Why I’m Taking the Zero Waste Week Challenge

The Sandbox

photo 1Starting today and ending on Friday, February 27th I am going to be carrying around all my trash. Of  which I sincerely hope there won’t be that much, because it’s going to be pretty awkward hauling it all back and forth on the commuter train.

Why, you ask?


Well, the short answer is that I had a moment of rash enthusiasm (trash enthusiasm?) during a conversation with the persuasive and inspirational Kristen Perry, SSMU Environment Commissioner extraordinaire, and I agreed to take their Zero Waste Week Challenge.


Here is the longer answer:


  1. Because MOOS should walk the walk—At the McGill Office of Sustainability (MOOS) we talk a lot about supporting student initiatives, and this is a great one. I think it’s important for folks to see that there are real people up here in the MOOS office on the 12th floor, and that we’re excited about the great work that’s going on and ready to join in. Waste is a priority for McGill—it’s one of the Priority Actions in our Vision 2020 Sustainability Strategy—and frankly we’ve got a long way to go. There seems to be momentum growing around waste issues lately and maybe Zero Waste Week can help us figure out how to make progress on waste—both as individuals and as an institution. I want to be a part of that.
  2. Because sustainability is not just a job—I think and talk about sustainability every day in my role here at MOOS. Sometimes that’s energizing and sometimes it’s exhausting and mostly it feels like a pretty sweet way to spend my hours and put food on the table. But sometimes I catch myself feeling like I get a pass on lifestyle sustainability stuff because I’ve already done my bit. It doesn’t work like that, of course.  Working at the systemic level isn’t enough—individual contributions still add up. And, just as importantly, I feel better—more authentic, more motivated, prouder—when my daily choices match up with my values and the things I’m advocating for during my working hours.
  3. Because I’m a mom—I recently had a conversation with my 7-year old daughter about why we don’t (usually) eat string cheese at home. Why waste all those extra plastic wrappers when it’s easy to just slice some cheese off the big block in the fridge? It was a good chat (that veered into discussions of sustainable materials engineering—could you make a cheese wrapper out of red pepper? Out of wood?). But if there’s one thing I’ve learned as a parent, it’s that your kids pay a lot more attention to what you do than what you say. We already do the basics at home—composting, trying to avoid excess packaging, etc—but I think it will be really memorable (and hilarious) for them to watch Mommy dragging her garbage around all week long.

So there you have it. Who knows how I’ll feel by Thursday, but at the moment I’m pretty excited. And I hereby promise to bring my spoils with me to Sustainability Friday for your inspection. In the meantime, I’ll be providing periodic Twitter updates on how it’s going. Let the challenge begin!

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