Photos C/O Razan Samara, Jennifer Yee

Jennifer Yee is the self-proclaimed love child of Stevie Nicks and Indiana Jones, an identity I realized she’s adopted wholeheartedly as we went on a little adventure around her Riverdale neighbourhood looking for community gardens and a worker-owned natural food market.

In recent years she’s delved deep into researching ways she can adopt a more sustainable and ethical lifestyle. From making her day to day tasks more green to acting as a natural ambassador and advocate, how she impacts the environment and the world around her is always on her mind.

Yee recognizes the challenges of going zero-waste, avoiding fast fashion and its negative impact on the environment and workers and changing habits and mindsets around more ethical, environmentally-friendly and sustainable practices.

Despite how easy it may be to partake in practices that save us time and money, ultimately there’s no convenience in neglecting the environment.  Yee had an abundance of tips and tricks that can be implemented into daily routines for those that are up for the challenge.   

Sustainable suggestions

Single-use plastics can easily be replaced by investing in a reusable counterpart. Grab your coffee in the morning in a travel mug and keep a reusable bottle on you. There’s a diverse selection of budget-friendly and washable produce bags for your groceries made from mesh, cotton or recycled plastic.

Sustainable food storage can be tricky to navigate, especially when packing food is made so much easier with Ziploc bags. Wrap foods in reusable beeswax wrap and consider an eco-friendly lunch bag. FUNCH is a collapsible, washable, water and tear-resistant option made from recycled material. Toss in some bamboo or metal utensils and you’re set for lunch.

Billions of tiny bits of plastics escape into our waterways from hygiene and beauty products. Avoid bath products, cleansers and toothpastes with microbeads as they do not enhance the effectiveness of the product but rather add to the plastic pollution crisis.

Washing clothing also sheds plastics in the form of microfibers. Polyester fleece garments tend to be the biggest offenders and Friends of the Earth report that one wash load could shed up to 17 million microfibers. Yee recommends placing clothing in a special bag, such as Guppy Bag, that is designed to catch microfibers as the clothing gets washed. Washing at low temperatures and a full load can also reduce shedding.  

Think about the packing products come in and consider investing in companies that have recycling practices. For menstrual products, menstrual cups can be an easy-to-use and less wasteful alternative to pads and tampons. Yee recommends the Ruby Cup which also has a social mission model wherein they donate a cup with every purchase.   

[spacer height="20px"]It’s also important to develop an understanding of recycling practices in your own community and on campus as they may differ. For example, coffee cups and pizza boxes with grease are not recyclable at McMaster. The university has a composting initiative, recycling program and nine electronics collection drop-off locations. Acceptable items for recycling are outlined on the university’s website.

Wasteful practices on campus also include the plethora of take-out containers thrown out on a daily basis. Avoiding take-out may be difficult with the limited space for sit-down meals but being conscious of how much food to order, the kind of container offered and bringing your own storage containers to avoid waste can go a long way.

There are plenty of local options in Hamilton that offer eco-friendly dining. The Nook was renovated with minimal waste and tries to operate as close to zero-waste as possible. Dundurn Market as well as the Mustard Seed Co-op have a focus on supporting local eating, which ultimately reduces impact on the environment.

[spacer height="20px"]While Hamilton’s food scene is increasingly paying attention to more sustainable practices, the slow fashion scene is thriving too. Hamilton’s Out of the Past and McMaster’s very own Threadwork events promote reusing clothing and reducing waste.

Yee recalls experiencing a huge learning curve while changing habits and picking up environmentally-friendly practices. A simple reminder of why she pursues her lifestyle as an environmentalist, advocate and wild keeper keeps her going.

It may be difficult, but the environment is worth taking a moment and thinking about the place we each have in the world and how we are impacting it with every move we make.

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