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Zero Waste: Our Best Tips to Reduce Your Waste at Home and at Work!

coquo has been unique from the very beginning, from the first sketches in a little red notebook all the way down to the moment it gets delivered to your home. Adopting a unique way of life is also part of the package: we call it the “coquo attitude.” coquo doesn’t try to hide anything: open shelves, glass doors, a hanging bar on the Braccas island, all there for you to display your groceries and your treasures. Once installed in your home, it’s up to you to accessorize your coquo modules and make them your own.

Some may ask, where do I put my oversized cereal boxes or my favourite family size bag of potato chips? Since coquo has a mantra with an ecological bend to it, the zero waste movement is naturally right up our alley and has inspired our overall outlook on how our cabinets are used. To this effect, the cereal and chips can be poured in an oversized jar and taken out with a scoop. As a bonus, they will stay fresher longer! It’s much more charming to fill your shelves with kitchen staples stored in pretty glass jars anyway, right? You’ll surely be proud to show off your dry goods when they are bought from your neighborhood bulk shop and displayed in a meaningful manner.

The thought process behind our coquo modules included a desire to make our product, as well as its packaging, as ecologically friendly as possible. coquo modules are built in solid oak (a local, durable material), and contain no trace of melamine. Our modules are meant to be reused in other rooms of the house (or another house altogether), therefore contributing in its own way to the slow design movement. Slow design puts forward the notion that design should be timeless with simple and intuitive solutions aimed at improving our lives, notions that strike a chord with us and are perfectly in sync with our overall philosophy.

Braccas island in stained oak midnight black.

When it came to shipping our modules, we decided to opt for corrugated cardboard instead of styrofoam to protect our little travellers. Cardboard can be recycled easily and, with a little imagination, our large boxes can be used to make the most perfect playhouses for your little ones. The boxes can be decorated at their leisure and they offer limitless possibilities for imaginative play!

These choices we made during the design process reflect our collective desire to live in a greener way. We also wanted to make changes in our daily lives to help the environment. The entire team at the office has contributed, and we have taken on new habits to support our approach. For example, we now use cloth napkins at lunchtime. It took us some time to get used to our attributed colours (we still have trouble remembering whose napkin is whose), but this tiny change allowed us to reduce our napkin waste, and has added some colour to our table! Given that we love to eat, lunch is serious business at coquo! coquo means “I cook” in Latin, and since co and quo is an adage that signifies “daily togetherness,” our name translates beautifully into our love for food and conviviality. You can imagine our joy at lunchtime! ;-)

We’ve also stopped giving plastic water bottles to our clients and have instead opted for glass bottles filled with water that we leave in the fridge. Not only have we reduced the amount of plastic that we use, we also save money … and we get a ton of compliments on our recycled glass milk bottles.

We’ve also contacted the city of Montreal to receive our compost bin, since we wanted to dispose of our food scraps in a more ecological manner. Since a few of us were afraid of odours—my colleagues will know who they are—we keep the bin in the freezer and we take it out when we need it. One colleague in particular has the habit of purchasing a coffee every morning on her way to work. After a little bit of pressure on our part, she bought a lovely KeepCup reusable cup that she gets filled at her favourite café. We are also lucky to work with our very own “environment expert” who always answers our questions about what to put in the city’s compost and recycling bins. If you don’t have a colleague as dedicated as we do, you can refer to RECYC-QUÉBEC’s website, where you will find tons of useful information on recycling as well as on responsible consumption. We also choose to purchase cleaning products and soaps from a Canadian company called ATTITUDE. They offer an array of excellent products that have a minimal impact on the health of the planet. We adopted bulk size hand soaps which use 88% less plastic than regular hand soaps. We just fill up the pumps that we already have!

I’ve also adopted some small changes in my own daily life to do my part at home too. At first, I’ll admit that I started buying bulk products for mainly aesthetic reasons. I follow many Instagram accounts that show these lovely glass jars all perfectly categorized with a sleek embossed black label and fell in love with the look. I was completely influenced by social media and it’s a little superficial, I know … but the final result is not any less beneficial to the environment, right? I tell myself that it’s no different than buying new sneakers to motivate you to run … if it’s to attain a positive objective, why not! Armed with my handy Dymo embossed label maker, I went to town identifying all the containers in my possession and displayed them with pride on my open shelves. Did my partner understand my new passion for labels? No. Did he find it entertaining? Definitely!

KeepCup reusable coffee cup.
Abeego reusable beeswax food wrap. Photo credit: Abeego.

There are also green shopping habits that one can adopt without buying only bulk products. At the grocery store, I try to choose products that are sold in glass containers and I opt for the larger sizes when possible to reduce the number of containers that I buy.

Dans le sac’s blog post proposes lovely alternatives to disposable objects in the kitchen. Wax paper, parchment paper, plastic wrap, plastic bags, disposable snack bags and paper towels can easily be eliminated without much sacrifice. This Québec company also offers an online boutique where one can buy beautiful, ecological products. In another blog post, Dans le sac shares useful tips on how to start purchasing bulk items and where to find bulk food stores in your area.

In my kitchen, I said goodbye to my yellow and green sponge and have replaced it with a vegetal one (luffa), which is actually made from dried squash. I can wash it in the washing machine or in the dishwasher, it doesn’t scratch my pots and I can put it in the compost bin when it is too old.

My latest attempt to adopt ecological habits in the kitchen concerns my greatest weakness … my plants! I love having my living space filled with various plants but unfortunately, I’m not very gifted in that regard (in spite of all my mother’s tips). Upon researching the topic, I learned that used and dried tea leaves and coffee grounds can be used as a natural fertilizer! With my little gardening shovel in hand, I decided to give it a try last week and so I started putting my old coffee grounds in all my plants. I haven’t seen any results yet, but none of my plants died so I’ll assume it’s a good sign. We’ll see what happens in the coming weeks!

It is therefore easy to integrate simple changes, within company policy as well as within our daily routines, to adopt habits that are more respectful of the environment. You simply need to go at it one small gesture at a time and do things that you are comfortable with. When one action has been integrated into your daily routine, you can then move on to another small action. One thing to remember is to stay calm and keep it simple … the smallest, most trivial gestures are often the most significant. Little actions become new habits and soon enough our tiny eco-responsible gestures become effortless, meaningful and oh-so-helpful.

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