Earth Day Cleanup in Sooke

The weather is warming up (at last) and blossoms & buds are bursting out all over, so it’s a perfect time to give our town a thorough spring clean.

In honour of Earth Day 2017, we’re organizing a community cleanup of roadsides, ditches, green spaces and playgrounds on the morning and early afternoon of Saturday, April 22.

Please email if you’d like to volunteer for an hour or more as part a neighbourhood litter-busting team. Sifu Moonfist and our crew of Zero Wastrels will be pleased to welcome one and all. Gloves and bags will be supplied, and you’ll walk away with a renewed sense of pride in our amazing seaside town.

Bonus: This is a family friendly event and kids can get busy with special litter scavenger hunts created in the spirit of this year’s Earth Day theme, namely “Earth Play,” a call for everyone to unplug and enjoy outdoor activities.

Our sincere hat-tips to the District of Sooke and the CRD for the funding support. Learn more at the ZWS Facebook page.


Winter 2016 Update

Clean-ups, surveys, meetings + a few ideas for a merry Zero Waste Christmas

Busy times for the Zero Waste Sooke team.  Our Wendy O’Connor, Jo Phillips and Jeff Bateman presented the “Talk Trash” Open Space report to District of Sooke council last month, in the process identifying three requests for municipal action: i) Staff investigation of the possibilities for a full-service Resource Recovery Centre in Sooke; ii) A plastic reduction and/or ban-the-bag initiative; and iii) the installation of drinking water fountains in key spots around town. We were pleased with the response, and are excited to see how things develop (while also doing our part to move these ideas forward as best we can and keep them on the District’s radar).

On the plastic front, Jo has been surveying Sooke retailers for their thoughts on a possible local ban-the-bag bylaw. Chain outlets couldn’t comment given that major decisions of this kind are made in head office, however a number of locally owned retailers (including Home Hardware, Village Foods and A Sea of Bloom) would favour a ban on single-use plastic bags provided it applied to all retailers in the District. Given that it has a sister store in Langford, Western Foods would like to see a CRD-wide ban, while several retailers are fine with the status quo. A key piece in this process is public education, and ZWS designer Zach Ogilvie is now working on BYOB (Bring Your Own Bag) signage that could be hung outside Sooke stores.


October started with our second (maybe annual considering how much fun it is) ProjectServe day of volunteerism in Sooke. We again welcomed a squad of University of Victoria students to town for a roadside clean-up that netted ten bags of litter, some large items tossed into the Wadams Way forest and countless cigarette butts; special thanks to Sifu Moonfist and the District’s Jessica Boquist (back row right in this gleeful photo) and Laura Hooper for their help. After lunch, we escorted our volunteers to Sunriver Community Garden for a different but no less essential kind of clean-up.

At our request, Mayor Maja Tait declared the week of Oct. 17 “Waste Reduction Week in Sooke.”  Wendy worked with staff and students at John Muir Elementary School to set up a litter-less lunch and a waste audit.  And at that week’s regular Zero Waste meet-up at the Sooke library, she demoed the Queen of Green laundry soap recipe. It’s simple and effective, no Borax is involved and the cost is just seven cents a load.

Looking ahead, the November 17 meeting at the library will feature a presentation on electronics reuse and recycling by Triston Line, a Grade 12 EMCS student involved with the school’s award-winning Robotics team.  And at a zero-waste Christmas workshop at the library on Dec. 14 (6-7 p.m.), Wendy will demo a Japanese practice known as “furoshiki” that allows you to wrap objects of various shapes and sizes in a single piece of cloth. No need at all for glittery, glitzy throwaway gift paper.

As ever, ZWS events are free of charge and everyone with an interest in turning Sooke into a model zero waste community is most welcome to attend. Please join us on the third Wednesday of almost (check our Facebook page for updates) every month at 6:30 p.m. at the Sooke library (thank you, Adrienne Wass). Nearly two years since our first meeting, we’re making encouraging progress. With more community interest and volunteer support, we’re excited to explore other initiatives and directions in the year ahead (for instance, we’d like to follow the lead of the Otter Point, Shirley and Jordan River Resident and Ratepayers Association, which has done some awesome work this year in posting signs and cleaning-up notorious illegal dumping spots in their region). Thank you Debb, Bill, Brenda, Marika, Rosemary, Meg and other good Sooke region neighbours for the effort and inspiration.

Preview of the Committee of the Whole (COW) Presentation

Trash Talk with the District of Sooke – Sept. 12 at the Municipal Hall

A Zero Waste Sooke team led by coordinator Wendy O’Connor will be presenting our Open Space report to the District of Sooke’s Committee of the Whole on Monday, Sept. 12 at 6 p.m.  ZWS volunteers, supporters and anyone interested in local waste management, reduction and recovery issues are invited to attend the session at the Municipal Hall, 2205 Otter Point Road.

