New Year, New Resolve

December 31, 1998

By Michael Jessen

A new year is a time for resolutions; the final year of the 1900's is a time for new resolve.

Every resource used by humans -- food, water, wood, iron, oil, and many others -- is limited by both its sources and its sinks.

Initially, our only sink for discarded resources was our backyard. As society became more populous, the backyard sink became the neighbourhood dump. Still society grew and the neighbourhood dump became the regional landfill.

Through the decade of the 1990's we have been attempting to adopt a new ethic, one that recognizes limits on how much we can throw 'away' and the sheer difficulty of finding new 'aways'. Reduce, reuse, and recycle has become a new mantra for many.

Yet our best estimates indicate only half of us have bought into this new ethic. We have reduced our per capita waste going to landfills by 30 percent. Our goal is to reach 50 percent by the year 2000. The 30 percent was easy since much of that amount was comprised of easily separable scrap metal, organic yard waste, and construction wood waste. The next 20 percent will be harder to achieve without renewed resolve and a few New Year's resolutions. Here are some suggestions:

Resolve to carry at least one shopping bag with you at all times so you won't have to take one from the store. Most bags can be easily folded to fit in a coat pocket. Leave some bags in your car for the big shopping trips. A few years ago, my research indicated that just the Safeway, Overwaitea and Super Valu (now Extra Foods) stores dispensed a whopping 55,000 bags each week to Nelson shoppers.

Extra Foods now encourages you to bring your own bag by taking three cents off your grocery bill for each one of their bags you don't take. IGA in Kaslo offers an even better deal -- five cents back for each bag. I wish those stores that do not have such offers would reconsider and make it one of their New Year's resolutions to start repaying their customers who are helping them save money.

Resolve to put a notice on your mail box indicating you don't want unaddressed mail. There are still too many piles of unwanted junk mail piled beside rural mailboxes. If you don't want it, tell someone; Canada Post is now listening.

Resolve to stop using as many toxic cleaners in your life. There are many new cleaning cloths that users report do a fantastic job of cleaning without chemicals. I recently wrote about the Act Natural cloths distributed by Linda Rak (1-888-317-5511 Nelson) and Katie Kabatoff (205-304-2380 Castlegar). That column elicited a comment from one reader who said the Magic Cloth is distributed by Erik and Maria Viklund in the Creston area, 428-7601. You may also find such cleaning cloths at Cottonwood Kitchens and Shannon's Fabrics in Nelson under the name Power Towel. Even if you just switch to non-toxic baking soda and vinegar for your cleaning, you'll be doing the environment, your health, and the landfill a big favour.

Resolve to reuse more. I buy my dishwashing and laundry products at the Soap Exchange in Ellison's Market in Nelson. I buy my shampoo and conditioner at Chatters Salon in the Chahko-Mika Mall in Nelson. All these products come in containers that can be refilled as do lotions my wife buys at the Body Shop. If possible, buy your milk in refillable glass bottles sold at stores like the Kootenay Co-op and Ellison's.

Resolve to buy recycled. This helps create markets for the material processed at recycling depots. The most obvious item for homes is toilet paper. Look for 100 percent recycled paper with a maximum percentage of post-consumer (40 percent or better) content. If you have a business with a washroom, make sure your paper towels are recycled paper with high percentages of post-consumer content.

Resolve to do more recycling and reusing if you are building or renovating a house in the coming year. Too often this construction waste is simply all mixed together and discarded. Take the time to separate wood scraps which are guaranteed to disappear if you place a "Free for the taking" sign on them. Recycle all the paper waste from your rebuilding project -- it will reduce your disposal costs with only a small effort.

Resolve to compost more kitchen and yard waste and reduce your backyard burning -- the smoke and fumes are not neighbourly! The solution to our waste problem is ourselves. The German poet and writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said if every man would clean up his own backyard, the whole world would soon be clean. I hope more Kootenay residents adopt this thinking in 1999. Happy New Year!


All columns archived here are copyright © 1999 by Michael Jessen, all rights reserved. If you wish to print an individual column for your own use, please do so. If you wish to publish any of the columns in either print or electronic format, please contact the author at toenail@netidea.com to arrange appropriate payment.