Friday, December 15, 2017

Litter Audit Reveals a Cleaner City

Citizens, community groups and businesses worked together throughout the past year to help make Edmonton cleaner this year. The results of Capital City Clean Up's 2017 Litter Audit show a continued trend towards less litter on Edmonton's streets.

"The results of this year's Litter Audit show big improvements in the amount of littler on Edmont's streets," said Don Belanger, manager of Capital City Clean Up. "This downward trend in littler is thanks to thousands of volunteers, many community groups and local businesses that continue to step up and get involved."

The audit was conducted by AET Group in June which examined litter type and size at 123 preselected locations across Edmonton as well as along Yellowhead Trail between 107 Street NW and the Beverly Bridge.


Since last year:

  • 35 per cent reduction in large litter
  • 26 per cent reduction in small litter
Since 2009 when the audits began:

  • 74 per cent reduction in large litter
  • 59 per cent reduction in small litter
Along Yellowhead Trail:

  • 50 per cent reduction in large litter from the last audit in 2014
  • 19 per cent reduction in large litter from the baseline audit in 2010
Miscellaneous plastic and cigarette butts continue to account for the majority of large and small litter found. Although cigarette litter counts decreased, more work is still needed to address areas such as traffic intersections and locations where smokers congregate to smoke. Estimates show that more than 900 million cigarettes are smoked each year in Edmonton. More than 67 million butts are collected annually in the City of Edmonton's 719 outdoor ashtrays located in 13 commercial districts city wide.

Capital City Clean Up's 2018 litter management program will continue in the spring. It promotes a unified approach to keeping Edmonton clean by engaging volunteers, schools, community groups and local businesses.

Results of the litter audits since 2009 are available to the City of Edmonton's Open Data Portal.


Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Tell One Friend: How to Have #WastelessHolidays

#Wasteless Holidays Giveaway
You - and your friends can share your holiday tips, tricks and examples for reducing waste. From now until January 7, post your ideas on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag #WastelessHolidays for a chance to win.
  • Submit as many entries as you like.
  • Prizes include family passes to Edmonton attractions, gift baskets from the Reuse Centre, or a composting package.
  • Note: Each entrant can win a maximum of one prize. Winners selected by random draw.

Start a Conversation
"The holiday season always seems to create more garbage. What do you do to keep your holiday waste down?" List. Ask more. Keep the conversation about them.

Create an Ally
"I want to enter the #WastelessHolidays Giveaway. Can you help me find some holiday ideas to reduce waste?"

One Small Ask
"I love this holiday tradition you have. Would you post that on facebook as #WastelessHolidays?"

Visit for more info and full giveaway rules.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

MCR Refresher: 6 Things MCRs Should Know about the Reuse Centre

It was great to see MCRs, last Thursday. Here are highlights from our chat.

1. Ten Years of Growth & Change
The Reuse Centre has kept over 1,500 tonnes of waste out of the landfill and welcomed over 200,000 customer visits to donate and shop.

The Reuse Centre is bigger and busier than ever. More donations. More items. More diverted from landfill. More volunteers. This isn't a tiny Centre any more.

Then again... A busy facility means keeping a fair system for all. MCRs are like any other customer. We pay the regular $5 fee. And we only drop off items from the Accepted Items List.

2. Products & Pricing
  • The List of Accepted Items evolves, over time.
  • Changes happen every year, based on careful consideration including Customer Satisfaction Surveys, in-store wishlists, and feedback from staff and volunteers.
  • Criteria for Accepted Items:
    • Items that will sell in the store.
    • Avoid competing with other second-hand organizations.
  • Current Pricing:
3. Teaming up to Reduce Waste
  • Residents can donate items to the Reuse Centre at any Eco Station.
    Just make sure the bag or box is clearly labelled.
  • Goodwill Alberta sends donations that do not sell on their shelves to the Reuse Centre, like VHS tapes, photo frames, and baskets.
4. Lots of Volunteering
Over 300 volunteers help sort items, lead tours, assist with crafting workshops, and write for the Reuse-It Edmonton blog. And volunteering at the Reuse Centre has changed too.

