One of my responsibilities as a Recycling Ambassador for my city involves conducting “recycling audits” on local schools. These audits aid schools in bettering their recycling practices by pointing out areas of improvement. After auditing schools, I gained a better understanding of what works in encouraging large groups of people (kids and adults) to properly recycle. So use these tips if you are looking to encourage better recycling practices at your office, school, or other community space!
Put trash next to the recycling. Like. RIGHT NEXT TO IT. Don’t stick it 5 feet away. Otherwise, people will just throw things away in whatever is closest/most convenient.
Put trash and recycling cans next to all exits, under sinks, in hallways, and in bathrooms. These are the top locations that people will be looking to pitch items.
Signs, signs everywhere. Preferably with pictures. Make it very clear what items go in each container. You would be surprised to learn how many times I’ve been asked whether paper towels can be recycled. (The answer is no. However, it can be composted!)
Make sure your janitorial staff is aware of the recycling guidelines in your city (i.e. recycling must either be unbagged or bagged in clear bags; glass and paper should be recycled separately, etc.). Put up guidelines (with pictures) in any cleaning closets. Ensure that trash and recycling are ending up in the correct outdoor dumpsters.
Finally — educate those around you. Tell people WHY they should recycle. Find out what would incentivize them to recycle more. Teach them about better recycling practices.
Last year was a great zero waste/low waste/eco-friendly year for me. I started this blog, reduced our household trash production by A LOT, and became a Recycling Ambassador with my city. But we (I) can always do better so here are some goals/resolutions/whatever you want to call it for the coming year. And, also, comment and tell me what your green goals are for this year!
Find a facial bar soap I like. Makeup and skincare products are my “luxury items” — and while I try to buy in glass as much as possible, and recycle everything else with TerraCycle/Origins/L’Occitane… I can do better. So my goal this year is to go totally zero waste when it comes to face wash. I’m thinking this or this.
Re-start my “buy no new clothes” resolution from last year. Last year, I went 10 months (after initially shooting for one month, then three) without buying any new clothing items (except underwear). And by “no new” — I mean, every clothing item I buy must be thrifted (whether at a physical store or from eBay/Poshmark/ThredUp). I’m hoping to go at least 6 months this year.
Save excess shower/bath water, pasta water, tea pot water, etc. in a bucket to use to water plants during the summer. It gets incredibly hot here in Dallas during the summer and my roses drink a lot of water during this time. So I’m going to make an effort to save water that would otherwise go down the drain at home to water the outdoor plants.
Repair clothes before replacing them. Darn socks with holes in them. De-pill sweaters, leggings, and t-shirts. Remove stains ASAP.
Brown paper packages tied up with strings… these are a few of my favorite things!
Happy Hanukkah! Merry Christmas! Happy gift giving! So you picked out the perfect, thoughtful, mindful, gift — now what? I, like many others, love seeing beautifully wrapped presents under the Christmas tree. I also love watching the joy on people’s faces as they slowly (or not so slowly) unwrap their gifts. So how can we present beautiful gifts without producing waste that goes to the landfill? Here are your options!
The Bad First off — check to make sure your local recycling facility accepts wrapping paper. Most do with some caveats. If your wrapping paper has metallic accents or glitter, it is NOT recyclable. Also, bows, ribbons, tinsel, most tape, etc. are all trash. Basically, avoid getting super “extra” wrapping paper, sticking it together with shiny tape, and then putting bows and other things on it.
The Good As mentioned above, wrapping paper can be recycled if it doesn’t have metallic accents or glitter. So if you want to use wrapping paper, pick the simpler options at the store and recycle post-gift giving. The same goes for paper gift bags without any additional frills. The upside with plain gift bags is that they can be reused multiple times before being recycled.
The Better If you’re going the wrapping paper route, you can do one better and use compostable kraft paper or eco-friendly gift wrap (like this one or this). Make sure to wrap with washi tape, kraft tape, or 100% cotton twine.
The Best I always think the best option is what you already have. So if you have wrapping paper, old gift bags, beautiful shopping bags from Anthropologie, etc. — use those up first. However, if you are starting from scratch, there are some great zero waste wrapping options. Furoshiki (Japanese wrapping cloth), cloth produce bags, and mason jars are all useful and reusable. Add a little something extra with a small pine tree branch or beautiful leaves or acorns tied with twine.
First off, what is a zero waste car kit? Basically — it’s the collection of items you always have stored in your car that’ll help reduce your waste while you are out and about in the world. This includes items needed for grocery shopping, coffee buying, eating out, etc. I love having a car kit because it keeps me from forgetting anything at home and I’m always prepared for any scenario.
