Only a Litter Bit Left!

Where did the time go?! It feels like last week we were anxiously waiting to see what project we had been assigned and soon after, meeting with our community partners to get started. We’ve come a long way since then. With just a couple weeks of the term left,  we have finished our infographic and begun to write a our final project report. Reflecting on the past few months, we are very grateful for all of the wonderful learning experiences that LFS 350 has provided us. Right now is perhaps the most exciting (and busiest) time in the course thus far because we are trying to draw meaningful conclusions from our data and synthesize our findings to provide our community partners with a clear representation of our work. Our project has been a long process with multiple community partner meetings, three observations in the community centre, and lots of data to analyze. There have been moments of uncertainty, confusion, and general loss of direction in terms of our project. However, we were able to overcome these through group collaboration and effective communication. At times, such as when writing our academic and experiential review papers, we struggled to make the connection between waste sorting and the main concepts being explored in the course such as food justice. This forced us to think beyond the more obvious aspects of our food system and delve deeper into the connections between food security and food waste. We feel confident that we were successful in our project and will be able to provide our community partners with valuable information on the effectiveness of the new decals on the waste sorting bins.

bins Zero waste stations w/ decals implemented


On November 10th we conducted our last observation and we are were very excited to wrap up our data collection and analyze the results. Disappointingly, the sample size collected was much smaller than our first two observations, due to a Professional Development day at the nearby elementary school. However, the informal interviews conducted that day were very successful. The community members we engaged with provided some fascinating insight on whether they believed the decals were helpful with their waste sorting or not. While one participant told us the decals made the zero waste station bins look “more complete”, two others provided feedback that was quite contrasting. One claimed that they didn’t even see the new decals because of how low they were placed and another participant thought the design looked “messy” and the placement of the decals was impractical for adults.

We weren’t completely surprised by the differing opinions about the decals. We heard mixed feedback regarding the decals during our second visit to the community centre, but this most recent visit made the overall assessment of the decals clearer to us. After analyzing the last observation with with previous data, we came to the conclusion that the decals were not effective at improving waste diversion at the Roundhouse Community Centre.

So What

Our findings were crucial to the purpose of our project and thus we’ve deemed the finalizing of our data our moment of significance. The project’s objective was to determine whether new waste sorting signs would aid in a Vancouver community’s waste diversion, and unfortunately, we discovered they were not effective during our observations. Statistical analysis of our gathered data shows the following:

  1. The newly designed decals had no significant effect on the waste sorting behaviour at Roundhouse Community Centre.
  2. There was no significant difference between the two main age groups (adults vs. children & youth). Furthermore, we found that the most commonly sorted waste item is food, which is the 3rd most incorrectly sorted item, as well as food containers (both plastic and compostable). The most commonly incorrectly sorted items are plastic bags, food, paper towels/napkins, candy wrappers, and pop cans. and pop cans, both with 0% correct rate.

This was both surprising and significant for us to note since some of these incorrectly sorted items belong to one of the three bins we were testing with the new decals. Some widely used items such as paper towel & napkins, plastic wraps, only had 50%-60% correct sorting rate and other items such as receipts, wooden chopsticks, and liquid are were almost always thrown into landfill without hesitation. Although there were many community members who expressed positive sentiments regarding the decals that the decals were helpful in the interviews, these opinions were coupled with some negative reviews and overall data that showed the decals may not be effective. which did not show that they were effective in improving waste sorting habits. These results may be disappointing to our community partners but we feel as though there’s a positive side to our group’s experience as well. In this regard, finding the results to be unsupportive of the pilot Even though the decals may not have improved sorting accuracy, the suggestions given to us by community members can be used to make decals gives us room to suggest improvements for future projects. It provides us (as well as our community partners and the students they work with next) with specific details and reasons why some people disliked the decals. As such, so that changes can take place and better projects can be created to reach our greenest city action plan goal.

