Concordia mobilizes to combat wasting unsold food and clothes

As the city of Montreal announced its new plans last week to tackle food and clothes waste, Concordia is already taking steps to do just that. 

In the city’s proposal, Mayor Valerie Plante and her team aim to ban stores from dumping unsold clothes and food, in an attempt to become zero waste by 2030. A plan released on Oct. 17 lays out their goal to reduce food waste by 50 per cent in five years, and reduce Montreal’s commercial textile waste.

According to Faisal Shennib, an environmental specialist who is managing Zero Waste Concordia (ZWC), they are already taking steps to reduce food waste.

“We’ve always aimed to reduce waste from landfills as much as possible,” said Shennib. “Organics are the top contributors of waste from our institutions, and they release a lot of methane when they go into the landfills, so it’s an easy target for us.”

ZWC plans to make compost bins accessible in each food consumption area at Concordia, and wants to figure out a program to process the organics that are composted in a sustainable way.

“But then what we realized is that we weren’t connecting usable food waste to people who could use it,” said Shennib.

Their pilot project, tentatively named Zero Waste Concordia’s Food Donation Program, was launched this September. It aims to get restaurants and cafes renting space at the university to move toward eliminating their food waste.

The project has three phases. The first is to educate the tenants, such as Subway, Java U and, Jugo Juice, about basic sustainability, like recycling and composting. The second phase is planned to launch next semester and aims to formally give them the opportunity to partner with organizations like La Tablée des Chefs. Their food recovery program redistributes surplus food to community organizations that provide food to the homeless. The third is to encourage tenants to rethink their food packaging and use of plastics in their businesses.

ZWC already informally contacted some tenants for the project, and most either expressed interest or are already involved in another food redistribution charity. Concordia as an institution already has a contract with La Tablée des Chefs. ZWC is also trying to get confirmation from the university to allow their tenants to be covered under their agreement.

“They use our landfill container at the end of the day,” said Shennib. “They actually throw out all that food, potentially, unless they have their own program.”

The project is also working to reduce food waste from university events by working with Hospitality Concordia, who organizes events at the institution. Hospitality Concordia already has a partnership with Tablée des Chefs but was targeting larger events. ZWC wants to target smaller, student-run events that may also be wasting food.

“There’s also a smaller ecosystem we want to build,” continued Shennib. “Say a student club serves food to 10 people, and then they have a lot of cookies leftover and nobody wants to take it from the group- it shouldn’t have to go to waste either. We’re trying to collaborate with health food co-op Frigo Vert to potentially use them as a place where students can bring them their leftovers, and they can offer them to the community.”

School Stores: Unsold Clothes

Melanie Burnett, the general manager for Concordia Stores, said they rarely ever throw away clothes because they almost always sell their apparel. Burnett said they have sales to sell unsold clothes and that they also recently donated their apparel to a charity.

She explained the only time they throw away clothes from their stores is if they are damaged and unsellable.

Concordia Stores also have a partnership with Concordia University’s Centre for Creative Reuse (CUCCR). Burnett said they have donated some unsold art supplies to CUCCR for creative purposes in the past, and have given them wooden shelves the Stores were no longer using.

“By fixing ambitious targets and giving ourselves the means to attain them, our city will deploy the necessary efforts to make its ecological transition more concrete,” said executive committee member Laurence Lavigne Lalonde. Lalonde is responsible for the ecological transition and resilience of l’Espace pour la vie et de l’agriculture urbaine.

Concordia has several other initiatives aiming to reduce food waste, such as the Dish Project, Waste Not Want Not and the Concordia Food Coalition. 


Feature photo by Laurence B.D.


Giving a second life to compostable foods

Megan Clarke, a Concordian Sustainability student, is trying to get Concordia to find alternative ways to deal with food-waste other than composting it, with the aim of becoming fully waste-free.

According to Clarke, Concordia would be the first university in Quebec to do so.

She is planning to create ways for food waste to be redistributed on campus instead of just composting it. This entails taking wasted food from Concordia events or on-campus stores and giving it to organizations, such as shelters.

Clarke has gathered over 1,500 signatures in the hopes that the Concordia Student Union (CSU) will make zero food waste a university-wide policy.

“Hey, if France can do this, we can too,” Clarke said. “The student body wants this, it is about time we do this.”

