Niagara Region & Residential Organics Program

Recently here in Niagara, residential garbage pick up frequency changed from weekly to bi-weekly. This means that residents no longer get the luxury of putting their garbage out weekly, but instead get to put out two bags of garbage every other week. However, residents as always, are allowed to put out as much recycling (paper, plastic and organics) to the curb, every week. This caused some confusion, hesitation (to change) and just general residential anger. However, Niagara is not the first to move to this new way of waste pick up. Many regions have been operating in this biweekly waste system for years without issue, and Niagara was just catching up to the trend.

Now that the initial uproar has subsided, the most interesting outcome of this schedule change is that Niagara region residents are now using their organics program more than ever before. Although nearly 80% of Niagara region residents already diverted food waste from the landfill, the region has seen an increase. According to the Niagara Region Waste Management Department, organics tonnage is up by 34% and garbage tonnage to landfill is down by 16%. But why? Why are people all of a sudden using their organics program that has been available to them for years? In this blog post we are going to look into why this shift of organics usage has happened. 

Why Are Niagara Residents Using The Organics Bin More?

When the region switched from weekly to biweekly garbage pick up, they left recycling and organics weekly, which is an obvious indication that the main purpose to the schedule shift was to increase recycling and organics diversion rates. Given this, the most obvious answer is that residents can put this out weekly vs having to hold onto more garbage for two weeks. However, I think there is more to this discussion. In my opinion, I think people are diverting more because of a few reasons.

First of all, we are in a major pandemic, where people are staying home more than ever (Niagara region has literally been on a stay at home order for nearly 4 of the 6 months this year), which gives people the opportunity to make more meals at home. In addition to this, restaurants are not open for dine in, only take out. All of the food scraps that would have been left at the restaurant are now being diverted through residential waste streams, as well as all the take out containers that go with this (think compostable clamshells and pizza boxes). This will naturally contribute to the amount of organics that the Niagara Region sees because some of that waste was going to other providers (like us), or dumpsters, at the restaurants.

However, I do agree that there is a direct connection between the bi-weekly and weekly pick up schedule change, and the increased diversion rates. I think this has to do greatly with the fact that people are inconvenienced by having to hold onto their garbage for more than a week. Holding onto more garbage is less desirable, so if you are able to get rid of more recycling or organics weekly, that is more convenient. Additionally, organic waste that is left in your garbage stream for a two week period is not ideal for vermin and odour. I think people have come to realize this.

Given this, I think that there is a twofold reason for more organics program use, but it is interesting that since switching to this method that the Niagara Region has seen an increase in their diversion rates. Niagara region has offered an organics program for many years and the fact that they are now just seeing an increase, does reinforce that the biweekly schedule is doing what it was intended to do – divert more waste from the landfill.

The other part of this is that there is a 16% reduction of waste that is entering the landfill. This is excellent for regional stats and for our landfill usage here in Niagara, especially given that we are in a pandemic. The same argument that I used for the reason for more food waste being diverted could also be a reason that the region should have seen an increase in garbage to the landfill, not a decrease. With this stat, hand in hand with the increased organics diversion stat, it is clear that the bi-weekly garbage is contributing to an increase in diversion (in both streams). 

Discussion

I think it is important to look at all angles when looking at diversion rates, as there are many reasons why month to month they could vary, especially during these unprecedented times. Can this increase of diversion be related directly back to the new bi-weekly pick up schedule? Maybe. But I do think there has to be some accountability given to the pandemic and people just being home more often, cooking more and getting solely take out foods. More evidence based research needs to be done here.

Another thing that should be noted is that the region has also confirmed that there is an increase in recycling as well, as that diversion tonnage for both paper and plastic recycling is up 12%. It is excellent to see that there is more diversion happening in all streams. However, another angle that can be taken from this is why are the tonneages for recycling and organics up so much (total of 46%) and garbage tonnage to landfill only down a small amount (16%)? Are we actually just creating more waste in the organics and recycling streams in general? These numbers of tonnage should align, but yet they are not.

Like I said, more evidence based research and audits need to be conducted to get to the root of these diversion rates, but I would say that diverting more waste is certainly in the win column for Niagara. Hopefully as the new bi-weekly schedule moves forward, and the pandemic comes to an end (sooner than later, we hope!), we will see these numbers even out a bit more and see the benefits of the bi-weekly schedule in full use.

 

BREAKING NEWS: BioSqueeze 200 Separation Press System – The Next Big Thing at Davidson Environmental

After years of dreaming, discussing, and planning our next steps here at Davidson Environmental, we are happy to release some exciting news. We have officially purchased and installed the BioSqueeze 200 Separation Press System in our facility – the first of its kind in North America to process commercial waste. Working closely with Fitec Environmental Technologies, we were able to get this equipment built to order from Finsterwalder Umwelttechnik in Bernau am Chiemsee, Germany. At this point you’re probably thinking that this sounds interesting – but what does it do? Great question!

