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Community Action Ideas

Want to do more? There are so many more ways you can reduce your impact on the environment. Better yet, spread the impact even further by engaging others in your community like your neighbourhood, school or workplace and take action together!

Read through some of the ideas to get started - and while you’re at it - check out the Citizen's Toolkit for more information about taking action in your community.

Conduct an Internal Waste Audit

What is a Waste Audit?

A waste audit is a method to learn and analyze your organization, or schools waste streams. The goal is to determine what types (paper, plastic, food, etc.) and quantities waste are being produced within a specific time frame – usually a week. Auditing will also help you learn how much waste is headed to landfill vs being recycled or composted. Once you have conducted a waste audit you can set waste diversion goals to meet the five R’s (Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repair, Recycle)

How to conduct a Waste Audit

Step 1. Assemble a Team, Scope, and Date
  • Form a waste-audit team, with at least five participants.
  • Determine the scope of your audit, and agree on where your group is going to conduct its order
  • Pick a week that works best for your group
  • Inform the custodian of the plan to make sure your waste isn’t being emptied that week.
Step 2. Determine Your Waste Categories

Before “Waste Audit Week” rolls around, make a list of the most common trash types your school / classroom produces. This list can be general for now—if the audit reveals different categories, you can always add them to the list as you go.

Common Waste Audit Categories:

  • Paper
  • Cardboard
  • Plastic bottles
  • Other plastic
  • Glass
  • Food waste
  • Materials packaging
  • Signage
Step 3. Gather Your Tools

Before the main event, you’ll need to stock up on a few supplies to make sure your team can work safely.

Tools Needed for a Waste Audit:

  • An open area for sorting the trash
  • Rubber gloves for each team member
  • Face masks for each volunteer.
  • Tongs for each volunteer (optional)
  • Labelled boxes for sorting each waste category
  • A bathroom scale for weighing each category
  • Clipboards for recording your findings
  • Trash bags for re-bagging your waste after the audit
Step 4. Sort Your Trash

It’s time for the real work to begin. Here’s how to do a waste audit.

  1. At the end of the week, round up all the trash and recycling from your classroom
  2. Weigh all the trash to get a baseline for how much you throw out each week
  3. Weigh all the recyclables to establish how much you recycle each week
  4. Weigh all the compost to learn how much food is being composted each week
  5. Wearing gloves, sort all materials into the boxes for their categories
  6. As you work, note any recyclables or compostables mixed in with trash.
  7. Once everything has been sorted, weigh each category
Step 5. Analyze your Results

Now that you’ve recorded all weights, you can use this data for a waste stream analysis.

Calculate and record your waste diversion rate using this process:

  • Divide the weight of your recyclables by the combined weight of all your waste (trash + recyclables).
  • Multiply the result by 100.
  • This gives you the percentage of waste you divert from the landfill each week.

Look at the weights you recorded for individual waste categories.

  • Which categories are highest?
  • Did the highest categories differ between departments?
  • Did you find any recyclables or compostables get mixed in with the trash?
  • Were there categories you didn’t realize you had?
Step 6. Set Your Waste-Diversion Goals

So, you’ve conducted your audit and completed your waste stream analysis. Now what?

  1. Learn about your local community's waste management plan. Who is picking up your waste and where is it going?
  2. Set a goal to improve your recycling and composting rate.
  3. Create recycling and compost guidelines for meeting that goal
  4. Set a goal for reducing the amount of waste in your largest categories.
  5. Identify materials in your waste that could be made “greener”. For example, you might notice a lot of food packaging, and decide as a group to try packing lunches in reusable containers.
  6. Identify any items you can reuse. For example, can you repair your electronics instead of purchasing new ones? Can you repurpose any of your packaging materials or paper?
  7. Decide on a timeline for meeting your recycling and reduction goals. Plan to conduct another waste audit to see if you met your goals. If you start a waste audit in the first month of class, do it again at the end of the semester.

Find out more about Waste Audits here

Host Waste-Free Lunch Days at your school or workplace

What is a Waste-Free Lunch?

A waste free lunch contains no disposable or throwaway packaging. Drinks and food are packed in reusable containers with a reusable lunch bag or box, washable cutlery and cloth napkins. All containers should try to be resalable so that leftover food and drinks can be consumed later.

For more information check out a Teachers Waste Free Lunch Planning Guide

How to host a Waste-Free lunch

Step 1. Letter to Parents (for schools)

Parents and guardians are most likely to prepare lunches for your students. It is important to let them know the goal of the challenge and include tips for creating a waste free lunch. Alternatively, have your students write their parents or guardians a letter letting them know what they are doing in school, why it is important to them, and how they plan to help their families reduce the amount of waste they take to school every day.

