Welcome to the third post for the Sustainable Humans of Guelph series!

Meet Wendy Li, a fourth year in the Landscape Architecture program; who is insanely passionate about sustainability communities and design!

Wendy is someone you always want to be your friend, because you KNOW she is going to do something incredible and be inspirational to everyone around her. I had the pleasure of meeting Wendy through our exchange to Lund University in Sweden and I am honestly so glad we went to the same place for exchange (Thanks CIP!). Her passion for unique building designs and European style architecture made every trip a fun learning one too! She even used her LA skills to identify a tree species while walking along a street in Warsaw, Poland. She is truly incredible and a really interesting person to know. Thus, she was nominated because of her unique take on sustainability and her overall super kind personality. She also is a coordinator for this year’s Sustainability Week, so she is prime example of a sustainable human of Guelph!

I had the pleasure of interviewing Wendy and her ideas around sustainability as well as her involvement with Sustainability Week. The following questions and answers are her responses!

What is your sustainability pet peeve?

“Running taps, plastic bags, Ontario’s recycling system (I went on exchange in the beautiful Lund, Sweden last year this time, and they differentiate between the coloured glass they recycle!!!) and the mentality that what we do on a local level doesn’t have an impact to change the status quo. And of course, it takes more research and energy to change your lifestyle or routine, but I promise you it feels amazing when you take the initiative to live by your values.  Small steps can include making conscious decisions as a consumer. And though I don’t have a perfect system,  one small change that I’ve made this year is that I’ve stopped plastic bagging my fruits and veggies (Honestly! it can be small changes like that which makes all the difference). Also always looking for suggestions of package free food options, and if you have any I would love to hear them!”
What is one sustainability initiative you would like to see at Guelph?

“More education about composting, and the Guelph Urban Organic Farm at the University of Guelph ( just because personally I don’t know that much about these topics and would love to learn more)! There are also so many cool initiatives going on in the city of Guelph at the local level I wish there were more of a connect between the education we learn in classrooms  and application. More partnerships between the university and local stores or organizations as a learning tool is definitely something I would love to see. “ 
What are you involved with on campus?

“Currently, I am one of the co-planners of Sustainability Week 2018! Super excited about unveiling the week to showcase all the hard work everyone has put in. It’s very encouraging to see such talented individuals who are passionate about various efforts to better our planet. In addition to that I am the publicist of the Landscape Architecture Student Society, and also a part of the Dragon Boat Club at the university. “
Can you talk a bit about your role in Sustainability Week and your day? What do you hope people take out of your day?

“My role in S-Week as a co-planner zones in on Goal 11 of the Sustainable Development Goals which is Sustainable Cities and Communities. I really hope to bring light to some components of what a sustainable city looks like through a Pecha Kucha talk and a Donuts and Doodle design charrette to showcase how individuals can contribute and play a part in their communities. Projects such as urban farming, community design, walk-ability in our streets or sustainable transportation, are all important pieces of the urban fabric puzzle which come together to shape our everyday lives. Though everyone says that good design should be 99% invisible, I really do believe that everyone should be involved in how our cities are built. It’s an interdisciplinary task which involves multiple stakeholders, and ultimately the community only gets better when everyone is involved.  Overall I hope everyone can get new insight or learn something new through the activities we have worked very hard to plan.”
What is an issue you are super passionate about?

