waste

No, I Don’t Want Your Coupons

Hey Chicagoans,

Have you ever come home to one of these at your doorstep?

insideshopper1

The bright red bag of the Chicago Tribune Inside Shopper/RedPlum shows up on our stoop every week, every month, I don’t even know, but it is always there.

insideshopper2

Inside are a bunch of coupon circulars for our whole building that no one ever touches. The bag o’ coupons usually sits on the stoop for days or weeks. Maybe it makes it inside into the vestibule, but no one wants it, so no one touches it.

Eventually, the bag of papers disappears. Someone caved and threw it out or maintenance picked it up. I will never know.

The point here is that these coupons are unwanted and they keep coming to be instantly (or many weeks later) tossed in the trash can.

If I am the one to cave and pick it up, I will recycle it, but what about all those other houses out there who immediately throw it into the landfill?

Finally fed up with these things, I actually took a look at that red bag and it said:

“For service inquiries or if you do not want this product delivered to you, please call 1-800-874-2863 or email us at insideshopper@chicagotribune.com.”

Apparently, I could have called long ago to get these to stop, but I just assumed like most of the local mailings, you couldn’t get out of it.

I am not the first one to be pissed off by these stupid red bags of coupons. See here, here, here and here. Someone even sued the Tribune about unwanted delivery even after multiple attempts to be removed.

Anyway, I sent an email off to Inside Shopper, we shall see what happens…

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Shaking Up Wasteful Office Culture

I am finding it really hard to send an email.

It is not just any email.

It’s an email to facilities management at work.

I’ve noted before that our office provides compostable plates and bowls, but nowhere to actually compost them.

 

work compost

I usually smuggle my compostables home to compost

 

It seems very counterintuitive and a bit greenwashy to me (Look at us! We offer compostable plates! Oh la la!). It is a step in the right direction, but providing compostable plates without somewhere to compost them is like providing real plates and silverware, but nowhere to wash them. It totally negates the point.

So I have been working up the courage to send an email to facilities management, but building up courage has been a slow trickle, with renewed aspiration here and there when I see the wrong things in the recycle bin or when people compliment me on BYOP (bringing my own plate).

 

BYOP

My parents were cleaning out their kitchen and came across this plate I painted at a pottery place. Since my name was on the back of it, I figured I’d take it and make it my work plate.

 

I know what the email needs to say:

  • There is no point in having compostable plates/bowls without providing composting service (but I also don’t want them to think, “Oh okay, we will order styrofoam then!”)
  • Provide the benefits of composting and why putting compostable items in the landfill doesn’t work
  • Provide resources to composting services in Chicago (this is a larger building, so not sure how waste management on a single floor scale works…)
  • Discuss what is recyclable from the building’s recycling hauler and how we can educate the staff about what belongs in the recycling bin and what does not
  • Explain that I would be willing to work with them to make our office a greener place to spend 40+ hours of your week

Despite knowing what the contents of this email will be, I am more afraid of the response I will get.

Will I immediately be shot down? My email promptly deleted and never even responded to? 

I have no idea and that is why I have not sent it yet (or even written it).

I am going to do it though. I promise.

I risk nothing besides the office thinking I am a crunchy composting hippie, which is fine because I would totally love to be labeled that.

Have you ever tried to green your office? Any suggestions or tips for writing this email? Any help would be appreciated!

A Year of Collecting Food Scraps in A Bucket

It has been my first full year of composting, or really, my first full year of saving food scraps and keeping them in a bucket on my fire escape until it gets picked up to be made into compost.

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Each month before I set my bucket out on the front step, I used my hanging scale to weigh it, diligently tracking my results in a spreadsheet.

compost-bucket4

And now, here we are, twelve months later, and we have successfully diverted a total of 287 pounds (plus some here or there) from the landfill!

compost bucket7

It is pretty impressive and I am very proud of myself for this accomplishment!

Here’s the month by month breakdown of our food waste poundage.

  • January 15.5 lbs
  • February 17.22 lbs
  • March 12 lbs
  • April 18.71 lbs
  • May 8.8 lbs
  • June 20.44 lbs
  • July 22.84 lbs
  • August 25.4 lbs
  • September 19.74 lbs
  • October 21.61 lbs
  • November 18.5 lbs
  • December 14.58 lbs

That’s 287 pounds of organic matter going back into our soil and helping plants thrive. Wahoo!

