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Michelle Anne Olsen's avatar

Michelle Anne Olsen

Toronto Zoo

"Seemingly 'small' daily actions make for big, positive change!"

Points Total

  • 0 Today
  • 0 This Week
  • 838 Total

Participant Impact

  • up to
    1
    community events
    hosted or attended
  • up to
    1
    documentaries
    watched
  • up to
    90
    minutes
    spent learning
  • up to
    93
    pieces of litter
    picked up
  • up to
    4
    petitions
    signed
  • up to
    35
    plastic containers
    not sent to the landfill

Michelle Anne's Actions

Personal Care

Pretty oh so Pretty

I will purchase beauty products that are packaged in sustainable packaging.

Completed
One-Time Action

Community

Keep My Community Clean

I will pick up 5 piece(s) of litter each day.

COMPLETED 4
DAILY ACTIONS

Food

Give Up Gum

I will give up gum or choose gum made from chicle or other plastic-free gum bases.

COMPLETED 0
DAILY ACTIONS

Lifestyle

Watch a Documentary

I will watch a documentary film about waste with family and friends and talk about what we learned.

Completed
One-Time Action

Lifestyle

Buy Only What I Need

I will not buy anything except items required for health and safety.

COMPLETED 0
DAILY ACTIONS

Personal Care

Do The Floss

I will make the switch to sustainable floss, made from biodegradable thread and sustainably packaged.

Completed
One-Time Action

Lifestyle

Natural Fibers

When available, I will purchase clothing made with natural fibers, such as cotton, linen, or wool, rather than synthetic fibers.

Completed
One-Time Action

Community

Join a Cleanup Effort

I will host or participate in a beach, highway, river, or other cleanup effort in my community that follows the CDC’s current guidelines for prevention of disease transfer.

Completed
One-Time Action

Personal Care

Fresh as a Daisy

I will use deodorant either from a bar or a jar or I will make my own.

Completed
One-Time Action

Food

Minimize Packaging

I will purchase food items with the least amount of packaging.

COMPLETED 1
DAILY ACTION

Pets

DIY Cat Litter

I will swap out my cat's litter for sawdust, mulch, or dirt with baking soda.

Completed
One-Time Action

Pets

Invest in a Pooper-Scooper

I will swap out my single use plastic bags for a pooper-scooper.

Completed
One-Time Action

Lifestyle

Travel Smart

If traveling, I will bring my own plastic free items (water bottle, grocery bags, collapsible food containers, utensils, straws, etc.) with me.

Completed
One-Time Action

Community

Say No to Styrofoam

Throughout its life cycle, polystyrene (styrofoam) can harm people, communities, and the planet. I will refuse styrofoam whenever I can, making sure to kindly let people know why I'm asking for alternative packaging.

COMPLETED 0
DAILY ACTIONS

Community

Give Some Green Gratitude

I will give a shout-out on social media to a local company, coworker, friend or family member for their plastic free or green efforts.

Completed
One-Time Action

Community

Sign a Petition

I will sign a petition in support of a plastic reduction-related initiative in my state/province.

COMPLETED 4
DAILY ACTIONS

Community

Share My Actions

I will make my environmental actions visible by posting to my social media networks.

Completed
One-Time Action

Personal Care

Pearly Whites

I will purchase toothpaste in an aluminum tube or in a glass jar or make my own!

Completed
One-Time Action

Personal Care

Brusha Brusha Brusha

I will replace my plastic toothbrush with a bamboo toothbrush.

Completed
One-Time Action

Food

Start Composting

I will start a compost collection at home, work, or school.

Completed
One-Time Action

Food

Say No to Plastic Bags

If at all possible, I will not accept any disposable bags when making purchases, including produce bags.

COMPLETED 8
DAILY ACTIONS

Food

Buy Unpackaged Produce

I will purchase produce items without plastic packaging, making sure to wash them well before using them.

COMPLETED 2
DAILY ACTIONS

Feed

  • Reflection Question
    Community Say No to Styrofoam
    How might styrofoam be an environmental justice and/or environmental racism issue in your community?

    Michelle Anne Olsen's avatar
    Michelle Anne Olsen 7/29/2021 7:26 AM
    The fact is that styrofoam is cheap and easy. I can understand why certain restaurants and fast-food companies opt for the use of styrofoam when packaging their take-out: it's inexpensive, tidy and does a good job at keeping food warm in transit. I recently had to purchase disposable plates and cutlery for a community Zoo event. We were committed to ensuring that these were eco-friendly and fully biodegradable...and that was reflected in the final cost of those items. Right now, styrofoam is simply cheaper, and easier to acquire in bulk, as I say firsthand. So it might be a big ask, for a family business or otherwise small-scale food provider to make the full switch to more easily biodegradable packaging. It is oftentimes more expensive to opt for sustainable products, both at the personal and industrial level. And when it comes to being able to spend that extra money for the sake of the planet...that is absolutely a question of privilege.
  • Reflection Question
    Personal Care Pearly Whites
    Currently most of the packaging for toothpaste is plastic. How can you advocate for more alternatives through your purchasing power and influence in community?