Step 2. Waste Audit

Either follow a week-long waste audit project as described. Or conduct a waste-audit a week before the challenge to help you visualize and compare the difference accurately. Track the amount of waste so you can follow-up later.

Step 3. Waste-Free Lunch

During the waste-free lunch day(s), collect and track all waste produced. Compare the amount of waste your workplace/class diverted. You can make this into a week-long challenge too!

Create a Library of Things

What is a Library of Things?

A library of things is a collection of objects, like tools, books, media, kitchen equipment, sports equipment etc., that can be lent out. You can build a library of things through having your classroom share their supplies they no longer need.

Check out “The Thingery” for inspiration

Create a Reusable Party Box in your classroom

What is a Reusable Party Box?

A reusable party box is a collection of party-supplies that can be used for classroom events, it can also be lent out to other classrooms or to students to take home for their own events.

Create one in your classroom with reusable plates, cups, utensils, decoration, and fabric tablecloths and napkins. Try and build your party box with upcycled objects!

Host a Repair Cafe

What is a Repair Café?

Repair cafes are free meeting places where people can repair things. In a repair café you will find the tools and materials to help you make the repairs you need on clothing, appliances, bicycles, electronics, furniture, etc. Repair cafes will often have volunteers sharing their knowledge and lending a helping hand.

Host a repair café in your classroom, or set up a school-wide event! This is a great opportunity for students, teachers, and parents to share and teach others new skills.

Organize a Bike Drive

What is a Bike Drive?

A bike drive is a planned event for community bicycle donations. The purpose of a bike drive is to collect used (or new) bicycles then re-distribute for use. Bike Drives are a fantastic way to increase active, sustainable transportation, and to provide modes of transportation for those in need.

How to Start a Bike Drive

Step 1: Plan the Drive Day

It is best to identify your needs and goals before hosting a bike drive. Your school or workplace could start a bike-lend program for students and colleagues to borrow bicycles. Or, if most people at your school or workplace already have a bicycle to get around on, work with local shelters, community centers, and immigrant societies to collect bicycles on their behalf. Next, you need to set a day, time, and secure a space for drop off. Determine volunteer roles, you might consider donation greeters, bike organizer, and who will transport your donations to the final destination. Consider working with a local bicycle shop to see if you can get a mechanic on hand for easy-tune ups!

Step 2: Spread the Word

It is important to specify what types of bicycles you are seeking, if you are collecting for younger students, make sure you specify you are looking for children’s bicycles. Advertise the day on social media, with flyers, posters, emails, the newspaper, newsletters etc. Create signs to direct people where to drop off bicycles.

Step 3: The Big Day

Assign different roles for your class, you will need traffic directors, donation directors, welcome party, organizers, etc.

Practice Earth Hour Once a Week in your Classroom

What is Earth Hour?

Earth Hour is an event which millions of people around the world participate in by switching off their lights and shut off appliances to show their support of solving the problem of global warming by way of reducing light pollution, and energy usage. Your classroom, workplace or neighbourhood can regularly practice earth hour to help reduce your energy usage, and to raise awareness of the effects of global warming.

Disconnect to Reconnect!

Challenge your community to pick one hour a week to shut off the lights and turn off electronics.

Install a School Rain Barrel

What are Rain Barrels?

A rain barrel is a container that collects and stores water from roofs and downspouts for future uses such as watering lawns, gardens, and house plants. The rain barrel collects rainwater that flows off your roof, storing it for later use. Rain barrels come in a variety of sizes and colours, and can be easily incorporated into your school’s garden.

Some municipalities have rain-barrel programs and may be able to supply your school with one, or your school may have a budget to help purchase. A really fun way to engage your classroom is to paint the rain barrels before installing, giving it a bright and personal touch!

Host a DYI Natural Home Products

What are DIY Natural Home Products?

Many cleaning products contain harmful chemicals that cause pollution inside and outside the home, threatening water quality, and health of wildlife. A few safe, simple ingredients like soap, water, baking soda, vinegar, lemon juice and borax, aided by a little elbow grease and a coarse sponge for scrubbing, can take care of most household cleaning needs. And they can save you lots of money wasted on unnecessary, specialized cleaners! Homemade natural cleaning products are an alternative to conventional cleaning products that contain natural and safe products that work just as well.

How to make all-purpose cleaner:

Step 1. Pour 1/2 cup of the vinegar into a spray bottle.

Step 2. Add in 2 cups water, 1

Step 3. Add 1 teaspoon castile soap

Step 4. Add 20 drops of lemon essential oil or citrus peels.

Step 5. Screw on the lid and shake well.

To use: shake the mixture well, and then spray onto the surface and wipe clean with a damp cloth.

Start a Bike-Train to school

What is a Bike Train?

