Understanding the Cost of Consumption: The “Magical Hexagon”

Understanding the Cost of Consumption: The “Magical Hexagon”

In Germany, every 6th grade student learns about the Magical Hexagon in economics, which symbolises the six economic policy objectives that are to be achieved simultaneously and to the same extent, in theory:

  • Steady and appropriate economic growth
  • Environmental protection
  • Fair distribution of income and wealth
  • Price level stability
  • High employment
  • External economic equilibrium

The “magic” about these six goals is that they are supposed to be of equal importance to each other, but are also in conflict with each other, hence they cannot all be achieved at the same time.

For example, meeting the goal of “economic growth” will make it impossible to simultaneously achieve the goal of environmental protection.

Hence, when we hear politicians talk about their desire to protect the environment while at the same time talking about growing the economy, we need to understand that these are conflicting goals and cannot be achieved simultaneously.

In North America we have certainly been prioritising economic growth “at all costs” and centralised riches in the pockets of a few. The cost of this economic growth we pay in environmental degradation and an unfair distribution of income and wealth. So, the Magical Hexagon is not balanced and we are all already starting to feel the impact of that.

Interestingly, when the environment has been degraded beyond repair, the economy will naturally collapse, because a wacky climate will impact our production and distribution systems, which will hamper the economy as a result. The same result will hit us if we keep “centralising all riches in the pockets of a few.” This will erode away the middle class and once the tipping point between rich and poor has been reached, there won’t be any “consumers” left for the products the rich produce.

So, it is time to embrace the concepts of the Magical Hexagon here in North America and aim for a balance between the environment and our economy (as well as fair and equal distribution of wealth). This is the only way forward.

Either one of these objectives can be achieved by reducing our consumption. So, replace the mantra you learnt in school (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle), with the mantra of the day: REDUCE, REDUCE, REDUCE.

A Guide to WasteLess Camping

A Guide to WasteLess Camping

If you’re currently planning a hiking or camping trip, please take a few minutes to plan it as WasteLess as possible. We’ve created a fillable WasteLess Camping Guide (regular value $15) to help you with that endeavour. It includes a packing list for beginners, although it may also be helpful for avid hikers or campers who wish to reduce their impact. Here you can get it for a donation of your choosing. 

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Here are a few things to reflect on when planning your trip to keep your environmental impact to a minimum.

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Reducing by Packing Your Food & Beverages

A little bit of meal planning can help you save on packaging. Granted, this may not be the most “convenient” option, but as we all know, trash is the price we pay for convenience. So, to reduce your impact, there are a few things to consider.

What not to do:

What not to do:
  • Do not bring single-use items into nature. Prepackaged food, snacks, and beverages are usually conserved in single-use packaging. These items are sometimes left behind or dropped (intentionally or unintentionally) by hikers and campers. For this reason it’s best not to pack them in the first place.
  • Do not throw out your kitchen waste in nature. You may think that your food will decompose in nature, however, what it will likely do before it ever reaches that stage is attract wildlife. Bears and other wildlife that get too close to campsites and hiking trails often get killed to prevent conflict. Hikers and campers who throw food scraps, including banana peels, into nature may be responsible for an animal’s death. So, take the “packing out” component into account when preparing your meal plans.

As for the terminology, I am aware that in official circles (Parks Canada) wildlife gets “destroyed” not “killed.” To me this terminology sounds as if wild animals were “things” which we can dispose of if they inconvenience us. This is a terminology that I cannot get behind. So, remember that our irresponsible actions can result in the killing of an animal, whose territory we enter when we hike and/or camp.

  • Do not store cooking gear in the open or in your tent. Again, the food smells can attract wildlife, putting their lives at risk, if they wander into the campground or onto the trail.
  • Do not wear your sleeping gear while you prepare food. Fabrics capture food smells and may make you smell like a delicious meal to wildlife.

To give you an idea of just how strong a bear’s sense of smell is, let me put it into perspective for you. When compared to that of a human, a silvertip grizzly’s sense of smell is 2,100 times stronger. (Source)

So, what can you do to REDUCE your impact? 

  • Plan it out. You can use our WasteLess Camping Guide to help you prepare your meal plan.
  • You can dry your food and then re-hydrate it with boiling water at the campsite.
  • For shorter trips you can also pre-cook your meals and carry them “as is” or prepare all ingredients that you’ll need to finish your meal without having to pack out any kitchen waste later.
  • Snacks-wise, you can avoid energy bars by buying trail mix in your own containers from bulk stores, such as Bulk Barn (we are not affiliated with Bulk Barn but love their Reusable Container Program).

Reducing when Washing Your Dishes

Washing your dishes “on the go” is not without problems…

  • Even biodegradable camp soaps, such as Dr. Bronner’s, Campsuds, or SeaToSummit must not be used close to rivers and lakes as they can alter the pH of the water and impact ecosystem and wildlife.
  • Washing dishes with commercial sponges can introduce micro plastics into the environment and should be avoided.

Not washing the dishes also comes with problems…

  • Food residues can attract animals.
  • Bacteria can grow on the dishes and make you sick.

So, what can you do to REDUCE your impact? 

  • Wash your dishes with boiling water but without soap. This will kill bacteria and make cleaning easier. Put any dishes that need disinfecting into the hot water for about 2 minutes.
  • Use ash, dirt, bark, or sticks, as “sponge” and throw the resulting grey water into a fire. Do not empty it on the floor to avoid attracting wildlife.
  • If you are using camp soap, use unscented, eco-friendly brands like Dr. Bronner’s, Campsuds, or SeaToSummit, and discard your grey water in a 15-20 cm (6-8”) sump hole, then bury the hole after you’re done.
Nadine Nadow provided some amazing tips on the Trail and Summit’s blog post “How do you wash your backcountry dishes”, which is well worth a read.

