Celebrate Learn About Composting Day

compost

Do you wish there was an easy way to turn your food scraps into something more sustainable rather than throwing them away? Composting is a fantastic way to save food scraps, yard waste and other organics from going to the landfill while reducing your carbon footprint. The practice of composting helps to:

  • Reduce methane emissions from landfills.
  • Reduce the need for harsh chemicals and pesticides.
  • Create healthy soil for growing food and flowers.

Learn About Composting Day on Friday, May 29th is the perfect opportunity to get your hands a little dirty and find out if composting is right for you. Here are some ways you can get involved:

  • Make Your Own Compost – Start by checking out our composting page which has all the resources you need to get started with home composting today. Looking for more information on composting? YouTube has tons of videos on more types of composting than you can imagine.
  • Talk with Farmers Market Vendors – Get curious about the food you’re eating and ask what practices farms are using on their crops. Many farmers love to talk about the hard work they put into creating delicious and nutritious produce.

Not interested in home composting? You can still make a difference by keeping organics out of the garbage. See everything that can be put in your mixed organic waste.

Tossing Takeout Containers — Garbage, Recycling, or Mixed Organic Waste?

takeout box

Ordering takeout from time to time during the COVID-19 pandemic is a great way to eat your favorite food while supporting local restaurants. You will, however, end up with a few containers that need to be disposed of properly. Here’s a simple guide on how to dispose of each type of takeout container.

Need to dispose of plastic bags, plastic utensils or other items not listed above? Check out our handy Recycling Guide.

Avoid Food Waste, Save Money

banana

With the COVID-19 pandemic closing many of the places we are accustomed to getting our meals, home cooking is having an unexpected moment. More home cooking means more opportunities to reduce food waste — and save money at the same time. According to the USDA, the average American wastes 238 pounds of food per year — 21 percent of the food we buy — costing $1,800 per year. That’s a lot of cheddar! The good news is that most food waste is avoidable.

Check out our food waste page for a variety of tips on how you can eliminate food waste in your household and save money.

Eco-Conscious and Socially Distanced Ideas for Mother’s Day

mother's day card

May 10th offers a chance to show the moms of our lives just how much we appreciate them. Unlike in years past, social distancing is a factor this year. While this adds an extra challenge, it also provides a great opportunity to get creative.

Here are four ideas that are eco-friendly, keep you and your family safe and are sure to make mom smile:

  1. (Face)Time Together – What greater gift than spending quality time together? Since this won’t be possible for most of us this year, try setting up a video call instead. There are a plethora of options for video calls from FaceTime to Google Hangouts — so ask if she has a preference and agree on a time.
  2. Digital Photo Album – Upload a collection of family photos to a digital album or even make a slideshow, then send via email to mom. If you’re already planning on sending a greeting card you could include the photos on a memory card tucked inside.
  3. Greeting Card – Buy a greeting card at the store or make your own at home. Most greeting cards can be easily recycled, and some brands even make recycled-content options – just look on the back of the card to find out. Other eco-friendly options include making a homemade card or sending an eCard. Musical Greeting Cards are not the most eco-friendly option but if you send one remind your mom that they should be recycled as e-waste.
  4. Send a Plant – If you can’t buy flowers due to store closures or are looking for a more sustainable option, consider a potted plant that can be enjoyed for years. Shops on websites such as Etsy have lots of plant and pot options and most are still open because they are operated from home.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there!

The Compounding Effects of Not Recycling

plastic recyclables

With the amount of garbage being generated around the globe every day, not recycling an item such as a soda bottle may not seem like it would make a huge difference. However, every item that doesn’t get recycled has a compounding negative impact on our environment. Here’s how failing to recycle harms the planet:

Landfills Fill Up Faster

When recyclable items are tossed into the garbage instead of the recycling, they eventually end up in landfills. These items take up valuable space that could otherwise be occupied by non-recyclable materials. According to data from Waste Business Journal, American landfills only have about 11-16 years of capacity left. Once our existing landfills reach capacity, new areas will have to be repurposed to create new landfills. These repurposed areas are often rural areas with native vegetation that could otherwise be working to sequester carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. In urban areas, creating new landfills is also difficult, because land is at a premium, and no community wants their new neighbor to be a landfill.

