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The Clean Air Partnership is a registered charity, founded in 2000. Our mission is to work with partners to achieve clean air, facilitate the exchange of ideas, advance change and promote and coordinate implementation of actions that improve local air quality.

My Sustainable Day-Cation in Oakville, Part 1: Towards Zero Waste

I have really been looking forward to my trip to Oakville ever since running the Poll and discovering just how engaged the Oakville public was, and how passionate they were about their community’s environmental efforts.  I am hapy to report that my trip to Oakville met and exceeded all of my expectations, and left me with a much greater appreciation for all the hard work being done by the Town Staff, engaged citizen groups and the general public to make Oakville a more sustainable place to live.

As many of my Day-Cations seem to do, my trip to Oakville started at their Town Hall (Which just so happens to be the site of the Town’s Annual Energy Conservation Fair THIS COMING SATURDAY, June 2!).  I was eager to talk to staff at Town Hall to hear how they had achieved some of their impressive waste reduction numbers as they move towards producing zero waste in the Town Facilities.

The waste station in the Town Hall Atrium with clear signage directing staff where to put various waste items.

One of the first things my hosts and I talked about was the diversion rate at the Town Hall.  Having recently been recognized by the Recycling Council of Ontario with Silver Awards in Waste Diversion and Communications, I knew two things: 1.) Town Staff would be eager to talk about their waste diversion efforts and 2.) those efforts had been paying off.

Town of Oakville Staff show off their Recycling Council of Ontario Award with the Mayor of Oakville, centre.

Well I was flabbergasted to hear just how well those efforts had, in fact, paid off.  At Town Hall, an impressive 93% of the waste produced is diverted from landfills.  With numbers like that, I had to know: how did they do it?

A lot of the battle when it comes to waste diversion is simply education.  Ensuring that Town Staff knew what items go in which bin was vital to ensuring a successful waste diversion program.  And so the Town came up with the Wheel of Waste, an outreach tool where staff spin the wheel and try to determine where the item that the wheel landed on is supposed to go.  It’s a simple, elegant way to ensure that staff remember where some of those more troublesome items go.

Town Staff Spin the Wheel of Waste to win prizes and learn where waste items belong.

Another way in which Town Staff have been encouraged to divert waste was the removal of garbage cans from employee work stations. Each staff member was then given an adorable little compost bin for food scraps to make collection of organic waste easier and less messy.  One of the things that really struck me about this move was how easy it was and what an impact it had.  One of the things that always gets talked about in environmental circles is how to make the responsible choice the easier choice, and that’s exactly what taking garbage bins away from work stations did.  While those bins were there, the easy thing would be to just throw your food waste, your paper, your true garbage and your recyclables all together into that one bin.  By taking that option away, it automatically made it easier for staff to divert more of their waste and be mindful about where their waste is going.

Look at the tiny compost bins! How could you not want this on your desk? And in your kitchen? And pretty much anywhere you exist, ever? I LOVE IT!

I have to admit, folks, that Waste is rapidly becoming one of my favorite topics here at the blog.  It might not be as picturesque as cycling infrastructure or community gardens, but it often serves as a sort of “gateway activity” to heightened environmental awareness.  Once people start thinking about where their waste is going and what effect it has, both on the environment and on their bottom line, it’s much easier for folks to start talking about how to conserve other resources and to tread a little bit lighter on the planet.

Coming up tomorrow, we’ll see how Oakville has taken a leading role in dealing with a pest with the capacity to be one of the most environmentally and economically destructive pests of our time: The Emeral Ash Borer.  If you have an Ash Tree on your property, you want to make sure that you tune in tomorrow.  And even if you don’t, well, tune in anyways! 🙂

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2 Comments on “My Sustainable Day-Cation in Oakville, Part 1: Towards Zero Waste”

  1. Oakville Advisor June 5, 2012 at 1:55 pm #

    Reblogged this on Oakville Advisor.


  1. My Sustainable Day-Cation in Halton Hills Part 5: Leadership at Every Level | Clean Air Partnership - November 23, 2012

    […] dedicated and hard-working the municipal staff is. So for all the staff in Pickering, Burlington, Oakville and Mississauga, I want to say a big THANK YOU for all your hard work, and know that it is […]

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