Reducing when Selecting Your Gear

If you are committed to hiking, spend the extra time to find high-quality equipment, preferably with lifetime warranty. In the long term, this will pay off. Cheap prices are usually an indication for cheap quality (the reverse is not always true), so whenever possible, spend the extra dollars.

Purchasing Used

Try to find pre-loved equipment or rental equipment before considering a “new” purchase. Great places to look are Craigslist, Kijiji, UsedEverywhere, eBay, the info board at stores such as MEC, and other classified websites.


As for rentals, depending on your location, there may be places that rent out camping gear (Google search).

One great alternative is to purchase equipment as a group and have all hikers pitch in to purchasing quality equipment together. One of the hikers could store the equipment and everyone can pick it up at their location when they are going on a trip. This may require a bit of coordination and trust, but that’s what creating a WasteLess society is all about…

Reducing by Staying Safe

Safety may not be something that immediately comes to mind when it comes to environmental impact, however, the both go hand-in-hand.

Do not head out into the “unknown” without proper preparation and do not wander off the designated track. While Search and Rescue operations are run by volunteers who put their lives at risk to save yours, these maneuvers cost British Columbia alone around $4 million per year (source), and comes with an excessively high carbon emissions footprint.

How much? Well, the Sikorsky helicopter which is used in some Search and Rescue operations across the country, burns around 120 gph (gallons per hour) or roughly 450 kg/h (kilograms per hour) of fuel (source) and a simplified calculation puts the number of CO2 emissions in aviation at around 3.15 grams of CO2 per gram of burnt fuel (source). So, in one hour, a helicopter in the air could produce up to 1,400 kg of CO2. To put this into perspective: An average passenger vehicle emits about 4,600 kg of CO2 into the atmosphere every year (source: Natural Resources Canada).

So what can you do to stay safe and REDUCE your impact?

  • Inform a friend or family member where you are going, which trail you are taking, where you will be camping at night, when you will be back, and who you are hiking with. This will greatly help get you found faster if the unforeseeable happens.
  • If you are hiking alone, leave a note in your car (or on your bike) at your starting location with the following details, so potential Search and Rescue Crews can find you faster:
      • Your name
      • The date and time you are heading out
      • Where you are headed
    The date you will be back
When my partner and I were hiking in New Zealand we encountered many hikers who had read our notes and already knew our names before we even introduced ourselves. It works.
  • It’s also important to factor in weather conditions when going on a hike or embarking on a camping trip. In some cases, it may be best to just postpone the hike if the conditions seem dangerous (e.g. thick fog or extreme winds) or have the potential to become dangerous.
  • Never head out on a long hike without a tent, flashlights, and backup food and water if there is a potential that you will not be back before dusk.


As for rentals, depending on your location, there may be places that rent out camping gear (Google search).

One great alternative is to purchase equipment as a group and have all hikers pitch in to purchasing quality equipment together. One of the hikers could store the equipment and everyone can pick it up at their location when they are going on a trip. This may require a bit of coordination and trust, but that’s what creating a WasteLess society is all about…

Reducing the Amount of Discards

Safety may not be something that immediately comes to mind when it comes to environmental impact, however, the both go hand-in-hand. Do not head out into the “unknown” without proper preparation and do not wander off the designated track. While Search and Rescue operations are run by volunteers who put their lives at risk to save yours, these maneuvers cost British Columbia alone around $4 million per year (source), and comes with an excessively high carbon emissions footprint. How much? Well, the Sikorsky helicopter which is used in some Search and Rescue operations across the country, burns around 120 gph (gallons per hour) or roughly 450 kg/h (kilograms per hour) of fuel (source) and a simplified calculation puts the number of CO2 emissions in aviation at around 3.15 grams of CO2 per gram of burnt fuel (source). So, in one hour, a helicopter in the air could produce up to 1,400 kg of CO2. To put this into perspective: An average passenger vehicle emits about 4,600 kg of CO2 into the atmosphere every year (source: Natural Resources Canada).

Cans and Plastic Bottles

There is something satisfying about enjoying a cold one after an intense day of hiking and that’s ok. Discarding your bottles and cans in the wilderness, however, is not. You can bring a growler filled at your favourite micro-brewery or if you do bring cans and bottles, at very least pack in what you packed out.

Cigarette Butts

It saddens me that in the 21st century we still need to point this out, but cigarette butts still make up a great percentage of trail trash. If you smoke, please pick up your cigarette butts. Keep in mind that every discarded cigarette butt has the potential to start a wildfire that may kill millions of trees and animals.

Carry a small container, preferably made of metal, that will hold all of your cigarette butts until you’re back home to properly dispose of them.

Snack and Candy Wrappers

While you may think that it’s “just one candy wrapper”, combined they make up a great percentage of trail trash. This can be easily prevented by bringing trail mix snacks, such as mixed nuts in your own, reusable, containers. These can be bought WasteLess in bulk sections of stores, such as Bulk Barn, that allow you to bring your own containers.

We hope these tips and our WasteLess Camping Guide will help you reduce your risk and impact when hiking / camping the great outdoors.

Happy Hiking and Camping

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The High Price of Convenience

The High Price of Convenience

Fast food, drive-throughs, smart devices,… our craving for convenience seems to be endless and companies are spending millions of dollars every year to identify and create new ways to satisfy our addiction to convenience.

While we think of convenience as “meeting our needs,” it is nothing more than instant gratification of wants. A gratification that comes at a high price. So, let’s explore the cost of convenience and how we already are and will be paying for it in the future.

