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How this Kamloops couple is going zero waste

Haley Feller (left) and Sam Birmingham reveal two weeks worth of garbage and recycling on Jan. 14, 2019.
January 15, 2019 - 6:29 PM

KAMLOOPS - The first thing you notice when you walk into Haley Feller and Sam Birmingham's home is that it is so clean.

Though their basement suite has no natural light the absence of clutter and minimalist decor makes it seem bigger than it actually is. 

They are a part of the zero waste movement, a modern lifestyle where people aim to reduce the amount of trash sent to landfills as much as possible. Keeping in mind the goal of "zero waste," they prioritize reusable products over single-use items, preowned merchandise over new, and repurposing over disposing.

“So we don’t get coffee if we don’t have a mug with us. We just don’t," Feller says.

Now a zero waste educator in Kamloops, Feller and her partner Birmingham, hopped on the bandwagon over a year ago. She offers resources on her blog, and hosts workshops to help people get started on a zero waste lifestyle.

"Initially we did a waste audit," Feller recalls. "We looked at our garbage and saw what we were throwing away. And then we also looked at our recycling and saw what we could reduce... Obviously we don’t need paper towel. Just use rags."

However, as Feller and Birmingham have found, they are confined by the resources available to them and a culture that has not yet found a way to operate without creating tonnes of waste. Stats Canada reports that British Columbia alone produces over two million tonnes of waste every year. Birmingham saw first hand the impact of all this garbage when he worked at the Cache Creek landfill.

"There’s a mountain of garbage and we were digging down to put a pipe in at the bottom," Birmingham says. "And there [were full] orange garbage bags from the 1980s."

"We focus on ourselves and our little home because it’s too overwhelming to think of everything," Feller adds.

Spices stored in reusable Mason jars at Feller and Birmingham's home in Kamloops.
Spices stored in reusable Mason jars at Feller and Birmingham's home in Kamloops.

Feller notes that though the goal is to be zero waste sometimes they have to "suck it up" and take the plastic option. For example when buying liquid soap they purchase a large container of Castile soap where they only have to use a tablespoon at a time.

"It lasts a long time but it’s still buying plastic," Feller says.

They have been met with both support and resistance at retailers. Bulk Barn lets them bring in their jars to buy groceries in bulk, and Nandi's Flavours of India offers a five per cent discount for those who bring their own take-out containers. Birmingham recalls going to a Subway restaurant and asking that they not wrap his sandwich in their typical packaging. The employee applauded his request.

On the flip side, they have asked a local retailer to buy tortilla chips in bulk and were refused service. Some other grocery stores supplying bulk have not let them use their own jars for carrying products.

Even over a year after starting their zero waste journey they still are actively seeking out ways to reduce their waste. 

"I think it’s a progression," Birmingham says.

Next on their list is making oat milk so they don't have to buy cartons from the store, and to get a Sodastream so they don't buy aluminium cans.

Though they admit they are still vehicle-dependent in Kamloops, they have sold one of their cars and now just share one.

"Kamloops is not a very good place to not have a car," Feller says.

The next step is making a habit of using public transportation.

Though some may be tempted to take the all-or-nothing approach to a lifestyle change, that's not what Feller advocates for.

"When you do it at your own personal level and see the changes you can affect I think that make more sense."

Online Kamloops locals are helping each other out to find waste reduction solutions. Feller is active on the Zero Waste Kamloops Facebook page where she loves to answer questions using the name Haley Bea.

She is also hosting a zero waste workshop on Wednesday, Jan. 16. Go here to learn more.

You can see Feller's blog here.

Go here to see the Thompson Rivers University Zero Waste Toolkit.

—This story was corrected on Friday, Jan. 18, 2019. An earlier version incorrectly stated the type of milk, and soda water packaging the household uses.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Shelby Thevenot or call (250) 819-6089 or email the editor You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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News from © iNFOnews, 2019

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