foodwaste

Food waste is a big deal in the United States, with global implications when it comes to climate change.  On a day to day basis, you might feel like you don’t waste much food, but here are a few quick facts.

  • 40% of food in America is wasted.
  • 90% of us throw away food too soon.
  • 20% of the food we each buy never gets eaten.
  • Each of us tosses nearly 300 pounds of food each year.

Here at the Rethink Waste Project, we’ve previously focused our efforts around organic waste towards composting. And while we’re still proponents of composting, the bigger piece of the puzzle is preventing food waste in the first place. We’ll be doing research and building out our website to be more robust in including ways to prevent food waste, but in the mean time check out SaveTheFood.com for the best tips we’ve seen so far on this topic.

 

compared compost

The compost demonstration area at The Environmental Center is towards the back of the Kansas Ave Learning Garden. We were recently the recipients of a beautiful Little Free Library, installed on an old tree stump near the compost area. This was the perfect excuse to revamp this whole area to make it more attractive and user friendly. That involves moving bins, and if you’re going to move bins, well you might as well see if there’s any good compost in there to use. After a tough winter here in Central Oregon – with many weeks of not even feeding any fruit and veggie scraps to any of the compost bins as they were buried under snow – it was finally time to open things up and see how they look. While the top of the bins often still had unprocessed food scraps at the top, digging just beneath the surface revealed a ton of red wiggler worms – even in bins where we hadn’t put any – and well processed compost. Here’s how we deal with it so we have a nice finished product to spread.

TIP – Unless it s a tumbler/spinner kind of bin, add red wiggler worms to your bin, ASAP. Make sure they get regular food, and they don’t dry out in the summer heat. Come back to this blog post next spring.

Now, in order to get to the good stuff, and get it without the worms, I had to do a few steps. They are quickly illustrated in the pictures below,  but I’ll explain the process too.

Lay out a tarp next to your bin, and scoop it out, lift if off or dump out your compost bin onto the tarp. You can immediately scoop off bigger things like dried out paper or corn cobs, dried out avocado shells and pits, some uncrumbled eggshells, etc. These tended to be on top and around the edges where there was less moisture and less worm activity. Put them either back in the empty bin, or in a new spot or another compost pile that’s still working.

TIP – Find something you can use as a screen, not like a window screen but more like a grate, that can sit over a wheelbarrow. ReStores are good locations for these types of things.

If you have the space, pile the compost in pyramid piles on the tarp. Even one big pile will work to start. Worms like it dark and will burrow down low to avoid the sunlight. This allows us to scoop off the top relatively easy. Grab handfuls of compost, scan for worms, if you don’t see any then drop it onto the grate. Designate where you are putting your worms, like an empty bin, another compost pile, or even a temporary bucket. You can go relatively fast here – its okay if some worms are transferred to your garden bed – though keep in mind if you have kids working with you on this part, they will meticulously look for the worms, without really harvesting the compost. When you get to the clump of worms you can easily put them in their designated spot, and rebuild pyramids of compost so you can keep scooping off the top. (Eventually you’ll be at the bottom where most of the worms are, and at that point you just gather all that material to kick off your new round of composting.)

When your grate looks full, stop adding and scan it for any worms that you missed the first time. Then you can shake the grate, run your hands back and forth, anything to help break up the chunks of compost so mostly the little stuff gets through and the big stuff doesn’t. Knock off the top of the grate back into the new compost pile to continue decomposing. Keep doing this until your wheelbarrow is full. The fun part? Spreading it all out onto your garden beds. I know where I’ve already spread compost by looking for the bits of crushed eggshell pieces 🙂

You can keep going in rounds like that, or do it in spurts. Last week when I photographed this process, I did this process long enough to fill one wheelbarrow, which is a decent amount of compost to spread on garden beds. I wrapped the rest of the exposed pile in a tarp to keep it dark and moist until I have time to finish processing this week.

 

 

Seinfeld episode

Bottle & Can Deposit Increased to 10 cents on April 1st, 2017.

Save those bottles and cans! Oregon was the first state to enact the Bottle Bill, and now we’re the first state in the nation to boost a previously established deposit amount. On April 1st our deposit went from 5 to 10 cents (even if it still says 5 cents on the label). The following types of beverage containers under three liters are included in Oregon’s Bottle Bill:

  • Water: Regular, flavored, mineral & soda water, though we’re a fan of good ol’ Central Oregon fresh tap water.
  • Carbonated soft drinks (soda): This doesn’t include kombucha.
  • Beer & Malt Beverages: This doesn’t include cider or wine.

Stay tuned for the following types of bottles and cans being included in 2018!