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Convenience vs Energy Consumption

“Alexa, are you listening?”

Smart devices are “always on” and waiting for our command. Besides the obvious privacy and security concerns (mentioned below to close the loop), they also suck a lot of power off the grid. Any device that is on standby or idle consumes electricity (sometimes up to 10%).

So, let’s talk about power for a little bit. In British Columbia and Québec, where most of our power comes from hydroelectric power plants, we may not think about our electrical consumption as much. However, the more power that is used, the most power needs to be generated, and this doesn’t happen through magic.

This is why new plants, such as the Site C Dam in BC, end up on the agenda to meet our ever-growing demand for electricity. Building a hydroelectric power plant has a massive impact on the environment, even though it may seem like a “clean” and “renewable” energy source. Vast amounts of forests have to be cut along the waterways that lead to the dam, so that the trees won’t end up in the dam and thus damage the structure, and often the construction includes the rerouting of waterways. In addition, it hurts wildlife who rely on the free flow of the river, such as salmon who wish to return to their spawning grounds to give birth to their next generation. Lastly, producing (and later decommissioning) a power plant requires massive amounts of energy itself, as well as large amounts of building materials, which themselves have to come from somewhere. Concrete, which is the main building material for dams, has a massive environmental impact that should not be neglected.

All of these factors need to be taken into consideration when we use electricity. If we absolutely have to use electricity, it should be done in a mindful manner, not in a wasteful way, “just because we can”…

And the impact gets even worse when electricity is being produced through dirty energies, such as oil, gas, and coal. Besides toxic waste products during the production, operation, and decommissioning, these also release great amounts of greenhouse gases (GHG) into the atmosphere every single day.

So, next time you leave the lights on when leaving your home or have a smart device idle in the background, ask yourself if this is worth the true, environmental cost of the energy production.

Convenience vs Privacy / Security

Whenever the topic of privacy and security comes up during a conversation around convenience, there’s a large group of folks who instantly jump on the “I have nothing to hide” bandwagon, so let’s clear up a misconception here. “Nothing to hide” is often the first step to identity theft. Convenient apps or smart devices can get you hacked and your identity compromised in no time. Consider that some apps are created with malicious intent, which can especially be true for those that record keystrokes and GPS locations. So, be on the lookout and consider carefully if the app you’re about to download or the device you’re about to install (ironically, this includes security cameras) is indeed safe and secure.

Convenience vs Environment

It sure is convenient to order “stuff” from Amazon but this little trinket you just ordered may be speeding up global warming. How? Let’s see.

Assume, we’d like to order a smart device from Amazon, such as Amazon Echo.

To have this device produced, a large amount of “natural resources” need to be mined, from oil (to create the plastic casing), copper, solder, iron, ferrite, nickel, silver, gold, palladium, and other metals for the circuit board, and many more. Each component is shipped many times from distributor to distributor halfway around the globe during the production process and then finally to distributors across Canada for their final journey: To your home.

Normally, you may be buying this item along with other items during the same shopping trip (one trip). If you order all of these items separately, however, they’ll be shipped from warehouses across Canada to your home (many trips). Each package also uses up natural “resources,” such as trees for the cardboard box and oil for the foam packaging material, and each box takes up more room in the delivery plane or truck than a whole palette that is being shipped to a store near you.

No wonder, then, that transportation accounts for 25% of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions.

And that’s just for the acquisition. When this device eventually breaks down beyond repair after a couple of years, the device will likely be shipped to an electrical graveyard in a third-world country, where we’re told it will be recycled, which is, in most cases, a lie. Components that consist of multiple fused materials (e.g. metal and plastic or various plastics together) cannot be recycled but even if they could be, it is often cheaper to produce new plastic than to “recycle” old ones.

All that, so that this smart device can turn on the lights for you remotely or look up the answer to a question you may pose.

So be mindful about what products you buy and how you buy them. Lowering our environmental impact requires weening ourselves of convenience.

Happy Earth Day wishes the WasteLess Society Team

What can we do to fight climate change on an individual level?

What can we do to fight climate change on an individual level?

Already today but certainly increasingly in the future, climate change is impacting our natural environment, food sources, and infrastructure across the globe. The magnitude of these effects is growing every year and there is an increasing awareness that drastic actions on an individual basis are just as needed as on a governmental and corporate level.

We can, to some degree, influence our governments by electing leaders that we feel truly represented by and through petitions and demonstrations. And we can, to some degree, also influence corporate actions through boycotts, buycotts, and choosing our employers carefully.

But a shift needs to happen for each and every one of us, if we wish to guarantee a livable planet for future generations.

Last month, the IPCC published its Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability report, which features a dire outlook for our future. So, for those of you who are not too eager to read a 3,600+ pages report, we’re summarising the key findings below and finish this article with a Top 10 list of actions each one of us can start making a habit. The faster we advance by limiting our consumption and becoming a WasteLess Society, the better the chances for survival will be for the children that grow up today.

Please join our WasteLess Society in this endeavour and as always, feel free to share our resources

Even though creating the Guides is very labour-intensive, we make them available for free to speed up learning in our communities to give you and your loved ones everything you need to make better, WasteLess decisions. You can thank us by spreading the word! 

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What is the IPCC Assessment Report?

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change. It was established in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Its objective is to provide governments, organisations, and individuals with scientific information to form a baseline for climate action and the development of climate policies. Every few years, the IPCC publishes a report with an update on the current state of climate change and prognosis for the future.

1990 (FAR): The first of these reports was published in 1990 and played an important role in the creation of the UNFCCC, which is the key international treaty to reduce global warming.