According to an article in the Guardian, in 2016, France passed a law banning supermarkets from throwing out unsold food, making them donate it to food charities instead.

Concordia Compost said in a statement that “Food and organic waste are the largest waste component generated at Concordia – yet we only compost 26% of organic waste. Half of what Concordia sends to landfill could be composted instead.”

“You can’t eat compost,” Clarke said, emphasizing that her project is not about composting food waste, but getting that food to people that need it.

Clarke admits that in 2008 to 2009 she struggled with finding affordable food, and knows people that are still having those issues.

“It’s a lot of work, I didn’t think I’d be this deep into it to be honest,” said Clarke. “I wanted to give back to a society that so desperately needs nutrition.”

She started the project alone in February and was shot down by every organization she contacted. It wasn’t until Clarke met Faisal Shennib from Zero Waste Concordia that she was able to start gaining traction.

According to Clarke, it was through this that the idea of a communal fridge was created. She invisions multiple communal fridges, which are maintained by volunteers, across the campus where anyone can take and leave food.

There are multiple communal fridges across the city, in Rosemont, Little Burgundy, and Saint-Henri.

“We already started redistributing food from events to organizations,” said Clarke. “But sometimes those organizations don’t want to come by for one or two slices of pizza. What do we do with that? Do we just throw it out? No, it’s zero waste, we have to go all the way.”

“Because it’s amongst the people, by the people, there is no liability,” Clarke said. “You trust the person you are getting this from.”

“It does work in other places, so let’s try it out here,” Clarke said. “Let’s try to reduce waste, try to eliminate waste across Concordia.”

Besides the fridges, Clarke has many other projects in the making.

She wants to collaborate with student food resources such as People’s Potato, who have a free lunch Monday to Friday, and Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard, that has a two dollar lunch every Thursday. Clarke wants to create another free meal in the evening, Monday to Friday.

“I want leftover food to be distributed as well,” she said. “If we have those leftovers, and we have a space, then we would be able to feed 200-500 students on a daily basis.”

In addition, Clarke works with the Dish Project, which is a waste reduction organization, and together they try and reduce food waste at Concordia events.

Yet, because Clarke is doing this mostly alone, she doesn’t have much visibility and people do not know they can donate food waste to her initiative.

Organizations that Clarke works with like Zero-Waste Concordia and The Dish Project are always looking for help. The best way to reach Clarke is at


Photo by Laurence Brisson Dubreuil

Student Life

Minimize waste to maximize impact understanding

The Dish Project challenges Concordia students and faculty to live waste-free for five days

From March 11 to 15, several Concordia organizations are encouraging students to partake in the Zero Waste Challenge 2019. Part of the event series Sustain’alive, the Dish Project, Concordia University Center for Creative Reuse (CUCCR), and Zero Waste Concordia organized this challenge to encourage Concordia students, faculty and staff to try living “zero waste” for five days.

“The objective of the challenge is to really start a conversation about waste and unsustainable waste management on and off campus, and to create a strong community around the zero waste movement at Concordia,” said Maya Provencal, the external coordinator of The Dish Project. Participants are challenged to refrain from creating any landfill waste, and instead use products that are recyclable, reusable, or able to be repurposed.

Adopting a completely zero waste lifestyle may sound difficult at first, which is precisely why the Zero Waste Challenge was created. Since it is a community effort, participants are encouraged to share tips and tricks for living a more sustainable lifestyle. This way, the challenge won’t seem as intimidating. “It can be really scary to try and move away from that dependency, especially alone, so The Dish Project started the Zero Waste Challenge in an attempt to make this a community affair rather than an individual one,” said Provencal.

Those wishing to partake in the challenge can sign up through email and receive tips from The Dish Project. Participants are also encouraged to tailor the challenge to meet their own lifestyle if they feel they cannot commit to living completely zero waste. For example, changing one aspect of their daily routine, such as packing a reusable water bottle instead of a plastic one, is an excellent start. Taking small steps towards being more eco-conscious contributes to larger change.

Taking steps to create a waste-conscious community both on and off campus is pertinent since sustainability is an issue that affects everyone, albeit disproportionately. Many think it is simply an environmental issue, yet it is also a social and economic issue.

