Zero Waste Dallas-Area Resources

I will keep this list updated as I explore and learn more. Please let me know if you’ve found any other places that aid in a zero waste lifestyle!

Bulk Buying

  • Central Market: Buy fruits, veggies, mushrooms, (sometimes salad greens depending on the location), bulk flour, sugar, spices, nuts, granola, oats, candy, chocolate, tea, coffee, fresh bread all with your own bags. They do have bulk honey and nut butters as well — but I haven’t tried buying these with my own jar as I don’t know whether the cashiers can handle the whole tare process. I have brought my own jar for hummus in the olive bar section and used the scale there to tare + print my checkout label (which was a bit of a pain as it took a while to figure out). Unfortunately, they don’t have the same scale in the bulk section. Overall though, Central Market is the bulk winner based off of the sheer amount of items available in the bulk section.
  • Whole Foods: Buy fruits, veggies, mushrooms, (sometimes salad greens depending on the location), bulk flour, sugar, spices, nuts, granola, oats, candy, chocolate, tea, coffee all with your own bags. They also have bulk honey and nut butters as well. However — I have heard that it is very hit or miss as to whether they let you bring your own jars.
  • Sprouts: Buy fruits, veggies, some bulk flour, sugar, spices, nuts, granola, candy, chocolate with your own bags. Much smaller selection than Central Market but really good prices. I’ve noticed that they frequently have pre-measured bulk items available to buy in plastic containers (nut butters, candy, etc.) — which kind of defeats the purpose of buying bulk.
  • Market Street: This one was a bit of a surprise. My husband wandered in to the Market Street in Allen (Watters Creek) and noticed they had honey and canola oil in bulk. He asked the store manager whether they could handle us bringing our own jars and she said yes! We haven’t had to utilize this yet (since I stocked up on liquid bulk items at the AMAZING in.gredients store in Austin — highly recommend if you are driving through!) but will report back on if this works out.
  • Dallas Farmers Market (or any farmers markets in the area): Fruits and veggies. Especially a good way to get berries that aren’t packaged in plastic (more on that next).

Pick Your Own Farms

  • Berries. My husband loves them. I hate that they are always pre-packaged. Enter the pick your own farms. The winner here is Blueberry Hills Farm for amazing blueberries and blackberries. Last year, we picked 2 massive bags of blueberries (yes, they ultimately put them in a big old freezer bag, but I prefer that once a year to weekly plastic cartons). I used one bag to make jams and stuck the other bag in the freezer. We’re finally running out a year later but will be back to pick some more this June. There’s a new strawberry picking farm opening this year which I will check out and report back on!

Recycling

  • Recycle Revolution Dallas: Come here to recycle all traditional materials and electronics waste for free (if your city doesn’t have these services). They also take styrofoam for a fee — although, I would avoid styrofoam as much as possible.

Composting

  • Recycle Revolution Dallas: For a $1/gallon — drop off “fruits and vegetables (i.e. produce), meats, dairy, grains and carbohydrates, sweets, powders, compostable utensils and to-go bags.” A great option if you aren’t able to compost at home. For reference, I fill our 5 gallon bucket to the brim in 4-6 weeks.

Chemicals

  • Household Chemical Reuse Center (Plano and Allen residents only): Unused/unfinished chemicals (cleaning, yard, pest control, paint) that are picked up by the city are available for reuse at this center. And it’s completely free! I find it wonderful for spray paint and ant killer.

Electronics

  • United Electronics Recycling: I visited this facility and was amazed by the sheer amount of electronics they process. I also love that they have zero landfill initiative. If an item has a plug or has used batteries — it’s eligible to recycle. They also take all types of batteries (not just rechargeable ones). In Plano, they have a weekly e-recycling drop off but also do one off events across the Dallas-area.

Miscellaneous

  • SCRAP Denton: Great for all those random items (mostly craft related supplies). SCRAP Denton takes different items at different times of the year so check their website periodically for updates. However, I have usually found that I was able to get rid of a lot of these items through FreeCycle. However, a great resource for those closer to Denton.

Waste Not!: Veggie Scrap Edition

Making your own vegetable stock is so, so simple (I mean, it’s not even a recipe really) AND you get to utilize scraps before they are ultimately thrown in the compost AND you get to avoid buying a box of stock that would get thrown in to recycling. It’s a win all around. So let’s get started.