1995 (SAR): The second report formed a methodological base for governments preparing for the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol in 1997.

2001 (TAR): The Third Assessment Report again highlighted the impacts of climate change and the importance for adjusting policies and behaviours.

2007 (AR4): The fourth report focused on the need to limit global warming to a maximum of 2°C.

2014 (AR5): This fifth report supplied an important scientific base for the Paris Agreement in 2015, which aims to keep global warming by 2100 to below 2 °C, with 1.5 °C as a target.

2022 (AR6): This six report was released and it stresses, in just what dire situation we’re in since the effects of climate change are accelerating beyond their previous prognosis. This report will be our focus for the summary below.

Summary of the IPCC Assessment Report

The recent PCC Assessment Report found that “the extent and magnitude of climate change impacts are larger than estimated in previous assessments.”

These impacts are felt in many ways:

  • It reduces our ability to grow nutritious food or provide sufficient clean drinking water, which in turn affects people’s health and well-being.
  • Increasing heat and extreme weather are causing plants and animals, both on land and in the ocean, to migrate towards cooler areas in our global North and South, to higher altitudes, or deeper areas in our oceans. This migration of plants and animals also impacts the timing of key biological events such as breeding and flowering, which in turn impacts food chains and the entire ecosystem.
  • Many species cannot adapt quickly enough or migrate fast enough and thus face extinction.
  • Since we are part of nature’s ecosystem, these events also impact our own sources of food.
  • Changes in temperature and rainfall cause severe droughts in many regions across the globe and cause devastating floods in others. This increased the frequency and spread of diseases that impact people, wildlife, and also agriculture and thus again affect our food supply.
  • Longer wildfire seasons increase the surface area that burns during the hot months, which in turn further intensifies the stresses on wildlife, human health, and also agriculture.
  • The occurrences of water shortages are increasing in many regions across the globe, which further impacts our global food supply, access to clean drinking water, as well as energy production from hydroelectric power plants.

The report clarifies that “globally, climate change is increasingly causing injuries, illness, malnutrition, threats to physical and mental health and well-being, and even deaths. It is making hot areas even hotter and drastically reducing the time people can spend outside, which means that some outdoor workers cannot work the required hours and thus will earn less.”

It becomes apparent that the impacts of climate change are multifaceted and will impact our food and water supply, and our infrastructures and energy production.

While many individuals, communities, and businesses have begun adapting to climate change, the Working Group identified large gaps between ongoing efforts, and the required adaptation efforts. With every increment of warming, the effectiveness of our efforts to offset climate change decreases and therefore a more urgent and ambitious action is required to quickly and effectively cut our emissions of greenhouse gases. The faster and more drastically we manage to reduce these emissions, the more capacity there is for people and nature to adapt.

According to the report, it is now clear that “minor, marginal, reactive or incremental changes won’t be sufficient.”

What can we do on an individual level?

Here are 10 things we can do on an individual basis to fight climate change.

  1. Boycott greedy corporations who put their own profits ahead of our global objectives. This includes corporations who are resistant to adapt to a “reuse” economy and rely on single-use, fossil fuels, etc. Boycott does not simply mean not buying products from these corporations, it also implies not buying their stocks and not working for these companies until they truly embrace their social responsibility (as opposed to greenwashing where they extensively highlight one thing that they do well and drown out any evidence of the things they do poorly).
  2. Cut down on convenience, since convenience has a large environmental cost.
  3. Have fewer children to curb overpopulation and secure food and water reserves for future generations.
  4. Reduce consumption. This includes our consumption of food, water, energy, and other “stuff.” We have created valuable guides and are making them available for free to help our society grow. Pick a few points at a time and commit to them until they become a habit (usually around 3 months).
  5. Have difficult conversations. There will always be some resistance to change but we all need to educate ourselves and one another. Be brave!
  6. Think collaboration, not competition. We’re all in this together and even though it may be easy to fall into a competitive “me-first” mindset when facing a potential extinction-level event, while there is still time to change and adapt, we need to embrace collaboration instead. It may feel counterintuitive, since we’ve been coerced to out-compete our peers since our early school days, but the reality is that a collaborative mindset will get us further and much faster than a competitive mindset. So, let’s embrace it!
  7. Work less for organisations and more for the community. If you are using your consumption you will be able to also cut down the amount of time you will be working for an organization, which will free up some of your time to get engaged in your community and start building relationships that will make all of us stronger.
  8. Learn to grow food and save the seeds. Climate change has already started to impact our food supply and will continue to do so. With every incremental increase in temperature, this challenge will increase, also. If you do have some space, even just a little window sill or balcony, try to start some seeds and learn how to grow some of your food yourself. In addition, consider starting a petition to convert public parks into growing heavens for vegis and fruits. The more self-sufficient we are as a society, the easier it will be to face the future. In addition, food self-sufficiency will cut down on the import of food from elsewhere, and thus further curb greenhouse gas emissions. Feeding one person, requires approximately 4,000 square feet of space, so the more unused spaces that can be converted into growing food, the better off we’ll be in the future.
  9. Don’t replace, repair. In our society the knowledge to repair things is fading, so start attending repair cafés whenever you have time and claim back those skills. They will likely come in handy in the future.
  10. Educate yourself on how to REDUCE:

A Guide to WasteLess Stain Removal

A Guide to WasteLess Stain Removal

Stains just happen. And when they do, it can sometimes be tempting to hit them with harsh chemicals to return the fabric back into its pre-stain state. However, harsh chemicals also get into the water and ultimately the environment, so it’s best to employ different stain removal strategies. Our Stain Removal Guide will equip you with some tools to treat some of the most common stains.