Greenhouse Gases Are Released

Plastic items in the landfill release methane and other harmful greenhouse gases as they break down. These gases trap heat in our atmosphere and lead to the warming of our planet. Recycling prevents this by giving these materials a new life and keeping them out of landfills.

Toxins Can Leach Into Soil and Groundwater

In addition to emitting greenhouse gases, plastics can also leach chemicals into the soil and groundwater as they decompose. The long-term health risks associated with these chemicals are still being determined, but scientists have determined that they can significantly alter hormones in animals and humans.

New Resources Are Required

Creating a new item requires a certain amount of material. When recycling is done right, the materials needed to make that item can be sourced partially or entirely from recycled material. When items are thrown into the garbage, those materials are lost and need to be replaced by new material through mining, drilling or other methods of resource extraction. To give this issue a little perspective, think of how much plastic was probably produced between 1900 and 2000. In the ten years from 2000 to 2010 alone, we produced even more plastic than in the entire previous century. With so much demand for plastic, it’s more important than ever to recycle.

The good news? These effects can be easily avoided through recycling! Use our Recycling Guide to find out how to properly dispose of just about everything. A little extra effort put into recycling correctly will make a big difference for our planet in the long run.

How to Boredom Clean During a Pandemic

spray bottle

Odds are you’ve found yourself with a little extra time at home because of the current global pandemic. This extra time might be inspiring you to clean out areas of your home that you just haven’t had the time to for a while — a phenomenon known as Boredom Cleaning. Here are a few things to consider before cleaning out the attic, reorganizing the garage or clearing out the yard.

Avoid Dropping Off Extra Garbage

Sanitation workers have been hard at work keeping garbage and recycling from piling up throughout this crisis. However, the crisis has put an additional strain on the sanitation system. For both your own safety and the safety of the individuals who are hard at work keeping this essential service going, please wait until stay-at-home orders are lifted before doing a non-essential run to drop off garbage.

Keep Items Inside the Bins

During this time of heightened health precautions, it’s more important than ever that all the items that belong in the bins go only into the bins. Many boredom cleaners are putting extra garbage in bags or piles next to their bins. These loose materials require garbage collectors to touch additional surfaces, exposing them to unnecessary risk.

Store Hazardous Waste and E-Waste for Now, Dispose Later

If you are cleaning out the garage or shed you may be dealing with hazardous waste and e-waste. It’s important that these materials are stored correctly for now, and disposed of correctly after this current health crisis is over. Items such as antifreeze, aerosol cans, batteries, electronics and small appliances are illegal to put in the garbage or pour down the drain. Remember to store fuels, aerosols and any other combustible items out of direct sunlight in a well-ventilated area until stay-at-home orders are lifted, when they can be properly disposed of as hazardous waste.

Upcycle, Recycle or Donate

Consider using your extra downtime to recycle and repurpose items. That old decrepit wheelbarrow could make a cool new planter bed. That empty pickle jar could be transformed into a neat container for nuts, beans or grains. Websites like Instructables and Upcycle That have an abundance of interesting upcycling ideas — the sky is the limit when it comes to repurposing items. Ready to get rid of an item but not sure how to dispose of it? Check out our handy Recycling Guide. Have items in usable condition that you no longer want? Store them in a bag or container until stay-at-home orders have been lifted and thrift stores have re-opened.

“Flushable” Wipes — and Almost Everything Else — Are Not Flushable

bathroom

Here is a simple truth. Sewer systems were designed to handle two things — human waste and toilet paper. Flushing anything else down the toilet can cause big problems for pipes and wastewater treatment facilities.

Wipes — and yes, even those labeled “flushable” — have been enemy number one of sewer systems for years now. With the COVID-19 outbreak, wipes are flying off the shelves. Flushing wipes increases the chances that your own pipes will get blocked, and causes serious problems for the sewer system in general. So no matter what the container says, please do not flush wipes.

The What Not To Flush list is very long… because it’s everything other than human waste and toilet paper! Here are some commonly-flushed items, as a reminder that none of these are actually flushable:

How to Repair a Tear in Leather or Faux Leather

leather bag

Oh no! You’ve got a tear in your favorite leather jacket — or maybe it’s your leather bag. Good news, you might be able to repair it. Watch this quick instructional video to find out how to repair small tears in leather or faux leather.

Lessons From ‘Secondhand: Travels in the New Global Garage Sale’

thrift store

In his new book ‘Secondhand: Travels in the New Global Garage Sale,’ author Adam Minter explores the strange (and big!) world of donated items. From thrift stores in Arizona to used good markets in Ghana, he uncovers the various places where everything we donate ends up.

By following these items across the globe, Minter is taken aback by the sheer volume of goods Americans are buying new, using briefly, and then donating to thrift stores. While donating unwanted goods is an eco-friendly move, buying new, inexpensive, non-durable products is not.

In the spirit of Minter’s book, here are a few ways you can reduce your impact by changing up your purchasing habits.

Want vs. Need

As with nearly everything eco-friendly, less is more. Before you purchase a product, consider if you actually need it or just want it. Often the instant gratification of a purchase wears off quickly, leaving you with less money and more unwanted stuff.

Buy Used

Used products do:

  • Save you money
  • Support the local economy

Used products don’t:

  • Require new resources
  • Generate additional pollution
  • Need energy to be created
  • Have additional packaging

Together, these factors make buying used substantially more eco-friendly than buying new. So the next time you need to buy something, consider checking your local thrift store or online marketplace to see if you can find what you need secondhand.

Buy Durable

Can’t find what you’re looking for secondhand? Consider purchasing a durable, well-made product that will last. Oftentimes, buying a slightly more expensive product that functions better and lasts longer is less expensive — and more eco-friendly — in the long run.

How to Treat Waste Related to COVID-19

cleaning wipes

As you are probably already aware there is a new infectious disease known as COVID-19 going around. This disease is caused by the Novel Coronavirus which was first identified in Wuhan, China and has now spread to over 100 countries including the United States. Here’s what you need to know about disposing of waste from suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Household Waste

Even if you suspect you or someone else in your household may have COVID-19, household waste can still be treated as normal. Remember to wash your hands thoroughly after dealing with any objects you suspect could be contaminated. Household garbage can be set out for collection as normal. There is no need to indicate that your garbage may be contaminated. The Center for Disease Control has advised garbage collectors that no special precautions are necessary when dealing with household waste related to COVID-19.

As a reminder, single-use/anti-bacterial wipes should be disposed of in the trash, and this includes the so-called “flushable” wipes which aren’t actually flushable. Paper towels go in the mixed organic waste, unless they have been used with a non-biodegradable cleaner (in which case they should go in the trash). Please do not put any cleaning wipes, tissues or paper towels in the recycling. The cylindrical plastic cleaning wipes containers can go in the recycling when empty, along with any empty soap or hand sanitizer plastic bottles. Soap boxes, paper towel tubes and other clean paper items can continue to go in the recycling as well.

Business Waste

Similarly to household waste, waste from commercial businesses and retail entities can be managed as usual unless directed otherwise by local health authorities. Remember to wash your hands after dealing with objects you suspect could be contaminated.

Sharps and Medical Waste

The Healthcare Waste Institute recommends using single-use sharps containers for suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients. With that exception, all medical waste suspected to be contaminated with COVID-19 should be handled like other regulated medical waste. COVID-19 is not a Category A infectious substance so it doesn’t require special handling beyond standard medical waste.

How to Remove PPE

In addition to washing your hands, using Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) can help reduce transmission. However, the effectiveness of PPE can be reduced if not removed properly. Here’s how the California Department of Public Health recommends you remove your PPE: “When removing personal protective equipment, first remove and dispose of gloves. Then immediately clean your hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Next, remove and dispose of facemask, and immediately clean your hands again with soap and water or alcohol based hand sanitizer. Place all used gloves, facemasks and other contaminated items in a lined container before disposing of them with other household waste. Clean your hands (with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer) immediately after handling these items.”

As the situation continues to evolve, waste handling measures may change. Be on the lookout for additional information from local health authorities.