  • Tea
  • Coffee
  • Hard cider
  • Fruit juice
  • Kombucha
  • Coconut water
TODAY Show: DIY cleaning products -- January 22, 2015.

This year, instead of stocking up on expensive, packaged, specific cleaners for every single thing in your home, get rid of them for good. The average person in the U.S. uses some 40 pounds of household cleaners each year, and many of those products have harmful or toxic ingredients. And the irony is that most of them time, you don’t need any of them.

I hate the cleaning aisle in most grocery stores. On the shelves you’ll find a specific product for every possible thing you can clean, and the overwhelming amount of choices kind of makes you feel like you need lots of different ones. Looking down those aisles you end up thinking you need a separate cleaner (with all its packaging, costs, storage space and chemical exposure) for every room, and often separate ones for specific appliances, areas or materials. Really, a separate cleaner for the toilet, the tub, the sink and the mirror, all in one room?

Resist the pressure, there’s an easier solution that will save money and storage space, conserve resources and prevent waste, and reduce your exposure to daily chemicals. Instead of buying toxic cleaners for each specific item, choose all natural household products to turn into almost any specific cleaner you need, mostly with the same non-toxic materials you may already have.  We have 1 spray bottle with vinegar, eco-friendly dish soap, and water, and we use it for 90% of things we need to clean. Straight up vinegar works for the other 5 %, with vinegar and baking soda together making up the other 5%.

Check out our Non-Toxic Alternatives page to find great regional resources to help you reduce your exposure to chemicals. You’ll find a guide to hazardous household products, how to properly dispose of them and effective alternatives. Simple cleaning recipes (including my go to all-purpose cleaner) for a safer home, from Air Fresheners to Wood Furniture Polish. For your yard and garden you find links to great information on sustainable gardening and using less toxic alternatives in your yard to keep your yard and garden safe for people, pollinators and the planet, including a consumer guide to lawn and garden products to see how they rates in terms of toxicity.

 

 

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Looking to brush up on your recycling know-how? Got compost questions? Need ideas for creative reuse? Wondering if less really is more? The Rethink Waste Project offers FREE community presentations that can be tailored to any time frame and group needs and we cover all this and more! We have presented at neighborhood association meetings, for rotary clubs, in staff meetings and formal or informal community organizations.  Basically, if you have a gathering of people, we can come and chat! The presentation is a visually engaging overview of the 3 R’s – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, as well as covering all compost options available in the area.  Contact us today to book your free Rethink Waste community presentation!

Email denise or call 541-385-6908 x14 to schedule your Rethink Waste presentation.

everythingplace

Once again, I’m kicking off the year with a re-energized burst of wanting less stuff, and more time.  More stuff breeds more stuff, which has huge upstream impacts in terms of waste, greenhouse gasses, toxins, water use etc. Here at the Rethink Waste Project, we recognize that materials matter, that the biggest impacts are upstream, and that there are ways to discard things responsibly. Yet no matter how little I actually buy new things, I still often feel overwhelmed with the amount of stuff in my small home. Papers. Gloves. Toys. Pens. Business cards. I feel like no matter what, I am CONSTANTLY putting things away, and it eats into my free time. Wouldn’t this be easier if I had less? If everything had a home? If I had daily systems and rituals? Wouldn’t I have more time for playing, planning and powder days? At the very least, having a tidy space gives me a sense of calm, so here’s how I’m going to try it, this time.

 

1. Deal. With. All. The. Mail.

This is where I will start, because it’s the biggest issue in our household. I wish it was all junk mail. That would be easy, but I already opted out and get very little junk mail at this point. Junk mail that does come I try to recycle right away without it getting into the pile. I just don’t have a system in place for dealing with mail, papers, bills, things i need to file, etc. In fact, I’m the worst case example in this blog, which is why I am going to use the 6 suggestions from Zen Habits. Create a mail center (we have one, cluttered with old mail and papers.). Have 1 inbox (again, have it, but’s its overflowing with old mail/paper). Process 1x/week (OK, that’s what I don’t do.) Pay Bills immediately. Enter stuff into calendars and To Do Lists. File Immediately (Again, something I don’t do).  I’m going to add onto that, to sign up for paperless bills for as many as possible while I’m at it. Here’s to forming new habits, I’ll let you know how it goes!

 

2. Does It Spark Joy?

This is how Marie Kondo would start it. Her “Konmari” method is to start by piling up all similar items together, for example ALL your jackets (from multiple closets, storage, etc), then one by one holding the item, and letting go of those that don’t spark joy. Thank it for its service, and let it go. Start with easy to let go things, like clothes, then move on to tougher more sentimental items. With less random things in your home, whats left are things you only love. I read the book last year and I have gone through my clothes, and I must admit I have taken up her weird sock folding method, but I need to revisit this with the rest of the items. I downloaded this list to help, and just found her new app. We’ll see which is better.

 

3. A Place for Everything, and Everything In Its Place.

Although Benjamin Franklin said this eons ago, this is an idea that I learned in preschool. Not my preschool, unfortunately, or I might have better habits as an adult. But my daughters Montessori classroom. Everything has a spot, and the kids practice putting their work away before they begin the next project. So my new quest is to make sure everything I love/want/need to have in my home has a place. If something gets a spot in my little home, I better love it. It better be worth the real estate. If not, I’m going to cull it and pass it on to someone else who can love it. If everything has a place, tidying up goes way faster leaving more time for other things. In our post Christmas gift exchange house, new spots must be found, so another round of culling is in order.

As I’m reminded from previous blog posts I’ve written on this same topic, the less I have, the less I have to organize.

 

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Prepare for Christmas morning, or whenever you are exchanging gifts, with a few handy containers to avoid things from all heading to the trash. (And if you stuff this all into a big black garbage bag, then trust me, it’s all headed to the trash). Our handy guide keeps it simple:

Reuse

Set up a box, bin or bag to stuff in ribbons and things as you go. We often use a reusable Christmas gift bag for this.

  • Fabric ribbons, long twine and decorative material.2016-12-14-22-42-32
  • Reusable containers like metal tins, cloth wrapping, boxes, etc.
  • Name tags can be reused as long as they still look good.
  • Gift bags can be used over and over.
  • Tissue paper  – I keep some of this that’s in good condition to reuse, because otherwise it goes in the trash.
  • Wrapping paper that you really like (or was wrapped around a gift from your husbands grandparents who’ve been reusing wrapping paper since the depression and it would be a sin to even recycle it at this point).

Recycle

Almost ALL wrapping paper can go in here, with the exception of the foil kind.  Find a cardboard box, an  empty storage container, or a couple paper shopping bags – anything will do –  to put the wrapping paper in while or after the wrapping frenzy happens. Just don’t use a big black garbage bag, because those aren’t recyclable and inevitable people will think it’s a garbage bag and put garbage in there anyway. Things that can go in include:2016-12-14-22-52-01

  • Wrapping paper (all except the foil kind).
  • Paperboard packaging (think cereal box). If it has plastic on one side (say, around a toy) then pull off the plastic and toss, and recycle the cardboard.
  • Cardboard boxes – flatten.

Landfill

  • Tissue paper ( I know, so much).
  • Foil wrapping paper.
  • Plastic ribbon.
  • All plastic packaging. (Locally we recycle bottles, tubs and jugs, but none of our gifts are likely to be in one of those).

If you liked this, you may be interested in our other recent holiday related blogs, Avoid Leftover LeftoversExperience Based Gift Ideas, Handmade Holidays. For more ideas, check out our page on how to Reduce Waste Over the Holidays.

leftovers

As mentioned in an earlier post, we create an additional 25% more waste over the holiday period, and a part of that can be attributed to the increase in holiday parties this time of year.  Food waste in America is actually a big problem – some statistics say that 40% of food is wasted between farm to plate. Forty percent. An average family throws away 300 pounds of food each year. That’s a lot of food, a lot of money, and it doesn’t even take into account all the resources that went into getting that food from farm to plate either. For anyone who wants to geek out on food waste – and learn a ton of great tips fro preventing it and reducing wasted food – check out SaveTheFood.org. I especially love their recipes that are specifically geared to making use of food that may normally get tossed. (Check out this soup that uses the whole carrot!) Now, here are some tips so you’re not adding to the problem.

 

Plan,to Avoid Leftovers

If you’re hosting a party, sketch out a meal plan so you don’t buy – and waste – too much food. Delegating out what guests can bring? Be realistic. Everyone is not going to eat a slice of every kind of pie, so make sure you have all your bases covered but not to excess. Also, if you have a big meal planned, don’t fill your guests tummies with a lot of appetizers. That will ensure the big meal isn’t eaten and a lot will just go to waste. Hiring a caterer for a bigger event? Make sure they have correct numbers of people who will attend so they can plan accordingly.

 

Plan for Leftovers Anyway

Whether you are hosting a big meal, or attending a catered office holiday party, no matter how well you planned to avoid leftovers, you will still have some, so plan for how to transport them home. Ask guests to bring their own containers, have some back up zip lock bags available, or ask the caterer to set out To Go boxes. If there are platters that haven’t even been touched, look into your local food bank to see if they will accept a donation. Still have a bunch of leftovers? The freezer is your friend, your pause button on that food’s lifespan. Use it liberally.

 

Choose Reuse

Don’t have enough cups and plates to serve everyone? Your impulse may be to grab some disposables, but that just adds to the excess of holiday waste Americans are bringing to the curb this time of year. It’s important to remember that like many communities, plastic or paper cups and plates are not recyclable here in Deschutes County. Take a quick trip to any thrift store right now and you can stock up on everything you need, and even score on some holiday themed varieties if you choose.  The best part?  Donate it all back to them after the party. You don’t have to store if for a whole year, and you get to find a new set again next year! If you don’t stock up on extra reusable cups or glasses yourself, you can always ask your guests to BYOC – Bring Your Own Cup. Really, it works. (And they will remember which cup is their’s throughout the night, reducing wasted drinks, cups and your clean up in the morning.)

Prevent. Eat. Share. Donate. Freeze. Cook. Then Compost.

Composting is great, and way better for our environment for many reasons than feeding a landfill. But this should be the last in a line of other wasted food tips. Fresh fruit and veggie waste can be composted in your backyard bin or yard debris bin if you have that service. For other food waste, if you’re having it at a facility that you are renting out, check with their policies as they may participate in commercial composting for the rest of your food.  If you’re having it at a restaurant that already participates in composting, they will be doing this as part of their regular cleaning up. When you are booking a restaurant for an event, it’s good to ask if they compost. (This service is available to businesses like restaurants and supermarkets in Bend & Redmond City limits).  If they don’t already do this, they may be encouraged to participate if enough customers request this service, so it doesn’t hurt to ask!

 

If you liked this, you may be interested in our other recent holiday related blogs, Handmade Holidays or Experience Based Gift Ideas. For more ideas, check out our page on how to Reduce Waste Over the Holidays.

Lisa Marie Sipe's encaustic work at The Workhouse.

Do It Yourself

 

My husband is awesome with a sewing machine. He’s made upcycled bike pannier bags, tote bags, mittens, and more for holiday gifts. Together we’ve made chalkboard mugs and home made dog biscuits for friends and I often give people upcycled jewelry I’ve made.  Of course if you plan on making stuff yourself you need to get a move on it as the holidays are quickly approaching.  Lucky for us THIS weekend there are at least 3 local handmade marketplaces happening. So you get to support local artists and creatives while getting some green holiday shopping done.

Buy Local, Buy Handmade

Buying from local artists supports our local economy and conserves resources. Items are made right here in Central Oregon, not shipped from overseas. They often choose materials that are also local and sustainable, and that money stays here in Central Oregon, instead of padding the pockets of corporate CEO’s.

This weekend is your chance to support local artists and buy handmade! Saturday & Sunday December 10th & 11th there are lots of options to buy from Bend creatives of many kinds.

Saturday there will be a FREE SHUTTLE going to all 3 of these unique marketplaces. Catch it at the stop that is closest to where you live. If you missed the show, you can still find a ton of local products from The Workhouse throughout the holiday shopping season.

Photograph features encaustic work by local artist Lisa Marie Sipe. You can find her work at The Workhouse.

 

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The holidays – a time to get together with friends and family, share laughs and spread joy, give and receive gifts, and create a ton of waste in the process.  Sorry, TONS of waste. Across the country, an average of 25% more waste is brought to the curb between Thanksgiving and New Years Day. Here in Deschutes County our waste actually increased in 2015 from the previous year, as it did across Oregon. So if there was ever a time to try and curb it, it’s now, at the time when we create the most.  To that end, here are some ideas for things you can give locally (or plant ideas for things you might want to get) for things that last the longest – memories, skills, experiences. These ideas also work for family living in other states, just look them up for their area.

Go Outside:

  • Check out new places with an Oregon State Parks Pass – you can also find these for family in other states.
  • Give gift certificates for rentals to try out a new sport – skis, snowshoes and ski trailers to tow the little one are available at Pine Mountain Sports and many small businesses around the country offer this.
  • Get on a fat bike with Cog Wild (or buy punch cards for mountain bike shuttle rides) or on snowshoes with Wanderlust Tours.
  • Offer to babysit so that your parents of young ones can get outside together, often a rarity.

Give a Skill:

  • COCC Community Learning has classes for youth and adults, from making kombucha and beer to writing your autobiography or discovering enneagrams.
  • Bend Parks and Recreation has classes for kids and adults, from art to swimming to ski touring and more.
  • DIYcave has welding date night workshops, other classes and memberships to use shop tools on your own time.

Get Culture:

Kiddo’s Only:

What ways are you gifting experiences this year? Let us know in the comments, then learn more tips to Reduce Waste Over the Holidays.