A Circular Economy

Written by SK intern, Jadon Hook

Written by SK intern, Jadon Hook

Canada generated 11.5 million tonnes of waste in 2014 [1], which averages out to about a tonne of waste per person annually in Ontario. Only 25% of our waste this past decade has been recycled which means we are annually sending close to 8 million tonnes to landfills.

What is the solution to reducing our waste footprint? Transitioning into a circular economy.

What is a Circular Economy?

A circular economy is a sustainable model that looks to eliminate waste not just from the recycling process but in a resource or products lifecycle. Moving away from the traditional linear “make, use, and dispose” model, a circular economy looks to maximize our resources while minimizing our waste and footprint.

 

 
Circular Economy.jpg
 

Fig. 1.1 [1]

Following these steps will increase waste reduction starting in the design of the products themselves. A company can design its products to have less packaging, use less raw materials, and reuse old materials so they are diverted from landfills.

Why Transition into a Circular Economy?

To meet environmental priorities moving towards a circular economy will drive businesses towards innovation, sustainable growth, and stimulate business development while diverting waste from landfills and maximizing current resources.

Companies integrating more sustainable designs into their products can reduce waste from excess packaging or unnecessary resources but that also results in cost savings which every business can get behind.

The circular economy model can create jobs, raise our gross domestic product (GDP), and save taxpayers money! According to Statistics Canada, local government expenses for waste is about $1.8 billion in 2004 to $3.2 billion in 2013. A study by Stats. Canada also said Ontario can create 10 times more jobs in waste diversion programs as opposed to waste disposal [2]. The study also estimated that 7 jobs are created every 1000 tonnes of waste diverted [2].

A circular economy encourages businesses to become more innovative and implement higher-quality and long-lasting features into product designs which can create better products for consumers to buy.

With the waste sector generating 6% of all greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) in Canada [1] this presents an opportunity to divert our Co2 emissions even further while promoting sustainable business development.

The Role of the Consumer

The circular economy does not just mean businesses changing but also a cultural shift in the consumers and individuals. Voting with your wallet has always and remains a consumer’s greatest asset to change how a business operates. Reward businesses who integrate sustainable practices with purchases instead of going for the cheaper option from a less sustainable source.

Saying no to plastic bags, straws, cutlery and using reusable options instead will stop businesses from purchasing these single-use plastic items and move towards innovative alternatives. You can find local businesses that use these practices on our Sustainabaly.eco map!

Other methods that consumers can follow to promote a circular economy are:

-          Getting the most out of clothing and other products- repair, reuse, recycle

-          Choose slow fashion-focused companies- What is slow fashion?

-          Promoting the companies who strive to bring sustainable action

-          Buy quality, over quantity

-          Meal plan to avoid food waste

-          Adapt a zero-waste lifestyle- guide on becoming zero-waste

How can we Achieve a Circular Economy?

Ontario specifically has outlined a goal and strategic plan for the transition into a circular economy you can read the full report here!

The goals are to achieve a zero-waste Ontario and achieve zero greenhouse gas emissions from the waste sector.

Implementing the 3Rs (reuse, reduce, recycle) into policy and legislation will ensure businesses start following these 3 key principles. Developing and promoting diversion campaigns while also utilizing current programs like the Blue Box program!

This switch will require a group effort from government leaders, businesses, and most importantly individuals who want a cleaner greener future.

References

[1] Ontario Government, "Strategy for a Waste-Free Ontario: Building the Circular Economy," 2017.

[2] Statistics Canada, "Waste Management Industry Study," Statistics Canada, 2004-2012.

Kingston Climate Change Symposium - Walking the Talk

Written by Tess Wittmann

Written by Tess Wittmann

Climate change is today’s most significant global threat to our quality of life. As a community, we have a responsibility to take action. The Kingston Climate Change Symposium is coming up on January 17th and we try our best to walk-the-talk when it comes to sustainability at our events. We want to make a statement and showcase the many simple and effective ways we can work to build a more livable and resilient city. We are proud to showcase several initiatives that will reduce the environmental impact of the event and promote Sustainable Kingston's Six Priority Areas. 

See the examples below of how Sustainable Kingston is doing its best to walk-the-talk!

 

WASTE - FREE

We are working with the City of Kingston Solid Waste Division again this year to make The Kingston Climate Change Symposium a waste-free event.

Waste Sorting Stations, led by a small team of volunteers, will be provided at The Grand Theatre. They will take recycling and organics from attendees and dispose it into the appropriate bins, offering an educational element as well as ensuring effective waste diversion.

Surplus food for the event will be posted on FoodRescue.ca to be donated to social service organizations who can put this food to great use. Anything that isn't picked up will be donated to Farm Sanctuaries.

 

REDUCE AND REUSE

In addition to supporting a waste-free initiative, we have partnered with local food vendors who will use reusable and compostable materials. Rather than bringing disposable plates, vendors will provide compostable or reusable serving dishes to reduce packaging wherever possible.