Now that we can reflect on our chosen methods of data collection, we have a few thoughts. We are happy that we used both quantitative and qualitative methods. If we had just collected data on wast sorting accuracy, we would have found out that waste sorting still needs some improvement but we would have never found out why waste sorting may not be accurate. By consulting with the community, we were able to gain insight into why the decals may not be effective. This has really changed our view about engaging with the community. We were surprised by how unique some people’s ideas were. One lady mentioned that she would like to know where her waste is going when she recycles it. We are so thankful fort all the community members who agreed to do an interview and share their knowledge and insight.

Through completion of this project, we recognize the importance of the Asset-Based Community Development framework discussed throughout the term. It is so important to connect with community members before making changing without their input. Our project allowed us to interact with the community in a meaningful way and identify their current assets of waste sorting knowledge. This knowledge, as well as the specific feedback from community members, can be used to make further improvements to the zero waste stations. After reading “Kalnciema Street Quarter in Riga: Food Makes the Place” by Kunda & Meiberga (2015), we learned how a relatively small initiative such as a farmer’s market can have such a profound impact on the connections between local food, culture, and community. Farmers markets have become increasing popular in the Vancouver area in recent years as well, with multiple markets being run throughout the summer in different regions of the city (BC Association of Farmers’ Markets and Vancity Community Foundation, 2013). Because markets attract such a wide variety of individuals and are focused on promoting local food, we think that incorporating a booth educating on waste sorting at markets would be a great way to interact with the public. Education on waste sorting could involve examples of the various packaging being used by vendors at the market to teach people how to sort waste. This would integrate an important aspect of our food system into the everyday lives of human food consumption.


Now What

With the end of the term, LFS 350 presentations, Hubbub, and final exams fast approaching, it’s important we take efficient measures to accurately relay our findings to our class, community partners, and beyond. As we’ve often been told in LFS 350, it’s not so much about our project being successful than it is about what you can gain out of the experience. It is without a doubt that this course and the Put Waste in its Place project has taught our group many new pieces of knowledge and various community project skills. Specific to our project’s findings, we’ve gathered enough insight to understand that‘s some community members are not looking for extra visual help when sorting their waste, but instead are more interested with in-depth understanding of what goes where, and why. One participant interviewed in our final visit to the community centre told us she wished the waste station bins were transparent, that way herself (and others) would be able to physically see what’s already been thrown inside and whether or not they were about to make a mistake with their own waste. Other community members we talked to throughout the term mentioned that making the existing signage larger and more detailed would benefit their sorting habits.

As mentioned earlier, the school nearby played an important role in determining the amount of people at the community centre.  A high percentage of children and youth we observed at the waste station sorted their items incredibly well – a result we think may be attributed to their early exposure to waste diversion in school. Perhaps, initiatives in school could invite parents to participate in learning about waste diversion or somehow incorporate interactive activities that students can take home to complete. This would also alter which demographic of the population future projects would target since the younger generation understood waste sorting and having the signs placed lower may be redundant. We were expecting the results between children and adults to be vastly different because our community partners had indicated that the new decals were designed for children. However, two-tail t tests performed on the two age groups showed a P-value of 0.81 for data gathered after new decals were put up and a P-value of 0.47 for data of the three observations combined, indicating that there’s no significant difference between two groups. Therefore, the decals didn’t cause a positive or a negative effect on waste sorting performance for any age group.

This project has changed our thoughts about waste diversion. It is not as easy as posting a new sign on a bin in order to improve waste sorting accuracy. Waste diversion is a complicated process that involves the people who throw away their waste, as well as the people and resources to pick it up and sort it. Perhaps the most effective signage may never improve waste sorting accuracy if people do not care about the environment. It is a daunting task to think about how to change people’s hearts but hopefully through projects like these, we can do a little bit by raising awareness and making people think twice before throwing things in the landfill. 

With these results in hand, we hope to finish our term off strong with a cohesive report and successful presentations at both our final day of class (November 30th) and at Hubbub#7 (December 2nd). We were incredibly grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with CityStudio and the City of Vancouver to delve deeper into one of our group’s passions – sustainable futures through small, yet impactful environmental acts such as waste diversion. We’ve learned a lot throughout the past 12 weeks but somehow it still felt so short! Given the chance In the future, we would love to investigate other possible further regarding initiatives that could be taken towards Vancouver’s Greenest City action plan, but unfortunately for n15233568_10154032934286932_478826177_oow, we’re off to write a report and cram for finals. 🙁


Thanks for reading!



