Low Options, Low Waste

Published: March 11, 2020

by Maïa Dakessian Science and Policy Exchange

When I first started doing research for this post, my question was: is it possible to be zero-waste even if the town you live in isn’t? I hadn’t been to Percé, Québec in five years and I couldn’t remember if there was a compost system there. I associated small towns with having few zero-waste options and alternatives available. Being from Montreal, I think I have become dependent on the access to bulk and other zero-waste items.

After only two days in Percé, my mindset changed. All it took was being close to nature.

What surprised me

First off, I was surprised by how I perceived small towns. I stayed with relatives and while walking the around the house, I couldn’t keep myself from thinking ‘’Oh this is zero-waste, it’s not complicated, why did I think maintaining this lifestyle would be?’’

There are so many zero-waste and sustainable options you can do to follow a minimal waste lifestyle and it all starts in the mind! Using less should be done effortlessly and feel natural, because if it isn’t, how are we ever going to keep it up? Think creative and do with what you have.

As you can see from the picture, I visited in winter. Everything was closed except for the post office, the SAQ and the grocery store. The closest ‘’big’’ town is Rimouski and it’s 6 hours away. Yet, it is also possible to find more options in Chandler, about an hour from where I was staying. I do think there are more options in the summertime. From what I’ve learned, there are farmer’s markets where you can buy fruits and vegetables with reusable bags as well as butcher shops, fish markets, and bakeries where you can bring your containers.

I noticed that people in town are very carpe diem and follow a slow-living movement, especially in the winter when everything is closed.

The fact that Percé is secluded helps too: there are no shopping malls, which lowers consumption. The nearest place to get clothes is at a thrift shop. There are also not a lot of options for groceries and most of those options are expensive. Because of that, I found that it forces you to think outside the box and make food items at home.

Staples you can DIY

  1. Yogurt. You can use a yogurt machine if you want to invest in one or some slow cookers have a yogurt option. There are also a few recipes online to make yogurt without a machine. I’ve tried this one a few times with soy milk and it worked pretty well!
  2. Hummus. There are many recipes online. You can vary the proportions of tahini and lemon to your liking. I also love adding a few cloves of garlic for a little kick.
  3. Kombucha. This might be a bit more challenging for some, but if you love this carbonated drink, brewing it at home is the way to go! This is the recipe I use: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D3Axb37lMWI&t=368s. Coop Le Milieu in Montreal also offers workshops on sourdough, kombucha, and kimchi.
  4. Ketchup or Chutney. I have recently started doing this, especially because I can control the amount of sugar that goes into it. You can make tomato or even mango-flavored chutney: there are infinite options!

In this post, I focused a lot on how you can lower your waste around food: for me, that’s where it’s easier to improve and that’s also where a big proportion of our home trash is made.

You can also buy food in big quantities to share it with friends and family and store them in glass jars.

As it turns out, there are quite a lot more resources than I thought in the region. And yes, there is compost!! Gaspésie Zéro déchet is a great group on Facebook that you can follow for more information.

One piece of advice that I can give you is to connect with nature: seeing nature and taking it all in makes you, I find, want to preserve it.

My recipe to a new mindset

Ingredients: Nature, sunshine, open-mindedness, creativity and just a little bit of motivation

Ready in the number of days that you wish

Serves as many portions of happiness as you need!