Group Sorting
  • Groups of volunteers (4 to 20 people) can schedule a shift to sort items. This also means there aren't drop-in opportunities for individuals. Yes, there are lots of groups who want to volunteer.
  • There are 2 MCR sorting groups. Contact Rodney or Helene to connect with them.
Individual Volunteering
5. A Volunteer's Joy: "One Free Purchase"
Volunteers who sort at least one hour get one free purchase in the store.
Some common-sense conditions apply:
  • up to 50kg (just like one regular purchase)
  • shop after your shift, not before
  • shop the same day, and
  • everyone shops from the store (not from the Sorting Room).
6. Turn on the Programs
The Reuse Centre now hosts group programs, birthday parties, reuse workshops, and even boardroom rentals. Also, there are special events like Family Day and drop-in crafting sessions.

Visit or

Monday, December 4, 2017

Card-tastrophe by MCR Leah A.

How to Use Gift Cards Smartly & Avoid Card-tastrophe This Holiday Season

It’s the holiday season, and if you feel the looming pressure to find gifts for an ever growing list of friends and family, you might consider gift cards. They have become the default option for many people with little time to shop. Heck, it seems they have walls of them in grocery and drug stores everywhere. On a global scale, over $585 billion US dollars were spent on gift cards in 2016 [].

If you go the gift card route this season, you won’t be alone. Besides, it might just be the gift your family and friends are looking for…Is this type of gift always such a great card-tastrophe?

After all, gift cards allow the recipient to choose their own purchases, which prevents overconsumption and promotes sustainability. They can be thoughtful gifts as long as you keep the wishes and needs of the recipient in mind. A lucky person in your life might say: “A gift card to <store>?! I love shopping there!” Gift cards are also fitting for small gifts between acquaintances. You might decide to treat a colleague or teacher with a card to their favourite coffee shop as a small token of appreciation for their good work. Make sure you give cards to people you know will use them. In some cases, the money you spend may not even be redeemed -- people misplace cards, or find them to be a hassle to use.

But what happens to the gift card after its value has been exhausted? Most of us hold on to these cards for a while before tossing them. After all, how many cards can one person reasonably carry around in their wallet? If you take them back to the businesses, the staff there will likely toss them out, unless you reload them.

When dumped in a landfill, these cards add to our collective mountain of plastic waste. Sigh.

And you thought paper cups were the issue.
One super easy way to reduce the amount of excess gift cards is to reuse them. Most can be reloaded or re-gifted without anyone noticing. But when we consider the hierarchy of the three R’s, ideally, we would be reducing the number of plastic gift cards in circulation.

Alternatives to PVC Plastic Gift Cards

     Check if there is an electronic gift card option. These can be sent via email meaning no card will clutter up your wallet; they can also be easily accessed through your phone so you are less likely to forget to use up the full amount. Electronic gift cards can also be printed on regular paper which is much easier to recycle.

     Have you heard of Bank of Canada gift cards? (Hint: It is just cash!) Cash, e-transfers, or a personalized cheque still gives the purchasing power to the gift recipient. You can make it more personal by suggesting what they spend it on. Write your intentions on the memo line, in the card, or as the security question.  e.g.: “Happy Bastille day! I hope you’ll use this money to treat yourself to an indulgent pastry.”

     Make your own gift coupons! Give a voucher for a coffee date, a spa excursion, a weekday dinner, or anything you like! One Artsy Mama has these Homemade Holiday Ideas

Making your own holiday coupons can be a great way to go the extra green mile and reduce your gift purchases.
Finally, you can lighten up the financial burden of the holidays by reaching out to friends and family and agreeing not to exchange gifts. Trimming your gift giving list can free up your time to attend holiday parties and reduces the stress of credit card bills in January. Adam Conover, host of Adam Ruins Everything, makes a convincing argument in favour of a gift-less holiday season. He explains the economic problems with gift giving in this video clip. Sometimes, no presents can wind up being the best gift you can possibly give!

