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Going Green: Tips for a Zero-Waste Lifestyle | Haley Higdon | TEDxYouth@UTS



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[Applause]

all right

so somebody recently asked me how I

became so green and I really had to stop

and think about that for a moment

because I couldn't pinpoint a specific

event or a specific experience that

contributed to me living the lifestyle

that I am but I do know one thing when

my friends were dressing up as

Tinkerbell for Halloween I was dressing

up as a recycling bin so I know that it

started at a young age I've always been

concerned about the environment and I've

often been called an environmental

bulldog and I wasn't shy to share my

opinion and I wasn't shy to challenge a

professor who had printed our course

outline on single-sided paper for

example but I knew that I needed to be

doing a bit more I knew that I needed to

not just be talking the talk I needed to

be walking the talk so I started with

small actions like bringing a reusable

water bottle everywhere I went or

bringing a reasonable coffee cup and

oh hey I got to really put my arm out

hey there we go um but there actually

was one moment where in time where I was

forced to think about how I could live a

greener life and that was the summer of

2009 and some of you may remember I can

still remember the smell the garbage

strike the Toronto garbage strike which

lasted 36 days 36 days in the dead heat

of summer and like many Torontonians I

was forced to look at and to analyze the

garbage that I was producing and in that

moment I decided that I could and should

do more because I could also see the

garbage that was collecting at my local

park I could see it and I could smell it

so that's a picture of Christy Pitts and

so I decided to do some research and I

found out that Canadians produce the

most amount of garbage out of any

country in the world so in 2009 there

was a study and it showed that the

average Canadian produced 777 kilograms

of waste per year so for those of you

that still think in Imperial that is

more than 1700 pounds of garbage per

person per year so that is huge and that

those statistics actually kind of bummed

me out and I decided to reach out to a

friend that was pretty active in the

environmental movement and what she said

to me was I'm actually really glad that

you reached out to me because you were

the main or one of the main

Ellis for pushing me into the

environmental movement I thought to

myself me my small actions actually

contributed to somebody making positive

change in their life

somebody joining the environmental

movement and that was the exact

motivation that I needed to push me to

take steps toward a zero waste lifestyle

so the first thing that I did was do

research on what people were already

doing how they had transformed their

lives to have a zero waste lifestyle and

I came across baya Johnson and her

family of four they live in California

and they produce one mason jar of

garbage a year one mason jar for people

that's it and boy was I inspired so baya

also wrote a book called zero waste home

and in that book she talks about the

five R's and you might be thinking five

I only know three well baya includes two

others and those five R's are refused

what you don't need reduce what you do

need reuse what you actually consume

recycle what you can't refuse reducer

reuse and finally wrought so compost the

rest and these five hours have really

helped me to reduce the waste that I

produce so the first are the first are

AIDS refuse refuse what you do not need

and this is about learning how to say no

thank you I don't need that so I was at

an educational conference about a month

ago and when I registered I received a

goodie bag or a swag bag and my initial

reaction was to take that bag and be

like oh free stuff and then I got it

back to my hotel

and I looked inside and I realized I

didn't need any of it I didn't even need

the bag so I had to remind myself that I

needed to say no thank you

which is exactly what I did when I

brought it back to the registration

table so the easiest way to refuse is to

refuse single-use plastic that is

plastic we use only once that often

isn't recyclable or doesn't get recycled

and isn't biodegradable often so that

includes plastic bags plastic cups

plastic lids cutlery and straws so that

is somewhere that you can start and it

does take a little bit of planning so

for me when I leave my house I always

have my zero waste kit waiting which

includes a cloth shopping bag reusable

water bottle or coffee mug

bamboo cutlery a glass straw a cloth

napkin and a mason jar or a container

which is actually really convenient when

you go to restaurants because then you

get to keep all the leftovers so it

really encourage you to think about how

you can say no thank you

because every flyer and every pen and

every single use straw that you use or

you accept creates a demand for more so

I recommend that when you're at a

restaurant and you're ordering a drink

you just need to say no straw please or

when you go to a coffee shop and you

know you're gonna hang out with your

