The winter can be a difficult time of year to find a routine that works for you and the planet. In our climate the colder months following after the New Year can have a few problems that may make us feel tired, unproductive, and maybe a little unmotivated to keep those New Year’s resolutions past the first week. These problems tend to impact our lives, what we buy, wear, and consume, and they have a direct connection with creating waste.
Problems in the Winter
The weather is cold and often very dry.
There is not as much produce available and the regular foods you may buy during other times of year are more expensive.
Our sunlight hours in the northern hemisphere are limited.
And we are recovering from the holiday season trying to get back into our regular daily routines, and perhaps purchasing more packaged foods.
I’ve created a list of 7 things that will make it easier to create less waste during the colder months of the year. These things are great to implement during the winter as they are connected with the problems of winter listed above, but they can obviously be used any time of year.
7 Things to do to Create Less Waste in the Winter
1. Homemade Baked Goods
Bread, muffins, cookies, whatever you like to eat during the week. If you have a little extra time during the weekend, evening, or your days off, baking is a great way to cut down on food packaging while also creating weekday snacks. I typically bake bread and muffins every other Sunday, which I can put in the freezer and keep fresh all week. You’re probably wondering how this connects to a winter type of problem. Baking cuts down on the typical packaging of store bought baking, it’s a great indoor winter activity when it’s cold, especially with kids, and as a plus the oven can help heat your house. Three in one!
2. Hot Drinks
Hot beverages, in my opinion, are essential in the winter! Whether it’s tea, coffee, hot chocolate, or the fancy drinks you may find in a nice coffee shop, whatever you drink you can do it less waste by choosing to skip the disposable cup. My travel mug is always with me, and I found it helpful at first while I was cutting out disposables from my lifestyle, to pretend that disposable cups don’t exist. If you think of disposables in this way, you are forcing your brain to remember your cup or you don’t get to buy a beverage. I also find travel mugs very useful because they keep liquids warm longer, and in the cold an insulated cup allows you to take your time while enjoying your beverage.
Another great option for avoiding disposable cups is actually just to sit in the coffee shop instead of taking your drink to-go. This is a much more relaxed way of enjoying a drink, and is how hot drinks were intended to be consumed. It can give you the opportunity to read, catch up with a friend, and enjoy the cozy atmosphere of a coffee shop. Rossos in Calgary is by far my favourite place to do this in the winter.
3. Candles & Dim Lighting
We often forget that sometimes the things we can’t see can be wasted too. In this case, energy. You may be able to see increased energy use in the winter on your electricity bill, from heating and leaving lights on in the early evening. But not everyone may see this amount, especially if you rent and utilities are included. Regardless, there are a few simple lighting tricks you can use to lower that bill and your energy usage.
The first is switching to LED bulbs. LEDs are fairly common and easy to find in stores, and they require less energy to produce the equivalent amount of light. Don’t forget about lights like your stove light too, as sometimes they get left on in an otherwise dark kitchen.
The second is turning the lights off and lighting candles instead. If you are down to the last bit of wax in your candles, you could think about remelting the wax, making a new candle, or buying raw beeswax and reusing those candle containers to make new ones. You could also use battery operated fairy lights using rechargeable batteries, as dim lighting is a great way to create a calm environment in your space.
4. Indoor Composting
You might compost in the summer, but do you continue composting in the winter? Food waste is the largest occupancy in landfills. Food waste does not decompose in a landfill and because of this the waste creates greenhouse gases, resulting in a negative effect on the environment. Composting removes this waste and turns it into something that can be useful.
If you have compost service from your city, great, use it! If you have a backyard compost, that’s great too. But in the winter do to the cold, the food waste will just freeze outside… unless you do something called hot composting. Hot composting is a process where you collect food waste, keeping it in an above freezing temperature area, and then building a compost heap outdoors by layering your green and brown material. The heap will heat itself up through microbial activity and your food waste will decompose!
Now if you don’t have a compost space outdoors, there are still two options. There are indoor compost systems available (but can be a bit pricey), and there is also vermiculture, or worm composting. Both are great options for making food waste into useful material while staying indoors in the winter.
5. Buying Seasonal & Meal Prep
Knowing what’s in season where you live can be helpful while you are grocery shopping. These produce items would potentially be less expensive while they are in season as there are more available. It also means that you are purchasing foods that are fairly local (within the country even) instead of produce flown in from overseas.
Buying seasonal can also lead to great meal prep opportunities. After the holidays, if you are feeling a little unmotivated to cook anything else, you might be more inclined to purchase prepared meals like TV dinners for your daily packed lunches. This plastic and waste builds up and makes it harder on the waste management systems like recycling. Chilis, soups, and casseroles and great recipes that make it easy to portion meals for a week. They can often be made in one pot and can incorporate seasonal vegetables like sweet potatoes.
January & February Canadian Seasonal Produce: Rutabagas, turnips, beets, carrots, cabbage, red onion, garlic, leeks, potatoes, squash, and sweet potatoes
6. DIY Lotions & Moisturizers
In Calgary, there is no shortage of dry climate at all times of the year, but the winter just seems to get worse, sucking all the moisture you thought you had out of your skin. Skin starts to feel itchy, hands and lips crack, and lotions are a must! This is the perfect opportunity to begin making your own lotions and moisturizers. One of the added benefits of making your own, besides cutting down on packaging, is that you will know exactly what ingredients are in your product. Last year I tried making lip chap with beeswax, coconut oil, and essential oils. It went over much better than I expected and it lasts quite a long time!
If you don’t want to try making your own lotion bars or lip chaps, you can still buy from companies who make eco-friendly choices. I have not attempted to make my own lotion bar yet, but I use a couple different ones found at a farmer’s market as well as zero waste stores.
7. House Plants
Lastly, having house plants might seem like a weird tip for less waste in the winter, but plants are a great way to easily cheer up and brighten a room as well add a positive impact to your air quality.
That’s it for this week! I hope these less waste in the winter tips help you on your zero waste journey and keep your post-holiday motivation and joyfulness in check.