Who knew sustainable shopping could be so fun? Kasia Peruzzi, 22, says shopping for vintage clothing is one of her artistic outlets. The U of T student, who majors in cinema and history, has a particular interest in the glamorous styles from the 1940s and ‘50s. She shops at Kensington Market, Queen Street West and vintage clothing festivals. “Forget about trend cycles created by the fast fashion industry,” says Kasia. “Look for classic pieces with interesting details and patterns – they’ll never go out of style.” @akasiaperuzzi on Instagram.

The three Rs of waste management have changed in Toronto! It’s now Reduce, Reuse, Repair, Repurpose and Rethink. You’ll see this on the city’s waste collection calendar for 2020. The goal is to work toward a zero waste future. Because we think this is important, we’ll have ongoing stories on sustainability this year. To start, we’re suggesting a few things we can all do to lessen our dependence on plastic and reduce the amount of new clothing we purchase. Some sort of plastic is involved with almost everything we buy and inexpensive clothing has created a huge problem in landfills. We’ve got a few tips for cutting down on both.

Reducing our plastic use

By Kathryn Stocks

I know this one is a tough slog because there’s so much plastic on almost everything you buy. But it’s important to cut back because our reliance on one-use plastic bags and bottles is getting out of hand, and microplastics have been  found everywhere from the depths of the ocean to the snow in the Arctic. And they’re causing problems for all forms of wildlife. We might even be ingesting them. Everyone has their own ways to cut down, but we thought we’d share a few ideas you might not have considered:

  1. Don’t take a bunch of produce bags off the roll when you start your food shopping. Many of those don’t get used and are left in carts to blow away in the parking lot.
  2. Use plastic produce bags only when you think they’re essential. Things like bananas and grapefruit do just fine without a bag. Even smaller items like tomatoes, oranges and apples can go right into your cart. It only takes a few seconds longer to put them on the checkout belt.
  3. Try to buy produce that isn’t in plastic. Lots of vegetables and fruit come without any wrapping at all. Choose those ones if you can. Buy field cucumbers over English cucumbers because the latter are always encased in plastic. You can get plastic bags of carrots or you can buy them in bunches without plastic. Consider all the options in the produce department before you buy.
  4. Buy loose mushrooms at stores that offer paper bags for them. Mushrooms last much longer in paper bags than they do in plastic ones and many of us switch them as soon as we get home. That means the plastic bag was only used for a fraction of time.
  5. Choose vegetables and meat in coloured containers rather than those in black containers because the black ones can’t be recycled.
  6. Stop buying water in plastic bottles. They are one of our worst problems for litter and landfills. Try reusable containers and drink Toronto water instead.
  7. Take your own reusable glass or plastic containers to Bulk Barn and fill them up instead of using their plastic bags. Make sure your containers have been washed in the dishwasher beforehand.
  8. Try out different things to reduce your reliance on plastic wrap. I’ve tried Bee’s Wrap, which can be washed and reused for quite a while. It works well although it doesn’t cling to the sides of containers. A friend uses parchment paper for wrapping cheese. There are also silicone covers that can be washed and reused.
  9. Refuse plastic straws at restaurants. The hardest part of this is to remember to ask when you order your drink. It’s too late once it arrives with a straw in it. You can also buy reusable metal straws but you have to remember to take them with you.
  10. Wash inner milk bags and put them over a wine bottle or tall jar to dry them. Then they can be reused or recycled in the blue bin. They’re made out of extremely strong plastic and make terrific sandwich bags.

This is just a handful of the many ways we can all reduce our use of plastic. I’m sure you have other great ideas that I hope you’ll share with us. Please send them to news4ccra@gmail.com.

Helpful resources

Live Green Toronto delivers programs, grants, incentives and resources to engage the community in helping to make Toronto one of the greenest cities in the world. livegreentoronto.ca

If you don’t know whether an item belongs in the garbage or the blue bin, call 311 or download Toronto’s Waste Wizard app. Both are really helpful and could stop you from contaminating a load of recyclables.

Thrifting and thriving

We buy 60 per cent more clothes today than we did 20 years ago and we keep them for half as long, according to Fashion Takes Action, a Canadian fashion industry group focused on sustainability. This has led to a huge increase in the amount of textiles in our landfills. The city says the average Toronto household throws out 17 kg (37 lb) of clothing and other textiles every year. Most of us donate our used clothing to thrift stores, but how many actually shop there as well? It’s good for the environment and saves you money, too.

By Amy Stephenson

Being a recent graduate entering the workforce, I am motivated to make a good first impression and not get mistaken for the high school co-op student.

I was thrilled when I got the email saying I was chosen for the position I had interviewed for. This excitement was quickly followed up with concern when I realized I had nothing to wear beyond my interview outfit. After completing a Bachelors in kinesiology and an online Masters, I had a solid base of yoga pants.

Acquiring a new wardrobe in three weeks is a tall order. To add to that, I have never been a mall person. The idea of going to countless stores sounds awful. But being rather petite I rarely find items in my size, forcing me to look around and compare. Even with all this I wasn’t too worried because I had a plan.

I have been thrifting since I was in high school. Visiting a thrift story has always been a fun thing to do with friends. Every trip is an adventure: the hunt and imagining the story behind the items. Whether it’s  a wedding dress or old record collection, there are an abundance of talking points in every aisle. I have even been known to use it as date idea, usually sticking to the household items or books to drum up good conversations.

Tasked with finding professional attire, I had a clear mindset to keep me on track. My goal was to get the staples. Starting from the bottom, I needed pants, not jeans or leggings. The pants section was a walk in the park. Guided by colour, I went for grey, black and tan. With tops, there were more options. When looking over the blazers, I kept an eye on material. I could see value in a find when it had the proper double lining without shoulder pads. For blouses, I looked for brands I have had success with in the past: Banana Republic, RW & Co, and Abercrombie and Fitch. 

As a young adult, I’m always interested in the latest trends, but this is balanced with the financial truth that comes with being a young professional. Thrifting has allowed me to expand my wardrobe without having to worry about blowing my budget. An entire outfit of brand name, high-quality pieces can be less than the price of a single element in a regular store. Thrifting is both a hobby when you’re enjoying the show and a great tool when you’re on the hunt. However you approach it, everyone wins when items are reused, which puts less demand on the textile industry and reduces waste.

Top thrifting tips

  • Take your time: combing through the aisles is time-consuming but it’s the only way to find the gems.
  • Be aware when you shift into the other sizes: you love the colour, the feel, the brand only to realize you’re now in a no-fly zone.
  • Check for tags and brands: keep an eye out for tags as a lot of donated items are brand new and watch for high-end brands. Both are sure signs you have a good find.
  • Be wary of shoes and hats: I only go for shoes and hats that still have their stickers or original tags on.