Plastic

10 Most Overlooked Ways to Reduce Waste: Part 2

Welcome to Part 2!

If you missed Part 1, you can check that out here.

10 most overlooked ways to reduce waste.p2

Let’s get right into it.

#5 Vote with Your $$$

Every time you purchase something, you are contributing to its demand. This is simple economics.

Put your money towards products and companies that you believe in. If it is important to you that your items are produced using renewable energy, then support companies that do.

For instance, there is a fair trade shop just around the corner from our apartment and it is currently struggling, so after work today I popped in and used my dollars to buy wool dryer balls and Bee’s Wrap. My dollars did not just get me faster-drying clothes in the dryer but they made a statement that I support these kinds of shops and want them in my neighborhood.

Resources:

#6 Your Pantry and Fridge

Open your fridge.

Now open your pantry.

How much of the stuff in there is going to end up in the trash can/landfill? I am not just talking about food packaging and wrappers, but food waste too.

Keep this in mind when you are at the grocery store. I am not asking you to only shop in the bulk aisle of Whole Foods, but just start noticing.

Once you do it is hard to shake it.

 

CSA week 7

Joining a CSA helped us cut down on packaged produce, but sometimes we still received things in plastic. 

 

Resources for Cutting Back on Packaging:

#7 Wait it Out

When I find something that I want (not need), I bookmark it in my browser under a folder called “Things I Want to Buy.”

And then I leave it there for days, weeks, and months.

If I am still thinking about it long after I saved it, then I will consider it further. If not then it gets deleted, and to be honest, not many things have survived the “Things I Want to Buy” folder.

Basically, avoid impulse buys by having a waiting period for each item. You might find that you didn’t like it as much as you thought, or get home and realize you already have 5 black sweaters.

Resources:

#8 Put Some Effort into What You Already Have

Did something break? Then fix it.

Do your jeans have a hole in them? Sew them.

jean-patch2

The #8 overlooked way to create less waste is also known simply as taking care of your stuff! Wash and dry clothing according to the directions. Store equipment in the proper place. Use a coaster. Give your car regular maintenance. Fix the soles of your shoes when they have worn through.

Putting a little extra effort or elbow grease will make your stuff live a longer life.

Resources: 

#9 Buy Secondhand/Previously Loved

If you’ve followed this blog, you know that the majority of our furniture is secondhand. Everything pictured below has either come from Craigslist, a garage sale, or family/friends.

Not only is it way cheaper than buying anything new, but it keeps pieces out of the landfill. Beyond furniture, I do have some pieces of clothes that are secondhand, but the majority of my wardrobe is not. It is something I am working on.

Resources to get your secondhand shopping on:

#10 Don’t Give into Trends

The fashion world likes to tell us that we need new styles of clothing every few months. If it is not the 70’s bell sleeves, the chokers, or those “cold shoulder” shirts, it will be something else tomorrow. That way you can buy, buy, buy.

Don’t give into that crap. You don’t need any of it. I like to think that the clothes I purchase will be something I wear for a long time, so I stay away from trends and keep my closet pretty neutral.

Whatever the next ridiculous trend is, pass on it, and just wear your regular sweater that covers your shoulders with pride!

More Resources:

 

What else would you add to the list?

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10 Most Overlooked Ways to Reduce Waste: Part 1

Millennials love lists, according to my friend Julie, and she requested I put this list together.

This list is not going to tell you to use a refillable water bottle and reusable bags. Those things are on pretty much every list about going green, but come on, we can do better than that.

So I present to you:

10 most overlooked ways to reduce waste.p1 (1)

#1 Choose Quality

In life these days, we are inundated with cheap, cheap crap (and by crap I usually mean plastic) on Amazon, in the line at the store, and basically everywhere. We are enticed by the price, make a purchase, and within some short amount of time, that piece of crap breaks or gets worn out.

Into the landfill, it goes, where it will exist until, well forever.