Scenic view taken near CityStudio during one of our meetings



Kunda, I., and Meiberga, U. (2015). Kalnciema street quarter in Riga: Food makes the place. Accessed November 20 2016. Retrieved from

BC Association of Farmers’ Markets and Vancity Community Foundation. (2013). The Value of Farmer’s Markets in British Columbia: Insights from the Farmers’ Market Toolkit Pilot. Accessed November 25 2016. Retrieved from

It’s Not Easy Being Green

Another couple weeks have flown by! As we get closer and closer to the end of term, we are feeling a bit anxious about the work expected of us not only in LFS 350, but in other courses as well. Although times are stressful, our group is maintaining unity and a positive attitude because we know that together we will be able to not only get everything done, but feel proud about our finished work. Continue reading

How Have We ‘Bin’?

What have we been up to? (Achievements to date)

✓ Completed project proposal

– thus gaining clearer understanding of project goals

✓ Conducted first round of observations (completed October 6th)

✓ Preliminary data analyzed

✓ Gained experience interacting with the community

✓ Had 2nd meeting with our community partners (met October 12th)

–  collected decals to be put up and discussed our findings thus far

All smiles after a successful second meeting with our community partners at City Studo.

All smiles after a successful second meeting with our community partners at City Studio.

Here’s our to-do list for the week: (Objectives for week of October 12th)

  1. Make any possible improvements to our observation and interview process.
  2. Fill in consent form with project details for interviews prior to second round of observations (will likely take place on week of Oct 17-21).
  3. Continue to learn more about the local/global impact of our community project!


This term is flying by! As mentioned above, we have had many achievements to date but we would like to reflect on one in particular. On October 6th, we conducted our initial observations and interviews at Roundhouse Community Centre. Although we had been anticipating this day for awhile, we truly didn’t know what to expect and found ourselves both excited and anxious as 12pm approached. For one hour, our role was to observe community members sort their waste and record specific data on what we saw, all the while remaining inconspicuous. The task seemed simple enough but once the flood of Elsie Roy students arrived, we had to develop creative techniques to watch the waste sorters closely without raising suspicion. Thankfully, it was a team effort so when one of us didn’t have the best viewing angle, the other was able to compensate. After our observations were completed, we conducted informal interviews with four randomly selected community members. Feeling accomplished, we left Roundhouse with our first set of data to analyze.


The purple marks the bins we observed and the red marks where we sat.

Our moment of significance came after we were able to look over the data. To our surprise, children had a high average percent correctness (~81%) when it came to sorting their waste. Although our results are from just one brief observation, the irony is worth noting because one of the characteristics of the new decals is that they are level with children’s height and are catered towards them. Maybe our results were just a coincidence or maybe children are more knowledgeable when it comes to waste sorting than expected. We hope that these speculations can be answered by the time all observations are done and all data is analyzed. It will be interesting to see the results of the next observation.

So what?

Our initial findings revealed that Roundhouse Community Centre members, most notably children, are already doing a wonderful job at sorting their waste. The new decals will be successful if they can build off of the community strengths and help with waste diversion even more. We feel hopeful of what our positive findings may indicate for the future. If younger generations are showing an interest in sustainability, we are going in the right direction. Passion to sustain our environment doesn’t stop in four years when the city’s 2020 Action Plan is complete. The initiatives need to be adopted by younger people who will be the ones to carry them forward. In the words of Ron Finley, “the funny thing about sustainability is that you have to sustain it” (TEDTalks, 2013). Finley also noted that children are capable of much more than what society tends to give them credit for, especially once they have broken out of their “predetermined path” built upon youth of the past (TEDTalks, 2013). The children at Roundhouse Community Centre are a possible testament to this notion, which is perhaps an uplifting reflection of our modern day education system, where students are being taught how to sort waste in school, or our modern day use of media, where children are being exposed to topics of environmental/waste consciousness. The younger generation is also exposed to zero waste stations early in life, which may make their adaptability and transition into waste diversion easier.