As for what to do with those plastic gift cards that you can’t reduce or reuse? You can mail them to a company called Earthworks. They ask you to fill out this form for specific instructions -- but you do not have to subscribe to anything. Aside from gift cards, they also take any plastic cards (rewards cards, hotel keycards, etc.) made from PVC. They recycle them in America into new cards while at the same time offering an alternative version without the PVC. If you want to keep everything in Canada, you can order a box for collecting cards from TerraCycle, though it does cost a bit more than sending an envelope to EarthWorks.

Here’s to a holiday season for us all with more time to socialize, less stress, and gifts that need no recycling. Cheers!

Leah joned the MCR ranks in May, 2014. She believes that urban environments offer a real opportunity to make the world increasingly sustainable. Favored topics include composting, urban design, and minimalism.

Friday, December 1, 2017

The A,B,Cs of a Great Back Alley Display by MCR Patti D.

I live in an older area with neighbours who frequently walk their dogs through the back alleys.  My MCR personal project was to create a back alley display about waste reduction.  How hard can that be, I thought?
  • Go to the dollar store. 
  • Get a display board. 
  • Create signage about waste reduction. 
  • Put the signs in page protectors. 
  • Change the signs each week. 
  • Start conversations. 
Voila – my 35 volunteer MCR hours are filled in no time!
Challenge 1:  Rain.  The display board from the dollar store was not waterproof.  After the first heavy rain, it was destroyed. Although I must note that there were pieces remaining around the screws that I had used to attach the display board to the fence...
Solution:  I spent $5 more and purchased composite wood board from Home Depot.  The sales clerk assured me it should last at least 2 years.
Challenge 2:  Wind.  I placed the signs on the board one day and proudly went out the next morning to inspect them.  All the signs were missing. I later located all the signs down the alley.
Solution:  I stopped using thumb tacks and used heavy duty staples to tack the signs to the board.
Challenge 3:  Wind AND Rain:  I placed the signs in page protectors with the openings at the bottom – smart eh?  The rain will not move upwards!  Wind will actually move the rain upwards and the page protectors did not help against rain.  The beautifully coloured signs looked like runny rainbows displayed in plastic envelopes.

 I’m VERY pleased to report that once I decided to use quality products, my back alley display was in much better shape.  
Solution:  Ordered expensive self-laminating sheets from Staples.  All signs are laminated front and back before they are stapled to the composite wood board.
Challenge 4:  Procrastination.  I blame it on loss of momentum.  I spent three weeks working on solutions to the first three challenges. Once I got those sorted out, I found that my enthusiasm for this project diminished.  I found other stuff to do over the summer and my signs were NOT changed once a week.  
Solution:  There is no solution; I am a procrastinator.  Regardless, I’m very proud of the signs I have created to date AND -  now that I have worked out solutions - it’s a simple matter to create a new sign, laminate it and place it in my Back Alley Display.
Challenge 5:  Conversations.  This did not spark as many conversations as I’d hoped.  In my dreams, I had people coming up to me, eager to take in the knowledge that I had to give. I had one neighbour admit to me that she did not compost as if it was a dirty little secret. Another asked me to come by her place to discuss garbage versus composting. I had hoped for a lot more interaction.  
 A compost mentor lives here. Talk to me if you need compost help. 

 The feedback I’ve received from other neighbours tells me that they ARE reading my signs; one neighbor walked by and I heard him explain to his son what grasscycling is.  Through the signs, people in my neighbourhood have started to think about waste reduction.  Here’s to my next six months!

Patti loves Edmonton and wants to help make it an even better place to live. She is now worm composting and started her first outdoor compost, this year. She has enjoyed sharing her knowledge with her neighbours at their annual block party. She keeps a box in her basement to store old batteries and light bulbs. When it's full, they take a trip to the Eco Station.