This hydraulically operated system separates waste into a digestible and non-digestible fraction with a high degree of efficiency and reliability. This means that if we put in any waste that contains fragments or parts of organic matter/waste, this machine will properly separate the organic matter from its solid waste counterpart. For example, if we put in expired granola bars, with their wrappers intact, this machine is able to separate the inorganic waste from the digestible organic waste. This then creates a nutrient dense slurry that is in a perfect composition for disposal at a BioGas facility as well as condensed ‘slugs’ of packaging that are the perfect candidate for waste-to-energy incineration.

Prior to getting this machine, our business was somewhat hindered by packaging on food waste. Under those previous parameters, we were happy to take all types of food waste but some food wastes naturally have more packaging then others – i.e. yogurt containers, granola bars, canned food etc. In these cases, we often try to de-package & limit the food packaging prior to its disposal at a BioGas facility. This can be very time consuming, costly, and inefficient. Additionally, the yield of this food waste is low quality, contaminated and not the best candidate for BioGas recycling.

However, the BioSqueeze 200 will be changing this completely for us and for you, our customers. This machinery will allow us to take a larger variety and volume of packaged organic food waste and yield high quality digestible waste. It will allow us to take all types of food waste and ensure that we are always getting the maximum amount of food waste from the products. This ensures a high level of recyclability of the food waste and ensures that waste that is destined for the landfill currently, can be diverted to a waste-to-energy incineration plant. Truly a zero-waste process. As you may or may not know, the Ontario government has committed to banning organic waste from landfills by 2022. With this machine we can provide our customers with a diversified program that aligns with government priorities and supports on-going environmental strategies.

This machine will change the way we conduct our business and ensure we are leading the way with the absolute best practices of our industry. This machine allows us to capture more food waste then any other waste service provider and ensure that your waste is disposed of in an environmentally conscious manner, every time! We are now able to process food waste with an immense amount of packaging without hindering the quality of the digestible output and divert waste from the landfill to create a zero-waste system.

Whether you have been a Davidson Environmental customer for a week or 20 years, I personally want to thank you for your support and financial commitment in doing the right thing for the environment. Together, we shall usher in the next phase of responsible organics disposal.

James Davidson, CEO of Davidson Environmental

Ready to commit to making your business more environmentally conscious? Contact us today to get a tailored organics recycling program for you and your business today! 905-988-9926 x 222 or sales@davidsonenvironmental.ca

Do you have any questions or comments? We would like to hear from you!

905-988-99626 x 230 or sustainability@davidsonenvironmental.ca

 

 

Pollinators: The Most Important Creatures You Didn’t Even Know About

When most people think of pollinators, they likely think of the honeybee – the most established pollinator of its category group. Surprisingly, they are just one of many common pollinators here in Ontario that go unrecognized for stabilizing our ecosystem and food security. Pollinators are everywhere, and include animals such as bats, small mammals, butterflies (maybe you have heard of monarchs as pollinators), birds, beetles, moths, flies and even wasps. Pollinators are endangered, which many people do not know (or know and do not think there is anything we as humans can do anything about), which puts them at risk of extinction. With their extinction, we face issues of food insecurity, ecosystem degradation, soil erosion and a variety of other issues that directly affect the quality of life we have as humans. So exactly what do pollinators do and why are they so important? What can we do to better protect them? Let’s chat about it!

What Do They Do?

Although this is taking it back to basics, pollinators fly, jump, climb and crawl from flowering plants, drinking nectar, or feeding off pollen. As they move from plant to plant, they help with the pollination process by transporting pieces from bloom to bloom. This is an important piece of the pollination process, as pollen from male and female plants is the first step in the next generation of that plant (i.e., large blooms or produce).

Now, this process can happen without the pollinators, as some plants are self-pollinating, or some plants are planted close enough together that wind/water can help move the pollen from bloom to bloom. However, this method is not nearly as effective as the pollinator creatures moving the pollen themselves.

Why Are They So Important?

Although there are more reasons as to why pollinators are so important, I wanted to take the time to list two of the main reasons that directly impact humans and the environment. Approximately 75%-95% of plants on earth need assistance with pollination, meaning they need pollinators to thrive and grow. This is for all kinds of plants (over 180,000 plant varieties and over 1200 crops), from the blooming spring tulips to fruits and veggies that we consume every day.

Food Security

Did you know that pollinators are responsible for 1 out of every 3 bites of food? This includes countless amounts of produce, as well as plant derived oils. According to the Ontario Government, the crops that pollinators help to pollinate contribute approximately $502 million to Ontario’s economy each year. Without them moving the pollen from male to female plants, farmers would not be yielding the same quantity or quality of produce that they do in a regular season. Jeopardizing this process through the endangerment of pollinators puts the whole world in a vulnerable position for food insecurity. This is certainly the most worrisome factor of pollinator decline. If this alone is not a reason enough to ensure pollinators thrive, I do not know what is!

