A cottager shares practical tips for making eco-friendly decisions at the cottage

Jacquie Daley and her dog. Photo Courtesy of J. Daley

With the spreading of wildfires throughout all of Canada, increasing amounts of plastic in our environment, and noticeably warming temperatures, a lot of cottagers can look at climate change with frustration and wonder what they themselves can do about it.

One avid environmentalist and cottager, Jacquie Daley, says making changes to daily routines and spending habits can easily reduce the amount of waste one produces and thus reduce their ecological footprint.

Already living an environmentally conscious life, Jacquie picked up a lot of what she learned about reducing waste when she and her partner decided to challenge themselves to not create any waste for a year, at home and at the cottage. 

“As we saw our garbage piles decrease, our recycling pile was increasing, so we tried to cut out waste entirely,” Daley says.

Jacquie quickly found that the largest amount of waste came from food. “Everything, even veggies from a grocery store, comes in plastic.”

The solution became buying ingredients and food at bulk food stores. She would bring her own containers and fill up on as much as possible when she had the chance.

This went hand in hand with taking full advantage of local farmers markets. It’s one of few places where there is little to no plastics used and bushels can be reused.

“I think we used the same egg carton for a year,” Daley says with a laugh. “The farmers would be delighted when I’d bring back things like baskets for apples.”

Generally speaking, Jacquie found herself to be around “85 per cent successful” for that year. At the end of the day it really boils down to planning and mindset, whether living this lifestyle at home or at the cottage.

“It ended up almost being easier at the cottage. You’re already in the planning mindset. It just takes a few extra steps,” Daley says.

“We plan our meals from scratch, use reusable wash clothes instead of napkins and use vinegar with baking soda instead of cleaning products. It ends up being a lot easier on the septic tank as well.”

Another decision Jacquie made with her longtime friend and cottage co-owner Jane was to not own any motor boats. Although this may be unthinkable to some cottagers, it was an important sticking point for Jacquie.

“For me cottaging is about being in nature and enjoying the environment around you and the peace and quiet. Some cottages I’ve been to over the years have lakes like highways and I just wanted a different cottage experience.”

When it comes to renovations or outfitting your cottage getaway, getting second hand furniture from relatives and friends can also be a great way to outfit a cottage cheaply while reducing waste.

“When you let people know you’re looking for things, like a bed frame or chair, you’d be surprised how many people, maybe an aunt or a friend, have old furniture they want to get rid of and could use a second home,” Daley says.

Daley also suggests using websites like Kijiji for finding cheap furniture that can easily be refinished for a fun weekend project.

A lot of what Daley suggests simply involves being willing to take the few extra steps to be consciously minded about the products one buys. A bit of extra time and planning to go a long way when it comes to reducing waste and your ecological footprint. But this does not need to be a chore either.

“A lot of these things can be way more fun than simply buying something from the store. Making a pizza from scratch can be some work but if you get everyone involved, you can find it can be a lot more fun and satisfying,” Daley says.

Jacquie has always been environmentally minded. She says it started when she saw her mother composting in their backyard, something other moms weren’t doing. Jacquie’s mother was also reusing many things others might have thrown away as trash. Being waste conscious stuck with Jacquie and fostered a desire to preserve nature.

“There are so many changes happening to our environment and impacts on wildlife habitats that it’s more important than ever to do what we can to reduce our impact. Our friends have kids and I have a nephew and I want to be sure they get to experience the great outdoors the way I have.”

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