Low-waste challenge

Mar 29, 2021 | SAMU Blog

This challenge was taken by SAMU staff members Karman and Macey.


This week I attempted the Low-Waste challenge, where I tried to make as little waste as possible and document all the garbage that ended up in the landfill. I live with my partner, but we tried to list just the waste that I created. The challenge was a really fun experience and opened my eyes to how much trash and unnecessary plastic waste we create.


I started the week okay and didn’t make too much trash! I ended up making salmon and veggies, so most of the veggies were able to be composted (Check out how to compost here [link to compost blog]!) I’m collecting my scraps in this container in my freezer until I can transfer them into my compost. Unfortunately, we can’t recycle chip bags and styrofoam, so those ended up in the trash.

Sustainability tip: bring produce bags when shopping for fruits and veggies to reduce the amount of little plastic bags used!


Tuesday ended up having a considerable amount of waste compared to Monday. I received an order from Sephora, so that contributed to a lot of the garbage from today. Produce like mushrooms usually come in these little plastic containers, but they do typically stock them in bulk so you can bring your bags and avoid waste. I made curry for dinner, which also created a lot of waste. However, I added the carrot scraps to the compost container. I also collected the paper towels and produce tags in a container to be composted along with the veggie scraps, although I ended up using more paper towels than usual.


We had leftover curry for dinner on Wednesday, so no extra waste was created, which is always a bonus when making food in bulk. However, I did make congee for lunch and collected the plastic container. Each little egg was also wrapped in its own plastic packaging, which created more waste than I would have liked. However, I was able to rip up the paper towel rolls for the compost bin! I usually don’t buy coffee, but I did today and wasted a little plastic cup. I miss being able to use our reusable cups, but we aren’t able to because of COVID health restrictions. Therefore, I try to have more coffees from home.


Today was a takeout kind of day, so I ended up with plastic waste from lunch (and a disposable fork, unfortunately). Ordering takeout/delivery usually creates a lot of non-recyclable waste. With COVID, restaurants aren’t able to use containers you bring in, so that’s something to keep in mind if you’re trying to be more conscious of your waste. I made more congee for dinner with the leftover pork here, so the styrofoam tray is now collected as waste. I used some strawberries and placed the waste with the organics for composting, which is exciting!


Last day of the challenge! My partner ended up ordering Bahn Mi’s, so our lunch came in plastic wrap, and our salad rolls were in these styrofoam trays with more plastic wraps and little sauce containers. We also finished our box of Chips Ahoy, which unfortunately wasn’t able to be recycled. The only waste here that was recyclable was the paper towels I collected and a can of Bubly. We ended up finishing the curry today, so we were able to go a few days without more waste from our evening meals.

From this challenge, I realized how much waste I make that can’t be recycled or composted (and how little vegetables I actually eat in a week… oops). I think being aware of your carbon footprint and how much you contribute to the landfill is important, and collecting my own garbage for a week really highlights that. This challenge has also motivated me to find alternatives to some of the products I use to be more environmentally conscious.

I recommend everyone try doing this challenge and hopefully reduce their own trash! There are many different versions of this challenge, a popular one being collecting all your waste that would end up in a landfill and trying to fit it into a 1L jar. That is something I would definitely try to do again, although it might be a little more difficult during a pandemic.


It has been quite some time since bringing focus to my waste and how I consume products during this pandemania. However, I realized how diminished my efforts have become when I recycle, compost or preserve produce. The low-waste challenge itself forced me to think much slower in how I prepare meals. I found, with more intention cooking and using all parts of a vegetable; a ripple effect was created that made portion control a significant focus. Intention cooking also spotlighted how I try and cut corners in the shuffle of working from home. Before having more disciplined routines working from home, I would let my scraps and waste collect in smaller bowls that I would then throw away since I do not know where to safely take my compost in the downtown core during winter months. With more research on sustainable composting for apartments or urban cities, I discovered compostable bags that break down over time just right in the trash bin. It was quite the pleasure to see the waste visually I was living with, and I have already adjusted my daily routine to keep my waste low and my reusables items in a healthy rotation. All in all, this experience was very simple and brought a gentle awareness to my consumption, waste, and preservation of produce.

This is five days’ worth of recycling and items I could not contribute to my kitchen scrap bin. I was happy to use a lot of paper waste in my fireplace as kindling.

This is seven days’ worth of composting goodness. I will admit I needed quite a bit of lemon juice, and their carcasses took most of the room. I plan to add soil and some earth scarps to let this batch live on my garden patio until it starts its cycle.

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