A stain consists of three main factors: the “contaminant” that causes the stain, the material that is receiving the stain, and how these two materials interact to form a stain.

For example, when you spill coffee onto your shirt, the coffee is the contaminant and your shirt is on the receiving end. The small molecules that make up your coffee-milk-sugar mix are absorbed by the fibres of your shirt and become trapped. The colour particles of the coffee reflect back the light of their own colour, thus making the stain visible.

Two additional factors contribute to the challenge of removing the stain:

  • Time:
    The longer the stain has had to interact with the material, the more difficult it becomes to remove. So, time is of the essence.

  • Temperature:
    • Dry heat can provoke a chemical reaction that may cause the stain to permanently set. So, it is not a good idea to throw a stained piece of clothing into the dryer before the stain has been completely removed. It’s better to air-dry it instead if needed.
    • Wet heat, on the other side, can help with diluting the stain, so it is an exception to this rule, but whether it should be used or not depends on the stain itself.

Now that we’ve covered our bases, let’s talk about the different types of stains. Knowing the category a stain falls under is an essential first step to determine the best method for tackling it.

WasteLess Stain Removal Guide

This WasteLess Stain Cleaning Guide features close to 30 pages filled with recipes and tips to help you become an environmental stain removal hero! 

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Table of Contents

Enzymatic Stains

Examples: grass, blood, milk, sweat, urine, feces, vomit

Before we can dive into enzymatic stains, let us first take a step back and explore what enzymes are and what they do…

What are enzymes?

Contrary to what is often believed, enzymes are not living beings or bacteria. They aren’t even alive, for that matter. Enzymes are simply proteins. What kind of proteins they are, we’ll explore in more detail below.

What do enzymes do?

Simply put, enzymes speed up chemical reactions. Each enzyme has a particular task, so it helps to imagine them as keys that only open specific locks. Once they have found the right key hole, they can “dock” and go to work. Once docked to the correct target, their work then consists of interacting with the molecules, for example by breaking them down into smaller components. This breaking-down would normally take a very long time without these enzymes, which is why we say that enzymes speed up chemical reactions.

Let’s take this one step further. Everything that living beings eat, whether they are carnivorous or herbivorous, is broken down by enzymes with a little bit of help of stomach acid and other components that make up our digestive systems, into smaller, easier to absorb pieces as follows:

  • Proteins are broken down by proteases into amino acids.
  • Carbohydrates, (e.g. starch,sugar) are broken down by amylases into glucose.
  • Fats (lipids) are broken down by lipases into fatty acids.

So by extension we can now infer that all of the secretions living beings expel are also made up of these (and other) components. Whether that’d be the pee stain on your carpet left behind by your dog or a stain containing the milk given by a cow.

Enzymatic stains caused by these secretions usually consist of the above-mentioned insoluble proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. An enzyme-based cleaner may help to break these stains down into smaller, more readily soluble building blocks, similar in function to what goes on in our digestive tract.

Environmentally conscious options for enzymatic stain removers exist from companies that go the extra mile to ensure that their products do not contain harmful chemicals (by US standards), however, it is important to know that even these products aren’t perfect. Many still contain unsafe ingredients, such as Benzisothiazolinone, which according to the harmonized classification and labelling approved by the European Union, is considered “very toxic to aquatic life.” Also “natural” is not a synonym for environmentally friendly, so beware of greenwashing.

Oxidizable Stains

Examples: coffee, tea, red wine, ink

Oxidizable stains are usually caused by colour particles, called chromophores. These particles absorb light and reflect it at a specific angle that lies in the visible spectrum. In other words, they act like a dye and create a visible stain.

To eliminate these stains, the colour particles must be removed from the stained area or the chromophores broken down. A common voiced advice for the removal of these pesky stains is bleaching (with chlorine or hydrogen peroxide, or sodium percarbonate) because it breaks down the colour-causing particles of the chemical structure of the stain, thus fading the colour of the stain into invisibility. This only renders the stain invisible, it does not actually remove the stain.

Oxidizers do this by flooding the colour molecules of the stain with oxygen molecules (hence the name oxidizer). However, aggressive oxidizers don’t just attack stain-causing molecules but may also interfere with deeper-seated chromophores, such as dyes. This is why you need to be very careful if you’re treating a coloured piece of clothing or fabric to remove a pigmented stain. Hydrogen peroxide, in lower concentrations, and sodium percarbonate-based oxidizers may help treat a pigmented stain without leaving a lasting impact on the dyes in the material you’re treating (please read the section below on their environmental impact). If you are using them, test them on a non-visible spot of your fabric first to ensure colour-safety before tackling your stain.

While knocking out the chromophores of your stain seems like a logical approach, let’s take a step back and look at the environmental impact of these oxidizers.

Why is bleach bad for the environment?

Chlorine-based bleach

Chlorine-based bleach react with chemicals in the water to form dioxins, furans, and PCDDs (persistent organic pollutants), that stay in water and can bioaccumulate. These are carcinogens that are dangerous particularly to aquatic life.  It may be tempting to think that “a little bit of bleach” from your laundry may not tip the scale, however, it is also necessary to consider the ethical issues concerning how these bleaching agents are made. On a massive scale, bleach manufacturing plants often divert their waste water into streams and rivers. Not buying bleach in the first place helps the fight against pollutants in the environment by not creating a demand for those products.

Hydrogen peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is an alternative to chlorine-based bleach. It breaks down into oxygen and water and is therefore more environmentally conscious than chlorine-based bleach, however, its production process also isn’t without problems.

Sodium percarbonate

To complete the list, sodium percarbonate is a highly concentrated powder that breaks down into soda ash and hydrogen peroxide (which itself breaks down into oxygen and water). It is toxic to aquatic organisms.