Ecosystem Balance

Of course, all pollinators help all plants flourish, providing food for themselves and other insects and animals, while also providing clean air through oxygen generation for us to all breathe. Naturally, this is vital to human health. Another level to this that is not always considered, is that pollinators and insects are also a food source for other animals such as birds and amphibians. This creates a natural balance in the ecosystem, allowing all levels of the food chain to properly function.

Why Are They Endangered?

With that many plant species to pollinate, how could they possibly be endangered? Pollinators are increasingly endangered due to a variety of human derived factors, including but not limited to, urbanization, industrial agriculture, invasive plant species, misuse of chemicals/pesticides, pollution and climate change. Unfortunately, all of these factors are directly human impacted and now we as humans, need to reverse these effects to ensure pollinators can continue to thrive. 

The leading causes of their endangerment are habitat loss due to urbanization, pollinator killing pesticides (neonicotinoids) that are used both in industrial agriculture and home use, as well as the ever daunting and sporadic weather patterns that we have experienced in Canada in the last 25 years as a direct result of climate change.

What You Can Do

Pollinators are essential to human survival and yet, are not usually made a priority in any environmental conversation. There are a variety of ways humans can help stimulate the pollinator population that require very minimal effort. 

One of the biggest ways we as humans can help pollinators is to assist in creating their habitat. It may seem small or insignificant but just making an effort to plant native species in the spring in our gardens or decks help this. Consider planting flowers that bloom at different times of the year so that there is an adequate amount of nectar all summer long. Additionally, some pollinators only reproduce and live on specific plant species (i.e., Monarch butterflies and Milkweed), so trying to ensure you are not removing this from your garden thinking it is an actual weed, also helps. This may require some research, but you will be rewarded with beautiful butterflies and bees thriving in your garden.

Although rarely used for home use, consider forgoing the use of pesticides in your garden. These chemicals create a harsh environment for reproduction and habitat for all insect pollinators. This includes neonicotinoids pesticides and other insect killing chemicals. I know that wasps and bees can be bothersome while you are trying to enjoy your annual BBQ, but they are there for a bigger reason than to bug you.

Some smaller, but fun ways you can help the pollinators this summer are to:

  • Create a bee bath using some rocks and a shallow bowl. This makes a great area for bees and butterflies to get a much-needed drink of water in the summer heat.
  • Create or put up a bee house. You may have seen these at your local hardware in the last few years. They look like birdhouses, with lots of holes in them (usually made from bamboo or reeds) for bees to nest.
  • Include a mulch free space in your garden for bees and other pollinators that are ground nesting.

Overall, with summer around the corner, there has never been a better time to start planning out your garden to include some native species and some special aspects for pollinators.

Environmental, Social & Governance: What is it? What Does it Mean For You?

The word “sustainability” is frequently used as a buzz word in the business and consumer community, continuously trending, in some capacity or another. As a consumer, I am constantly shopping (and investing) with a ‘vote with my spending’ mindset, attempting to purchase or invest with companies or businesses that have the same values, morals, and ethics that I do in any capacity (environmental, naturally derived ingredients, fair-trade, social governance etc). Buzzwords such as ‘natural, sustainable, organic, fair-trade, and even profits to charity’ are all catch words that grab consumers attention to assist in the consumption of their goods or services. But what do these words really mean and how can you measure or truly know that a company aligns with your values/morals/ethics?

That is where ‘Environmental, Social & Corporate Governance’ (or ESG) steps in. ESG refers to the three main factors that make up ‘sustainability’ (environmental, social, and economic), but provides a more measurable set of metrics that hold businesses accountable, rather then showcasing ‘fluff’ buzzwords that carry no value. These metrics can vary from company to company based on applicability, but generally follow a core set of 21 metrics (or 34 expanded), focusing on four areas: people, prosperity, planet, and principles of governance. In these focus areas, some metrics and disclosures that are standard are anti-corruption, greenhouse gas emissions, water consumption, stakeholder engagement, health and safety, jobs created and even economic contribution.

For the most part, ESG is more widely associated with investments that consumers, or investors rather, use to help better determine the future financial performance and longevity of companies. In this, it is a tool for such investors to evaluate companies to make responsible investments that align with their values/ethics/morals without having to compromise on returns. The criteria holds value for investors that have the idea that if corporations incorporate environmental, social and corporate governance into their business model, than there is a higher chance these businesses returns and financial wellbeing improve (based on the fact that they are well positioned for the future and changing markets). These metrics are also helpful for investors to avoid companies that perhaps pose a greater financial risk due to their ESG practices/metrics.

Many companies have now established ESG as a baseline for investors to evaluate their company before making financial decisions. These companies have dedicated people and positions to formulate ESG reporting metrics and have them write reports or upload analytics to web-based platforms. There are also many third-party web-based platforms that assist in analyzing the ESG of major companies, such as sustainalytics.com, which provides its own rating system for each major corporation. Given this, it can be as simple as doing a quick google search or as complicated as reading a 50-page analytical report documenting all ESG measures per company – it all depends on the level of knowledge you want as an investor/consumer.