Bike trains enable students to get to school while enjoying the outdoors and the company of other bicyclists. Best suited for children in upper elementary and middle school grades, bike trains are led by adults - one at the front and one at the rear of the train - that accompany students as they bike to and from school. From one or two neighbours biking together, to a route with multiple “stations” where more riders join in, bike trains can be a great way to instill a love of bicycling while developing life-long safety skills.

How to Start a Bike Train

Step 1: Plan the route and schedule
  • Pick the route
  • Set the schedule
  • Plan for the unexpected
Step 2: Getting ready for the ride: Safe equipment, safe riders, prepared leaders
  • Equipment
  • Safety skills for student bicyclists
  • Role of the bike train leaders
Step 3: Final preparations and the first ride
  • Practice ride and information review
  • Enjoy the ride

Find out more about Bike Trains here

Start a community compost

What is Compost?

Compost is decomposed organic matter. Compost is made up of materials such as leaves, shredded twigs, and kitchen scraps. You can start a compost at your school, or advocate to have your school work with your town to implement composting pick-up.

Compost Systems (industrial and for school/community garden)

There are many different types of compost systems out there, it is important to first assess the needs of your workplace, school or neighbourhood and determine what your community is or isn’t already doing. We suggest you start with a waste-audit to learn about how much food waste your community is producing and where landfill, recyclables, and compost is currently ending up. Check out the Waste-Audit project to learn more. Once you’ve learnt about your community waste needs the next step is to choose what design of composter suites your location.

How to Choose a Composter

Choosing what type of composter will work best for you involves considering three main factors:

  1. Where you live
  2. What you’ll be composting
  3. Whether you want to turn your compost manually or not

Composter Designs

Enclosed bin

Live: Suburban with outdoor yard space

Compost: Kitchen scraps and yard waste

Worm Bin

Live: Urban living if you don’t have access to outdoor space

Composting: Mostly kitchen scraps

How to Get Started for Enclosed Bin:

  1. Build or purchase an enclosed bin. Do some research to choose a design you like most.
  2. Start your compost pile on bare earth. This allows worms and other beneficial organisms to aerate the compost and be transported to your garden beds.
  3. Lay twigs or straw first, a few inches deep. This aids drainage and helps aerate the pile.
  4. Add compost materials in layers, alternating moist and dry. Moist ingredients are food scraps, tea bags, seaweed, etc. Dry materials are straw, leaves, sawdust pellets and wood ashes. If you have wood ashes, sprinkle in thin layers, or they will clump together and be slow to break down.
  5. Add manure, green manure (clover, buckwheat, wheatgrass, grass clippings) or any nitrogen source. This activates the compost pile and speeds the process along.
  6. Keep compost moist. Water occasionally, or let rain do the job.
  7. Cover with anything you have – wood, plastic sheeting, carpet scraps. Covering helps retain moisture and heat, two essentials for compost. Covering also prevents the compost from being over-watered by rain. The compost should be moist, but not soaked and sodden.
  8. Turn. Every few weeks give the pile a quick turn with a pitchfork or shovel. This aerates the pile. Oxygen is required for the process to work, and turning “adds” oxygen. You can skip this step if you have a ready supply of coarse material like straw. Once you’ve established your compost pile, add new materials by mixing them in, rather than by adding them in layers. Mixing, or turning, the compost pile is key to aerating the composting materials and speeding the process to completion. If you want to buy a composter, rather than build your own compost pile, you may consider a buying a rotating compost tumbler which makes it easy to mix the compost regularly

Read more here

Green / Brown Material

To get the breakdown process started and keep it going, maintain a ratio of green to brown at about 1:2.

Green
  • Vegetable and fruit scraps
  • Fresh grass clippings
  • Egg and nut shells
  • Coffee grounds
  • Tea bags
  • Bread products
  • Manure (from cows, sheep, chicken, or rabbits)
Brown
  • Cardboard products
  • Dead leaves, branches, pine cones and needles
  • Paper egg cartons
  • Sawdust and hay
  • Untreated wood
  • Tissues and newspaper
  • Lint
  • Shredded junk mail

Build a community Pollinator Garden

What is a Pollinator Garden?

A Pollinator Garden is a garden that is planted predominately with flowers that provide nectar (sugar source) and pollen (proteins and fats) to feed pollinating insects. Pollinator gardens can be different sizes, but do best in full sunlight and sheltered from too much wind. The best gardens will have a variety of plants that flower at different times so there’s always a snack available. As a rule, native plants attract native bees and exotic plants attract honey bees, supporting your native species protects your region's biodiversity.

