Cowichan Zero Waste Challenge

Zero Waste Challenge


Every day, we buy things we don’t need, and throw out stuff that still has a lot of value. There are huge financial and environmental benefits to breaking this pattern. This is what Zero Waste is all about.

Zero Waste offers a new way of thinking about garbage. According to Zero Waste principles, there is no such thing as “waste,” there are only wasted resources.

Resources are wasted at every step of the “life cycle” of a product when:

  • Products are designed using materials that are hard to reuse/recycle, and/or are designed to wear out quickly
  • Production processes are inefficient and use too much energy, water and other resources, and produce hazardous waste
  • Too much packaging is used to deliver products to market
  • People (businesses and individuals) buy things that they don’t really need, and/or buy disposable or single-use items
  • People throw things away instead of finding new uses for them, or recycling them

Achieving Zero Waste in our region is a big goal, and we may never become 100% waste-free. But we can get close, and small changes can have a big impact. Getting to Zero Waste can feel easier if you:

Zero Waste in 5 “easy” steps

Getting to Zero Waste is a big goal for our region (and any region), but if we all work together, we can get a lot closer to Zero Waste than we are now. All it takes is making small, easy adjustments to everyday habits (e.g. buying less, reusing more).

There are 5 steps to Zero Waste: refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle and recover. These steps follow a very deliberate pecking order (or hierarchy), starting with the most important step (refuse) and ending with the “least important” step (recover). Zero Waste principles can be applied at home, at work and at school.

    Save money and the earth’s resources by buying only what you need. Buy things that last a really long time and are made locally. Otherwise rent, borrow, share, repair, refurbish or re-upholster! More
    Stop trash from entering your home, business or school. Say no to excessive packaging, and don’t buy disposable or single-use items (e.g. paper napkins, juice boxes), or things that contain hazardous chemicals. More
    Be creative! Find new ways to use old things. Repurpose them via a local thrift store or the CVRD Free Stores, or pass them along to others to repair or resell. Just keep things moving and out of the landfill. More
    Massive amounts of energy and resources are needed to make things like batteries, light bulbs and plastic bottles. Preserve this value by recycling, not trashing. You can recycle hundreds of things for free in the CVRD. More
    There is no such thing as waste. There are only wasted resources. Even the tiniest piece of material contains a huge amount of value. Used frying oil can become fuel, tires can be turned into all sorts of new products, and any residual garbage that is left over after everything possible has been refused, reduced, reused and recycled can be used to make energy.

Zero Waste hierarchy

This is how the hierarchy works:

  1. The best idea is not to create any waste in the first place (refuse).
  2. If you do create waste, try to make as little as possible (reduce).
  3. Then try to find other uses for this waste when you want to get it out of your home or workplace (reuse).
  4. If you can’t find ways to reuse the waste, then make sure you preserve the value of the resources that are contained in that waste (recycle).
  5. As a final option, any leftover waste can be used to create new forms of energy (recover).


I am happy to support this very worthwhile goal here in the Cowichan Valley and applaud the hard work of everyone involved.  If you have five minutes to spare at some point, I would encourage you to visit the CVRD’s Zero Waste website at:



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