How to tackle oxidizable stains

With this kind of stain it is important to act quickly. The best course of action is to rinse the stained material with cold water, if possible from the reverse side to avoid flushing more molecules into the pores of your garment. The cold water will prevent that more molecules will spread and set. If you cannot hold the stained material under water (e.g. if the stain is on a couch or carpet), alternate dapping the stain repeatedly with a damp and a dry, clean, white rug or sock to remove the liquid. Make sure not to rub, as this may spread or deepen the stain.

Surfactant Stains

Examples: oil, butter, peanut butter, collar stains, grease

As mentioned above, oil, grease, and fat can be broken down by lipases, however, surfactant cleaners are yet another alternative.

What are surfactants?

Surfactants (short for Surface Active Agent) are organic compounds that lower the surface tension of a liquid, such as water. They contain both a water-soluble component (their “heads”) and an oil-soluble component (their “tails”). Surfactants can aid the cleaning process as emulsifiers and foaming/defoaming agents, for example, and there are four types of surfactants in use: anionic (negatively charged), cationic (positively charged), amphoteric (positively and negatively charged), and nonionic (no charge). Of these different types, non-ionic surfactants are growing in popularity due to their low toxicity.
When removing a stain with a surfactant, aggregates called “micelles” are formed around the stain. The oil-soluble components of the surfactant then dissolve in the oil components of the stain. The water-soluble components of the surfactant then stick outwards, exposing them to the water you use to “wash out” the stain.
Examples of surfactants are detergents, soaps, emulsifiers, and foaming agents. Cornstarch, for example, is a surfactant, because it attracts and absorbs the molecules of the stain.
The rule is “like dissolves like”: pick a solvent that is similar to your stain, and you can wash the stain out.

Important: Environmental impact of surfactants

A high percentage (around 95-99%) of surfactants used in households are typically removed in wastewater treatment plants. They are generally considered safe in low concentrations, however, those that are not removed from wastewater treatment plants flow at an ever growing rate into the environment, given our high and continuously increasing volume of surfactant use. Once there, surfactants can diminish water quality and affect the health and reproduction of aquatic animals.
Another area to consider is the manufacturing process. About 50% of surfactants are synthetic, manufactured from petroleum-based feedstocks, such as crude oil. The other half are derived from so-called oleochemical feedstocks, typically seed oils (palm oil and soybean oil).

Particle Stains

Examples: mud, soil, dirt, sand, silt, clay, rust, hard water deposits, minerals

Particulate stains are particularly difficult to remove, because they may contain minerals (e.g. iron oxides in red clay) or decomposed organic matter (e.g. in soil and mud). Stain removers for these kinds of stains usually include enzymes to break the organic matter, and surfactants to lift the stain off the fabric. Another ingredient stain removers usually include are so-called builders. Builders essentially work in one of two ways:

  • Sequestration: Here, the builder compounds hold metal ions in the solution.
  • Precipitation: Here, the builder compounds remove metal ions from a solution.

When it comes to stain removal, builders can, for example, deactivate certain metal ions or minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, iron, and manganese, which then helps to soften the water. At the same time, soil stains are often bound to the fabric by calcium ions, so deactivating these ions helps make the stain components easier to wash out.

Vinegar, a mild acid, consists of positively charged hydrogen ions and negatively charged acetate ions and can be used to remove particular stains by causing a chemical reaction that helps break down certain stain components. For example, the acetic acid in vinegar reacts with rust to form a salt (iron acetate) and water.

That said, not all builders are created equal and some, such as phosphates, are known to have a greatly negative impact on the environment.

Download our WasteLess Stain Cleaning Guide for more information on how to pre-treat and remove any kind of stain (from coffee to red wine and even ink). Enjoy! 

Happy Stain Cleaning!

WasteLess Stain Removal Guide

This WasteLess Stain Cleaning Guide features close to 30 pages filled with recipes and tips to help you become an environmental stain removal hero! 

$0.00     $15.00

Spring Cleaning without Toxic Detergents or Waste

Spring Cleaning without Toxic Detergents or Waste

Commercially available cleaning detergents can not only harm the environment, they can also harm you. Many detergents contain known carcinogens, endocrine disruptors, and neurotoxins.

Making your own detergent(s) means taking charge of the chemicals and substances that enter your home, to keep your family, pets, and the environment safe. In this guide, we’ll provide recipes and instructions for effective toxic-free detergents.

Note of caution: As with anything in life, dosage and length of exposure matters. It is important to read and follow labels and use common sense.

WasteLess Cleaning Guide

This WasteLess Cleaning Guide features over 30 pages filled with recipes and tips to help you become a green cleaning hero! 

$0.00     $15.00

Table of Contents

Why opt for earth-friendly cleaning options?

Commercial cleaning detergents often contain ingredients that are problematic or even hazardous for the environment, where they may end up once they go down your drain as greywater.

It is therefore better to adopt earth-friendly cleaning habits to lower your impact on your environment and the world as a whole.

Problematic ingredients

  • Triclosan. This ingredient is often used in anti-bacterial soaps and is an endocrine disruptor that is known to interfere with the body’s regulation of thyroid hormones.
  • Parabens. These easily penetrate the skin and are known endocrine disruptors that mimic estrogen and have been detected in human breast cancer tissues.
  • Phthalates. They are known endocrine disruptors and are linked to reduced sperm counts in men (source).
  • Sulfates. These make your soap foam up. Sulfates strip your skin of its natural, protective oils, allowing toxins to enter your system via your skin.
  • Fragrances. Because of proprietary laws, companies don’t have to disclose the components that make up their scents, leaving you in the dark about their ingredients. Very often, “fragrances” contain phthalates and other toxic substances.

