I bought a plastic bag… I feel so bad!

Everything was going well. Our garbage can had a few crumbs in it and we hadn’t bought any food with packaging. We decided to go to the poissonnerie to buy some shrimp in our own container. We were really excited to have shrimp! We went to the poissonnerie at Atwater market and asked to buy some shrimp in our container. We were told that it’s not possible because they don’t use gloves there, so they use a plastic bag to pick up the fish, (or shrimp), then sell them in the bag. How disappointing!

We didn’t expect this response, so we bought the shrimp in the bag, (we had gone to the market expecting to buy shrimp), I felt terrible all evening. I feel like I’m a traitor. We had two whole weeks without making any garbage and now we have to start at zero. From now on I’ll be saying “No thanks, I’ll go elsewhere” if someone can’t serve me without garbage. I’ll feel better, and if there gets to be enough demand to be served without garbage maybe things will change a little.

I learned my lesson.

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Eureka!! I Have Milk!!

The milk in the fridge.

As I mentioned before, I’ve been looking for milk in a reusable container. I honestly thought that I wouldn’t be able to find it since I was told that it didn’t exist anymore.

But we found it! There’s a small grocery store/café on Victoria Avenue in Westmount called Marché Vic that sells milk in glass bottles, and the employee who explained everything about the milk was super nice as well. There’s a $2 deposit on the bottle so it’s a bit expensive the first time you buy milk, but after that just bring back your old, empty, bottle each time and you only pay the price of the milk. The bottles are sent back to the dairy where they’re sterilized and refilled with new milk. The only garbage is the plastic cap, but I’ve been keeping them to try to do an art project with the children that I look after. They’ll become little magnetic frames or something like that.

I don’t know if it’s because I’m really happy to have found milk, but I think that the milk tastes even better than the milk that I’ve had from cartons or plastic bottles. I’ll have to try the chocolate milk too!!

Note from John: The milk is from Harmony Organic, based near Toronto. They sell the normal range of milks & creams in glass bottles, but so far we’ve only tried the 2%.

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We can Compost!

Before we moved we lived in an apartment with a yard. In the yard we had made a nice little vegetable garden with, of course, a compost box. When we started composting I was really surprised to see that a large portion of our garbage was food that could be composted. Once we moved into a smaller apartment with no yard, so no compost box, we had a problem. We refused to throw our compostables in the garbage so had a big compost bucket, (one of those Rubbermaid containers again), waiting for us to find a solution.

I was upset to see that Verdun doesn’t compost collection since other cities like Westmount, and parts of NDG, have it.

We did the research and found a company here in Montréal that collects compost from homes once per week for about $20 a month. When springtime arrives they’ll deliver finished composted that we can use in our plants and gardens. They provide the containers and even put a new, compostable, bag in the container each time the collect our compost.

Not only do they help us by offering this service, but it allows us to support a local company. Everybody wins!

They’re called Compost Montréal, check them out at compostmontreal.com.

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Should I be wrapped in plastic too?

Since we moved to Verdun, I’ve come under the impression that all food comes wrapped in plastic, and often on a little styrofoam tray. We live near a Metro, (the grocery store), a Provigo, an IGA, and some independent grocery stores. We went to explore them to see what we could buy without packaging.

The aisle shines with plastic.

The first store we tried was the Metro. I almost fell over when I saw the aisle of fruits & vegetables. I thought that fruits & vegetables would be possible but I was wrong. All that we could buy without packaging was bananas, peppers, limes, and some tomatoes, but I must say that at least they had those.

Peppers, individually wrapped for your convenience.

After, we went to see the Provigo… (would you like some plastic with your plastic?). Even the peppers were individually wrapped. I couldn’t believe it.

Does your coconut need protection, or just organization?

Many of the independent grocery stores were just as bad. I don’t understand it. Does a turnip or an eggplant really need to be wrapped in plastic? How about a coconut? Still, we discovered a store close to us, “La branche d’olivier” that sells several things, (including a great selection of rice), in bulk. We bought some white sugar and corn flour in our bags.

I want to know who I can talk to to find out why the stores in my area behave like this and if it’s possible to change it.

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I love the person who invented the concept of Bulk Shopping

For not making garbage, shopping in bulk is fabulous. You just have to have a bunch of smallish bags and you can do a whole grocery trip. Before going to the Atwater market for the first time I sewed some small bags using cloth from some old pants of John’s that had a big hole, (I didn’t use the whole for my bags), and some ribbon left over from making costumes.

We bought some oats, nuts, flour, and sugar. They have everything! And the cashier said that she thought the bags were cute. The bulk store at Atwater market will become one of our main sources of food.

We also went to Première Moisson and asked them to wrap a loaf of bread in a, (clean), dishtowel that we had brought with us. They were a bit surprised at the request but had no problem doing it for us. Having bread with out packaging or a bag was as simple as asking.

We’ve started riding our bikes a lot more, so I also love that the Atwater market is 15 minutes away from our apartment on the bike path. We will need some good baskets for our bikes to make our journeys easier, but we’ve got to find them used. I’ll start looking on Craigslist to see if I can find some.