As for the older generation, we interviewed four adults who reported using the zero waste stations at some point and they all appreciated the addition of the stations and found them helpful. However, the percentage of correctly sorted waste by adults was not perfect (~81% as well) so we know there is room for improvement. This is reassuring, because the addition of new decals on the bins could make a difference. A thought we had regarding why some adults may not sort their waste correctly, aligns with an idea presented by Bradley and Herrera (2015), where the duo claims the “‘healthy self” is sustained through the creation of “unhealthy others’”. Maybe those who sorted their waste only partially correct felt that was good enough because other individuals don’t sort their waste at all. On the other hand, the adults who incorrectly sorted their waste may just not know how, so hopefully the new decals can help. We want to bring it back to the community’s strength though and mention that the majority of adults did sort their waste correctly!

Now what?

Despite the first impression we were given after our time in the community, we need to remain open-minded and understand that a different day may bring about different results. Perhaps the implementation of the decals will affect a different portion of the population than who they were originally designed to target. Either way, we hope that the decals will show potential to improve waste diversion – but we will have to wait and see!

Objectives For The Coming Weeks


Current food scraps signage.

  • Conduct our second observation and more interviews on October 20th
    • We’ll be using the same data collection tables to keep things consistent. However, we will try to conduct our informal interviews with individuals we witness using the

      Current mixed containers signage.

      waste stations because we feel their opinions may be valuable.

  • Conduct the third and final observation and interviews two weeks after second observation.
    • Analyze all data (statistically and qualitatively) and conclude with thoughts/suggestions for improvements that target the group of people struggling the most with waste sorting using ideas provided by community members.

Current mixed paper signage.

  • Make deeper connections between our community project and the concept of food justice throughout the next few weeks as we gather more insight and work on our individual academic review papers.
  • Stay connected with our community partners through e-mail and this blog.
  • Collaborate with the other zero waste station group to make a poster for our final presentation and the event at City Hall.


We are excited to finally be out in the community and experiencing our proposed project coming to life. The future observations will be even more intriguing than the first as we will be adding new decals and finding out if community member’s waste sorting is effected in any way.


Bradley, K., & Herrera, H. (2016). Decolonizing food justice: Naming, resisting, and

researching colonizing forces in the movement: Decolonizing food justice. Antipode,

48(1), 97-114.

TED Talks. (2013, March 6). Ron Finley: A Guerilla Gardener in South Central LA. Retrieved



Talking Trash – LFS 350

In 2008, the average Canadian produced over 1,031 kilograms of waste – with 777 kilograms of this going to landfills or incinerators (Macmillan, 2015). That is about five times the weight of an average panda bear!

Vancouver implemented its Greenest City 2020 Action Plan in 2008 in order to change alarming statistics such as this one. Keep reading to see how us five UBC students are contributing to this plan…

Welcome, and thanks for stopping by! We are a group of UBC Land and Food Systems students excited to be collaborating with City Studio and the City of Vancouver on the Put Waste in its Place: The Zero Waste Station Challenge project. This initiative is part of a larger 2020 action plan set out by the City of Vancouver to be the greenest city and reduce the amount of solid waste entering landfills by 50% of 2008 levels. Meet our group members:


Sandra, Cindy, Simran, Megan, Kylin

I’m Sandra, a fourth year dietetics student, varsity track athlete, and zero waste enthusiast. When I’m not studying or training, I’m usually doing yoga at the Hot Box, experimenting with recipes, or thrift shopping. The City of Vancouver’s zero waste station challenge intrigued me because I embarked on my own zero waste journey two years ago. It has been quite the adventure full of many zero waste ‘fails’ but it’s all part of the lifestyle I love living. I’m excited to explore the reasons why people don’t separate their waste and to propose new ideas for future zero waste efforts by the City of Vancouver.