So are you going to read a 50-page ESG report to ensure you are morally purchasing your next box of cereal? Probably not- but essentially the same principals apply if you wanted to. Consumers and investors alike should use their spending as a vote towards goods and services they believe in, morally or otherwise. ESG provides the accountable criteria for businesses to allow all of us to make responsible spending decisions. We as consumers and investors need to stop allowing the fluffy/trendy words to grab our attention and focus on real hard data from reported metrics. This is easier said than done, but if you genuinely want to ‘vote with your spending’ or ‘invest in something you believe in,’ then using ESG metrics is the best possible way to know exactly what your dollars are going towards.

Ontario’s Food & Organic Waste Framework: Organics Landfill Ban

Did you know that as of next year, the Ontario government is planning to start banning organics from the landfill? This means that as an end consumer, commercial or residential, the disposal and sorting your organics from your garbage will be mandatory as soon as early 2022. But what does this really mean for you and your business? That is what we aim to answer in this blog post.

As you may or may not already know from previous blog posts, the Ontario government is shifting to a circular economy in the way of garbage, recycling, and organic waste. This means that all materials entering the disposal system are never discarded, rather they are reused or recycled into new products. This is the motivation that is behind the organics landfill ban.

Although there are many conflicting views on the organics landfill ban, there is a general consensus that this is an important step in the waste management industry to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere. This is a big step for the environment, but it will require lots of planning and a bit of a mindshift for residents and business owners.

If you are a commercial customer operating within the IC&I (Institutional, Commercial & Industrial) sector and do not yet have an organics disposal/diversion program, you will likely be mandated to set one up in 2022. To get ahead of the curve, our recommendation is to have an organics diversion program in place and working before you are regulated to do so. I know this can be confusing for employers and employees alike, but it does not have to be!

Honestly, setting up an organics program has never been easier. Here at Davidson Environmental, we can take care of the hard work that goes into creating a successful organics program. You can properly divert all of your food waste without any of the mess or hassle by using our services. We work with you to design a custom organic waste program that fits the needs of your business, to ensure you can effectively divert your food waste with minimal effort for you and your employees. To make the program even easier we provide a cart exchange service, which means that every time we service you (whether it be daily or weekly) we take your full cart and you can expect a clean, empty cart in its place. Our goal is to create minimal work for you and your employees, all while ensuring your business is compliant with Ontario government regulations that are being phased in early next year. 

Overall, there has never been a better time to get onboard with organics recycling. With regulations on the way from the Ontario government and a general consensus that diverting organic waste from the landfill is better for the environment, the time is nigh. Establishing an organic waste program is an integral part to successful waste management at your business. So what are you waiting for? Call or click today to get your quote for our services. I am sure you will be surprised at how cost effective doing the right thing for the environment can be!

Where Does Your Food Waste Go?

An Overview of What Davidson Environmental Does with Your Waste!

You may be one of our customers, or you may just be interested in our service – either way, this blog post will take you through exactly what we do with your food waste when our drivers pick it up.

There are all kinds of businesses that fall into the institutional, commercial, and industrial (IC&I) category that participate in our food waste recycling service. Among those businesses are restaurants, hospitals, long term care homes and retail establishments (and everywhere in between that has food and/or serves food). From these places, we get all types of different food waste, including, prepared food, biproduct foods (such as coffee grinds, or peelings), packaged foods, produce and meats/poultry. We take it all!

Once our drivers collect this food waste from our assortment of customers, that food waste comes back to our warehouse. We then begin offloading the food waste, sorting it and putting it in our trailer for its end destination. Once this trailer gets full (approximately 36 tonnes of food waste!), it is tarped and ready for transport to StormFisher, a London, Ontario based BioGas facility.

The BioGas process is part of a biological waste treatment method used in waste treatment plants everywhere in the world. Most of us have heard of ‘composting’ as the way to recycle food waste, and although that process holds true during the BioGas process, the difference is that instead of releasing the gases produced during the fermentation process, the gases are collected and used as a fuel product. The break down of steps are as follows:

  1. Liquid organic waste, animal manure and solid organic waste is led into a digester where an anaerobic process using bacteria ferments the waste and produces biogas as a gaseous biproduct.
  2. Through the fermentation process, a high nutrient ‘sludge’ or ‘compost’ is collected as a biproduct that can later be returned to the ground as a method of fertilization
  3. Any packaging or non-digestible solids are collected through the process and discarded as necessary
  4. This biogas produced is further processed, resulting in a gas consisting of mostly methane. This is similar to natural gas obtained from the oil and gas fields.
  5. The methane and carbon dioxide gases can be stored under high pressures in cylinders or pumped directly back into the grid for use in both renewable electricity and renewable natural gas.

This is the current journey that your food waste takes to get recycled with our service. In the near future, this procedure will be modified when we fully install the BioSqueeze 200 system, the first of its kind in North America to process IC&I food waste. This will help better sort the waste between food waste and packaging, ensuring we are able to recycle more food waste then ever before, while properly disposing of packaging, garbage and other non-digestible solid waste. More details on this new equipment will be released very soon!