    Michelle Anne Olsen's avatar
    Michelle Anne Olsen 7/29/2021 7:16 AM
    The truth seems to be that many big businesses care more about the bottom line than about their long-term commitment to the planet. So how do we encourage them to adopt more sustainable practices when it comes to making and packaging their products? We put our money where our mouths are. By turning our backs on unsustainable products and instead giving our consumer dollars on ethical, local and environmentally-focused companies, that sends a powerful message. One that might even convince big business to make big changes, in order to win the consumer - us - back.
  • Reflection Question
    Food Start Composting
    Do an inventory of how much food waste you would save from going to the landfill if you start composting all of the time. What are the added benefits of having compost that is readily accessible?

    Michelle Anne Olsen's avatar
    Michelle Anne Olsen 7/26/2021 6:05 AM
    Now that I've had my little compost bin set up in my apartment for a few weeks, it looks as though I am able to fill it up weekly. So that's a good 20L of food waste that's being diverted from landfill per week! Having my compost set up right under my sink makes me so much more liable to remember to divert food waste from my main trash can, and having a large compost bin on-site in my building, in which I can regularly empty my personal compost bin, is certainly very convenient, which makes me likely to keep up with this practice!
  • Reflection Question
    Community Join a Cleanup Effort
    How does working with others to clean up your community make you feel?

    Michelle Anne Olsen's avatar
    Michelle Anne Olsen 7/21/2021 6:35 AM
    Following yesterday's Shoreline Cleanup event at Alderville First Nation (co-organized by Adopt-A-Pond, Turtle Island Conservation and Alderville Black Oak Savanna) I feel beyond inspired. Attendance was a little bit lower than we had hoped, but I am amazed at what a small group of volunteers was able to achieve in just a few hours, collecting 8 bags of trash weighing over 175 lbs.  I am so looking forward to our upcoming cleanups across Ontario over the rest of the summer and into the fall.
  • Reflection Question
    Lifestyle Watch a Documentary
    Which documentary did you choose to watch? What did you learn?

    Michelle Anne Olsen's avatar
    Michelle Anne Olsen 7/16/2021 6:03 AM
    I watched a PBS documentary about the plastics crisis, hosted by our TZ Plastic Free Eco-Challenge team captain! I was familiar with a lot of the information presented in the documentary already, but seeing footage of plastics littering beaches (including here in Toronto) and animals suffering from plastics consumption or entanglement...it was like a punch to the gut. But the overall message wasn't hopeless, by any means. The positives that I took away were:

    -the stories of individuals (including a family here in Toronto) almost completely removing plastics from their home and buying habits (I am definitely going to be checking out Toronto's waste-free grocery store). It takes education and perseverance, but it can be done!
    -businesses and companies are able to reduce their reliance on plastics. Admittedly, it seems to cost a little bit more at the head and can be more labour-intensive, but I'm convinced that it is ultimately a question of whether or not that company prioritizes the environment, and not a question of the possible versus the impossible. I want to put my money toward companies who are embracing that change, even when it's challenging, like I'm doing in my personal life.
    -I have always said, and I think that this documentary raised this point again and again, that research and development, innovation and invention. are very important to the true resolution of the plastics crisis. I think that we are potentially one clever invention away from a massive clean-up effort in landfills and contaminated bodies of water. Until then, it's all about the five Rs - rethink, refuse, reduce, reuse and recycle (and in that order!) - and about promoting STEM - more innovative minds trained in the sciences could make those concrete, widespread solutions a reality.
  • Reflection Question
    Community Sign a Petition
    What is a plastic-related issue in your state/province?

    Michelle Anne Olsen's avatar
    Michelle Anne Olsen 7/14/2021 4:31 PM
    I have had difficulty finding plastics-related petitions specific to Ontario, but there are many issues related to plastics at the federal level in Canada. The Liberal government recently passed legislation banning the production of certain disposable plastic products (i.e. plastics bags, takeout containers), which was meant to take effect this year (2021), but a number of advocacy groups (Oceana. Environmental Defence) are asking for even greater sanctions against plastics, including having them listed as a toxic substance. I am happy to add my voice to those petitions, as I agree that we need to take an even firmer stance against our over-reliance on disposable plastics, when there are a number of sustainable (and economical) alternatives. The planet comes first - those options need to be more readily available to the consumer.
  • Reflection Question
    Food Buy Unpackaged Produce
    Why do you think these produce products started amassing so much plastic packaging? Who is the plastic packaging really serving -- the consumer, the producer, or someone else?