Hi! My name’s Megan and I’m a third year Food, Nutrition and Health major. photo-8-9-15-4-19-27-pmI’ve been a pescatarian for three and a half years, an active community volunteer for the past seven, and as you can probably guess, I am incredibly passionate about healthy living and our planet’s overall sustainability. If I’m not running around campus to attend lectures or in between transit stops to get myself to/from school, I spend the majority of my time with my family (two dogs, a hamster, and a goldfish included) and friends.
Over the course of my adolescence, my passion for living a happy, healthy, and sustainable life has developed into a constant goal and endless learning journey of mine. As I continue through my undergrad, I discover more and more ideas that, if applicable, are slowly integrated into my daily routines. The ‘Put Waste in its Place’ project sparks the curiosity I’ve had for awhile about the concept of zero waste, so I can’t wait to see what this initiative has to offer us all term.

image-23-09-16-07-20Hi. I am Kylin Zhou and I am now a junior in the UBC nutritional science major. As for myself, I have great passion towards having a sustainable and healthy life style. I plan to acquire more knowledge throughout my studies as a nutritional science major in order to contribute to my home country. Since my home country is still a developing country, most people care more about satisfying material needs instead of maintaining personal health or environmental sustainability. As such, the environment problem in China is deteriorating. One of the contributing factors is probably the poor recycling system as most people don’t know the importance of waste diversion. That’s why the “Put Waste in its Place” project really caught my eyes. I am really curious about how Vancouver’s waste system is going to tackle the “zero waste challenge”. I am looking forward to starting the project and discovering new inventions and ideas throughout the project for future environment improvement.image002

Hi! I’m Simran, a third year student in the Food, Nutrition and Health program within the Faculty of Land and Food Systems. I am very interested in learning about nutrition and aim to live a balanced and active lifestyle through participating in a variety of sports as well as maintaining a healthy diet. Aside from sports, travelling and learning about new cultures is one of my greatest passions. By learning about food in a global context and exploring diverse food systems, I am able to bridge these two passions of mine in a very engaging way. I have thoroughly enjoyed all of the classes I have taken within my faculty so far at UBC – they have opened my eyes to new ways of understanding and discussing our food system. I look forward to starting our community based project to become more involved with our local food system and contribute to bettering current initiatives in the waste management field!

dscn2315Hello, world! I’m Cindy Chen, a fourth year Food Science student. I love baking, making my own jams, and watching baby animal videos. A little over 3 year ago, I challenged myself to start living without using plastics for a month. That was surprisingly difficult but it also made me realize that if I really want to make a change and be more environmentally friendly, I CAN DO IT! Fast forward three years, I expanded that challenge to a larger one: minimal waste. To my eyes, “waste” is not really “waste”. A milk carton could be a seedling bed. A plastic bottle could be a fruit fly trap. A pair of torn jeans could be an apron and several coin bags. I think that people tend to put the waste label on all the things that they don’t currently need and forget to stop and really think about what waste really means. I hope by participating in the “Zero Waste” project, I can help my community or anybody to better understand what is and what is not waste. If this project can make people start asking themselves “oh, wait, is this box really garbage?”, I think that means we really succeeded.

We are looking forward to engaging with our community in the area of waste management – a critical but often overlooked step in our daily consumption of food. What we do with our waste matters! We believe all individuals need to contribute to improving our local community food system and this includes the sustainability aspect of our system. How we treat our environment has a ripple effect into many areas of society and needs to be addressed.

What will we be doing?

Throughout the term, we will be collaborating with two individuals in our community on the Put Waste in its Place project. Jeanie Morton, a representative from City Studio – a company that works to engage students and other community members with the City of Vancouver through unique and inventive projects – and Paul Gagnon, the Corporate Zero Waste Officer with the City of Vancouver, on the Put Waste in its Place project. Specifically, our role involves observation and data collection of the impacts of new signage on waste bins in Roundhouse Community Centre. The purpose of this project is to help Jeanie and Paul decide whether or not it is beneficial to our zero waste goals to implement the new signage across all community centres and various public areas. To do this, we will see if the new signage improves waste diversion rates in this facility. We will also be talking with community members and asking for their thoughts on our current waste management system.