If you have any questions about any of our processes or services, please do not hesitate to reach out to us for more details.  

Sustainable Resolutions for the New Year

When entering a new year, there is a general association that resolutions should be created to ‘start the new year off on the right foot’ (so to speak). Although this sometimes does come off a bit cheesy, I do think we could all use some positive change after the fiasco 2020 has brought us. Some resolutions are difficult to fulfill right now due to COVID-19, as gyms, health clubs, sports clubs and other activity/experience spots are closed. However, there are lots of other resolutions you can make right from the comfort of your own home or office. Specifically, I want to focus on environmental resolutions! This type of resolution is often overlooked because it does not seem like it would be a ‘resolution,’ but we can all do more in our everyday lives to reduce our environmental impact.

Depending on your current level of environmental commitment, some items may seem small while others may seem extreme. Any commitment is better then no commitment at all, so there are no small resolutions.

New to the environmental scene:

If you are new to the environmental movement and want to start doing your part, there are lots of ‘low hanging fruit’ resolutions that you can take upon yourself to do. Here are just a few ideas of some changes you can make in 2021:

  1. Start Recycling (Properly)!

Maybe you are already doing this, or maybe you are not. Either way, it is time to start doing it – properly. Check with your local guidelines of how to properly recycle in your area, including plastics, cardboard and of course, food waste. The key to recycling is to ensure you are doing it correctly. Trying to recyclable unrecyclable items (often referred to as “wishcycling”) in any waste stream is counter productive. Read your local recycling guidelines and follow it. It may be tedious at first, but it will become second nature in no time.

  1. Swap One Disposal Item for a Reusable Alternative

For example, this item could be a straw, utensils, papertowel, plastic bags, water bottle – the options are endless. If you are ambitious, try swapping a few items this year.

  1. Try Incorporating “Meatless Monday” or Reducing Meat/Dairy Consumption

Any reduction in your consumption of meat and dairy can help to reduce your carbon footprint. There are lots of options that you can undertake to accomplish this. Maybe you only eat meat on weekends, incorporate “Meatless Mondays” (where you just choose not to eat meat on Mondays) or even try going vegan for 30 days – whatever works best for you and your lifestyle. When you do buy and consume meat and dairy, try to purchase from sustainable sources, when possible.

Moderate/Medium commitment to the environment already:

If you have made some adjustments in your life already but are looking to make some larger commitments this year – here are a few options for you:

  1. Say No to Fast Fashion

Fast fashion is every where and it is hard to escape or say no to low priced, trendy clothes – I get it! But if you create/build a time capsule closet (basically items that have ‘stood the test of time’ – think jeans for example), you will not have to buy as many clothes, but they will all be high quality, sustainable fashion. All it takes a quick “Sustainable Clothing Brands’ google to find a wide variety of clothes that fit every style.

  1. Prioritize Shopping Locally/Organic

Prioritize this but there is no need to make yourself crazy and exclusively shop in this manner. If you can every time, perfect! But buying locally sourced fruits, vegetables, meat and dairy can be hard sometimes depending on the season and where you live! If it is an option for you, try to buy organic when possible.

  1. Look for Second Hand Before Buying New

With new web applications popping up all the time, there is no reason to exhaust the ‘gently used’ market before pulling the trigger on a new purchase. There are all kinds of things on those apps and you can set alerts for items you are looking for. Not to mention good old thrift store hopping. It is a great way to reuse items people no longer want/need and save a few bucks in the process. Win-win!  

For the avid, experienced, environmentalist:

If you have already incorporated some of the above initiatives into your life and are looking to make a life altering resolution this year, these are a few that could make a big impact:

  1. Become Zero Waste

This is a tough one and it requires you to rethink a lot of things in your everyday life. Regular tasks need to be altered to accommodate this, such as, buying foods in bulk, making homemade items, and carrying around everyday items (straw, utensil, water bottle, etc). Any reduction of waste is beneficial, so do not feel pressured to go fully zero waste overnight. Might be easier (and it might actually stick) if you work your way up to the full commitment. An option would also be to measure how much waste you generate, and try decreasing it each week/month. There are lots of different guides and tricks to get started.

  1. Start Your Own Garden

Although we are a bit constrained by seasonality here in Niagara, home gardens are a great way to consume local, fresh produce 6 months of the year. This takes some time and planning is required, but it is rewarding. If you are ambitious, you can take up canning/jarring as well to consume your local produce all year round.

  1. Change Up Your Commute

Instead of driving to work/school everyday, there are lots of alternative methods of transportation that could be taken. For those closer to work, try walking, or biking. For those of you who live a little bit too far to accomplish that, try carpooling or taking public transit. Or, you could try to avoid the commute all together, and try to work from home a few times a week.

As detailed in this blog post, there are both small and large resolutions you can make this year that help the environment (and you!). Remembering that you can not change your entire life overnight, and small steps will ensure long term success! Are there any resolutions on this list that you are thinking of committing to this year?

We Are Dreaming of a Green Christmas!

