The Rethink Food Waste Challenge is about to embark on Week 3 (May 28-June 3). The challenge began on May 14th: 213 households signed up to participate! Learn more about the challenge here.

If you enter your week’s wasted food data, you will automatically be entered in the prize drawing, which will happen on Tuesday, June 5.

Check out this week’s prizes:

RFWC Week 3 Prizes

Draw #1: $100 gift card to the grocery store of your choice and a set of 3 nesting stainless steel food storage containers.

Draw #2: A set of 4 Oxo nesting glass containers with snapping lids and a set of 3 etee beeswax wraps.

Draw #3: A set of 3 reusable Chico Bag produce bags and a red hydroflask food flask.

The age of technology means we have an utterly overwhelming supply of information at our fingertips. Sometimes it’s a bane, but often a blessing! I just found some food on the verge of going bad that needs to be used tonight. What should I do?

First of all, I just want to say that technology usually refers to computers, but an old fashioned technology that is often forgotten is pen and paper.

  • Start taping a list to the front of your freezer so you know immediately what’s in there!

Here are some awesome articles all about how to use up leftover things:

Here are some recipe data bases or apps that make it easy to search by ingredient:

Did you know Alexa can help you with food waste? And other technologies, too.

  • Alexa has been programed to help you remember what’s in your fridge. If you use this device, it’s worth looking in to how to use this function! But it’s pretty interesting to know about, even if you don’t have it.
  • Check out this list of crazy new technologies that are also helping folks reduce food waste!

Speaking of technology, one rethink food waste challenge participant, Kim Ely, is writing about her experience in the challenge on her blog!

The Rethink Food Waste Challenge is on!

Hundreds of households in Deschutes County have taken the challenge: because we want to rethink food waste. Too much food goes into the landfill every year and we want to change that in our community. You can too, it’s easy! If you haven’t already, sign up here.

The first week, the theme was “Do as you normally do.” This gives everyone an idea of what happens on a regular basis in their household and shows a normal amount of food waste for their household: a number to compare future numbers to.

It is true that because folks are in a mindset to prevent wasted food already (just by signing up for the challenge and beginning to think about what goes on in their house), the numbers are probably different than an average week. But that’s ok! This isn’t a scientific study, but just a tool for education.

Week 2: Shop Smarter

Way more often than not, we spend more money at the grocery store than we need to.

  • We get lured in by “buy one get one free” and “2 for 1” – you can save money doing this, but only if you actually eat what you buy
  • We buy what’s on sale – yes you save because it’s not full price, but will you eat that dollar-a-pound asparagus before it goes bad?
  • We tend toward the bulk buys and less expensive per ounce foods – it’s true, it’s cheaper by the pound, but how much of that food will you toss in the end?

Not only does this mean we are wasting money, but we are also wasting food. So this week, let’s focus on only buying what we need.

Here are some tips around this week’s theme:

  • First, make an Eat First baskets for your fridge!
    • This is a basket with an “Eat First” label: a place for you to segregate the food in your fridge you know needs to be eaten sooner rather than later. If something doesn’t fit, place it nearby. Don’t have an Eat First card? You can print your own!
      Ani's Eat First Basket
  • Take a few minutes to organize your fridge so you know what is in there and where things are.
  • Print out the Shop Smarter Tool
  • Before you add anything to your list, LOOK IN YOUR FRIDGE! What needs to be eaten this week? Are those green beans starting to turn? Is half of that rotisserie chicken still sitting there from a few days ago?
  • Try using a meal planning app like Handpick  or Mealime. Do you have one you already use and love? Let us know about it!
  • Buy only what you need!
  • Check out this blog about one person’s experience with meal planning.

Do you have ideas about smart shopping or meal planning or fridge organization? Let us know in the comments!

The Rethink Food Waste Challenge is still going on! Week 2 (May 21-May 27), which begins tomorrow, will culminate in 3 prize drawings. 213 households in Deschutes County signed up to participate. Learn more about the challenge here.

If you enter your week’s wasted food data, you will automatically be entered in the prize drawing, which will happen on Tuesday, May 29.