We can avoid this by choosing more quality pieces when we make a purchase. When going for quality there are a number of things you want to look out for:

  • What is it made from? Choose materials that are known for their longevity like stainless steel or solid wood.
  • Who made it? A local craftsman puts time and hard work into their products.
  • What is the guarantee? Look for companies that have lifetime guarantees and will take back or fix your purchases.
  • Price? Yes, upfront it may cost more, but in the long run, it is something you will not have to replace.

Resources for making quality purchases:

#2 Your Lunch

First of all, don’t buy lunch.

Bring your own. Yes, pack up your lunch in the morning or the night before and bring it to work. I do it every single day.

But everything you bring doesn’t need to be destined for a Ziploc bag tossed in the trash. Make some investments (or go secondhand or use what you already have) in reusable pieces that you can pack your meal in every day.

Resources for a less wasteful lunch:

#3 Say No/Don’t Take Stuff You Don’t Need

This one is really easy, but also really hard at the same time. Sometimes it is difficult to say no to people, but a simple “No, thank you,” should suffice in most situations when you are offered useless (but sometimes useful) stuff.

You are not required to take anything from anyone. If you have no use for something, just don’t take it. Don’t feel obligated in any way.

Here are some common situations where you can be offered stuff you don’t necessarily want:

  • Dentist (You can accept another roll of floss when you finish the one from 3 years ago)
  • Conferences (water bottles, magnets, pens, notepads, etc.)
  • Races (shirts, water bottles, drawstring bags, etc.)
  • Generic events (tote bags, glasses, hats, pens, etc.)
  • Sporting events (magnets, calendars, t-shirts, bobbleheads, etc.)

ALL of those things are the first to go when you declutter. You know I am right. 

Resources to say no:

#4 The Bathroom/Beauty Routine

Bathrooms can be a haven for where body lotions go to die in the back of the cabinet.

The first step is to take stock of what you have versus what you actually use and need. From there, swap out disposables for reusable items.

Easy and not so scary swaps:

 

cotton rounds

My washable cotton rounds

Resources for taking it a step further:

#5 Limit Online Shopping

Yes, Amazon Prime is amazing, but everything you order on the world wide web comes with packaging, and usually, it is excessive packaging.

I for one would rather shop in a brick and mortar store where I can see the quality of an item, and I can touch it and feel it. When buying online, despite how many reviews you read, you aren’t quite sure what you are going to get when you open the overly packaged box.

One thing I try to do is see if an item I am looking for is available at a nearby store for pickup. When shopping online, a lot of clothing stores let you see if your item and size is available at specific locations. You can reserve it right then and there. No shipping involved.

Resources:

 

Stay tuned this week for part 2!

Getting Back on Track

We got back from our European jaunt on Saturday and I am still recovering from jetlag and getting back on track with work and life.

That means I have not had time to blog, so for now, I leave you with two pictures of recycling we encountered on our travels.

recycling in France

Paris, France had corner recycling centers

recycling in austria

Recycling in Austria at the train station has bins for metal, paper, plastic, and other waste.

If you are disappointed that all I am going to post of my trip are of recycling, do not fear. Keep scrolling!

eurotrip1

Paris, France

eurotrip2

Paris, France

eurotrip3

Paris, France

eurotrip4

Paris, France

eurotrip5

Paris, France

eurotrip6

Munich, Germany

eurotrip7

Munich, Germany

eurotrip8

Munich, Germany

 

eurotrip10

Hallstatt, Austria

 

 

Those Pesky Plastic Bags

I had a friend ask me what I do with plastic bags that I eventually accumulate.

Not just the standard grocery bags, but the plastic packaging, bread bags, dry cleaning bags, or other types of bags that are labeled as plastic #4 and don’t belong in the curbside recycling bin.

These bags should not be tossed in with your regular recycling because they basically mess up all the machinery and cause all sorting to come screeching to a halt as they have to pull bags free from the machines.

plastic bags

As any normal person does, I hoard them under the kitchen sink until I have a full bag. Then I drop them off at my local grocery store, like Mariano’s, Target, Jewel, Walmart, and more. Check here to see what stores have drop-off locations near you.