“One issue I am passionate about is permaculture as a design philosophy. More specifically permaculture designs applied in orchards! I recently wrote my thesis about this topic and now I can’t look at almonds the same. I’m being serious. I think as a whole, our society has become more and more disconnected from the way food is produced, and a lot of the times we forget to think about the process behind the food on our tables. It’s problematic, and lets look at almonds for example. Almonds are grown on trees, and these nut trees go through intensive growth in the arrangement of mono-culture. Mono-culture especially in orchards which are embedded in the landscape for 10 plus years strips the land of the same nutrients and prevents biodiversity. Mono culture is usually a result of requiring an up in yield as a response to consumer demands, and since almonds are such a poster nut you can see why this is a concern. Almonds are a very water intensive crop, and need to be sustained in the events of droughts. California produces 80% of the worlds supply of almonds, and when you put the two together, nothing makes sense. In addition to this, there’s also the issue of pollinators. Because mono-culture is so intensive in the growth of one species, there is no habitat for bees for a good portion of the year, and did you know that bees have to be transported all they way from Florida in the back of trucks to pollinate these almond orchards? All in all, there’s a better way of designing for these food systems which is where permaculture comes into play. It mimics nature in creating as close to a closed loop system as possible, where landscapes can become self-sustaining in thinking beyond organic farming which still needs external input such as fertilizer! There is still a lot of research which needs to be done in this field and there aren’t too many precedents of commercial permaculture orchards. However I think this is an important topic in bringing us one step closer to sustainable food production!  
What would be your dream future career after graduating?

 I was hoping I wouldn’t have to answer this question, it hits way too close to home (I’m graduating this year, but also what is adulting?). I really love Landscape Architecture, it’s afforded me a way to see the world in which I never thought I would. Ever since being in this program, the way people interact with nature and landscapes have zoned in on a sharp focus, and it also has enough variety in terms of projects to keep me constantly learning. It’s such a far reaching field which has impact on how people live their lives, and I’m positive that my career path will stay close to this field. This is wishful thinking, but a company I would love to be involved in is Sidewalk Labs, which is an Alphabet company helping cities re imagine traditional ways of development to overcome a lot of major challenges.Traditional methods in city building are outdated in the face of climate change among other factors, and designing for resiliency should become more of primary concern now more than ever, which is what Sidewalk Labs is trying to address. Technology and innovation as a whole really fascinate me, but on the flip side, I think a dream job of mine has also been to just work in an alpaca farm, so I have some polarizing aspirations! “

 If you are also interested in learning more about how cities can be designed to be more sustainable or you also share a passion for Swedish recycling systems or permaculture, make sure you go attend Wendy’s events on March 20th or check them out online! FB:Guelphsweek or Instagram: @guelphsustainabilityweek






Taking Out the Trash- Kitchen Addition

So a couple weeks ago we talked about some ways you can cut down on your waste while on the go. This next installment tackles one of the largest sources of household waste, our food- how we get it, store it, use it, and get rid of it.

We’ll start at the first step, in the grocery store

1) Reusable bags

Image from Bag the Habit

For many of us this might go without saying, but it’s a good first step for a lot of people looking to cut down on their plastic waste. Reusable shopping bags for your groceries are a must, but the most important thing it to be prepared. I’m trying to always have a super light weight bag (like this) stashed in the bottom of my purse or bag just in case I happen to grab something while I’m running around.

Even the best of us are sometimes guilty of grabbing a plastic produce bag or two though, especially for more fragile produce like leafy greens. Just as important as carry-out bags are reusable produce bags like these, which can also be used for bulk items and to store produce at home.

2) Choose Wisely

Most modern grocery stores are not designed to limit waste. Nothing makes me crazier than seeing something that’s not even overly delicate, like a lime or an orange, sitting on a Styrofoam tray wrapped in 17 layers of plastic wrap. It can be hard in some stores, but choosing fresh produce and putting it in your reusable mesh bag will go far in reducing your waste footprint. Sometimes these choices mean an extra step for you- i.e. washing your spinach instead of buying it pre-cleaned in the plastic bins, or chopping up big carrots instead of buying baby carrots in a bag. These little actions have a big impact, however, and it’s also a good incentive to cut out over-packaged processed foods and eat a little healthier!

Shelf in the supermarket
Image from Gippsland Unwrapped

And at the end of day reducing your waste is about process, not perfection. Choose ingredients that come in metal or glass containers, because these can be recycled many, many more times than plastic (and in the case of glass jars can even be reused for bulk containers!).

3) Bulk up

Most bulk stores (including Bulk Barn!!!) allow you to bring your own (clean) bags, containers, and jars for your bulk goodies! This is a great way to get all your staples, from pasta and dried beans, to honey and tea, to spices and soup mix without the wasteful packaging they usually come in at conventional grocery stores.