friend and you know you're gonna sit

down just remember to say for here

please and those actions can decrease

significantly the amount of waste that

you produce the second R is reduced and

this is about reducing what you do need

it is about simplifying

your life it is about quality versus

quantity it is about experiences versus

stuff and it actually makes cleaning so

much easier because you have so much

left to duct and organize but it's also

about reducing em and being an informed

consumer so what that means is when you

purchase things that you can't refuse

that you actually think about the

packaging involved so for example I no

longer buy stamps in booklet I buy

stamps in a roll to reduce the packaging

I buy soap without packaging and plastic

because that plastic is often not even

recyclable I also make all my own

toiletries so that includes toothpaste

that includes lip balm that includes

moisturizer that includes facial toner

and I reuse the containers and I buy the

products in bulk to also reduce

packaging and I have stopped using

plastic toothbrushes I use a bamboo

toothbrush which you can compost because

I cringe to think about the fact that

every single plastic toothbrush that I

have used in my life is still on this

planet so the next are is reuse so reuse

what you do consume and the best way I

think to reuse is to shop in bulk and

when I say shop in bulk I don't mean

going to the grocery store and buying

five tubs of mayonnaise and not being

able to use them before they expire when

I say shop in bulk I mean you bring your

own reusable mason jar your own reusable

container your own cloth bag to the

store to buy your product and they're

actually quite a lot of bulk stores in

Toronto that have been allowing people

to do this for a long time but

citing news in the zero-waste world is

that bulk barn the biggest bulk store

retail store in the country has just

introduced a reasonable container

program in all of its stores so this was

a huge win for the zero waste movement

so you can pretty much buy everything

you need in bulk so that includes pasta

not grains sugar flour and maple syrup

which I was really excited when I found

that one and even your favorite junk

food can all be found in bulk so there

is one more thing that I want to talk

about in terms of reusing and I don't

know if you remember that recycling

costume that I showed you at the

beginning of the talk well I actually

reused that costume the following year

and made a new costume so we're using at

its finest

so the fourth r is recycled and it's

really important to recycle what you

cannot refuse reduce or reuse to do

those three r's before you actually

recycle and when you do that there is

very little left to recycle and that's a

good thing so yes recycling does reduce

the amount of energy we have to use and

it does reduce the natural resources

that we have to source but it can't be

the only answer it can't be the way that

you are living a green lifestyle so I

really encourage you to think about

those 3 R's

before you recycle for example instead

of recycling batteries think about how

you can buy rechargeable batteries or

buy a product that doesn't even need a

battery in the first place or when you

go to the coffee shop bring your

reusable mug so you don't have to figure

out how to actually recycle a coffee cup

on the UFT campus

as you can see each thing has to go in a

separate bin and actually it's a luxury

that we can recycle coffee cups on

campus because in the rest of Toronto

you can't even recycle a coffee cup and

the final are is rot okay so that is

compost and basically it is the

recycling of all of the organic material

that you use and in Toronto we're really

lucky that we have a citywide green bin

program because a third of our garbage

and a third of our waste is actually

organic and should be kept out of the

landfills so I actually have my own

backyard compost because I really like

the process of adding all of my organic

waste in and seeing it decompose and

then eventually adding this nutrient

rinse rich soil back into my garden so

those are the five R's and I really

encourage you to start thinking about

those as you're living your life but

there's one more thing I want to talk

about and that is getting outside that

is spending time in nature that's

falling in love with nature because that

is going to remind you about why those

five R's are actually important why

living a green lifestyle or living a

zero-waste lifestyle is important so if

you're looking for more tips about how

to live a green or zero waste lifestyle

check out my blog 50 shades of green

Toronto giving you tips for whatever

shade of green you want to be and I want

to leave you with a challenge and that

is to take a step one small step one

small green or one small zero-waste step

and eventually that step is going to

turn into a sustainable habit

and then I encourage you to take a

nother step

and eventually you will be walking the

talk you will be living your values and

in order for us to have a sustainable

future we all need to be living a

greener lifestyle and that is the way

that transformation is going to happen

thank you

[Applause]