In reality, we shouldn’t be using these plastic bags in the first place, but sometimes we get them. They get handed to us before we get a chance to even say something, or a friend sends you home with your leftovers wrapped up in a bag.

It happens. It’s okay.

But it is important to note that using plastic bags because you can bring them to the grocery store to be recycled is NOT THE ANSWER.

Instead, bring your own reusable bags to the store. You’ll also save $0.07 on the bag tax (if you live in Chicago, IL).

 

Beach Clean up with Zero Waste Chicago

Cool things are happening in Chicago, and the creation of Zero Waste Chicago is one of them.

They host monthly events and this month they asked me to lead a beach clean up since I am an Adopt-A-Beach Team Leader. (Check out my other clean up posts here, here, here, and here.)

We headed down to 31st Street Beach, a beach I have not been to or cleaned up before.

31st street beach

For a Tuesday night, it sure was hopping. Families were out barbequing and kids were splashing in the water, trying to squeeze the last few days of summer before back to school.

31st street beach2

A great crew of volunteers showed up and spread out all over the beach armed with bags and litter monitoring surveys.

31st street beach3

Overall, we collected 35.66 lbs of trash, recycling, and compost!

31st street beach4

Some highlights:

  • 609 cigarette butts
  • 221 food wrappers
  • 200 pieces of plastic
  • 135 metal bottle caps
  • 110 pieces of foam
  • 94 pieces of glass
  • 69 balloons
  • 56 pieces of paper
  • 54 plastic bags
  • 46 straws
  • 18 band-aids
  • 7 hair ties
  • 1 razor
  • 1 tampon
  • 1 condom

 

 

Sometimes You’re Gonna Be Wasteful

Not that I need to share this with the internet world, but I had “minor surgery” this week.

I diligently go to the dermatologist annually to keep an eye on my fair skin and my numerous moles, but this year a mole on my back decided to grow, and my doctor thought it was best to remove it.

So “minor surgery” it was. And minor surgery means major waste.

Between the individually packaged sterilized tools and the gauze, and who knows what else (I was keeping my eyes closed. I DID NOT want to see what they were doing), there was already a bunch of waste just the day of the procedure.

For the next two weeks, I have to clean and change my bandage twice a day. That’s a lot of band-aids.

I know this is wasteful and legitimately all of it will end up in a landfill. We all have to make concessions sometimes, especially when it comes to our health.

Trying to make this situation less wasteful is not something I am up to doing. I am not making my own cotton band-aids and I am not risking infection, so landfill-destined bandages it is.

No pictures for today’s post. No one wants to see my stitches!

How I Pack My Lunch

Back to the days of packing my lunch for work!

I pretty much never buy lunch and I never did even in my school days when we could purchase “hot lunch.”

 

 

snacktaxi1

Locally produced turkey sandwich

 

Not only does this practice save me money, but it also saves on food packaging and waste. Ziploc bags are never on my shopping list because I use SnackTaxis to hold all my snacks and lunch essentials.

snacktaxi2

I have had them for a number of years and I love them. They are machine washable and I just let them air dry over night. They even stand up to a PB&J with a bit too much jelly. Just wipe it off and toss in the washer!

Their fun designs also can make a boring lunch a little bit more exciting! And my lunches are pretty boring (see the turkey sandwich with just bread and turkey above).

snacktaxi5

My handy lunch bag has also been hanging around since my college days and it too is machine washable. So when I leave something in there just a little too long and it starts to get a bit funky, that can easily be fixed.

snacktaxi6

For foods that cannot go in a SnackTaxi, I just use Pyrex glass containers for everything from yogurt to soup. Yeah, glass is heavy, but whatever, bring on the muscles!

snacktaxi4

Our regular silverware from home comes with me to work when necessary and then I just bring it home every day to pop in the dishwasher. I don’t find it to be any extra work.

snacktaxi3

On top of all the other necessary pieces, I keep a napkin in my drawer at my desk! It definitely comes in handy when I am eating a juicy peach or there is a snack to grab in the break room.