How I Did on Those 2017 Goals

I made a number of goals for myself to be less wasteful last year. Find a refresher of what I aimed for here.

Without further adieu, let’s see how I did.

resolution1

I am proud to say I crushed this goal!!! As of right now, without my December compost bucket weighed, we kept 272.91 pounds of food waste out of the landfill. Add in another 18-22 pounds from this month’s bucket and we almost doubled the goal! Holy cow!

In addition to composting at home, I am also planning on composting at my wedding in 2018.

resolution2

Another goal semi-crushed! We partook in a CSA box this summer and I challenged us to only purchase locally grown food for 24 weeks. That’s not the entire year, so that’s why I say this goal is semi-crushed. We definitely made an effort though and are more cautious of where our food comes from.

resolution3

I definitely still spent money this year, but I like to think that I did a decent job of not wasting money on frivolous purchases. From Craigslist buys to making a waiting list, I did employ tactics to keep money in my wallet. Having a tiny apartment also helps because I can’t buy things if I know there is nowhere to put them.

resolution4

Still working on this one…

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I still have a lot of clothes, plus there are still some clothes at my parent’s house. I am going to a clothing swap next month, so I am excited to see how that goes! As for repairing, I definitely tried mending a pair of jeans but failed miserably. At least I was able to give that pair a second life as housing insulation. My running shoes also get a second life as a track floor. I also pulled together resources for what to do with clothing and textiles that are beyond repair or normal use. Check that out here.

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In terms of biking, this was one goal I did not really accomplish at all, but in terms of walking, I definitely did some of that. Where I live and work are both very walkable and also have access to great public transportation options.  I really do want to try biking to work, but that will have to wait until after the winter.

So all in all, I think I did a pretty good job with my goals! Still working on a few, but that’s okay.

What are your goals for 2018?

 

 

 

Most Loved Posts of 2017

It’s been a good year (at least for Waste Not Want Not).

I got engaged and the love showed for any of my wedding themed posts because the top three posts of 2017 were all wedding related.

1.) Finally Found Our Venue: Updated

 

2.) Introducing Waste Not Want Not Wedding

bridesmaids

3.)Finally Found Our Venue

latin rhythms

But don’t worry, there was still love for posts that didn’t have anything to do with my upcoming nuptials.

4.) Where Does that Water Go When It Rains A Lot? 

 

MWRD2

McCook Reservoir

 

5.) How to Be a Craigslist Boss: Part 1

craigslist

6.) Who Needs Cotton Balls?

cotton rounds

7.) Meal Kit Market Means More Waste

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8.) A Recycling Conspiracy

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9.) A Recycling Conspiracy Solved

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10.) 10 Most Overlooked Ways to Reduce Waste: Part 1

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

And there you have it! The Top Ten Waste Not Want Not posts of 2017! Can’t wait to see what 2018 will bring!

An Audit of Our Recycling

Yeah, our recycling in Chicago is pretty much the pits.

I am pretty skeptical that anything we put in the recycling bin actually gets recycled, and that is why many people don’t even bother. I totally get that.

But recycling is a habit that I don’t plan on breaking.

We have a legitimate recycling bin in our house and it was one of my most favorite Christmas gifts. That’s right, I wanted and received a recycling bin for Christmas a number of years ago! I feel no shame!

recycling audit3

Our bin gets filled up every week or so, depending on what is going on. When it is full, I take it downstairs and dump it into the recycling tote sans bag like you’re supposed to.

Since I basically recycle on autopilot, I wanted to actually pay attention to what is in my recycling bin by taking an audit of what’s inside. 

Below is probably about a week’s worth of recycling. 

recycling audit1

 We have:

  • 1 dishwasher detergent bottle
  • 1 cardboard beer caddy
  • 4 glass bottles
  • 1 aluminum can
  • 2 plastic salad containers
  • 3 cardboard boxes
  • 1 plastic bottle
  • 1 aluminum takeout container
  • 1 milk carton
  • 3 paper bags
  • 1 pile of junk mail, envelopes, newspaper and paper

That’s not too bad. We can definitely do a better job of buying plastic-free lettuce, and we usually get milk in returnable glass bottles. 