How to Have an Eco-Friendly Christmas- Even in a Pandemic!

With the holiday season coming up, it is time to start thinking how we can fit the environment into our Christmas plans. Christmas will look a little bit different this year, but that does not mean we cannot take this opportunity to change some of our habits & traditions and curb our environmental impact during the holiday season.

The Celebration

Although the pandemic will impact how we celebrate our Christmas this year, there are some ways we can celebrate safely that inherently reduce our carbon footprint. Since we cannot gather all together this year in real life, gathering virtually is a great option and it reduces the amount of cars on the road, therefore reducing GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions across Ontario (and the rest of the world!).  Certainly a win-win for you and the environment, and making the best out of an unideal situation.

The Christmas Tree

There are always on-going debates between whether a real or fake tree is more eco-friendly than one another- I am here to debunk this dispute! However, it is a fairly complicated answer. If you already own an artificial tree, stick with what you have until it no longer works for you! You need to use that tree for over 20 years for it to be more sustainable than the natural tree counterpart. However, buying a natural tree when you already have a replacement is not required or sustainable. Therefore, if you have a fake tree, use it until you cannot! On that note, if you do not own an artificial tree, your best route is to go with a real, all natural tree. The likelihood of you keeping an artificial tree for over 20 years is low and given this, real trees are the more eco-friendly way to go! Who would have thought! After the season of Christmas, they are able to be processed as organic waste and composted. When choosing a real Christmas tree, try to opt for one that is grown locally so you can support your local economy/farms.

The Décor

There are lots of options for décor that have a reduced environmental impact.

For lighting, choose LEDs or Energy Star certified light strands – this helps you to reduce your electricity bills and helps to reduce fossil fuel emissions. This applies to all decorative light elements, including indoor and outdoor pieces.

For other décor elements, try using all natural, compostable items to make your house more festive. You are probably thinking – like what? Get outside and enjoy the fresh air while collecting pinecones, trimming tree greenery and fallen birch tree branches. These are all sustainable, compostable, and not to mention free, décor items that will make your home festive without having to purchase more waste to go into the landfill. The tree trimmings will only last the season, but the pinecones and birch tree pieces are storable and re-useable for years to come (& compostable at the end of their life)!

Other décor ideas include getting crafty & making your own ornaments and garlands. Items such as popcorn, dried cranberries/oranges/apple slices, cinnamon sticks, pinecones, nuts and paper (to make snowflakes and other décor) are all colourful, sometimes scented, options to make your home and tree decorative with a reduced environmental impact and are relatively low budget options.

The Gifts

Instead of frivolous spending this year on material items people do not need, consider buying people experiences to create memories with you and others. This is not as easy as it would be in previous years with COVID being a factor, however, there are still some ‘experience’ type gifts that you can give that support our local economy and give people the opportunity to do something different that does not create more landfill waste.

Some alternative gifts you could include are:

  • Gift cards for local restaurants (maybe it is your favourite restaurant and perhaps the gift receiver has never eaten there before!)
  • Online subscription services for tv shows, movies or music (ex. Spotify or Netflix)
  • Virtual classes (cooking, baking, flower arranging)
  • Meal kit subscription box
  • Annual Parks pass
  • Local museum/botanical garden memberships
  • DIY Artwork and eco crafts
  • Charitable donation in the recipient’s name

You could also buy items that make someone’s home a little more eco-friendly, this could include beeswax wraps, a reusable coffee mug (if they don’t have one already) and even items such as LED light fixtures or smart thermostat for those with larger budgets.

Even though Christmas will not look the same this year, it should be taken as an opportunity to rethink the holiday season and make habits and traditions a bit more eco-friendly with some of the suggestions above. Do you have any eco-friendly traditions of your own during the holiday season? We would love to hear some from you to add to our list!

12 Plastic Items to Replace at Your Own Pace

In our last blog post, we discussed the on-going debate of reusable vs disposable items, including but not limited to coffee cups, bags and containers. This debate is complex and multi-level (read our last blog post if you haven’t!) but there are some key items that the average ‘sustainable’ consumer should integrate into their everyday lives. Specifically, reusable items are pertinent when the alterative ends up in the landfill. Some items and practices are more easily integrated while others require some adjustment and alternative thought process. The most important thing to keep in mind is to make these adjustments at your own pace. Changing your entire lifestyle overnight is not going to set you up for long-term success. Some swaps are easier than others, and somethings work better for some people more then others. The key is to find what works best for you and your family.

  1. Items packaged in excessive plastic

When possible, opt for unpackage or limited packaging items. If this is not possible, try to choose items that have recyclable packaging – such as glass or metal (i.e. soup).

  1. Disposable cups

Whether you are going to your local coffee joint or getting a drink from the water cooler at work, bring a reusable cup or bottle. Do not use the little water cones and stop buying bottled water. The key to this is to only buy one (i.e. do not over consume reusable bottles/cups) and stick with it. It will become habitual. I promise.