The full report, attached here, will be presented to Sooke council along with three priority recommendations for short and mid-term action:

  1. Resource Recovery Centre: District of Sooke to take a lead role in exploring a public/private partnership that will ensure Sooke residents have access to a full-service resource recovery centre that might also include a compost facility, yard-waste depot and related, job-creating cottage industries.
  2. Plastic waste reduction: DOS to legislate a ban on single-use plastic checkout bags at retail outlets in Sooke as part of a comprehensive campaign to reduce plastic waste locally.
  3. Drinking fountains: DOS to install water drinking fountains in strategic locations around town, the most logical spots being …
    1. Town core (at site of the info map at Evergreen Centre)
    2. John Phillips Memorial Park (as part of new washrooms planned for the park)
    3. Ed Macgregor Park
    4. Sooke Flats campground
    5. Broomhill Park playground

In the report’s final pages, we’ve listed the 50 or so individuals who participated in the April 17 session at the Community Hall. Our sincere thanks to everyone who sacrificed their Sundays to attend and contributed such thoughtful, practical and often visionary input.

We’d also like to send a warm muchas gracias to event facilitators Christiana and Tony St-Pierre along with the organizing team led by Wendy, Jo Phillips and Bev England. Hat tips as well the folks who supplied chili, soup and salads for lunch, and the local businesses that provided us with tasty day-old breads and baked goods — namely Kelz Bakery, the Little Vienna, the Stick in the Mud Cafe, Village Foods and Western Foods. Gratitude to the District of Sooke for advertising support.

Read the Open Space Report

Zero Waste: A State of Mind

“Is zero waste some new recycling thing?” Respectfully, this is like asking if the Internet is some new computer thing. In the same way that the Internet has forever changed how we view and interact with the world, zero waste is a shift in our beliefs as to what constitutes waste. More accurately, it’s a view that society’s attitude to waste needs to be completely re-thought. The concept of “zero waste” is a new lens through which we can do a 180 on our perspective of garbage. It is nothing less than a state of mind.

Before we talk about zero waste, however, we need to talk about waste. No other species generates garbage. Humans are the only one. Waste plays no part in the natural world. In fact, there is no equivalent to garbage in the ecosystem. It simply does not exist. One organism’s waste is another’s food. Mother Nature recycles, reuses, repurposes, reconstitutes everything; its a perfect system!

Waste and garbage are human creations that started with the industrial revolution, exploded with the advent of plastics, and have now become a fundamental aspect of our human industrial growth economy. In fact, our economic system today – founded on the rapid purchase and disposal of “stuff” – requires constant and manufactured obsolescence (i.e., waste). The economic treadmill we’re running on cannot afford for us to reuse, recycle or repurpose. And while our economy cannot live without waste, our ecosystem cannot live with it. We are left to choose between the ecosystem and the economy.

The problem really came with modern technology, specifically the invention of plastics. Plastic takes tens of thousands of years to decompose. And since the rise of its generalized use less than 50 years ago, plastics are everywhere now. And when plastics do finally decompose, they leave toxic fibers in their wake.

So, for the sake of discussion, let’s reimagine waste as by-product. The by-products of making dinner, for instance, are food scraps, peels, possibly a few bones. In turn, this becomes compost, food for animals or stock for soup. It’s not waste. Likewise, the by-product of a construction project is firewood, materials for other projects or salvage to reuse on another build. Surplus old clothes become new quilts. And so on. This is not new thinking. Quite the contrary, it is extremely old and once commonplace logic for the countless generations before us that understood and lived with scarcity.

So what to do? We need to rethink waste. In fact, we need to stop thinking of waste as a something to get rid of. Waste – I mean by-product – is an opportunity, it’s a resource, and more importantly, it’s a responsibility. We can no longer be “wasters,” we must steward a healthy ecosystem for our kids. Rather than automatically tossing stuff out, become a “recycler” or a “reuser.” Be creative! Take back your power to do it yourself. Fix that old whatever or turn it into something new! Stop wasting.

Once you get the idea of zero waste, you’ll realize that it applies not just to stuff. It applies to time, energy, people. You’ll stop wasting hours in front of the TV and instead use your precious life-force to plant a garden, visit a friend or do some community work.

And let me leave you with one last thought. There is no better measure of our sustainability, of our resilience, than looking at our waste. It’s the crap we leave in our collective cultural wake that is our legacy. Let’s not be wasters!

Steve Unger

Steve is a father of two, a homesteader, a green builder, and an advocate for action on climate change. He is also an electrical engineer and certified Permaculture Designer.

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Confessions of a Waster

My 28-year-old son does not hold out much hope for the future of our planet in his lifetime.

I am an optimist and his attitude really bothers me, but a lot of what he says does ring true. Our society is now purchasing more stuff than ever before, and much of it ends up in landfills. I’m trying to figure out a way to inspire my son not to give up, and obviously the first way is by example. Over the past few months I have become much more aware of my own habits of purchasing, what I throw away as waste and how I am recycling. As a family we have always “done our bit” with recycling for the past 20 years. With recent examinations of our lifestyle, I realize that as a family we could be doing so much more. We are good with putting our blue bin curb-side, but anything not accepted in the blue bin program has been going into the garbage because we considered it too much trouble to find out where it can be dropped off for recycling.

If something breaks it was easier to throw it away and buy new rather than to try and fix it. I had my re-usable bags for grocery shopping, but more often than not they were forgotten when I needed them. It is time for me to change some of my attitudes and actions.

I am now making a deliberate effort to make sure my cloth grocery bags are always returned to my vehicle ready for the next stop for shopping, and that means all shopping, not just for groceries. I am starting to realize that the two R’s before Recycle are very important, and I need to pay more than just lip service to Reduce and Reuse.