Their goal is zero waste and a waste-free lifestyle

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Moving away from using wasteful products can be a challenge, but a Facebook group for Chatham-Kent residents is looking to build a community to share advice to reach that goal.

Reanne Rekker started the Zero Waste Chatham-Kent Ontario group about a year and a half ago. She said she was inspired by mostly women around her age who had made YouTube videos on the subject.

At first, just her family members joined the group, but membership increased when she gave a library presentation on sustainability in January and again when members of the group attended their first in-person meetup in May.

The group now has over 110 members, who mostly ask for suggestions on certain products to use, share news about waste-free initiatives or share some of their own experiences with trying to achieve a waste-free lifestyle.

Rekker said, for her, things felt self-taught, but she was looking for ways bring it to a local level where people close by could help each other.


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“Say something was going on at your house that you’re really, really struggling with, just the idea that there was somebody that much closer by that could be there physically to walk you through something … that was the main motivation behind the group,” she said.

Rebecca Haskell-Thomas had been interested in living more sustainably and joined the group after hearing Rekker speak.

She said she appreciates how the group offers a way to have discussions with people working towards the same goal.

“There isn’t that judgement,” she said. “It’s really about wanting people to make the changes that they can make right now that are feasible to reduce the waste in our lives.”

Mark Reinhart and Simon Swanek hosted the first meetup at their yoga studio, Body Language, after discussing the idea with Rekker and Haskell-Thomas.

Reinhart said they brought in about 35 people, and it was as much about making friends with each other as it was about discussing zero waste.

“It was nice just to physically meet each other and see each other face to face and know that you’re kind of not alone in this momentum because sometimes it feels like you are,” he said.

A former Halifax resident, Swanek said he’s glad this type of group has started to grow in Chatham-Kent because Halifax seemed to be a bit ahead in sustainable and environmental practices.

He said he noticed other people at the meeting had similar questions around topics such as composting, which he and Reinhart were looking at starting at home.


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“When you’re in that kind of circle and somebody asks the question and you get three or four people raising their hands, ‘I know how to do it – I’m happy to show, teach someone,’ it makes it a lot easier to achieve what you want in terms of reducing their waste,” said Swanek.

Rekker said she realizes how difficult it can be to move away from existing habits because “we’re set up as kind of a consumeristic, disposable society” and it takes “some reprogramming.”

All four of these members said they have faced their own challenges in their attempts to move towards the shared goal.

With their lives so busy, Reinhart said making even a small change “can put a really big cog in your wheel and send you off course,” so he has to focus on a few things until they become part of his daily routine.

The affordability of living this way can also be an issue, said Swanek, who noted it’s sometimes cheaper to buy some fruits together in a plastic package than to pay for them individually.

Rekker said she and her husband had to learn how far they can get outside of their comfort zone because you often feel like you’re missing out by limiting yourself.

“We’re all going to find that line we want to walk as far as what we’re willing to give up and what we’re willing to stay comfortable with,” she said. “Just being OK with not being perfect, I guess, is probably the hardest thing for me.”

With so much information out there – and not all of it accurate – Haskell-Thomas said it’s “easy to get paralyzed” and not know what to do.


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During the meetup, guests were asked at any point to write down their thoughts on a large sheet. Reinhart said they range from the personal to the political.

Rekker said it is possible the group will be advocating to governments to limit single-use plastics, for example.

“We were made aware very early on just speaking with certain council members that the reason things aren’t happening is because nobody is asking for it,” she said. “If we can come together with one strong voice and approach the appropriate venues, we have a better chance of having other people listen.”

The group is looking at holding other events for people to meet in person.

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