Bulk buying supermarket.jpg.jpg.653x0_q80_crop-smart
Image from Mother Nature Network

And the waste reduction doesn’t have to stop at the store, there are lots of ways to cut down on your kitchen waste once you get home too!

4) Learn how to store your produce without plastic

If you aren’t putting your produce in bags at the store you’ll have to learn some techniques for keeping it crisp once you get it home. This post  from My Plastic Free Life breaks down exactly how to store every conceivable fruit and vegetable for freshness sans plastic waste.

Image from Meghan Telpner

And as was mentioned in our last post, Tupperware, glass jars, or reusable beeswax wrap are great alternatives to plastic wrap or bags for your leftovers! Although a little on the pricier side, reusable silicone bags like these are also a great alternative, and can easily replace every conceivable use for my personal zero-waste kryptonite- freezer bags.

5) Replace your paper

Though paper towel is compostable in Guelph, it’s still unnecessary. You can save yourself some money and reduce the waste incurred in the production process by swapping it our for towels and rags. Good quality tea towels and microfiber clothes are neither expansive nor hard to come by, but if you want to be even greener just try cutting up some old t-shirts or towels to make the perfect rags for kitchen mishaps.

Image from Mary’s Kitchen

The same theory goes for reusable fabric napkins! These are surprisingly easy to find at garage sales, clearance bins of home goods stores, and are even a pretty easy DIY. Just keep a laundry bin at hand and wash them when they pile up!

6) And last but not least, COMPOST!

Most landfills are too tightly compacted for biodegradable waste like kitchen scraps to break down. These carrots, for example, were sitting in a landfill for 10 YEARS

Image from Kirkland Conserves

Use your city of Guelph compost bin (sorting guide here), or see this page  for tips on how to start composting at home. In residence? Drop Natalie a line at and we’ll see if we can get you set up with your very own bin!

Thanks for following along with this series Gryphons! Remember to comment on this post or on any of our social media shares to get entered in our giveaway! We’ve already gotten so many great tips! Here are some of our favorite ways that our readers are being sustainable

paigey.oneill  I am using a reusable mug with the B-Corp Cupanion! This way I can keep track of how much waste I am saving while still enjoying my morning ☕️!

maddychauvin I use reusable mesh bags for my produce at the grocery store, and always bring my own bags for everything else! 😊 love this idea by the way!!

samjanjac Reusable food wrap from @mindyourbees !!! No more Saran Wrap!! 🐝

baileyelan I use reusable dryer balls rather than dryer sheets and use mason jars for everything!

kelseyrean Shop with mason jars at bulk barn + started purchasing makeup from @elatecosmetics (their products come in reusable bamboo kits/containers) ✨

shaelynnsmit I’ve been using the diva cup for 4 years and it’s been great not having to buy tampons and it creates zero waste!!! Mother Earth would be proud 🌲 I’ve been buying my dry foods in bulk and package free by bringing my own jars and reusable bags when I go shopping!

kaelykraeft bringing mason jars for bulk food, asking for no straw and bringing my own bottles for water!

claireehlert I bring a reusable mug/bottle whenever I go out so I don’t have to get a single use cup from a cafe if I’m in a rush!

tennyjrinhI always bring a mug/water bottle with me, and use reusable bags when I go grocery shopping! I’ve stopped taking the flimsy plastic bags to put my produce in at the grocery store as well 😊🌎❤️

tennyjrinhI also am making an effort to just buy second hand/vintage clothing so I am not contributing to clothing waste 👍🏼

loco_pacha_mammaI use a bamboo toothbrush and homemade toothpaste in a glass jar to brush my teeth 👍🏻😁

glenysrobinsonnn I make my own deodorant from coconut oil, shea butter, baking soda and essential oils and keep it in a mason jar! I use handkerchiefs instead of Kleenex and just toss them in the laundry. I always have reusable cutlery and straws in my backpack, so I never have to worry about forgetting! 🥄🍃

glenysrobinsonnn Oh! In the summer I make homemade popsicles instead of buying individually wrapped ones! So fun! 🍭💫

zerowasteguelph I use a charcoal stick in a big vintage glass water jug in the fridge to filter my water, no more plastic from Brita filters and certainly no plastic water bottles! 💦💦💦