So what’s in my kit? And how do you create your own? Gather the following:
1. A cardboard box. I use this to corral all my items together in my trunk so things don’t roll around all over the place. Use whatever you have — a canvas bag, an Amazon box, a reusable shopping bag.
3. Mason jars (I recommend the 16 oz. size). These come in handy for multiple scenarios. You can use them when buying bulk at the grocery store or farmer’s market. Or if you’re craving a frappuccino from Starbucks and your reusable coffee cup won’t hold all the delicious whipped cream. Or you just need some water from the park water fountain. I’ve even gotten a soda in mine from a fast food joint where the only option was the throwaway cup. If you don’t have mason jars, use clean glass pasta sauce or condiment jars.
4. Eating out items. I have an old fork/spoon and reusable straw wrapped in a cloth napkin ready to go if I’m someplace with only plastic options. I also keep a reusable coffee cup for any on the go hot beverage purchases.
5. Take out container. I have an old lunch box (that was meant to hold a sandwich + 2 “sides”) that I keep in the car for when I need to take home leftovers from a restaurant. Did I feel a little self conscious the first time I shoved enchiladas and leftover rice + beans in my little box from home? Sure. Worth it? Yep. This is a good use for any leftover plastic tupperware containers you have in the house.
And that’s it. Put together whatever you already have at home in a little “kit” and you won’t be caught off guard when out in a world that hasn’t 100% caught on to reducing waste just yet.
I love TerraCycle’s free recycling programs. It allows me to recycle items that otherwise would end up in the landfill. This doesn’t mean that I purposely pick a packaged item over a bulk one in order to TerraCycle it BUT it is exceedingly useful for those items that I don’t have much of an alternative for. TerraCycle also has paid programs (where you pay for a box to fill up with various items and then ship back to them to recycle) but I’ve had great experiences with the free programs. Some programs do have a waitlist but I’ve gotten into most within a few months. So how does it work? Browse the programs and sign up for the ones that interest you. Collect items to recycle, put everything in an old cardboard box, print a pre-paid shipping label from the TerraCycle site, and drop off at UPS! That’s it. And it’s all free. So here are my favorite programs that I’m currently a part of:
Note: Some of these programs accept packaging only of a certain brand while others accept all brands so definitely read through the accepted items list for each program. In addition, while most programs involve shipping, there are a handful that involve dropping off your recycling at a specific retail location.
Wellness Pet Food Recycling Program: This was a happy coincidence since my dogs eat Holistic Select food (part of the Wellness brand) so I am able to recycle the plastic dog food bags we get.
Burt’s Bees Recycle on Us: I don’t really get a lot of Burt’s Bees products these days, however, I do have some old items from my pre-minimal-waste days. Once these are used up, I’ll send them via this program!
Malt-O-Meal Cereal Bag Recycling Program: While we don’t get bagged cereal, we do get the boxes. I save the plastic cereal bag liners to recycle through this program. This program accepts all brands of cereal bags.
Colgate Oral Care Recycling Program: I recycle toothpaste tubes and caps, toothbrushes, toothbrush outer packaging, and floss containers of all brands through this program (great for all those oral care items I’ve accrued from my dentist over the years).
Snack Bag Recycling Program: Chips, cookies, candy snack bags of all brands get shipped via this program. Great if you have kids who eat those little snack sized chip bags.
Subaru Recycling Program: We have a Subaru so this is particularly easy since we can recycle whenever we’re at the dealership for an oil change. But Subaru retailers now have TerraCycle boxes to recycle all disposable cups and lids, candy and snack wrappers, and coffee, tea, and creamer capsules. I don’t use capsules but I do save any candy/snack wrappers and cups/lids that come my way in order to recycle at the dealership.
L’Occitane Recycling Program: This is a new one that I haven’t used yet. But I am super excited by it! It appears you can take all skincare and makeup packaging of any brand to your local L’Occitane store for recycling. Has anyone done this yet? Let me know!
And finally, some eco-friendly tips for TerraCycling:
– Ship as much as possible at once. For example, don’t ship one toothpaste container at a time. Collect everything in a box and ship once or twice a year. Or, collect items to recycle from friends and family to bulk up more frequent shipments.
– Save old boxes and packaging to ship everything. Amazon boxes are great for this.
– Make sure everything you ship is clean, dry, and empty as not to contaminate the rest of the shipment.