Canadians spend nearly $2.3 billion on household products each year. (Source)

What are earth-friendly cleaning alternatives?

While the ingredients in the list below are unproblematic for the environment, please keep in mind that dosage matters. Also, the impact of an ingredient is not just limited to its effect post-usage but also the effect its production has on the environment. So be mindful of any product you use and try not to waste it unnecessarily. 😉 

Earth-friendly ingredients

  • Distilled white vinegar. Used to disinfect, soften fabric, 
and cut grease.
  • Lemon. An acid that combats bacteria.
  • Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate). Used as an antacid, water softener deodorizer, and more.
  • Washing soda (sodium carbonate). Used as an antacid, water softener 
and to cut grease. Be sure to read the label on storage and usage. Essential oils (lavender, peppermint, cedarwood, eucalyptus, etc.). 
Used to disinfect and to add scent.
  • Starch. Used as absorbent.
  • Alcohol. Used as a disinfectant.
  • Castile soap. Used to capture dirt.
  • 3% Hydrogen peroxide. Used for removing stains. Be sure to read the label on storage and usage. It is to say, however, that the production of hydrogen peroxide does have an environmental impact (see our stain removal guide for more information on this). While it is more environmentally friendly than bleach, which has a very high environmental impact, it still isn’t perfect. So, use it responsibly.

Recipes for earth-friendly cleaning options

Here are a few examples of the recipes we’re sharing with you in our WasteLess Cleaning Guide to get you started. For more great recipes, please download the WasteLess Cleaning Guide and become a green cleaning hero!

Surface Cleaner

  • 2 cups of distilled white vinegar
  • 2 cups of water
  • ¼ cup of baking soda
  • 3-4 drops of essential oils (e.g. peppermint, lavender, eucalyptus)

Mix the ingredients and fill the mixture into a glass spray bottle.
Do not use on granite and marble surfaces.

Window Cleaner

  • 2 cups of water
  • ½ cup of vinegar
  • ¼ cup of rubbing alcohol

Combine all ingredients, spray onto a cloth and apply to your window. Dry well with a lint-free cloth or old newspapers. 

Dishwasher Detergent 

  • 1 cup Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Liquid Soap,
  • 1 cup of warm water 
  • 1 tablespoon of lemon or lime juice.

Mix the ingredients and add 1 tablespoon detergent to your dishwasher-detergent dispenser and
1 cup white vinegar to the rinse-aid dispenser. If you have especially hard water or notice watermarks remaining on glass items, you may need to increase the amount of white vinegar.

For more awesome cleaning recipes, feel free to download our WasteLess Cleaning Guide. Enjoy! 

Happy Green Cleaning!

WasteLess Cleaning Guide

This WasteLess Cleaning Guide features over 30 pages filled with recipes and tips to help you become a green cleaning hero! 

$0.00     $15.00

Your Guide to a Frugal and WasteLess Christmas

Your Guide to a Frugal and WasteLess Christmas

We may assume that our tradition to give gifts on Christmas may stem from the story of the Three Wise Men bringing valuables to Baby Jesus. And while it is true that the Christian holiday of Christmas has always been associated with gifts for centuries, the beneficiaries of these gifts were Christian rulers, not children, and the date of gift-giving was New Year’s Day. However, this tradition changed over time, eventually spread to North America, and after the 1823 poem The Night Before Christmas and the 1843 novella A Christmas Carol (Source), gift-giving on held on Christmas Eve was born.

Then, in the 20th century, when industrialization enticed workers to move from the farms to urban centres, “the prescient among the nation’s businessmen saw that they could use the emerging custom of Christmas gift-giving to increase their sales,” (Source: The Modern Christmas in America: A Cultural History of Gift Giving. W.B. Waitts). Thus, the gift-giving tradition that we know today was born. 

WasteLess Christmas Guide

This WasteLess Christmas Guide provides you with great tips on how to celebrate this holiday with your loved ones without creating waste. 

Today, household waste can increase more than 25% during the holiday season (Source) and after 6 months, only 1% of everything that the average person buys is still in use, while the other 99% have been discarded (Source). So this holiday season, let’s collectively rethink gifting and celebrate the holidays in a WasteLess way by embracing frugality.

There are other tokens of appreciation that we can offer our loved ones to shower them with the appreciation and love they deserve. To help you give love, not waste, we, for example, are offering you the WasteLess Christmas Guide.

Table of Contents

Reducing means wasting less money

When you give up on the idea of gifting stuff, you waste less money on “just buying something.” You also save on gas (or electricity – depending on your ride) by not having to drive to the stores. If you’re shopping online, you also reduce your impact by not having packets shipped to your door, which may not save you money directly but indirectly, because even free shipping is not really free but rolled into the price you’re paying for that item.

You also have to buy less wrapping paper, bows, tape, gift cards, etc. This can quickly add up.

In Canada 545,000 tonnes of waste is generated from gift-wrapping and shopping bags each year.

Reducing means wasting less time

When you give up on the idea of gifting stuff, you waste less time obsessing about “what to buy” and running around trying to find that “special gift.”

To make matters worse, with stores suffering from massive supply shortages this year, they may have already run out of the item on your list, which could eat up even more of your time, scouring multiple stores or trying to find an alternative present. Removing yourself from this gift-giving frenzy hence frees up your time for more meaningful family activities. 

You also waste less time by not having to wrap all of your acquisitions and writing all those greeting cards. 