How do you keep your work day lunches package-free?

Best Buy: They Will Take Your Old Printer

I found a secret weapon for taking your unused, broken, and obsolete electronics off your hands and out of your closets.

 

close-up-of-a-huge-pile-of-com

Source: Greenpeace

 

Recycling electronics can be hard, I get it. Municipalities and local government usually hold electronic recycling or e-waste collection drives, but they are never convenient and always random.

They might take place once a season or once a month if you are lucky.

My parents have been hoarding old electronics for years and I had been holding on to them to recycle with the Forest Preserve District of Cook County, but then the program was suspended and we weren’t sure what to do with them anymore.

Let me just hold on to the 6 different cords that came with my digital camera in 2006 just a little bit longer.

Another 4 months won’t hurt. Anything to make sure it does not end up in a landfill and that all hazardous materials are disposed of properly.

You know what is convenient? Getting rid of your old printer from college (that no longer prints) when you actually want to get rid of it.

And that is what you can do when you just take your electronics to Best Buy for recycling. They will take anything (almost), no matter where you bought it or how old it is.

best buy

You can even get discounts on new products for recycling your old products. I broke my broken Fitbit there when I purchased a new one.

Don’t worry about having to call your nearby Best Buy to see if they will take your e-junk. All U.S. stores offer the in-store programs, and they really want your stuff because…

Best Buy’s goal is to recycle 2 billion pounds of electronics by the end of 2020.

So far, Best Buy has collected and responsibly disposed of more than 1 billion pounds of electronics and appliances, making them the largest retail collection program in the U.S.

So go through your closet. Round up some of the stuff listed below and bring it to Best Buy to be taken care of properly.

  • rechargeable batteries
  • wires, cords, & cables
  • DVD players
  • headphones
  • remotes
  • VCRs
  • laptops
  • keyboards
  • web cams
  • tablets & e-readers
  • calculators
  • phone chargers
  • cell phones
  • shredders
  • vacuums
  • printer ink & toner
  • alarm clocks
  • CD players
  • iPods
  • speaker systems
  • curling irons
  • fans
  • hair dryers
  • hair straighteners
  • pedometers & heart monitors
  • video game consoles
  • binoculars
  • memory cards
  • digital cameras
  • camcorders
  • digital photo frames
  • GPS systems

Get going! You know you have at least 5 of these things lying around! 

Recycling My Running Shoes

Does anyone else hoard their running shoes? I keep them around forever and use them as my already-gross-don’t-care-if-they-get-any-grosser shoes.

After writing in a previous post about what to do with materials that are no longer usable to someone else, I learned about Nike’s Reuse-A-Shoe Program that turns your completely destroyed shoes into Nike Grind materials for floor surfaces and new products.

nike recycle

Last week I popped over to our local Nike running store and dropped off one of my oldest pairs of running shoes. They have no cushion left and the heels are all torn up inside.  No one is going to want those, but Nike does, and they will give your Sole Mates a second life.

The Plastic Wrapped Apples

So I went to Denver a couple weeks ago.

On the way to our gate, we stopped at the Home Run Inn to get something to eat before our flight.

As I stood in line waiting to order, I noticed an odd sight.

plastic apples

A basket full of individually wrapped apples……

plastic apples2

I thought that was #1 very strange and #2 very wasteful and unnecessary, so I did what any millennial would do:

Complain on Twitter.

I tweeted at both Home Run Inn and Midway airport about the oddness of the plastic wrapped apples.

 

pizza twitter

Before we had even taken off, Home Run Inn had responded. I hope something does come of this. It would probably be best to follow up.

Although I was not rewarded with any free pizza, I was pretty impressed with their quick response and demeanor.

Next time you are at Midway, hop into the Home Run Inn and see if the apples are free from their plastic wrap for me!