Energy Diet

A Tale of Two (Canadian) Cities

I’m on reading break this week from university. I’m back in my hometown of Calgary, Alberta. One thing I have to admit that has been added back into my life is my car.

I mentioned in an earlier post that the transit system here is fairly unreliable. You are lucky if the bus comes, but truthfully, I haven’t taken it since I was in high school. I live in what is considered to be a more remote area of the city, so when I took the bus to get to school, they were few and far between. Now I have noticed that there are more frequent buses, but I am embarrassed to say that I haven’t been on one here in a while.

I do carpool when I can, so that does make a little bit of a difference. Needless to say, it’s just a little more difficult to get around here when relying on public transit in comparison to a city like Vancouver with an actual metro system. Having tried a few different systems, including New York’s subway, I can say Vancouver ranks high up there as one of the easiest, most frequent and most reliable public transit systems out there.

I’m also noticing the different ways that cities facilitate waste disposal in public places. Vancouver has steel garbage bins everywhere with sort of shelf-like depositories on the outside for plastic bottles so they don’t go into the garbage. Trouble is, there are only about four spots, which are always full. I think it’s an idea in progress, but a good one to start.

I grabbed a photo of another type of garbage can last week in Vancouver. So this one is basic. Consists of a metal ring bolted to a post and a garbage bag sealed within the ring on the post. I find this one fairly unpractical just because the bag can easily break. I’m not sure if maybe the outside was actually missing on this, because it seems like a pretty strange idea for a city where it rains so much, and if the bag broke everything would float away.

There are loads of garbage cans everywhere in Vancouver and some different kinds of recycling bins, depending on where you are. Like most Canadian cities, they try their best to make recycling easier on the go.

As for being at home, in Vancouver, they have small blue bins that are for recycling bottles and plastics and then subsequent open-ended bags for cardboard and newsprint. There is also a large standing bin for garbage and a separate one for lawn trimmings. Calgary allows for more recycling space, as we have a large standing recycling bin and then bagged garbage.

Both Vancouver and Calgary still have bottle return depots so they do have problems with people stealing out of the recycling bins, which is pretty minute compared to how much recycling we actually get done. You’d be surprised at how lazy you get when you are supposed to go to the bottle depot every so often. And money-wise, most of the time it’s outweighed by the gas that is spent to get there by car.

As far as my waste when I’m in my place in Vancouver, I try to keep it to a bare minimum and re-use things when possible. I try to keep it to one small bag a week and the same with the recycling. I can re-use some of the cardboard to organize my bulk foods in the cupboards and small things like that.

I’ll make a few photographs of the recycling systems here in Calgary since I’ll be here this week for garbage day. It actually surprises me how careless people can get about just putting the items in the large blue bin. It’s SO EASY. It’s harder in Vancouver to get it right because we have to do a little bit of sorting. In Calgary there is no excuse. Now that I am more conscious of the whole thing, I’m appalled that we didn’t have a legitimate system until the past few years. I’m interested to see what the future designs of garbage disposal units will look like.

A couple of things I’ve stumbled on this week:

First-stop is an initiative geared toward all the paper that is wasted by artists sending their portfolios into jobs/agencies/etc. So many do get thrown out. This project is just starting out, among many other online portfolio sites. It is something to consider if you are sending work out en masse, however I am a stickler for seeing things printed. I’d rather sacrifice something else. To each their own. There is a place for everything — some settings demand different mediums.

On the site Good: How Clean Should Your Recyclables Be?: An interesting quick read that states that it in fact DOES matter if your recyclables are CLEANED before being put into the recycling.


  1. clipton
    February 28, 2011, 5:32 pm

    That’s too bad about the inconvenience of the bottle return depot. Maybe you could share bottle bins with the neighbors and reduce the number of trips to the depot.

    Good tip about cleaning recyclables. Thanks. Another helpful tip is to watch out for pizza boxes. The greasy cardboard is not for recycling: