Below is a continuation from a previous blog from July’s City Club event Talkin Trash. More questions from you: answered! Denise and I tag-teamed these again. Do you have more questions? We love them — send them our way.

Are reusable bags better/more sustainable than paper? How cost-effective?!

Yes, reusable bags are better than paper bags. Paper bags actually require more energy than plastic to be made (and also contribute to deforestation in places) and do cost stores more than plastic. Plastic bags are made from a petroleum byproduct, but as we know they last forever in the environment. The benefit of paper bags here is that they break down eventually or are easily recycled. Paper bags have a bigger “upstream impact” and plastic bags have a bigger “downstream” impact.

The answer is to use the reusable bags you already have, and if you don’t already have some, every thrift store has some, so no need for new ones. I am personally disappointed that the 10 cent fee is going away because in the short week I saw it implemented at stores I witnessed many people carry out their groceries or put them back in their cart for unloading into their car. Meaning, 10 cents was actually enough to change behavior.   -denise

What happens to the stuff in the recycling that’s not supposed to be there?

All of our curbside comingled recycling gets bundled up into 2,000-pound bales at a facility across the street from 10 barrel. From there it gets sent to a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) where it gets cut apart and placed on the floor of a giant warehouse. It then gets sorted both by machines and by hand depending on the material. If the bales are too contaminated with trash, they can end up in the landfill. If it is minor contamination, it may still get through. However, the comingled recycling in the United States has been so contaminated that the overseas markets that used to take it now refuse. Because our recycling was so contaminated with stuff that wasn’t supposed to be there, much of those bales ended up in overseas landfills or, worse, in the ocean. The trash that is picked out by hand by people at the MRF gets sent to a local Oregon landfill. -Ani

What is the status of recycling economics in Deschutes County, i.e. can we sell our recycling to be cost-effective?

The global recycling markets continue to be volatile and changing.  There is currently a cost to recycle the materials listed on your recycling guide. It is important for our residents to Recycle Right and only include the materials that are listed on the recycling guide to help keep contamination at a minimum.  The commingle material is baled in Bend and shipped to a Material Recovery Facility (MRF’s), where the material is sorted and sent to market.  Any trash or other material that is not included in the recycling program will be disposed of.  -Ani

What percentage of the items put in [curbside] recycling containers end up being thrown out because they are not in fact recyclable?

The Oregon DEQ last did a recycling composition /contamination report in 2009 / 2010 and it indicated about 9%-10% of incoming commingled materials were contaminants and not supposed to be set out for recycling as part of the commingled recycling mix. -Ani

China is no longer buying recycling. Where is ours going?

All of our curbside comingled recycling gets bundled up into 2,000-pound bales at a facility across the street from 10 barrel. From there it gets sent to a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) in Portland where it gets cut apart and placed on the floor of a giant warehouse. It then gets sorted by both machine and re-baled into like materials and sold as commodities. As far as we have learned, Deschutes County’s recycling is actually getting recycled. Below is a list we received from the MRF where our recycling currently goes, although they wouldn’t disclose any company names to protect their clients and the competitive market. This is all the information they were currently able to give:

All Plastics – most stay domestic going different places within the US but some goes to Canada

Cardboard – stays domestic and goes to 4 different mills on the West Coast.

Mixed paper
– this includes office paper, catalogs, newsprint, junk mail, paperboard, and all paper other than cardboard — goes to other countries including Korea, India, and Indonesia. It is made into recycled paper rolls and also lightweight box board.

Glass – when recycled curbside gets sent to a company in Portland called Glass-to-Glass. There, the crushed and comingled bits of glass get sorted by color using an optical machine that tests for clarity! It’s amazing. Then most of the sorted glass gets sold down the street to Owens-Illinois where the glass is melted and made into new bottles.

Early last month I had the absolute pleasure of heading north to Seattle and spending 4 days on an incredible floating classroom called the Schooner Adventuress. I was invited back after 6 years of absence to participate in a particularly dear-to-my-heart program called Girls at the Helm. Onboard were:

  • 18 girl participants between 7th and 12th grades
  • 13 adult self-identified lady crew members
  • 5 self-identified lady mentors who have careers in STEM fields: science, technology, engineering, and mathematics

This yearly trip is an opportunity to demonstrate to girls that women are capable, strong, and intelligent leaders in areas typically dominated by men. Studies show girls are more likely to pursue any particular career if they see a woman in that position. With a female captain, female engineer, female mate, and an all-female crew on board, we hope to inspire those girls to reach for their dreams.

One of the mentors was Dr. Julie Masura who studies the presence and abundance of microplastics in marine surface water, bed sediments, and beach sands. She is a Senior Lecturer and Research Scientist at the University of Washington Tacoma. Julie brought a special surface towing net to collect marine debris with the girls and look at what is in the waters of Puget Sound. My experience onboard as well as my time with Julie is what prompted this post.

This is a HUGE and overwhelming topic.

My full-time job is to educate people about waste reduction, upstream and downstream impacts of consumption, and how to recycle correctly. I spend a lot of time reading and digesting related topics. Plastic has been the toughest for two main reasons. First, because of its current status (or lack of status) in the recycling market. And second, due to the attention it has received because of its impacts (especially from single-use) on climate change and sea life. There are a lot of opinions to dig through and there’s an excruciatingly large amount of information to understand. So I’m going to share with you what I have learned, even if it is just the tip of the iceberg.

Ani Kasch peering at microplastics from Puget Sound

Me peering at microplastics from pulled out of Puget Sound.

What is plastic and how is it made?

Most plastics in use today are made from petroleum; either from crude oil or natural gas. Here is a quick step by step of how it’s made taken directly from this National Geographic video.

  1. Extraction: Fossil fuels — either natural gas or crude oil — are extracted from the ground.
  2. Refinement: Fossil fuels are made into products: ethane from crude oil and propane from natural gas.
  3. Cracking: Products are broken down into smaller molecules — ethane into ethylene, propane into propylene.
  4. Polymerization: A catalyst is added to the cracked product that links molecules together to form polymers (long flexible chains of chemical compounds) called resins. This state allows the plastic to be easily molded and stretched into useful shapes. Ethylene becomes polyethylene, propylene becomes polypropylene. 
  5. Final Product: At that point, the resins are melted and broken up into pellets that are then sold to manufacturers.

5 quick facts about plastic. 

  • Plastic can usually be recycled only once or twice because the polymers degrade, get shorter, and therefore become weaker during the recycling process.
  • Not all plastic can be recycled! In your Deschutes County curbside bin, it’s bottles tubs and jugs. Not sure? Throw it in the trash or ask [email protected]!
  • The chasing arrows symbol you see on plastic does not mean that plastic is recyclable. The number inside the arrows tells you what types of chemicals are used to make the plastic — it is the resin identification code.
  • Paper coffee cups are lined with polyethylene (plastic), which is why they aren’t recyclable in our curbside bin.
  • People in the US throw away 50 billion single-use coffee cups per year. #BringYourOwnCup

Ok, so what are microplastics, and why does Julie study them?

According to Julie, “microplastics are any polymer with a long diameter < 5mm” — so basically, tiny bits of plastic. She characterizes other sizes in her studies, but that is the broad definition. Microplastics have become ubiquitous in our environment. Julie believes it is very important to understand how common microplastics are, where they end up, and how they impact our environment and ourselves. 

Where do microplastics come from?

As any plastic gets used, reused, and recycled, its polymers start to break down into those little microplastic bits that end up in our environment–locally, regionally, and globally. Some microplastics are big enough to be seen with the naked eye, but others are microscopic. Here are a couple of examples:

  1. Plastic bags can easily blow away and end up in a bush whose branches tear it to pieces that end up in the river.
  2. Washing and wearing synthetic clothing releases microfibers, a type of microplastic, into the water. Think of our yoga pants, fleece mid-layers, and latex bike shorts for example. Check out this incredible (albeit slightly disheartening) video from The Story of Stuff Project showing how it happens.
  3. The process of turning old plastic bottles into those synthetic fabrics has a byproduct of microplastic bits. Check out this amazing video from the insides of several factories showing how a solid piece of plastic is made into a soft fluffy fleece jacket!
  4. Microplastics are often in your cleaning products in the form of microbeads.

What did you find in the net on Adventuress?

The net that Julie brought on board is designed to float on the surface of the water using hollow wings. Thus the contraption has earned the name “Manta Net” after the large marine ray. As the boat Adventuress sails through the water, the net is towed behind collecting any marine debris in its path. All of the following photos were taken by (and are used with permission of) Girls at the Helm founder Elizabeth T. Becker. Check out her amazing work at www.seaportphotography.com.

After the net is hauled in, a hose is used to rinse all the debris down to a bottle at the tip of the net called the “cod end”. Next, all the contents of the net are poured into a pan for examination.

The participants got to look through everything we pulled up. There was a fair amount of seaweed, plankton, and fish along with a surprising amount of plastic. Although sometimes hard to see, it is there when you look closely. It made me think: how much plastic do I inadvertently swallow? And how is it affecting me?

  • Am I ingesting plastic while swimming in salt or freshwater?
  • How about while showering at home?
  • While eating fish that ate the plastic?
  • Or is the stuff in bathroom products I use regularly — even when the label says it’s safe?

Yikes. There is concern about the negative effects of plastics on human health due to the chemicals and toxicity in them. Here is an article from the Oregon Environmental Council where you can learn more.

Um, Ani? We live in the desert. We don’t have an ocean anywhere around. 

Here’s a quick geography lesson. Do you know the Deschutes River, the one that flows through Bend? That flows north and into the Columbia River. And the Columbia River flows westward, collects all the water from the Willamette River near Portland, and continues past Astoria to the ocean. That is to say, anything that ends up in our river could easily end up in the ocean. Up to 700,000 fibers per load of laundry go into the greywater that goes into the wastewater treatment plant. Whew.

OPB recently put out a story about microplastics in Oregon’s rivers. Here are their results:

From “Hunt For Answers Shows Oregon Rivers Not Immune To Microplastic Pollution” by Jes Burns and Cassandra Profita, OPB. Notice what happens after the Deschutes passes through Bend. (Click on image for link to article)

I asked Julie whether she thinks our actions here in Bend — hundreds of miles from a coastline — have any impact on her studies and what happens in the sea. “Most definitely!” she replied. “Reducing waste will lessen the chance of material being transferred into the environment.  Each time waste is moved, there is a percentage of material that falls onto the ground, washes into a stream, is caught by a wind current.  Also, if every citizen uses less, the demand decreases and reduces the impacts in all municipalities including coastal states.”

Ok, now what?

Everything on earth is connected in one way or another. So here are a couple of waste reduction tips for you in regards to microplastics and our environment:

  • Put a filter on your washing machine: The Cora Ball collects microfibers while in the washing machine, or the Lint LUV-R strains water that comes out of the washing machine.
  • Bring your own cup, water bottle, utensils, and to-go containers!
  • If you buy and use synthetic clothing, only wash it when you actually need to wash it.
  • When buying home cleaning, self-cleaning, dog cleaning, any cleaning product, look at the ingredients and know what you’re buying. Does it contain plastics? If so, maybe you can find an alternative.
  • Avoid buying things with unnecessary plastic packaging.
  • Refuse freebies, handouts, and single-use stuff. I’m talking about cheap sunglasses, straws, and plastic swag.
  • Do you need to buy it, whatever it is, in the first place?
In closing, Julie reminded me that even “the actions in the desert can transfer to all communities.” She says reminds us that it is important not to use too much and that we should all practice good waste hygiene. Thanks, Julie. That’s good advice.
What do you think?
You can’t see all the things down in the water when you’re standing on the deck. Learn more about Adventuress and her programs at www.soundexp.org.

In the middle of July, the Rethink Waste Project was invited to come present at the monthly City Club Forum. Our own Denise Rowcroft did an amazing job talking all about waste reduction, recycling correctly, and the impacts that our consumption has on the earth. She spoke alongside Timm Schimke, Deschutes County’s Director of Solid Waste, who spoke about the short future of Knott’s Landfill, which is projected to be full by 2029. He also touched on options for where our trash will go once Knott is full.

Have you ever been to a City Club meeting? After the speakers present, there is an allotted time for audience questions. After the forum, we received a list of all audience questions that didn’t have time to be answered. There are some really great questions in the list, so we decided to share some with you here. Since there were so many, look for future posts with more questions answered!

I really appreciate the work of the Rethink Waste Project. How will you continue to reach all the new people moving to Bend? 

Thanks!  We realize that visitors to our area (and new residents) bring knowledge and behavior from wherever they come. Maybe their home city accepts much more items in its recycling bins than we do. This totally contaminates our local stream. Or they may come from a rural area that doesn’t have any recycling in place at all, so they put recyclable items in the trash. And sometimes it is just hard to do the right thing in a new community if you are given no information, tools, or motivation to do it. Vacation brain, anyone?

Realizing there is work to be done in this area, this past spring we brought together a couple of focus groups gathering two dozen people from across the tourism sector. Lodging, recreation, retail, travel, resorts and breweries were represented to get input on ways that we could reach visitors. We also spoke with other communities to learn about what is happening (or not happening) in similar communities that experience tourism. We are currently compiling this information to come up with a recommended action plan that specifically address these concerns. If you are tapped into this sector in any way (vacation rentals, for example) please reach out to us! -denise

Could you please tell us more about the program starting this fall that allows food waste in the yard debris bins? 

Currently, anyone in Bend city limits can opt in for yard debris service. This cart is picked up every other week on glass recycling week, and can currently accept leaves, grass clipping, branches, weeds, coffee grounds, plus raw fruit and vegetable kitchen scraps (like you would put in a backyard composting bin). {Here’s a link to what they currently accept: https://bendgarbage.com/residential-yard-debris-service/ }

Beginning later this year (official date TBD) all residents in city limits that opt in to this yard debris pick up service will be able to put ALL food waste in their bins for composting (including anything that’s left on the plate, including meat, breads, oily foods that you wouldn’t put in a home bin.)  This is really exciting as it will greatly help us reduce the organics heading to the landfill. However, just because you can compost it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t also be working to avoid wasted food in the first place. Get tips on that here: http://www.RethinkWasteProject.org/FoodWaste/ -denise

Please educate me: is kitty litter “yard waste” or regular garbage waste? 

Kitty litter is garbage waste. And although dogs are different species than your question addresses, here is a great article from The Source Weekly about dog poop. -Ani

What sites are being considered within the county for potential landfill locations? 

The county has not disclosed any information abount specific sites at this time. -Ani

Are there tool (lending) libraries in Bend?

Although there are currently no specific lending libraries in Bend, there are places that rent tools. But even better than renting tools, have you heard of the DIYcave? If you’ve never heard of this unique and inspiring maker’s space, go check it out. They offer membership as well as classes with an incredible array of woodworking, metalworking, welding tools — and more.

Another great option is to create a sharing space amongst your friends and neighbors. You can start an excel google doc where people can list what they have to borrow. You can have columns with whatever rules or restrictions you want with a check out column. This can allow your friends to try out tools or appliances they might not have without having to buy one. A few examples of what I have borrowed from some of my friends? A cider press, a pasta maker, a multimeter, a circular saw, a wetsuit. Some things I have lent out to my friends: a food dehydrator, a food processor, a bicycle pannier, a bicycle trailer. -Ani

How do you view Amazon as a company as it relates to over-consumption, purchasing of “stuff” in this day and age?

I think I’m one of the Amazon holdouts.  Once you sign up for free 2 day shipping, not choosing that becomes so much more of a hassle. Why take the time to go downtown and look to see if they have the book you want in stock, when you can have it shipped right to your door?! It definitely has some benefits for our society. For example, people in rural communities now have equal access to getting what they need and getting it delivered. Also, the reviews can be super helpful in learning about the quality of the product. It is a fact that most products are actually engineered for “planned obsolescence” and break in 6 months or less.

But the impacts of online shopping can’t be ignored. The carbon footprint of the item’s traveling distance to obscene amounts of packaging has enormous downstream effects. And the widespread, increased consumption that online shopping promotes has many unseen upstream impacts. Plus, Amazon is so full of cheap stuff that it distorts what we think things should cost. Often that cheap stuff just becomes instant garbage.

I choose to shop used first for most things, then brick and mortar – both big box and local businesses. And I shop online when I can’t find something in town. If I am buying a gift for someone out of town, it wont be on time if I have to ship it myself, so online shopping it is! OK, off my soapbox now. -denise

Have you ever been to one of our Repair Cafes? With 5-6 per year, these free events connect people with broken stuff to people who like to fix stuff. If you haven’t been, you should really check one out. Even if you don’t have anything that needs fixing — it’s a fun and community driven event that is inspiring every time. The whole thing exists because of our AMAZING volunteer fixers.

Meet: Mike De La Mater!

Mike has been volunteering with Rethink Waste Project’s Repair Cafes since the beginning in 2013. We got a chance to ask him a few questions about what it’s like to be him and we want to share his answers with you since we think he’s so great. So here it is to share with you in his own words:

What sparked your interest in fixing?

I’ve always wanted to fix things. Ever since I was little I took things apart and put them back together. As an adult though, I realized that some people didn’t know how to fix things. Sometimes it’s aptitude, other times it’s just knowledge. That’s why I always show people what I’m doing when I fix their stuff.  If they can’t fix their own stuff, they might just throw it away, which seems like such a waste of resources. Some things are definitely worth fixing, and easy to fix, but some people don’t know how. That’s why I love Repair Cafe. Less useful stuff winds up in landfills.

Where can we find you when you’re not fixing?

Mostly at home or in the shop where I make things for myself or my friends. I enjoy hobby blacksmithing.

If you were to share a lecture on one topic you’re passionate about, what would you discuss?

Lecture? Golly. I’m more of a personal influencer. We live in community and it sure would be cool if we could stop judging each other and do decent things for each other. I want to get rid of this culture of contempt that I find around me.

Where would you most like to go in the world that you haven’t visited yet?

I’d really like to see Machu Picchu. The technology needed to make it is amazing.

What’s your favorite sustainable practice at home?

I work at reduced waste. I buy durable products and jump on products that have less packaging. Oh, don’t even try to hand me a disposable water bottle, either.

Mike’s closing remarks remind us to be better individuals. “I think you should do for others whatever doesn’t cost you much,” he said. “Basically, be decent to each other.” Well, that’s great advice.

Stay tuned for our next repair cafe by signing up for our monthly newsletter here! We’ll keep you in the loop.

If Mike inspires you to be a volunteer fixer, email [email protected] for more details!

Plastics are a problem

Is the image of a sea turtle with a single use straw up its nose or a beach completely blanketed in plastic trash burned into your brain like it is in mine? No need to stab the fallen. But seriously: plastic (especially the single use variety) is a problem. And sometimes it seems utterly overwhelming a topic to think about let alone to change. After attending the Association of Oregon Recyclers Sustainable Oregon 2019 conference last week, I have been thinking a lot about plastics:

  • the rise of the use of plastics after World War 2 as an amazing, cheap, functional new thing
  • how plastics have become profusely ubiquitous in every facet of my life (the bathroom, the produce aisle, the doctor’s office, the restaurant)
  • about its recyclability AND lack of recyclability
  • the question of whether plastic alternatives have more or less environmental impact

According to the Ocean Conservancy beach cleanup, here is the list of the top 10 most common trash items found in the 2018 International Coastal Clean Up report along with the number of those items picked up off the coasts:

    Cigarette butts: 2,412,151
    Food wrappers: 1,739,743
    Plastic drink bottles: 1,5689,135
    Plastic bottle caps: 1,091,107
    Plastic grocery bags: 757,532
    Other plastic bags: 746,211
    Straws, stirrers: 643,562
    Plastic take-out containers: 632,874
    Plastic lids: 624,878
    Foam take-out containers: 580,570

Although we aren’t very close to the ocean, we still ship all of our recycling to Portland, much of which gets transported overseas. So we ARE affecting those numbers, too, despite our distance from the sea. 

The most profound thing about this list to me is that every item on this list was used one time. And it is all avoidable waste — each thing can be replaced with a reusable thing. (Pipe tobacco, anyone? Ok, I don’t endorse tobacco use, but if that’s your jam, consider a pipe!)

In May, the Center for International Environmental Law came out with a 108 page report entitled Plastic and Climate: The Hidden Costs of a Plastic Planet that addresses the fact that the plastic lifestyle we have embraced on this earth is having a direct and visceral impact on climate change. Here is the summary. If we can’t let go of our dependence on single use plastics (including straws, cups, cutlery, packaging, grocery bags and so much more), we will not be able meet global climate targets such as laid out in Climate Action Steering Committee and the European Union climate action policy.

What are we doing about it locally?

The plastic bag ban passed in the City of Bend in December 2018 with heavy education around bringing your own reusable bags and why that is important. In June 2019, the Oregon State legislature passed a similar ordinance causing talk of repealing the bag ban in Bend so not to cause confusion. This conversation will happen in late July. Regardless, a plastic bag ban is happening across Oregon! Don’t wait until July 1, though, bring those reusable bags now!

For those of us who smoke cigarettes (remember it was the number one most commonly found item on the coasts), you do you. But if you are going to smoke, get those butts off the streets. In downtown Bend, the Broomsmen has set up cigarette butt recycling stations! If you put your butt in there, it will get turned into things like park benches. If you aren’t downtown, please put your butts in the trash. The Broomsmen is also setting up some recycling programs in partnership with some local organizations and a company in Portland called Agylix. They are collecting polystyrene cups from some breweries and hope to expand the business to have monthly collection days for the public. 

Organizations like Les Schwab and 4 Peaks are allowing reuse of silipints purchased in the venue for beer or wine vessels. Just remember to keep reusing them later! Bring them on your camping trip, for example.

What can we do?

  1. Sign up for Plastic Free July!
  2. Buy less stuff! Think about your purchases. Do you really need it?
  3. Pay attention to the packaging your purchases come in. Is there a choice with less packaging? Can you buy it in bulk with a BYO Glass Jar or reused bag?
  4. Have a “togo kit” you keep at hand for outings: reusable bag, reusable silverware, reusable cup for coffee or beer, and even a reusable togo container for when you know you are going out to eat.
  5. Talk about it. Tell your friends. Tell your neighbors. Teach your kids.
  6. Know — without a doubt — what is and isn’t recyclable!

    Do you know what actually happens to your recycling? Or what happens to the garbage we put in our recycling bin because we think it is recyclable? Recycling is important but knowing what is recyclable is VERY important. The reason that China and other Asian countries stopped accepting recycling is because of contamination issues. That means we have been putting things in our curbside recycling bin that are not recyclable through the outlets where it is being taken. Are you a wishful recycler? We have to do it right! Are you confused about what is and isn’t recyclable? Ask us! You can schedule a presentation for free: [email protected] Or here is a handy sign you can hang by your household or workplace bins to help people learn. 

What else do YOU do?

 

Just because you’re heading out in the wilderness, doesn’t mean you have to eat poorly. It also doesn’t mean you have to throw your Rethink Waste lifestyle out the window. Don’t you find it frustrating when you see that little corner of someone’s Clifbar wrapper that fell out of their pocket along the trail? There are lots of ways to reduce your waste when thinking about what you’re going to eat on the trail. Here are a few of my favorite ways to eat well and keep thinking about waste reduction on the trail.

The two main takeaways:

  • Buy bulk and bring reusable containers to the store with you
  • Avoid purchasing foods in non-reusable or non-recyclable containers when you can
  1. DINNER:
    Curried Cashew Chickpea Couscous – for 2 hungry people on an overnight

    Place the following in a ziplock bag (I re-used one that had sunflower seeds in it from a Natural Grocer’s purchase):
    1 c couscous
    1/4 c cashews
    1 T curry powder
    1 t hot pepper flakes, or as you like it
    salt to taste
    some dehydrated veggies such as kale and scallions

    Boil 1.5 c water. Off the heat, stir in contents of ziplock and let sit for 5 minutes. Fluff with fork and then stir in 1 can tuna (drained), 1 cup cooked chickpeas, and 1/4 c golden raisins.

    BONUS: Dehydrate your veggies using the heat of your car instead of an energy intensive food dehydrator! Solar power is free — kale, scallions, and morel mushrooms have worked great for me in Bend. (This only took 2 hours in my brown car parked in full sun from 12:30pm – 1:30pm on an 85 degree day).

  2. BREAKFAST:
    Oatmeal!

    Ok, so oatmeal isn’t very creative. And trust me — it has not always been my first breakfast choice. But it’s lightweight and versatile! I have come to find that my favorite oatmeal mix has dried mango, crystalized ginger, cardamom to taste, and pecans. You can add sugar if you like it sweet, but I think the mango and sugar from the ginger is enough. Just mix it all up in a reusable container of your choice. Boil water, pour in oatmeal and cook til done! Yum.

    All of those ingredients are available in the bulk section at Food for Less, Market of Choice, and Fred Meyer. You can have your jar tarred at the front register to avoid using the plastic bags. Or you can bring some old plastic bags from home that you have washed out. Boil water, pour in oatmeal ingredients

  3. SNACK #1:
    Trail mix from the bulk section

    Just pick out whatever you like, remembering to bring your reusable jars or bags from home, and mix! This way you don’t have to worry about mining because you will like everything you put in the mix. I like pecans, cranberries, chocolate chips, and crystalized ginger. Again, all available in the bulk section.

  4. SNACK #2:
    Make your own bars!

    By buying ingredients from the bulk section and making bars at home we can monitor what goes into our bars AND reduce the amount of packaging we bring home from the store. Even if we use the plastic bulk bags, at least we can reuse them the next time in the bulk section or, as I sometimes do, use them to clean up after my dog. After the bars are made, you can freeze them and then stack them in a reusable container. When you head out on the trail, you can wrap a few in a beeswax wrap any other reusable container.

 

Here is a great formula for building your own bars from the No Meat Athlete.

And here is a link for some homemade Larabar hacks.

What is your favorite reduced waste trail meal?

 

 

 

I’ve been reading a lot about spring cleaning lately. Maybe in part because Marie Kondo has become so popular in the main stream? It’s great that she has really encouraged people to downsize and get rid of all the stuff they have purchased that no longer brings them joy. However, it recently came to my attention that not once in her “Tidying Up” show has she even mention anything about the environmental impacts of owning so many things. Wouldn’t it be great if in the process of helping people clean their lives of unnecessary and unwanted stuff she talked (even a little) about how maybe buying less stuff in the first place could make an even greater impact on simplifying their lives? Maybe if they could slim their purchases they wouldn’t be in the predicament of being surrounded by overwhelming mounds of stuff?

But in the end, maybe the KonMari method of decluttering will have a happy side effect of helping decrease excessive consumerism. Who knows?

Speaking of decluttering and spring cleaning, I’m in it. I’m going to be honest here and air out one of my personal short comings: I am a terrible housekeeper. While I don’t think I’m excessively messy, I’m just not great at cleaning. And, frankly, I don’t really enjoy doing it! Anyone else in this boat with me? But through the process of ridding yourself of things that no longer “spark joy”, I want to bring the cleaning closet to attention. We really don’t need all those products that the advertisements say we need — plus most of those cleaners are considered household hazardous waste. They are toxic to our bodies, our kids, our pets and our environment.

But we really don’t need all that stuff! Here is a list of 8 simple items that you need to keep your house clean. Two nice things about this list: most items are already found in your house and they are all non-toxic.

  • Vinegar – Removes grease and soap scum. Deodorizer.
  • Castile Soap – General cleaning agent.
  • Baking Soda – Mildly abrasive. Deodorizer.
  • Lemon or essential oils – Good for making your homemade cleaners smell good! But not necessary.
  • Salt – benign abrasive substance.
  • Hydrogen Peroxide – Disinfectant.
  • Rubbing Alcohol – Disinfectant, but very flammable. Use only in well-ventilated areas.
  • Elbow Grease

Here are a couple of easy DIY recipes for household cleaners:

  1. All Purpose Household Cleaner.
    Combine in a spray bottle:

    -1/4 cup  distilled white vinegar

    -1/2 teaspoon liquid soap

    -3/4 cup warm water

    Shake to blend.

  2. Abrasive cleaner #1 for surfaces
    Combine baking soda with enough water to make a paste. Apply with a rag.
  3. Abrasive cleaner #2 for surfaces
    Combine full strength distilled white vinegar with some salt. Apply with a rag.

To inspire you to do some spring cleaning of your own, here is my own endeavor of cleaning my stove. It’s a tough stove to clean, and as I already mentioned. It has glass that always shows smudges and huge troughs beneath each burner that are magnets for all the food bits I drop. I used both abrasive cleaner #1 on the left two burners and abrasive cleaner #2 on the right burners.

Here is my post-cleaning session stove! Isn’t it beautiful?

What I learned:

  • Abrasive Cleaner #1:
    • The baking soda worked well as an scrubbing agent.
    • The baking soda left a slight film on the glass and burner surfaces, but was easily wiped up with a rag after the main cleaning event.
  • Abrasive Cleaner #2:
    • The salt was a little tough to get all off of the stove, but was an excellent abrasive agent.
    • The vinegar mixture was better at removing more grease.
    • The vinegar mixture was also a better glass cleaner.
  • Elbow grease was an important ingredient with both mixtures.
  • Overall I would choose the vinegar mixture for my stove top in the future.
  • I think the best practice is to clean on a regular basis rather than wait for Spring Cleaning!

Check out this link for more recipes for DIY cleaners such as windshield wiper fluid and toilet bowl cleaners. Also, here is our blog about DIY Laundry Soap!

What are your DIY cleaning tips? What works best for you?

Just don’t put it in your curbside bin!

Plus: What do you think are the 3 very common contaminants in curbside recycling?

Recycling! It’s a buzz word. Often times what we think of as “recyclable” and “not recyclable” has to do with what you can and can’t put in your curbside bin. But just because it will contaminate your curbside bin, doesn’t mean it isn’t actually recyclable! (For curbside recycling info, check out this link here.) So you can become a recycling warrior and take it to the next level, here are 6 things that ARE RECYCLABLE in Deschutes County:

  1.  Corks!
    Cork is a precious resource that is harvested from trees: an amazing renewable resource that you can find great reuses for if you are feeling crafty. You can also drop them off at places like the Habitat for Humanity ReStore. But if you can’t find a reuse for it, Cork ReHarvest is a company that collects the corks and finds a way to recycle them. You can drop your corks off at the Whole Foods Market in Bend. Please note this recycling opportunity is only for real cork corks — not for the ones made out of plastic.
  2. Plastic Film
    Wait! You might think you already know all about this…you might be thinking, “I know! I always drop my plastic grocery bags off at the front of the grocery store!” Well, not so fast. First, in addition to your clean and dry plastic film grocery bags, you can put bubble wrap, case wrap, clean ziplocks, produce bags, 100% plastic mailers, shipping air pillows and more in that bin. (There is one in the front of Safeway, Albertsons, Fred Meyer, Target, Home Depot and more…click here for a complete list.) Even though the City of Bend has passed a ban on plastic bags, there is still plenty of plastic film in the world that can go in these bins. This film is turned into products such as Trex decking and Polywood outdoor furniture (the latter of which you can purchase at Powderhouse here in Bend!)
  3. Old Musical Instrument Strings
    Calling all musicians! Bend is a town full of them. Did you know they are recyclable? You can drop off your old strings at Central Oregon Recording: 61419 S Hwy 97 Suite N.
  4. PakTech 6-pack Holders
    Hold on to your hard plastic PakTech 6-pack holders and drop them off at Worthy, GoodLife or Cascade Lakes! I heard if you take them to Worthy, you might get a dollar off your next 6 pack or a pint.
  5. Paint!
     And Stains. There are several places around the county where paint can be recycled including most paint stores, ReStores, and Deschutes Recycling. It’s important to keep it out of the landfill because it is a household hazardous waste. There are lots of HHW types accepted at Deschutes Recycling at Knott Landfill.
  6. All Number 5 Plastics
    The Gimme 5 program collects #5 plastics and turns it all into Preserve brand toothbrushes, razors and more. There is a drop off bin at Whole Foods, right in the front of the store!

And here are the 3 most common culprits for curbside contamination. Keep these things out of the blue bin, THEY ARE NOT RECYCLABLE curbside.

  1. Coffee Cups – These are plastic lined and CANNOT be recycled anywhere in Deschutes County. The best thing to do is to Bring Your Own Cup!
  2. Plastic Clamshells – These are made of a low quality plastic that doesn’t have a buyer in the recycling market. They often hold muffins, spinach, and berries. The best thing to do is to avoid purchasing things that come in a clamshell.
  3. Plastic Film – Although this is recyclable at grocery stores and some other places of business, just keep it out of your curbside bin! READ: You can’t bag your recyclables! Just put them directly in the curbside bin and take the trash bag (as long as it’s clean) to be recycled at the store. Or better yet, don’t line your indoor recycling bin to begin with. Just make sure things are clean before you put them in there. It’s always best practice to bring your own bag whenever you can — this includes reusable produce bags that you can even make out of old t-shirts. But if you do have plastic film, reusing and then recycling is the best course of action.

And there is so much more that can be recycled. Check out our Find a Recycler or Reuser tool.

Everybody has an opinion and not everyone’s opinion is the same. I have the opinion that plastic is an amazingly versatile and useful substance. It is ubiquitous in our lives; but I am also under the opinion that we do not need to use it nearly as much as we do. I’m speaking specifically to single use plastics–that is defined as plastic packaging or containers or silverware or anything that is only used one time and is disposed up just after use. Humanity has made a lot of recent progress around reducing single use plastics, but there is a lot of work to be done. As an associated side point, The Story of Cosmetics has an interesting 9 minute video about the contents of self care products.

So, what can you do? Today, rethink your bathroom purchases.

  • Do you really need to buy that item?
  • Can you choose a product that comes in a smaller amount of packaging? Or maybe no packaging at all?
  • Can you buy a product in bulk reusing containers you already have available?
  • Can you make it yourself instead?

Here are a few specific items you can think about while reducing bathroom plastic. And here is a great article from Earth911.

Cleaning Your Pearly Whites

  • Toothbrushes are made of single use plastic and they come in a single use plastic container. There are some greener options for this. Apparently it is tough on your gums to use biodegradable bristles, so the best options all seem to have synthetic bristles. I would love to be told otherwise about this! Here are a few I found available locally:
    • Senza Bamboo – available at Market of Choice. Bamboo handle (a variety not eaten by pandas). Boasts 100% compostable packaging. Offers a tip on how to remove plastic bristles before tossing the handle in your yard debris bin.
    • Woo Bamboo – available at Safeway and Natural Grocers
    • Preserve – available all over! Handle is made from old yogurt cups. After you’re done using it, you can toss it into the Gimme 5 recycling bin at Whole Foods Market (check in with them to make sure program is currently running before heading over). According to the package, the case that the toothbrush comes in is also recyclable in the Gimme 5 bin.
  • Dental Floss is plastic string that comes in a plastic case. There are some alternatives you can find in town such as floss made from 100% silk and cases that are paper or metal. Another option is an electric water flosser: reusable over and over again!
  • Mouthwash is one of those things that we often tend toward after flossing. It rinses those bits away and leaves your mouth feeling fresh and clean. But what is actually in it to make your mouth fresh? Ever read the ingredients on the back of those bottles? Anyway, there are some pretty simple mixtures that you can try out. Just take a gander at some DIY recipes. HumanKind has some mouthwash tablets,
  • Toothpaste comes in a single use tube that is not recyclable that always comes inside of a cardboard box that is recyclable, but what’s the point? There are a few options here. Here is a pretty good review of some plastic free options.
    • Toothpaste that comes in glass jars. I’ve seen a couple options here at grocery store.
    • Toothpaste tabs! Although I haven’t found any of these available in Bend, there are lots of online options. Some come with more packaging than others, but you can do some research.
    • DIY toothpaste!

Deodorant!

This is a tough one for a lot of people. I, for one, have had a hard time finding a good-for-you (i.e. without aluminum) deodorant that actually works. I tried the crystal, I tried the all natural Tom’s of Maine and others similar… I didn’t have a lot of luck. But I just tried a new one: Armpit Armor from Bohemian Peddler. And I have to say, I’m a big fan. And you know what else? It’s made in Madras, Oregon. And it comes in a paper tube! Check it out at locavore.

Another option that a friend just told me about is DIY deodorant. It has similar ingredients to the Armpit Armor, so I would like to try it out!

There is a company called Myro that offers refillable deodorant stick. That is definitely something to try, too! The refillable tube is plastic, but at least it’s refillable. HumanKind does refillable deodorant, too.

Everyone has a different body pH, so something that works for some might not work for others. I would love to know more about what works for different folks.

Bar Soap

This is probably the easiest thing to switch to to eliminate some plastic from your bathroom. Here is a great article about the benefits of bars.

There are SO many local bar soap options that come in minimal or no packaging. Just stop by locavore to discover your options! Steena’s Suds makes some great ones including a Shampoo Bar — of which I am now a convert. It works great and feels good in my hair after washing. It leaves a little squeaky feel to it, but only at first. I really recommend it.

Bottom Line

Really, it’s just important to stop and think and notice what you are buying and what you are bringing into your house. Again: do you need it? Can you find an item with less packaging? Can you make it yourself?

You choose with your dollar. I would like to reduce the use of single plastics in my house. What about yours?

What do you do with your old clothes? There are lots of ways to make more space in your closet without throwing clothes in the trash. According to the Oregon DEQ, Americans throw away over 32 billion pounds of textiles a year, but over 90% of clothing and shoes are recyclable. Textile recovery is an important issue. So let’s keep those clothes out of the landfill and make sure they are used to their full potential!

Here is a list, in order of importance, about how to deal with your textiles:

  1. First, think about your clothing purchase to begin with. Do you really need that?
  2. Now, if you DO need it, think about HOW you’re buying it:
    • Can you get a used item rather than a new one?
      — Get it from a thriftstore like ReGroup or the Humane Society Thrift Store, to name a couple in Bend.
      — Shop a consignment store like GearFix or Bag Ladies.
      — You can shop for used clothes online, too, and some even have a personal stylist!
      The Renewal Workshop: a company that fixes and resells outdoor clothing
      And We Evolve: a personalized style company with secondhand clothes
      ThredUP: a consignment store where you can shop by item
    • Can’t find it used and really do need it? Think about the quality of the item you are buying. Textiles that are cheaply and poorly made don’t last as long on your body. Since making clothing is resource intensive (1,500 gallons of water to manufacture just one T-shirt and pair of jeans!), it’s best to get all you can out of every article of clothing.
    • The importance of sustainable clothing choices — something related to waste prevention, but not really discussed here — is also worth learning about. Check out this podcast from Big Closets, Small Planet: A Crash Course in Sustainable Fashion. In 13 minutes, learn a little bit about the environmental and social impacts of the apparel industry. You can stay up on all textile news with Ecotextile News and learn more about textile recovery from RRS.
  3. Take care of the clothes that you buy!
    • Only use the dryer when you have to. It is hard on clothes.
    • Wash your clothes inside out and in cold water.
    • Don’t wash them unless they actually need to be cleaned! You don’t need to wash your pants every time you wear them. Sniff test anyone?
    • Bring it to a Repair Cafe! There’s one coming up in Bend: April 2 at the Gear Fix.
  4. If you are actually done with some of the clothes in your closet — yeah I know! tastes and fashion changes — what can you do with them?
    • DONATE THEM! Are the items still good to wear? Not too many holes or stains? There are many thrift stores that accept donated clothes in town. This way, someone else can wear them. Plus, thrift stores are typically non-profits that earn money based on donations to help good causes. Find the thrift store whose cause you care about.
    • Is it a Patagonia product? Drop it off at the Patagonia store here in Bend!
      • If the item is usable, you can get credit for it because they will resell it online through Patagonia Worn Wear. They will fix what is broken (like a zipper or patchable hole) and make it usable again.
  5. Ok — sometimes clothes really are at the end of their life as a piece of clothing. But there are still things you can do with them.
    • Re-purpose it!
      • Change that old sweater into a hat from the good bits.
      • Holes in the knees of your jeans? Cut-offs are always in style. Don’t like cut-offs? Hem them up! Then, make a dog toy from the legs!
      • There are SO many blog posts for DIY upcycled sewing projects. Google it or check out Pinterest.
      • Have an old t-shirt you LOVE but it’s just time to go? Or an old hole-y flannel shirt? It’s winter outside, y’all: how about a handkerchief? Here’s a cool reversible one.
    • If it’s no longer usable, you can still recycle it.
      • Is it a Patagonia product? Take it to the Patagonia store!
        • If the item is no longer usable, Patagonia’s Common Threads Initiative will recycle it: break it down and recycle it into new fiber or fabric or repurpose what can’t yet be recycled.
      • Turn old jeans into home insulation! Blue Jeans Go Green recently celebrated recycling over 1 million pieces of denim.
      • Do you have towels and blankets in decent condition? You can donate them to the Humane Society!
      • Some thrift stores may accept old unsellable clothing. Call ahead to double check.
      • Get a TerraCycle Box and recycle it through the mail.
      • Here are 10 household textiles you might not have known can be recycled (thanks to TerraCycle’s Make Garbage Great book):
        • Stuffed Animals
        • Entire bedding sets
        • Halloween costumes
        • Boots
        • Cloth napkins
        • Purses and handbags
        • Pillows
        • Curtains and drapes
        • Belts
        • Athletic jerseys
  6. The only time fabrics should head to the landfill is if you have already used them to clean off all the greasy bits from your bicycle chain or automobile. Last resort.

Take home: keep those textiles out of the landfill!

Want to learn more about the textile industry, the importance of preventing textile waste, and how to get involved? Check out these great resources from Resource Recycling Systems.