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Our First Grocery Shopping Trip at the Jean-Talon Market

Since we can’t buy any food that comes in packaging, the best place to go shopping is the market. We went to the Jean-Talon market here in Montréal armed with reusable bags and containers to carry the food that we were going to buy. Fruits & veggies were easy to fins without packaging but I always had to move fast to show my reusable bag and ask to use it – otherwise I would end up with a plastic bag that I would have to give back. It seems to me that the majority of people bring their reusable bags when shopping but then use them to carry food that has been put in a bunch of other plastic bags. At the beginning I felt strange with a bunch of food all mixed together in the same bag, (carrots, peas, potatoes…), but it’s not really that complicated to separate them when we get back to the house.

I was also really happy to see farmers selling their eggs in cartons that they will take back when I return. Eggs were one thing that I wasn’t sure we would find very easily. It’s nearly impossible to buy eggs without packaging, (for good reason!), but at least this way the same carton is reused many times over.

We also bought sausages at William J. Walter Saucissier and the person working there was happy to put our sausages into the container we brought with us. He even reset the scale to zero with our container on it so that we wouldn’t pay for the weight of our container. We’ll be going back there often!

Now the big problem that remains to be solved is my milk. I’m most of the way through my last carton of milk and after it’s finished I won’t be able to buy milk unless I can find it in a reusable container, (like a glass milk bottle – the plastic ones that are more recyclable than reusable don’t count). I asked at a fromagerie at the market that sells its own milk in plastic containers and the response wasn’t encouraging. After practically laughing at me suggesting that I buy a cow, they told me that it is no longer possible to find glass bottles for milk. I’m super discouraged. It isn’t that I drink a lot of milk but I love my coffee in the morning and I need some milk in it.

The search continues as I am convinced that I’ll find milk somewhere…

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We’ve Moved!

We moved everything in our car with the help of big Rubbermaid containers that we already had and one week’s worth of flyers that we brought back and forth between the old and new apartments to wrap up delicate items for each trip.

And we’re finally in our new apartment!

First, I am very proud that we found any furniture that we were missing on Craigslist, second hand, and without packaging. We got a coffee table, two sets of drawers for the office, a big coat hanger to put by the door, and a blackboard that we put at the door with hooks for our keys and a place for the mail.

Sadly, we had to buy a couple of things with packaging: a shower curtain with rings, a new toilet seat, (made of recycled wood!), and a smoke alarm.

We also left our cleaning products for the next tenant at our old place. We’re going to make our own using vinegar, baking soda and borax. We cleaned our whole apartment with those products and reusable cloths. I have to confess that before, (maybe 2 weeks ago), I was a paper towel addict. I always used paper towels because they were so easy. To get ready for no garbage cleaning I made some “paper towels” by cutting up our old bath towels. Now when there’s a little spill I can use a “paper towel” but wash it after, when I have enough for a full load in the washer, so it’s ready to be reused.

We also painted the new apartment with Boomerang recycled paint. We already had rollers left over from our last move and didn’t need to buy much else. We used some newspaper to protect the floor but were able to move the same few pieces of paper around the apartment with us so they were well-used before they got recycled.

After the move we had a small bag of garbage to throw out containing, among other things, the old toilet seat, (soft, foam, pink), and a falling-apart paint roller.

Now, the experience starts for real!

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Mountains of Stuff, (or, half your stuff is crap)!

We don’t realize how many things we collect until we move and have to get everything that we collected out of its hiding place. We knew that we had way to much stuff and were going to have to get rid of a bunch of it but we had no idea just how much stuff we had collected and honestly, it’s stuff that we never use. We’re moving from a 7 1/2 into a 4 1/2, (without much storage), so we have a lot of work to do.

We put a bunch of the more interesting, or valuable, items on Craigslist to try to sell them. We sold, among other things, a single bed with a mattress and linens, a kitchen table with 3 chairs, and a patio table with 4 chairs.

Everything else in the apartment was placed in one of three categories: keep, give away, and throw away. Everything that was put in the “keep” category had to have been used in the past year or we planned to use it soon. The exceptions to that rule were photos, important papers, books, and movies, (that I collect).

If something didn’t fit the “keep” criteria I had to sell it, give it to the Salvation Army, or throw it away.

Here’s the pile of things that we gave away, and our mountain that was left for the garbage pickup. We tried really hard to give away the couches but had to throw them away because the big one was too long for anyone to move. One guy even came to pick them up but it didn’t fit in his van – too bad.

Our mountain of garbage.

The mountain that we donated.

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Here We Go!

For a while now, John, (my fiancé), and I have wanted to experience living differently. We’ve always been concerned about the environment and what we can do to save our planet.

After having read the book No Impact Man we decided to have the same experience as the author, (Colin Beavan), but in our own way, and here in Montréal, not in New York. The author tried to live for a year without having any impact on the planet. He found that there are lots of things we can get rid of while still living a comfortable life, but eventually we hit a limit to what we can do on our own while still enjoying our time here on earth. We’ll use his experiences to guide us in our own experiment to see if we can live here in Montréal making as little garbage, and as little recycling, as possible. This means that we can no longer buy food, or anything else, that comes wrapped in something that we would have to throw away or recycle.

We’ll start our experiment on the first day that we move into our new apartment. We’re moving to Verdun at the end of June and that will be our No Garbage Apartment. Is it possible? We’ll see!

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