Camille Fairbanks is a Lethbridge local who has been working towards living a zero waste lifestyle. She has been outspoken about the impacts of excess waste and plastics for over a year. It is important to Camille to reduce the amount of waste she produces because every little bit makes a difference. By taking concrete action against the creation of waste individuals can make an impact. Her lifestyle is based off Bea Johnson’s book Zero Waste Home. The main concept is based off the five R’s: refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle, and rot. By following these actions in this order, an individual or family could reduce their waste produced over time.

Before Camille made this lifestyle change she monitored the amount of waste produced in her household to get a baseline for comparison. In December 2016 she was taking out one 17L garbage every 2-3 day, which adds up to 4 bags a week. It took about a month to figure out a good system and another month to see an exponential reduction in the amount of waste sent to the landfill each week. By the second month she was disposing of 1 bag of garbage every 10 days, which equaled around 3-4 bags of garbage each month. She was able to reduce her household garbage by approximately 75% and continues to work on reducing more every month.

Even the smallest reduction can have an impact over time. Individuals should not be discouraged if results are not immediately observed. By becoming an informed consumer, individuals can begin to change their waste accumulation. An easy start is to keep track of the amount of waste currently being produced by your household by counting the number of bags taken out each week. Doing a trash audit to monitor what materials are dominating the garbage produced can be beneficial when designing a new waste system.

Camille has created a Facebook group called “SAZW (Southern Alberta Zero Waste)” to support individuals around Lethbridge and Southern Alberta, in their journey towards reducing their waste. This group is open to the public and provides a community for individuals seeking assistance or advice. Along with Camille, there are many other passionate individuals who are willing to share their own experiences. There are other groups and blogs similar to this one out there, although this one is fairly unique as the focus is on products and ideas around Lethbridge. Some ideas which have been brought up through this group include bringing your own reusable containers for leftovers at a restaurant, or travelling with cutlery and cloth napkins instead of accepting disposable sets at fast-food restaurants. She also has a blog (www.thenonwaster.com/blog) which contains articles on waste reduction.

By sharing her journey, Camille has been able to support and influence other people to make a positive change. The more people involved, the larger the movement can grow and be exposed to new individuals. New members to the group are under no obligation to post as they can simply read about what other people are currently doing. It can be as simple as bringing a reusable cup for coffee, or bringing reusable bags to grocery stores. Just because you can’t do everything, doesn’t mean you can’t start with something.


Written and photographed by Kristen Hancsicak