Reducing means less stress

Let’s face it: Shopping is stress, even if we try to convince ourselves otherwise. Racking our brains trying to think of the “perfect surprise,” packed stores, “sold out” signs, the thought of receiving our credit card bill, standing in long lineups, or even having to wait for that package that you just bought online and hoping that it will arrive “just on time,”… All those are sources of stress.

When you give up on the idea of gifting stuff, this stress won’t face you this year and you will be sleeping better.

Reducing means less unwanted stuff

In Canada, one third of the population, roughly 13 million people, will receive at least one unwanted gift this year (Source). Besides the financial implications of millions of dollars going down the drain for gifts that are not appreciated, many of these unwanted gifts will also find their way into a landfill or incinerator unused.

Reducing means less impact

Every gift that we buy has to be produced somewhere. This requires the mining of nature’s riches, shipping them around the globe from processing plant to processing plant to make the final product, shipping the final product to warehouse after warehouse all the way to its final destination.

And that’s not where this gift’s life ends. If it’s a wanted gift, it may be in use several times before it is being discarded. If it’s an unwanted gift, it may find a match in a different household, where it will be used for a while. However, ultimately, this gift will approach its end of life and be sent to a landfill or incinerator. Both of these options are bad for the planet.

Gifts aren’t the only wasteful Christmas habit, however. Let’s also take a minute to talk about our beloved Christmas trees.

What’s more: It takes on average 8 years to grow one Christmas tree (Source); a tree that will only be decorating our homes for a few weeks that year, before being ditched, which is not sustainable. In fact, the sales of Christmas trees have been growing by about 15% every year since 2015 (Source) in Canada, leading to a Christmas tree shortage this year again, because fewer trees are being planted and climate change is affecting their growth and survival.

It takes on average 8 years to grow one Christmas tree, which is then used to celebrate a one-day holiday. It's time to rethink.

And then there are exports. Did you know that Canada exports Christmas trees worth $50 million each year, while it imports artificial ones for around $61 million (Source)? This again adds to the impact, because these trees that are moving into either direction need to be transported somehow.

And if you’re thinking about buying an artificial Christmas tree instead of a real one to avoid wasting an 8-year-old tree for a 1-day-holiday, please know that these artificial trees are made up of PVC plastic and the average family uses it on average 5-7 years only (Source), after which they end up in the landfill.

“But isn’t PVC recyclable?” I hear you say… So, let’s clear up one misconception about recycling while we’re at it. Items made from fused materials (so, anything that is not purely one specific resin) would need to be taken apart to be “recyclable” and given the amount of waste we produce as a society, this is just not being done at scale. So, “recycling” is not and never was a solution to our waste problem. It’s a bandaid solution and a way to calm our guilty minds. Only using less (being frugal) and wasting less can get us out of this mess.

So, what to offer instead ?

I can feel that you’ve been itching to have this question answered since you started reading this article and we’ll not scratch that itch.

You’ll be surprised that the answer is actually very simple:

Spend quality time with your loved ones.


Various studies have revealed that families who spent time with their loved ones doing meaningful activities, had a merrier Christmas (Source) and that children remember more fondly the simple everyday family dinners, holiday get-togethers, and bedtime stories, than the gifts they received (Source).

Spending time with your loved ones doing meaningful activities, such as going ice skating, is not only better for the family dynamic and forming fond childhood memories, but is also better for the planet.

Here are a few meaningful activities  to consider:

  • Baking cookies together creates memories of togetherness and caring.
  • Story time during which memories are shared by parents and older relatives with younger family members, allows the family to connect the past and present. It also teaches children their family history.
  • Gift a membership to a library, toy library or sports club, music lessons, or a massage.
  • Gift homemade items, such as a tray with cookies or bread.
  • Pass down a second-hand item that you know will provide joy for years to come.
  • Plant a tree in honour of the recipient.
  • Host a cookie swap
  • Organize a donation drive to collect warm clothing and blankets for a local homeless shelter.
  • Reading a Christmas story together can teach about love and peace. But we’d encourage you to go one step further and act on the underlying thought to also teach empathy and collaboration, for example by:
    • inviting a neighbour, who is alone, for tea or coffee.
    • volunteering at a community event to serve a hot meal to the homeless, take an animal at the shelter for a walk, or spread some cheer at a local senior home.

WasteLess Christmas Gatherings

If you’re inviting your family over for Christmas, resist the temptation to “order take-out” and instead use the time with the family to cook a meal together.

Here are some ways to ensure that your gathering will be as WasteLess as possible:

  • Use reusable dishware and borrow from family, friends, or neighbours if you do not have enough. This is yet another example of a “meaningful” activity to infuse into your Christmas traditions.
  • Put your candles in the freezer for a few hours before your dinner to extend their burning time.
  • Ask your guests to take home some of the leftovers so no food will go to waste. Let them pack it so they can determine how much they can realistically eat over the coming days.
  • If you still have a lot of leftovers, create little care packages for lonely neighbours or the homeless.
  • Create your own traditions, such as enlisting a cleanup team that will help take some of that burden off your shoulders.
    There are obviously no limits to your creativity when coming up with WasteLess habits and traditions for our family.

Each tradition begins at some point in time; let the WasteLess ones start with you!

For more ideas and tips, feel free to check out our WasteLess Christmas Guide.

STUFF-ing is for turkeys.

Happy WasteLess Christmas

WasteLess Christmas Guide

This WasteLess Christmas Guide provides you with great tips on how to celebrate this holiday with your loved ones without creating waste. 

It’s our mission is to help Canadians
waste less
by learning to truly reduce consumption and breaking free from wasteful habits!

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Phone: +1 (604)-500-8376

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c/o Connie Reichelsdorfer
PO Box 55028
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Nanaimo, BC V9R 6L0

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