Sustainable Food Packaging Research – University of Waterloo

Canadian shoppers support a ban on single-use plastic in food packaging. However, shoppers in Canada regularly come home with a pile of plastic packaging along with the food they buy. They have difficulty finding plastic-free food in supermarkets, and often it is more expensive. This leads to the “attitude-behavior” gap between what consumers intend to purchase and what they actually buy when food shopping. As a sustainability researcher at the University of Waterloo, Karen Farley is conducting quantitative research into “Attitude-Behaviour Gap in Canadian Consumers’ Decisions to Purchase Food with Plastic-free Packaging”. This research-to-commercialisation project is funded through the Mitacs Accelerate Entrepreneur program with matched funds provided by NoSUP Canada. The results of this research study will be published here by December 31, 2022.

Karen has presented on sustainable food packaging in the following forums:

  • Presented at the International Conference on Sustainable Development (September 2022).
  • Participated in a Single-Use Plastics discussion featured on the Breezy Breakfast Radio Hour (July 2022).
  • Presented at the Canadian Food Summit and represented the University of Waterloo in the finals of the Three Minute Thesis competition (June 2022).
  • Presented at the University of Waterloo’s Environment Graduate Student Conference (September 2022) and the ENVigorate Research Symposium (March 2022).

Sustainable Menstruation

Menstruators use on average 300 pounds of single-use menstrual products over their menstruating lifetime. These disposable products, such as pads and tampons, take up to 500 years to break down, leading to land and water pollution from menstrual product waste. While a future without waste from single-use menstrual products is the environmental ideal, menstruators in Canada and across the world face significant social issues relating to period poverty – the inability to afford menstrual products – and stigma that result in inequities for many menstruators. True menstrual sustainability needs to balance environmental protection for the planet with social equity for all menstruators.

Karen Farley has teamed up with two fellow sustainability researchers – Maliha Tariq and Kayleanna Giesinger – to conduct foundational research into sustainable menstruation in Canada. The results of this research are expected to be published in the compilation Northern Blood: The Politics of Menstruation in Canada in 2023.

Karen has discussed sustainable menstruation in the following forums:

  • Featured in Oh my cramps! Oh Menopause podcast episode by Free Periods Canada (June 2022).
  • Participated in a panel discussion on menstrual policy and advocacy in Canada at Canadian Sociological Association’s Annual Congress (May 2022).
  • Presented as a guest speaker to Sociology Year 2 class at Douglas College (March 2022).
  • Presented group research on the barriers to choosing and using reusable menstrual products in Canada at the Environment Graduate Students’ Conference (August 2021).
  • Conducted system analysis and problem definition of the barriers to choosing and using reusable menstrual products in Canada for the Map the System competition (April 2021).