First, you want to collect some vegetable scraps. I have a tin in the freezer that I throw scraps in to — when the tin is full, I use it to make stock. Good veggies for stock are carrots, celery, onions, mushrooms, bell peppers,  leeks — basically, hardy vegetables that aren’t too bitter or starchy (so avoid potatoes, cabbage, too many leafy greens).

Throw the veggies in a pot, cover with water, and bring close to a boil. Then reduce the heat to medium-low and let simmer for an hour (I left the pot uncovered during this time).

Note: I had just cut up a roast chicken before I made this so I threw in the bones/remains as well for some extra flavor.

After an hour, I took the pot off the stove and strained the veggies and chicken out with a mesh strainer. My yield was about 40 oz. I separated out the broth into 3 containers and stuck them in the freezer. Whenever I’m ready to use my broth, I’ll thaw it out and we’ll be good to go!

Our “Luxury Item” List

Nope — I don’t mean La Mer cream or gold toilets. Our “luxury items” are those items that are housed in plastic (particularly #7, which our city takes but doesn’t really have a market to sell those plastics to) or end up in the landfill. But for now — these items are what we have, love, or haven’t found suitable recyclable or zero waste alternatives for.

  • Sonicare brush heads (landfill): Can’t quit these! They keep my teeth in great condition and I’m not willing to switch over the bamboo toothbrushes yet. Maybe someone can make bamboo brush heads or something for Sonicares?
  • Makeup products (landfill or Origins): I love makeup and skincare. And I’m not giving them up anytime soon. But unfortunately, a lot of these containers are mixed materials. My only option for my empties is taking them to Origins with the Return to Origins program. Better than the landfill, right? This still isn’t ideal for me and I would love to move towards getting products with compostable or reusable packaging. Any favorite brands?
  • Dog food bags (landfill): My dogs have to eat. And they both require their own special foods for various reasons. This isn’t even a luxury item. It’s just a real life necessity. And that’s totally okay.
  • Frozen fruits/veggies bags (landfill): I’ve been cutting back on these but every once in a while, I just need some frozen peas! I guess I could shell my own peas and freeze them but, I’m sorry, I don’t have time for all that! I wish these bags were more eco-friendly. If anyone has any recommendations, let me know!
  • Styrofoam take out containers (landfill): Although a lot of these have that little #6 on the bottom, nope, they are seldom recyclable curbside (and if they are in your location, there isn’t much market to actually recycle them). You can find a list of places near you that might take these here but even in a big city like Dallas, there are only 1 or 2 locations. But I still love me some takeout. And I haven’t yet grown the balls to take my own container to my favorite Tex-Mex place and ask them to fill it (since I strongly doubt they would due to “sanitary” reasons or whatever). I have been good about not taking my leftovers home in restaurant takeout containers but for the occasional pick up, yep, we still get a small handful of these every month.

The “Does This Go in the Trash?” List

I have the below list on our fridge (mainly for my husband) so I don’t have to constantly answer the question: does this go in the trash? Feel free to use it for yourself!

Save for compost pile (browns)
Newspaper ripped into pieces
Hair + pet hair
Vacuum and dryer dust
Toilet paper rolls ripped into pieces
Cotton q-tips
Facial tissue (on the rare occasion it’s used)
Paper towels (on the rare occasion it’s used)
Parchment paper ripped into pieces (incl. cupcake liners, butter wrappers)
Used matches, toothpicks, skewers
Bamboo cleaning supplies
Biodegradable sponges
Dead flowers/plants
Pizza boxes ripped into pieces (recycle non-oily top)
Paper egg carton ripped into pieces
Wine corks

Bokashi for compost pile (greens)
ALL food scraps (incl. small bones, dairy, eggs, meat, tea leaves, leftovers, baked goods)

Recycle
Newspaper bags, grocery/produce bags (on the rare occasion it’s used), cereal liners, bread bags, dry cleaning bags (put it all in one bag and drop off at Target)
1-7 plastics (no styrofoam, pumps with metal in them)
Glass (take off metal caps and put in metal scraps tin, recycle plastic caps separately)
Paper and cardboard

Add to specialty recycling receptacles
Small metal scraps (nails, safety razor blades, bottle caps) in tin (recycle regularly when full)
Electronics and old batteries for city’s electronics recycling
Toothpaste and floss tubes for recycling by TerraCycle’s Colgate Recycling Program
Beauty/skincare/makeup/hair empties in box to go to Returns to Origins Program
Packaging material for re-use
Fabric that cannot be donated for recycling by city