Each week is different and I am going to start noticing what goes into my bin more and see where I can make changes.

Up next, a waste audit! Yup, going to go through the garbage. Stay tuned! 

The 5 R’s

Back in the day, it was just the 3 R’s: reduce, reuse, recycle.

3 r's

I know this because I did a science project about it in 6th grade and decorated it with puffy paint.

But since then, 2 new R’s have been added to the spectrum: refuse and rot.

There are other R’s that people add such as repair and repurpose, but I kinda lump those under reuse, so I am going to leave those out for now.

The best way to visualize the 5’s is in an inverted pyramid, with our biggest, most common actions on top, leading down to what we should be doing the least at the very bottom.

So at the top of this inverted pyramid, we have our number one way to avoid waste and that is Refuse. Saying no is the number one way to keep stuff out of the landfill. I talked about this recently in my 10 Most Overlooked Ways to Reduce Waste post. Saying no keeps those items from entering our lives in the first place, be they straws, food packaged in plastic, or freebies. Collectively saying no, and therefore decreasing demand, also can spur change.

After we have refused all the bad stuff (excessive packaging, food that’s grown far away, etc.) it is time to focus on what we do have and use, and then Reduce it. Don’t go out to eat for lunch every day or cut back on buying new clothes.

Now we have a curated list of items that we own and use. Sometimes those items will break, need some fixing or their original purpose becomes unnecessary. This is where Reuse (and repair and repurpose) comes it. Turn that old dresser into a jazzed up TV stand. Unleash your inner DIY goddess.

Now we get into the last resort part of the pyramid. If we cannot Refuse, Reduce, or Reduce something, then the next place it should head is into your compost bin to Rot.

Who knew that many years after middle school I actually would be composting!

Pictures

But plastic is not compostable, so any milk jugs and glass bottles (that you have not already refused and reused) should then be Recycled. Notice that recycling is pretty far down the list.

It definitely is not as far as the very last option of the Landfill, the place where your trash goes on to live forever. I love when trash cans are labeled with “landfill.” It helps you think before you toss that your gum wrapper is going to head to a giant hole in the ground and not to this fantasy land of “away.”

 

What is in a landfill?

Not sure this information is accurate anymore…

 

And that’s the 5 R’s (+ Landfill)! Here is an example of one piece, say a magazine, going through each step of the pyramid.

  • Refuse: You are offered a free magazine subscription that you politely decline
  • Reduce: You still love reading physical magazines (and if you do, that is great! You do you!) so you cut back on how many you subscribe to and get the rest online.
  • Reuse: After reading the magazine, you cut out the pages to decoupage a DIY project or use the pages as padding material for your Christmas ornaments.
  • Rot: When your done with your DIY projects, you add it to your compost pile or bucket
  • Recycle: If you don’t have access to composting, you toss the magazine in the recycling bin.
  • Landfill: If you don’t do any of the above things…

 

Thanks A Bunch

Most of the time it is other people that get in the way of and inhibit living a life with less waste.

BUT there are also the people who encourage you, listen when you are rambling about compost or send you articles they think you’d find interesting.

So in honor of Thanksgiving, I want to thank all those encouragers and listeners in my life.

Thank You.png

Thank you to my Mom for being an avid reader, always liking my Facebook posts, and being interested in what I am writing. I will forgive you for brushing it off every time I tell you that I am going to build you a compost bin in your backyard.

Thank you to my Dad who has contributed to a lot of my DIY  projects when I need help or materials.

Thank you to my Aunt MM who replies to my posts with great enthusiasm about how she is making changes or how she has been using cloth napkins for ages! Also for teaching me about haggling and getting a great deal at garage sales. Some of our recent purchases together are below:

Thank you to my friend Julie for calling me the other day to tell me she was going to purchase non-toxic nail polish and for sending me new blog ideas.

Thank you to my friend Britni and her husband Eric for appeasing me on a ski trip by picking up trash and always holding myself accountable.

Thank you to my friend Nina for starting her own compost bin in her backyard.

Thank you to K’s friends who read the blog specifically to make fun of K for composting. You’re still talking about composting and I call that a win!

A huge thank you to all my other friends, family, and readers who have sent me articles, comments on my posts, shared a story with me or told me how much you like reading my blog.

 

Thank You!!!

 

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?

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!