  1. Single use cutlery

Bring a set of metal, reusable, cutlery with you wherever you go. This may sound a bit extreme or ridiculous but standard disposable cutlery goes directly to the landfill. Some restaurant establishments offer compostable cutlery as an alternative which is certainly better than their disposable counterparts, but reusable is the best option! They have convenient carriers for this now, that keep the cutlery contained, discrete and clean.

  1. Disposable straws

Along with your metal, reusable, cutlery, bring a long a straw! This falls into the same category as disposable cutlery, in the way of landfill garbage. Not recyclable in anyway, unless of course its paper or made of an alternative compostable material. However, reusable is the best option!

  1. Plastic lunch/freezer bags (i.e. Ziploc bags)

These are made of recyclable material, but not recyclable due to the ‘zipper’ locking component. A compostable option is to use a brown paper bag but a better, reusable option is a glass container or even a beeswax wrap – which brings me to the next point

  1. Plastic wrap

Best alternative that actually works – beeswax wraps! Buy these already!! I have brought them up in many of my blog posts because they are the best reusable & compostable product out there! Plastic wrap is terrible for the environment. It is used in access, unnecessarily, for convenience and goes directly into the landfill!

  1. Disposable or plastic food storage containers

This can be difficult if you get takeout or take leftovers home from a restaurant but try to eat at places that offer the compostable take away containers vs the Styrofoam versions. Spend your money where I counts. Your money is a vote towards something you believe in! If your favourite restaurant doesn’t offer compostable versions, maybe ask to speak with a manager to get that changed. Otherwise, at home – use glass or metal containers instead of plastic. Of course, if you already own plastic ones, do not throw them out just to buy glass or metal, use them until they’ve reached the end of their life.

  1. Liquid soaps

Although liquid soaps are enticing with their pretty packaging, unique scents and varying bottle designs, they utilize excessive plastic packaging (that is recyclable at its end of life) that use excessive natural resources. Rather then use liquid dish, laundry or shampoo soaps, try bar and powder soaps instead! You can even make your own with customized scents, etc and they come in limited to no packaging.

  1. Disposable plastic sponges/dish cloths/scrubber

Instead, use a natural sponge or loofah. Another options is a reusable silicone scrubbing pad. Although the silicone version is garbage at its end of life, it has a fairly small waste footprint comparatively and will last for years.

  1. Household Cleaners

Always an option to make your own for bulk items, or opt for ones that are in glass, metal or cardboard.

  1. Plastic Cutting Boards

These are a staple in my house, but they are not great for the environment. They are so convenient and do last an exceptionally long time due to their durability. This is one of the last items I have converted to a sustainable source because I feel bad throwing them out prematurely. If your plastic cutting boards are nearing their end of life, consider replacing them with a bamboo or wooden cutting board. Better for you and the environment!

  1. Fabric softener/dryer sheets

Organic wool dryer balls are a great alternative to these! The best part is that you can scent them with your favourite essential oil for a fresh smelling load of laundry, every time!

As we stated before, these changes are just suggestions that assist in making reducing your waste output footprint. These are some small changes that can get you started on the path of sustainability and really are just the ‘low hanging fruit’ on the sustainable lifestyle adjustment. Are there any items we missed or amazing alternatives? We would love to hear from you!

 

ABOUT US: Established in 1996, Davidson Environmental is a waste haulage company based out of St. Catharines, Ontario. In 1996, James Davidson, Owner & CEO of Davidson Environmental, decided to explore an area of waste management that would be new to the Niagara Region- recycling organic materials through composting. Starting with a trailer and 12 totes at a flower shop, James has built a company that today employs over 30 Niagara region residents and runs 24 hours a day. Although we are a diverse company serving all the waste needs of businesses of varying sizes, we have kept our primary focus on food waste organics. Our service area encompasses the Regions of Niagara, Hamilton, Haldimand, Halton, Oxford, Brant, Norfolk, Waterloo, Wellington, Perth, Huron, Grey, Middlesex, Lambton, Chatem-Kent, and Essex. We are also able to service Toronto by using cooperative services with another organics company. We have 10 trucks, capable of servicing any waste disposal need your business may have. Today, Davidson Environmental is proud to offer a variety of cost-effective, clean, simple and environmentally responsible methods of disposing of the waste produced by your business in Southern and South Western Ontario.

Reusable vs. Disposable – What is truly better for the environment?

As we move away from single use plastics here in Canada (the Trudeau government plans on banning single use plastics by 2021), many companies have chosen to provide their customers and clients with alternative product counterparts that are either reusable or biodegradable/compostable/degradable. While we are all for the biodegradable/compostable/degradable products, we question the sustainability of more reusable products entering the marketplace, such as bags and water bottles.

Reusable items have their time and place – do not get us wrong. When used in the right ways (which we will explain in this post), reusable products could be immensely important in protecting the environment. However, when used in the wrong ways, reusable products could cause detrimental affects to the environment – diminishing large amounts of natural resources and creating more garbage. To produce a reusable bag or water bottle (or any other reusable item for that matter), many natural resources need to be used to create that product. There is no product on this earth that does not have an impact on the environment.