Check out this week’s prizes:

week2prizesDraw#1: $100 grocery store gift card of your choice, an OXO jar spatula and a set of reusable ChicoBag produce bags.

Draw #2: A set of 3 sturdy leak-proof stainless steel containers, a set of 3 OXO silicone spatulas, and a 3 pack of etee beeswax food wraps.

Draw #3:  A hydroflask food flask and a set of 4 glass OXO food storage containers with snapping lids.

The Rethink Food Waste Challenge has begun! Week 1 (May 14-May 20) will culminate in 3 prize drawings. If you enter your week’s wasted food data, you will automatically be entered in the prize drawing, which will happen on Tuesday, May 22.

Check out this week’s prizes:

Draw#1: $100 grocery store gift card of your choice and a set of 3 Oxo silicone spatulas.

Draw #2: $50 grocery store gift card of your choice and a 3 pack of etee beeswax food wraps.

Draw #3: An Oxo jar spatula and a hydroflask food flask.




Local challenge to reduce wasted food will kick off on May 14th

Deschutes County, Oregon — In the United States, 40% of food we are growing, raising, and cooking ends up going to waste. In an effort to increase awareness around the poignant issue of wasted food, the Rethink Waste Project, a program of The Environmental Center, is searching for residents of Deschutes County to take the Rethink Food Waste Challenge.

Food is wasted throughout the chain: at the farm, in transport, at grocery stores and other distributors, at restaurants, and at the household level. The Challenge will focus on the household level where 25% of what people buy ends up not getting eaten and being tossed.

1 in 8 Americans do not have access to enough food, yet the average family of four spends $130 per month on food they throw away. 135 million tons of greenhouse gases are produced from wasted food. With food waste education, the Rethink Food Waste Challenge will address these social, economic, and environmental issues all at the same time.

The Challenge, which begins on May 14, will encourage behavior changes by asking each participating household to weigh and record their cumulative wasted food each week. During the four-week challenge, participants will receive tips and resources about ways to prevent wasted food through simple behavior changes.

As an incentive to submit weekly data, there will be drawings for prizes that help prevent wasted food, such as glass and stainless steel food storage containers and reusable beeswax food wraps, plus $100 gift card to the grocery store of your choice. There will also be two grand prize drawings for $400 worth of harvest bucks, redeemable from the Dome Grown Produce stand at the Redmond Farmer’s Market or the new East Bend Farmer’s Market. Participants will also feel good about making changes in their own lives that will help their greater community.

The Rethink Food Waste Challenge is possible through a waste prevention grant from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality. The Rethink Waste Project provides waste prevention and reduction education for Deschutes County residents through a partnership with Deschutes County Department of Solid Waste and our local garbage and recycling service providers.

Learn more and sign up for the Rethink Food Waste Challenge at:

Although the unofficial American mantra seems to be “Bigger is Better”, thankfully there is a strong cultural trend swinging the other way towards downsizing. And while tiny homes aren’t for everyone, they are assisting a cultural shift towards at least looking at, or considering, the idea of smaller space. What we put in it. What we hold on to. What we need versus what we want. What a larger space demands. How much is enough, and how much can be really too much. Because the bigger the house, the more stuff you put in it, the more heat you need to warm it, the more power you need to light it, the more money and time you need to maintain it.

So while tiny homes aren’t for everyone, one thing that has gained popularity around a similar idea is an Accessory Dwelling Unit. You know, the apartment over a garage. A small “mother-in-law” studio behind a larger single family house. There has been a surge in popularity in ADU’s for a multitude of reasons.

First, people usually go down this path for a long term income generator. They can be rented out as a vacation rental or a long term rental. But from a community perspective, ADU’s offer flexibility. A family could live in the larger house and rent out the ADU, maybe they take over both residencies as their family expands, and then when it’s empty nest time, maybe the older couple downsizes to the smaller residence, taking advantage of renting out the larger one for continued income into their twilight years. This allows a family residence to expand and contract, without building bigger houses.

On the renter side, ADU’s offer a smaller living space that may meet the needs of singles, couples, or even small families. In a time when Bend has an extremely low vacancy rate, and yet is growing and building large homes, there are fewer options for renters. Building ADU’s creates housing opportunities within many walkable neighborhoods through infill, rather than pushing housing out to the edges.

What does any of this have to do with rethinking waste? Oregon DEQ has done a lot of research into how the size of your home (including what it’s made out of, how it’s heated and powered, and how you behave inside of it) which points to one of the biggest ways you can prevent waste: choose to build/buy/rent and live in a smaller home.

For those that really enjoy geeking out on this kind of stuff, check out this report: A Life Cycle Approach to Prioritizing Methods of Preventing Waste from the Residential Construction Sector in the Residential Construction Sector in the State of Oregon. The report states that “materials from construction, remodeling, and demolition projects are a significant contributor to waste in Oregon, and buildings themselves and the materials used to make them have significant environmental impacts. Using lifecycle analysis, DEQ evaluated waste prevention practices (reduction or reuse of materials) in residential buildings to determine which practices have the largest environmental benefits over the life of a home. Results indicated that among the 30 different material reduction and reuse practices evaluated, reducing home size and multi-family living achieved the largest greenhouse gas reductions along with significant reductions in other impact categories.” In other words, size matters: you can have a smaller footprint in a regular smaller home than you often can in a super green but very large home, and ADU’s are one way to build intentionally smaller living spaces.

Interested in learning more? Lucky you, there is an ADU focused Green Drinks coming up this Thursday, followed by an ADU workshop in May with Portland ADU expert Kol Peterson. If you’re serious about looking into building an ADU, or just want to check out some small space eye candy, his website Building an ADU is chock full of images and resources.


The Environmental Center and Whole Foods Market in Bend are teaming up to accept #1 plastic clamshells for drop-off recycling.

Deschutes County currently accepts plastic bottles, tubs and jugs in the curbside recycling carts, at Deschutes Recycling and the county-wide transfer stations. Clamshells are often mistakenly thought of as an acceptable plastic in the mixed recycling, and this leads to contamination.

“People often assume that if a container has a recycling symbol on it, that it is automatically recyclable,” stated Denise Rowcroft, Rethink Waste Project Manager with The Environmental Center. “When it comes to plastic, all containers will have that symbol, and the number just indicates what type of plastic it is. It is always important to check locally, as it varies regionally.”

Rowcroft stated this is more important than ever, because it is this kind of contamination that led to China cracking down on what they are accepting from other countries in the global recycling market. Rowcroft also encourages the use of reusable containers, jars and bags when clamshells are avoidable.

Whole Foods worked with their distributor to find an alternate solution, as they sell numerous products across several departments that come in the clear, plastic clamshell containers. Whole Foods bails the plastic on site and returns it to Portland with their distributor, DCI. The bails are then recycled through EFI Recycling.

Whole Foods reached out to the Environmental Center to help educate customers and support their staff on drop-off days. Drop-off days have been scheduled for the last Saturday of the month, 10:00am-4:00pm. The clamshell return will kick off on January 27 and will be followed up on April 28th. The containers don’t need to be sterile, but should be rinsed of all food residue.

“Our customers and vendors have been asking for this for a long time,” said Becca Burda, the Marketing and Community Relations Liaison for the Bend store. “Given our green mission, we’ve long felt a responsibility to keep these clamshells out of the landfill and couldn’t do it without the support of our friends at the Environmental Center.” 

WHEN: Clamshell Return and Recycling – January 27 & April 28,  Saturday, from 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Please note, due to shifting markets in the global recycling industry, these clamshell recycling events at Whole Foods have been cancelled for the remainder of 2018. If you have been collecting them they will need to be put in the trash. When possible, please consider bringing your own containers/bags and make bulk purchases to avoid bringing home more material. 

WHERE: Whole Foods Market – 2610 NE Highway 20, Bend 

Media interested in an interview should contact: 

Denise Rowcroft at the Environmental Center
[email protected] or (541) 385-6908 x14

Becca Burda at Whole Foods
[email protected] or (541) 389-0151

 A Guide to Reducing Waste Around the Holidays

It’s estimated that between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, more than 1 million tons of additional waste is generated EACH WEEK nationwide. And that doesn’t even take into account all the waste and resources used upstream, around the world, to create all the new stuff people buy this time of year. Now is the time prevent and reduce waste, and all it takes is some thoughtful planning. Whether you’re planning for a shared meal or a family gift exchange, take a few extra steps this year so that you’re not contributing to the problem.

Now is a good time to prepare for Christmas morning, or whenever you plan to exchange gifts. Hopefully you’ve chosen gifts well-suited for the recipient, bought them an experience, or made them something yourself. But regardless, here’s a handy guide to dealing with the inevitable waste.

For starters: Don’t just prep one big, black bag! If everything ends up in one garbage bag, it’s guaranteed to be headed for the landfill. Instead, set up a station before you begin a gift exchange, using containers to separate what can be reused next holiday, what can be recycled, and finally what goes into the trash.

REUSE THIS:rethink-waste-holidays-1

Prep a reusable gift bag, a basket, or some other kind of container to collect your reusables.

• Fabric ribbons, long twine and decorative material
• Reusable containers like metal tins, cloth wrapping and boxes
• Gift tags, as long as they still look good
• Gift bags
• Tissue paper that’s in good shape
• Wrapping paper that you really like


Prep a cardboard box, paper shopping bags, or another container that can be easily associated with recycling. (PS – plastic bags are not recycled in your curbside mixed recycling, so it is important that you don’t put your recyclable wrapping paper in one!)

  • Wrapping paper (except the foil kind)
  • Paperboard packaging (think cereal box). If it has plastic on one side, pull off the plastic and toss, then recycle the cardboard.
  • Cardboard boxes, flattened
  • Paper holiday cards
  • Ripped paper gift bags


The only use for your one garbage bag!

• Tissue paper you can’t reuse
• Foil wrapping paper
• Plastic ribbon
• All plastic packaging on toys, electronics, etc
• Photo printed holiday cards

There are many other actions you can take to help curb your personal impact this time of year. Get more holiday tips and ideas to Reduce Waste Over the Holidays.

Repair is having a moment. Two generations ago, most people could handle simple repairs, and most things manufactured were inherently repairable. Fast forward to our current state of fast consumerism, where things are made to be obsolete (“planned obsolesence)” within 6 months. Sometimes that’s through new colorful designs, sometimes by changing power cords, but often goods are now poorly made and will just break within the year. We’re working to earn money, we spend that money on stuff, and that stuff quickly breaks, forcing us to buy it again. It’s costing us money, and it’s costing our planet.

All that “instant garbage” has to go somewhere. But the bigger impact, the one we don’t witness, is all the materials extracted/mined/logged, then burned/released/wasted to turn various raw materials into products, that are then shipped over seas then trucked across the country then bought at a store – only to break within the year.

Enter repair. It’s back. It’s resurgence can be attributed to many things – a growing maker movement sweeping the nation. People getting fed up with cheap crap that fails us time and time again. A feeling of being self-reliant and taking care of one’s things. The popularity of Patagonia’s Worn Wear program. Or the emergence of repair events where people who don’t know how to repair their stuff can connect with people who can. Whatever the reasons, people are getting into repair all over the world.

Repair, the origination of the Repair Cafe idea, has been tracking repair cafe events all over the world. As of 2017, there are 1400 repair cafes in 33 countries! And it’s especially taking off in America, where the idea has seen a lot of recent press. Even here in Oregon, there have been many state level funding options (DEQ’s reuse/repair business grants and Business Oregon’s  Small Business Expansion Program) aimed at repair businesses, recognizing it as both a growing economy sector as well as it’s potential to prevent waste and resource use by keeping things in use longer.

Since 2013, the Rethink Waste Project has organized 11 Repair Cafes, fixing over 300 items, and giving DIY instructions on another 50. Our volunteers are hobbyists, professionals, and avid tinkerers. Our Fall Repair Cafe will be Saturday November 18th, 11:00 am – 1:00 pm at the Bend Habitat for Humanity ReStore. Our Spring Repair Cafe will be Thursday April 5th at Ensworth Elementary School, from 5:30 – 7:30.