Culligan Water is graciously donating water refill stations, so attendees can fill up their reusable water bottles.

Copper Branch is sponsoring a vegan meal to further reduce the event's environmental impact.

Bread and Butter is sponsoring baked goods and The Tea Room is sponsoring coffee for our first break. There will even be oat milk as a vegan alternative to milk and cream for your hot beverage!

 

CARBON NEUTRAL

Sustainable Kingston is working with Carbonzero to offset the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the Kingston Climate Change Symposium. Sustainable Kingston is proud to recognize Carbonzero as its official offset sponsor. 

 

COMMUNITY

We are providing a student discount of $20 (43% discount from the original ticket fee) to inspire innovation and collaboration among the next generation.

This event will be a positive space event to support and welcome all members of the community.

We are also pushing to make this event as accessible as possible. A couple of examples include a wheelchair accessible event and an available water bowl for service dogs.

 

TRANSPORTATION

We are partnering with the City of Kingston to provide free bus transportation for ticket holders. Just show your ticket on January 17th and you can use the bus for free for the entire day. The downtown transfer point is only a 3-minute walk to the Grand Theatre! So, take the economic and environmental option and use sustainable transportation.

Making the Holiday Season Sustainable!

Written by Kristin Mullin

Written by Kristin Mullin

Why is it so important we make a change?

The holiday season is renowned for being a wasteful, consumer-driven and stressful time of year.  To help combat this, our team has decided to create our own Sustainable Gift Giving Guide with ideas on how to make your holiday season simple and sustainable.

Shockingly in Canada we collectively throw away 540,000 tonnes of wrapping paper each year, that’s the equivalent of 100,000 elephants (if you can even imagine that many elephants in your head). Combine this with 2.6 billion holiday cards and hundreds of thousands of tonnes of packaging that is added to landfills during the holidays (25% more than the rest of the year) and we have created a humungous amount of waste.

But on a positive note, if each of us starts making some small changes, we can spoil ourselves and our loved ones without spoiling the planet.

How to Give Sustainably!

Think about other options before you buy – There are many gifts out there which have less impact on our planet and some that even make a positive difference!

Instead of buying a gift for a loved one, you can make a donation on their behalf. Therefore instead of giving for the sake of giving, you have an opportunity to make a real difference for those who really need it.

Another idea is to give new life to a used item by gifting it to someone who could really use it. Or, make a new gift using items you already own (Pinterest has lots of ideas).

Give experiences not gifts – There is a large misconception that during the holidays, the amount you spend on an individual reflects how much you care about that person.  The team at SK feels that time is always so much more valuable than things. Time that you spend with loved ones can never be replaced, so why not choose to share your time with a day at a local conservation area to engage with nature, go to a local show, or learn a new skill together.  

Shop for Sustainable Materials – If you do decide to purchase gifts, choose items made with sustainable materials such as organic cotton, hemp, wood or silk which are natural and renewable.  These items add character, texture and uniqueness to your gift and they also support sustainable farmers!

Buy Local – The holidays are about supporting our friends, families and communities. One great way to support our neighbours is by shopping in locally owned stores. As an added bonus, your gifts are more likely to be unique and memorable for those receiving them.

Cards - Store-bought holiday cards are rich, elegant and expensive. They also consume a huge amount of natural resources for a single-use item. Homemade cards, created with materials you already own can be much more personal and just as appreciated. Making the cards is also a fun activity for the family during the weeks leading up to the holidays.

Wrapping Paper – If you’ve got old scarves, shirts, sheets or any other textile material lying around at home, there is no need to go to the store to purchase wrapping paper.   Just last week SK hosted a workshop with Boho & Hobo all about sustainable gift wrapping and learned how to wrap gifts with a variety of different materials (and they turned out great!). If you are really stuck on wrapping paper there are more sustainable options out there, opt for more environmentally friendly choices made using fibres such as hemp, or recycled content.

Large Group Gift Giving – If you have a large group or family that you wish to buy gifts for you’ll know the familiar feeling of stress and worry about waste. Our team has thought of some options to reduce the stress and the waste.

  1. Stick to a ‘one gift’ or “Secret Santa” rule. This allows each person to get one especially thoughtful and unique gift from someone who had the time to dedicate their effort.

  2. Try a “White Elephant” gift exchange – everyone only gives gifts they find around their home with no money spent.

  3. Handmade Gift Exchange- only handmade gifts (from hand-knit scarves to cookies) may be given.

At Sustainable Kingston, we believe that small actions can lead to BIG change. Sustainable holiday giving is just one example of this.   It starts with just one person taking action and making positive impact by influencing their circle of connections, and then when that larger group shares what they have learned they can spark change throughout the community.    

From the Team at Sustainable Kingston, We wish you all a very happy, healthy and sustainable holiday season.