Provencal explained that our current extraction-based economic system wastes valuable resources, contributes to landfills and other waste management sites, and that this system affects marginalized communities at an extremely disproportionate level. “We want students to understand that by reducing their waste production, they are rejecting this destructing system and creating a better world,” said Provencal.  

Feature graphic by @sundaemorningcoffee

Student Life

Redefining waste for a cleaner tomorrow

In pursuit of waste justice: student groups launch Concordia’s first Zero Waste Week

How many times a day do you throw something in the trash? Do you give it much thought when you do? New research published by the Worldwatch Institute suggests that the amount of waste produced worldwide could double by 2025—from today’s 1.3 billion tons per year to a whopping 2.6 billion.

In an effort to promote sustainable waste management practices, Concordia student groups such as the Dish Project, Concordia’s Centre for Creative Reuse (CUCCR) and Waste Not Want Not are kicking off the university’s first edition of Zero Waste Week on Oct. 23.

The principal organizer of Zero Waste Week is the Dish Project. This student-run, zero-waste resource organization will be hosting multiple workshops from Oct. 23 to 27 that offer creative solutions for reducing waste. The Dish Project aims to reduce the volume of disposable items sent to landfills by storing and lending out reusable dishes to Concordia students hosting events. The service is available at little-to-no cost, making it accessible and economical.

The Dish Project offers a variety of reusable dishes for events on campus. Photo courtesy of the Dish Project.

“Up until recently, the Dish Project was mostly just focused on our operations of lending out reusable dishes to help reduce waste in and around Concordia,” said Vanessa Macri, the organization’s general coordinator. “However, after reevaluating ourselves internally, we thought that there was a gap with waste justice education on campus. So now we’ve started engaging with students a lot more. One thing that we thought would be a great vehicle to help us do that was Quebec’s Waste Reduction Week [from Oct. 21 to 29].”

Maya Spring, the Dish Project’s outreach and engagement coordinator, will be co-hosting four workshops over the course of Zero Waste Week. “I find that, in today’s society, there’s such a disconnect between us and the waste that we produce,” Spring said. “I think the first step towards breaking that disconnect is talking about waste, which is a huge part of Zero Waste Week and the workshops we’re putting on.”

CUCCR will also be participating in Zero Waste Week with a “Do It Yourshelf” shelf-making workshop on Oct. 27. For those who have yet to discover its hidden location in the Hall building basement, CUCCR is an initiative that collects used art materials and supplies from around campus and makes them available for repurpose by the general public.

Rather than solely focusing on waste reduction, CUCCR looks at how unwanted materials can actually be useful to people. Recent Concordia MA graduate Anna Timm-Bottos spearheaded this project with the help of funding won in Concordia’s Big Hairy Ideas competition. “I saw so much material being thrown out that I knew someone else could use if only we could capture it,” she said, adding that CUCCR plays a key role in Concordia’s sustainability efforts and in changing the larger culture around waste.

Waste-sorting games will be hosted in the downtown library cafeteria on Oct. 25 and 27 by Concordia’s composting advocacy group, Waste Not Want Not. Another beneficiary of the Big Hairy Ideas competition, Waste Not Want Not works to strengthen Concordia’s infrastructure in pursuit of zero-waste goals. Anyone conscious of their trash output is likely already aware of the many benefits of composting—not only does separating organics from other trash decrease the amount of waste sent to landfills, it also reduces greenhouse gas emissions and creates fertilizer for plants. Waste Not Want Not’s mandate includes providing access to on-site composting facilities, increasing the number of composting bins around campus and educating students on why composting is integral to building a more sustainable future, according to the organization’s website.

“We’re hoping this week will open people’s eyes to the impacts of waste. It’s one thing to recycle and compost, but it’s another thing to understand where your waste actually goes,” Macri said. “We want Zero Waste Week to show that waste reduction doesn’t just stop at recycling and composting—you can also reduce, upcycle, reuse materials and get creative with how you’re repurposing waste. Hopefully folks will take that away along with how many opportunities there are at Concordia to get involved in the waste justice movement.”

For additional information about the Dish Project, visit To find out more about CUCCR, drop by H013-7, open Tuesdays to Thursdays between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. or visit For details about the Waste Not Want Not composting advocacy group, visit

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