In our current society, we largely rely on ‘throw away’ products (especially in the age of Covid-19) and the over consumption of goods. Even when we are not in a pandemic, it is arguable that for the majority of society, throwing things out prior to the end of their life, is normal. This is largely due to the fact that the next new, bigger and better versions are available. This is the largest issue with reusable products that replace their disposal counterparts – if the reusable product is thrown out prematurely or not used enough times before its end of life, then reusable products are actually more harmful to the environment. This, coupled with the large amount/variety of reusable items per household, validates the concern regarding the sustainability of our current consumption patterns of reusable products.

I, myself have fallen victim to marketing gimmicks that claim I ‘need’ this new reusable bottle/bag/coffee tumbler because it is ‘more ecofriendly’ (or just fancier) then my current one. Although that may be the case, buying that new one to throw out my old one is not environmentally sustainable at all. It is still in perfectly good condition, but marketing sells and then the cycle continues. Eventually, before I know it, I have more reusable water bottles in my house then I have plates. I know that I am not the only one that this happens to, and its all in the name of marketing and the process of ‘thinking’ you are doing better for the environment. This is not sustainable spending or environmentally responsible.

The same case stands with plastic bags vs reusable bags. How many reusable bags do I have in my house? Too many. I know that for the majority of Canadians, this is the case. Sometimes you get them for free with a purchase, or maybe you have bought a set from your local grocery store. Either way, if you are anything like me, you will end up leaving them in your car or at your house when you go to do groceries and end up needing to buy plastic bags anyway. This is not sustainable. According to a study in Denmark, you would need to use the reusable cotton bag over 7,000 times for it to be ‘worth’ the amount of resources used to create it. 7,000 times! That is a lot of groceries.

The issue with all these reusable items is that we over-consume them, do not use them enough to warrant their natural resource impact and then at the end of their lives, they are landfill garbage. 99% of these products are not recyclable or compostable. This is where the reusable vs single use (or a few use) plastics debate gets tricky. Here in Niagara, we are actually able to recycle polyethylene, the type of plastic regular grocery bags are made of, fairly efficiently. Water bottles, styrofoam and aluminum are also all recyclable here in Niagara. Coffee cups from your regular fast food joint are not recyclable in the Niagara Region system, however here at Davidson Environmental, coffee cups are compostable in our recycling stream. So from a waste generation perspective, reusable is not better because as stated above, most reusable items are designated for the landfill – unless, of course, you use the item enough to warrant the disposal of it. But how many times do you need to use it to make it worth it? There does not seem to be a clear answer. Although I do not believe we can necessarily put a value on natural resources, we all know how important they are for us and the environment. Given this, consuming less natural resources per person is beneficial.

However, another level of this debate to consider is that even though all these single use plastic items are recyclable, in some way or another, are they being disposed of properly, every time? No. Water bottles, coffee cups and plastic bags are ending up in our waterways, oceans and lakes, effecting our livelihood and the animals that live in those conditions. This directly falls onto careless consumers and again, the ‘throw away’ life style we mentioned earlier in this blog post. In this case, when not disposed of properly, reusable items are far better from a waste generation perspective because at least they don’t get constantly littered.

In sum, there are so many things to assess when you buy a reusable item that are far reach the span of the average consumers thought process when making a purchase. We are not saying that all reusable items are bad or that you should stop using them. Our hope is to provide you with guidelines that help to influence your choices when making your next ‘reusable item’ purchase.

Here are some things to consider:

If you already have reusable items:

  • Use them until you can no longer use them (metal ones can last decades!)
  • Do not purchase more until you have fully used your previous ones (throwing items out prematurely is just a waste of natural resources and takes up space in the landfill – you do not need the next new thing! Yours still works!)
  • When it comes time to purchase a new one, consider the below guidelines

If you are in the market to purchase new ones:

  • Look at the company you are purchasing the item from – do they have ethical or sustainable values?

 

 

 

ABOUT US: Established in 1996, Davidson Environmental is a waste haulage company based out of St. Catharines, Ontario. In 1996, James Davidson, Owner & CEO of Davidson Environmental, decided to explore an area of waste management that would be new to the Niagara Region- recycling organic materials through composting. Starting with a trailer and 12 totes at a flower shop, James has built a company that today employs over 30 Niagara region residents and runs 24 hours a day. Although we are a diverse company serving all the waste needs of businesses of varying sizes, we have kept our primary focus on food waste organics. Our service area encompasses the Regions of Niagara, Hamilton, Haldimand, Halton, Oxford, Brant, Norfolk, Waterloo, Wellington, Perth, Huron, Grey, Middlesex, Lambton, Chatem-Kent, and Essex. We are also able to service Toronto by using cooperative services with another organics company. We have 10 trucks, capable of servicing any waste disposal need your business may have. Today, Davidson Environmental is proud to offer a variety of cost-effective, clean, simple and environmentally responsible methods of disposing of the waste produced by your business in Southern and South Western Ontario.