City of Vancouver’s current waste sorting bins and signage

From the first meeting with our community partners, we learned that the City of Vancouver’s goal to reduce waste going to landfills by 50% by 2020 has been an ongoing trial and error process, as it is heavily reliant on the general public’s adoption of various initiatives. Although the movement to reduce waste was implemented by city leaders, it has since evolved into more of a two-way communication system between city representatives and citizens. The City of Vancouver and City Studio are listening and responding to the actions of the public to improve the city’s initiatives. Instead of creating his own idea of what could work and making enough new sorting signs for every community centre, Paul is asking us to go out into the community first – to observe and talk to the public, and find out what they want. This concept of discovering what a community needs before putting in all the time and energy to assist is prevalent in Ernesto Sirolli’s TED Talk. In order for advancements to occur in the field of waste management, it is essential that city leaders understand, observe, and react to the needs and concerns of the public. This is what we have come to learn as Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD). As discussed by Cunningham and Mathie (2010), ABCD is based on the idea that focusing on the strengths and assets of a community rather than its needs and issues is more likely to result in progressive change.

In this case, our community has shown interest in wanting to reduce waste and this is where we come in. We are setting out to identify what is working or may not be working with the zero waste stations by listening to their concerns and observing their actions. The value of simply listening often becomes lost in our fast-paced society but we are going to take a step back and see what the community has to say!

Why did we choose this project?

We are all, in some way, environment enthusiasts. While we may have different starting points in our understanding about and personal actions taken towards the zero waste initiative, we’re all hoping to make a difference in Vancouver’s current waste management system through the Put Waste in its Place project. The differences in our amount of knowledge on the subject and unique life experiences will only aid us by bringing more diverse perspectives to our project. Considering Vancouver’s attempt at broadening the public’s access to zero waste stations, we are curious as to why many individuals still consciously choose to throw their waste away without sorting it first. We believe that people should be fully responsible for what they consume, from first bite to final partings/disposal. For these reasons, we are excited to discover potential strategies to work towards Vancouver’s zero waste goal throughout the term.

We are interested in knowing…

  • How does the City of Vancouver manage waste?
  • Is their possibility for improvement to the current waste recycling system?
  • Does the general public sort waste correctly? If not, what are the barriers that prevent this (e.g. time, convenience, other people’s behavior)?
  • How can the City of Vancouver make waste sorting easier and more convenient for the general public?
  • What challenges is the City of Vancouver facing in terms of implementing zero waste campaigns?
  • What differences can educating young children make in the city’s zero waste efforts?

We hope to…

  • Learn about the process that the City of Vancouver undertakes when trying to implement new zero waste initiatives.
  • Gain experience working with city leaders.
  • Explore various forms of data collection/observation and decide on the best approach.
  • Discover new interventions and improvements that can benefit the city’s waste management system.
  • Deepen our understanding of community development projects through collected observations/data and interactions with community members (e.g. why an initiative works/doesn’t work).
  • Take the ABCD (Asset-Based Community Development) approach from Mathie and Cunningham’s paper and focus less on what Vancouver is doing wrong or what needs to be fixed and more on how far Vancouver has come and what strengths are already in place.
  • Build off of the waste sorting skills community members already have.
  • Take advantage of the local community centres and the power they have in helping Vancouver divert it’s waste from the landfill to the recycling centre or compost.

What’s next?

We are setting off to do our first observation in the community in a couple weeks and we can’t wait to share our findings! Check back to see what we discover!


Mathie, A., & Cunningham, G. (2003). From clients to citizens: Asset-based Community Development as a strategy for community-driven development. Development in Practice, 13(5), 474–486.

McMillan, M. (2015). Analysis. Retrieved October 01, 2016, from

Phillips, K. W. (2014). How Diversity Makes Us Smarter. Retrieved October 01, 2016, from

Sirolli, E. (2012). Want to help someone? Shut up and listen! [Video file]. Retrieved from

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