Follow these five steps to create your wild bee sanctuary

Build a Native Bee Motel

Make a cosy home for native bees:
  • Use an empty milk carton (waterproof) with the spout cut off — leave the bottom intact — or a box about that size made of wood scraps (not cedar) for the walls.
  • Paint a wooden house a bright colour with exterior zero- or low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) paint. At first, the bees will fly around taking mental “snapshots,” but they’ll soon make a beeline to their new abode.
  • Fill the box with layered stacks of brown paper nest tubes, which you can buy at a garden store. Cut the tubes to six inches (15.75 centimetres) long, closing the end with tape or a staple, or fold them in half. Commercial nest tubes are 5/16 of an inch (.79 centimetres) in diameter, the exact size of an HB pencil. Make your own by rolling a piece of brown paper around a pencil, then pinch off the end and seal it with tape.
  • Hang the house somewhere out of the rain, facing south or east, at eye level, once the temperature outside has warmed to 12-14 C (54-57 F).
  • Dig down below your garden soil next to your bee house until you expose the clay layer or keep a bowl of moist clay near your bee house for the masons to use as construction material.
  • If you plan to make more than one bee house, be sure they’re different colours.

It may take a full season for the bees to find your house. If you don’t have any luck attracting locals, buy mason bees from a garden store or beekeeper.

Participate in an Ecological Restoration Project

What is Ecological Restoration?

Ecological Restoration is practice of restoring degraded or destroyed ecosystems and habitats by human stewardship. A healthy ecosystem provides habitat and food for species and provides “ecosystem services” which include the purification of air and water, the detoxification and decomposition of wastes, the regulation of climate, the regeneration of soil fertility, and pollination. Restoring a natural area revives native habitat and ecological functioning. Ecological restoration aims to recreate, initiate, and accelerate the recovery of an ecosystem that has been disturbed. Common disturbances include logging, damming rivers, grazing, floods, and the introduction of invasive species.

How to start an Ecological Restoration Project

Many restoration projects are ongoing and can take decades to fully recover. It is best to get involved with an organization already committed to the long-term recovery of a natural area. Reach out to your local parks board, or environmental non-profits to learn about restoration projects your class, workplace or neighbourhood can get involved with.

Invasive Species Removal

Invasive species are any sort of living organism that are not native to the ecosystem and causes harm. Invasive species pose a threat to native plant species as they may outcompete native species for resources and cause a threat to the biodiversity of a natural area. Your classroom, workplace and neighbourhood can support the removal of invasive plant species by 1) learning about what species are invasive to your region and 2) participating in an invasive species removal party. Removing invasive plants is a common practice in Ecological Restoration Projects.

Start Guerilla Gardening with Seed Bombs

What is Guerilla Gardening?

Guerilla Gardening is the act of gardening on non-traditional gardening sites, such as: abandoned sites and areas that have been neglected. That land is used by guerrilla gardeners to raise plants, frequently focusing on food crops or plants intended for aesthetic purposes, like flowers. Some guerrilla gardeners carry out their actions at night, in relative secrecy, to sow and tend a new vegetable patch or flower garden in an effort to make the area of use and/or more attractive. Some gardens at more visible hours for the purpose of publicity, which can be seen as a form of activism. Did you know that Arbutus Greenway in Vancouver started as a Guerilla Garden project? Local residents laid claim to the abandoned CP Rail site by planting community gardens.

How to Build Seed Bombs

Invented by Guerilla Gardeners as a tool to brighten public areas, building Seed Bombs is a great way to participate in Guerilla Gardening as a classroom. What are seed bombs anyway? Seed bombs are homemade clay and soil balls full of seeds!

What you’ll need:
  • Flower or vegetable seeds – Native and pollinator friendly are best!
  • Compost
  • Water
  • Powdered clay or clay soil
  • Mixing bowl
Creating your seed bomb:
  1. In a bowl mix together 1 cup of seeds with 5 cups of compost and 2-3 cups of clay
  2. Slowly mix in water with your hands until everything sticks together
  3. Roll the mixture into firm balls
  4. Leave the balls to dry in a sunny spot
  5. Now it’s time to drop the seed bombs! Plant your seed bombs by throwing them at bare parts of abandoned or neglected spaces. Check-in in a few weeks times to see what pops up!

Learn about Salmon!

Learn about salmon lifecycles by working with a local hatchery or waterways restoration project.

  • Work with local hatchery and/or waterways restoration project
  • Get a salmon tank for your class
  • Identify streams in your neighbourhood and do a clean up / rewilding projects
Participate in the Stream of Dreams project

Stream of Dreams is a whole school eco-education program that educates communities about their local watershed, rivers and streams, encourages behavioural change to conserve and protect water, empowers youth to make a positive environmental impact, and creates a community art legacy by and for the whole community. It’s science; it’s art. It’s serious and it’s fun!

The science workshops will address these questions:

  • Where is your local stream?
  • Where does the water in the steam come from?
  • How do storm drains work?
  • Where do your household drains lead?
  • Where does your drinking water come from?
  • What can we do to protect salmon and water?
  • What is the life cycle of the pacific salmon?