    Michelle Anne Olsen's avatar
    Michelle Anne Olsen 7/13/2021 5:32 AM
    I think that plastic packaging has somehow become equated with produce being "clean" or "safe"...when the simple fact is that many fruits and vegetables have skins or peels that already protect them (onions and bananas and kiwis and avocados comes to mind...). So I think that the packaging does help ease some concern on the part of the consumer, but there's no doubt that it also serves the producer - surely they can't be blamed for a damaged or contaminated product if they cradled it in layers of plastic and styrofoam. 

    I wonder if it also has to do with the appearance of produce, with the perception that fruits and veggies have to look a certain way - blemish-free, vibrant and waxy - to be considered "good." That perception leads to a lot of waste, as imperfect produce (which in reality is perfectly fine and healthy to eat) goes unsold and is often discarded by grocers. Ultimately it's plastics companies that are winning here, and it's up to us, the consumers, to change our perceptions about what food should look like.
  • Reflection Question
    Food Minimize Packaging
    With the added mindfulness of reducing your packaging, what have you noticed about the amount and type of single use plastics used for packaging when you shop in the grocery store?

    Michelle Anne Olsen's avatar
    Michelle Anne Olsen 7/13/2021 5:24 AM
    The more that the question of single-use plastics has been on my mind this month, the more I've noticed just how much unnecessary plastic is used to package food items. I think that one of the biggest offenders is produce - like fruits and veggies that oftentimes have their own skin or peel (nature's packaging!) being individually shrink-wrapped. Why is that?! Yesterday I opted for a head of broccoli versus cauliflower, simply because the latter was shrink-wrapped, while the former I was able to place in a reusable produce bag.

    I think that the most disheartening thing is that I've been trying to choose food with less packaging, but sometimes plastic sneaks up on you. For example, I bought a salad that came in a plastic bag (perhaps unavoidable - sometimes cost and convenience do win out)...but then inside that bag, the nuts and cranberries and dressing came in additional, smaller plastics bags! Bag-ception! Or how about the dish detergent that I chose specifically because that company utilizes fragrance-free, natural ingredients and cardboard packaging...but when I opened up the main package, the pods were individually wrapped in plastic! Needless to say, I've emitted more than one frustrated groan this month.

    That said, I have had a few wins. I now opt for Seventh Generation laundry detergent, which comes in biodegradable cardboard packaging, and always keep reusable produce bags in my purse, or pop fruits and veggies straight into my cart and give them a good wash when I get home.

    Every little bit helps.
  • Reflection Question
    Pets DIY Cat Litter
    Other species can teach us important lessons about ourselves and life in general. What has your cat taught you?

    Michelle Anne Olsen's avatar
    Michelle Anne Olsen 7/12/2021 5:36 AM
    My cat has taught me so much! First of all, and I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say this - my cat saved my life. A few years after adopting Coco I went through a period of poor health, and some days it was knowing that she needed to be fed, or her litter cleaned, or simply that she depended on me, that got me out of bed in the morning. Now that things are rosier, Coco is especially good at reminding me to pause and be present in the moment. During the pandemic I've been mostly working from home, and Coco spends a good portion of the day on a chair next to mine. When things get busy or stressful, I turn away from my screen and give her a pat or a kiss. Her total calm while I'm stressing is a good reminder to keep things like your overflowing e-mail inbox in perspective.

    This weekend I finally bit the bullet and made a sustainable switch that I've been meaning to get around to for ages. I switched Coco's scented, chemical, clumping conventional litter to Yesterday's News, a litter made from recycled newspapers. Coco was weirded out by the new texture at first, but I'm happy to say that she's now officially on board. Right off the bat, I'm noticing so much less grossness on our apartment floors, in the form of tracked litter granules, and less chemical smell to boot! 
  • Reflection Question
    Food Say No to Plastic Bags
    How difficult was this challenge for you? What made it easy or difficult?

    Michelle Anne Olsen's avatar
    Michelle Anne Olsen 7/09/2021 2:51 PM
    Saying no to plastic bags is easy, because I always, always, always have 2-3 reusable bags in my purse for unexpected purchases, and am sure to bring extra on trips to the store where I'm planning on buying more, as with grocery shopping. Has anyone else noticed that reusable bags come in the cutest designs? One of mine has cats on it, and another roosters. :)