Taking Out the Trash- Lunchbox Addition

I consider myself to be pretty environmentally conscious- I lug my mug, I shop and eat local, I use re-useable containers in my lunch (and, well, I work in the sustainability office, so…)

My roommates live pretty much along the same lines, and still, week after week, we manage to fill up our garbage can with unrecyclable plastics and packaging. This year I want to take a deeper look at where all this garbage is coming from, and find new ways to get a little closer to a zero-waste lifestyle. Through a series of four blog posts I want to share some budget-friendly, student-friendly tips to reduce waste (particularly plastic) in our lunches, kitchens, bathrooms, closets, and lifestyles in general.

So with no further ado, here are some ways I’ve been trying to take the trash out of my lunch, thanks for following along!

1) Meal Preppin’


Even if I go into the week with the best of intentions, busy evenings and 8:30 classes catch up quick and I find myself grabbing food to go on campus. The I Am Reusable program, available at most hospitality outlets on campus, is a great option. For just an initial, one-time $5 investment, you can get a reusable takeout container for your food. Then, when you bring it back (they wash it for you), you get a card that you just have to exchange for a new container the next time you get takeout food!

Even so, breakfast sandwiches to go are a bad habit of mine, and the wax paper they’re served in cannot be composted or recycled. The best way I’ve found to avoid this all together is to plan ahead. I take a little time on my weekend when I go grocery shopping and plan out my meals for the week. To-go breakfasts like overnight oats and make-ahead breakfast sandwiches are easy to whip up on Sunday night, and are saving me both money and trash on my morning Tim’s run.

As an added bonus, planning out what I’m going to eat each week instead of shopping randomly helps me avoid wasting food. Because everything I buy is part of a recipe, nothing is sitting in my fridge going bad. A good beginners guide to meal prepping can be found here.

2) The Zero-Waste Lunch Kit


And there are so many great options for carrying all that great food around! Investing in a large Tupperware with sections for snacks was one of my best decisions this year, but there are so many affordable options using things you might already have too. Jam jars make great snack containers, and there are so many alternatives to ways that plastic sneaks into our lunches- fabric and silicone pouches instead of Ziploc bags, thermoses and Tupperware containers, mason jars for salads. Many plastic, and even stainless and glass, containers are available at thrift and second-hand stores.

One of my favorite things I’ve discovered recently is this great alternative to plastic wrap. See here to learn how to DIY it!


3) Be prepared while on the go

So far, by being prepared, I’ve been able to cut out a lot of avoidable plastic waste from my lunches! Having a medium plastic container, a metal fork and spoon, a reusable straw, a cloth napkin, and my favorite coffee mug in the bottom of my bag takes up very little room, and ensures that whether I’m grabbing a smoothie or packing up leftovers from a lunch meeting at Brass Taps I can ditch the single-use packaging


We hope these tips are helpful! If you have any creative ways to take the trash out of your on-the-go lifestyle let us know in the comments! The week after next I’ll be back with my tips for a zero-waste kitchen!



How to be a Sustainable Student

To all new students, welcome to the University of Guelph!! For returning students, welcome back!! To get you starting off the new school year right, we’ve compiled a list of some great ways to be a sustainable student at UofG! The great thing is that it is super easy to be environmentally friendly at UofG because of all the amazing initiatives that we have going on. Be sure to let us know on social media which tips you try or let us know some tips that you use yourself that we might have missed!

Continue reading “How to be a Sustainable Student”

Sustainable O-Week Events

Welcome #NewGryphons! We hope you are as excited to be here as we are to have you here! O-week is a busy time with so many amazing events to attend, so to make your life easier we compiled a list of sustainable events happening this week. These events are low-impact, sustainability themed, run by a club focused on sustainability, or ALL the above!

Continue reading “Sustainable O-Week Events”