Landfill (booooo!)
Snack bags
Trash bags
Aluminum foil
Plastic wrap
Wax paper
Tape
Metallic paper
Hygiene items

The Where to Donate Guide

We all have bits and bobs floating around the house — most are things that go unused because a. we have no need for it b. we have too many of the item c. we don’t like/use it anymore but hold on to it because we don’t want to throw our hard earned money in to the trash. While some of these items may end up in the landfill, most can be donated somewhere it will be given a second life. Yes — your local Goodwill or Salvation Army will take a large chunk of your donations. However, recently I’ve been working on “spreading out” my donations to other organizations that might only collect very specific items. I feel that donating this way allows my donations to go where they might be utilized faster, instead of wasting away on a dusty Goodwill shelf.

Clothing and Shoes

Good options for donating clothing (besides Goodwill) are local shelters and Dress for Success. For shoes (that are still wearable), I like donating to Zappos’ Soles 4 Souls (they also take clothing). Zappos will provide you with a pre-paid shipping label — just attach it to a box, fill with shoes, and send away! If your athletic shoes are beyond repair, donate to Nike Reuse-a-Shoe — just drop your shoes off at one of their stores and it will be recycled in to Nike Grind material (to make athletic surfaces).

Old, ratty bras can be donated here, here, or here.

* However, if an item is pricier or mostly new — I will try to sell it on Poshmark, ThredUp, or Ebay. I’ve read that many people have also had luck selling these items directly on Instagram.

Unused or Gently Used Beauty Products

This is definitely where I am guilty. I love beauty products/skincare — and will frequently move on to a new product before finishing up the old one. Or trying samples, not loving it, and still keeping it around (I’m working on it!). Recently, I found Project Beauty Share in Spokane, WA. They are one of the few places I have found that take not only new but gently used beauty products (that can be sanitized). And you can ship to them! The products go to “women and families overcoming abuse, addiction, homelessness and poverty.” I packed up a small box with products and shipped it to them for just a few bucks. Definitely worth it. If you have completely unused products, your local womens’ shelters usually take these items as well.

* Fancy, barely used beauty products can also be sold on Poshmark.

New or Gently Used Pet Supplies

Take these to your local animal shelter!

Old Towels

Again — the local animal shelter!

Arts and Crafts Supplies

I usually never donate these supplies to Goodwill because I don’t think too many people are going there in search of a half used tube of acrylic paint or a sad spool of yarn. Instead, search for local organizations that take old art supplies (or even ask any teacher friends if their school is in need of any of these items). In North Texas, I found Scrap Denton and a preliminary search in Houston led me to the Texas Art Asylum (they really seem to take EVERYTHING!). I’m sure most major cities have some place to donate all the random craft and hobby supplies people tend to accumulate over the years.

Pens + Other Writing Utensils

We all have that random stash of pens collected from hotels, company events, the dentist, etc. (We really need to stop accepting these things that will ultimately end up sitting at the bottom of a drawer.) I send all my extra/old/broken pens, markers, crayons, etc. to Pen Guy Art and only keep a small handful of writing utensils that I like and use. This only cost me a few bucks and I know the pens will be used in a unique way.

Old Magazines, Books, DVDs

Try your local library before resorting to Goodwill.

* I don’t buy many books these days as I tend to get everything from the library. However, when we paired down our book collection, most were sold to our local Half Price Books.

Old Eyewear

Donate to the Lions Recycle for Sight program. I have also seen drop off boxes for old eyewear at local eyewear stores.

Unused Canned and Boxed Foods

Your local food pantry. One that I volunteered at took items that were expired up to 1 year (depending on the type of item). Check with your local pantry for their guidelines.

Home Goods and Tchotchkes 

I haven’t found a great place to donate these besides Goodwill. Freecycle is another option to give away miscellaneous items to people in your own community. I’ve seen the most random items on here and they generally get claimed really quickly. (I once donated old candle wax that I was about to toss to a father whose daughters were working on some project that needed wax. Random but I’m glad the wax went to a good home instead of the landfill.) Give it a try if you are at a loss for where to donate an item.

 

What are some other items you have trouble donating? Have you found any other resources to donate the random items in your life?