and stir about a teaspoon of flower seeds into the mix. Strain to get rid of as much water as possible.
- Lay an old towel on the dining room table or the floor and dump the pulp onto the fabric and use a spoon or spatula to spread the pulp over the fabric. You can spread it into any shape you want, just be sure to spread it as thin as possible to ensure it dries quicker. After you have spread the pulp, use a dry sponge to flatten the mixture and soak up more water. After the pulp has dried on one side, turn it over and allow the other side to dry completely. Once both sides are dry, your seed paper is ready for use.
Written by Jennifer Hamilton