Do you put plastic in your recycling bin simply because it has a recycling symbol on it?
Do you put items in your bin that you’ve heard aren’t recyclable here, but wish were?
Do you put items in your bin that you know aren’t recyclable here, but hope that somewhere down the line someone will recycle them?

You’re a good person, but you’re a wishful recycler.

Let’s bust the recycling symbol myth.

Here’s the thing. The recycling symbol on plastic is just a symbol created by the plastics industry to help identify what type of plastic it is, at the start of the plastic recycling movement.  But it doesn’t mean it’s actually recyclable where we live.  Other recycling symbols on packaging is just the manufacturer encouraging you to recycle that product, if you can (and many times we can’t, so it’s a little green-washy). In sum, just because something has a recycling symbol on it, DOES NOT mean that it is recyclable.

Here’s why it matters.

When you put in your items that you wish were recyclable, and you hope that someone on down the line might recycle, you’re just relocating your trash and giving yourself a pat on the back for being a really good recycler. It’s called “contamination” when it’s sorted out at the Material Recovery Facility (MRF) and may cause other things to get tossed too. It also means a lower price for the recycling haulers who truck it over the mountains to the valley for recycling, thereby reducing their efficiency. There is no recycling fairy at the end of the line.

And here’s the real problem.

You recycle “almost everything” but then keep buying over packaged products, single use items and more stuff. You feel better about your actions, but don’t change them. We don’t need to recycle because it keep things out of the landfill here, we need to recycle because it provides material to make more stuff so we don’t have to extract/drill/mine/explode it out of the earth somewhere else. We see the landfill, so we think that’s the problem. The problem is in the parts of the world we don’t see.

Less Is More

So next time you’re at the store, seek out less packaged items. Don’t have it at that store? Go to a different store. Almost every store you go into has apples stacked high in bulk for you to peruse, so why bother getting the dozen apples packed at Costco because you happen to be there? I know we can do better, and I don’t think that’s wishful thinking.


On Tuesday, September 16th, from 5:30 – 7:30 pm, The Gear Fix and The Environmental Center’s Rethink Waste Project are hosting a Fall Repair Café
.  A repair café is a free event that connects people with broken stuff, with people that like to fix stuff.  Volunteers will be on hand to repair – and share a skill or two – small appliances, boots & shoes, clothing, bikes, small furniture, general household goods, backpacks, outdoor gear, knit goods and other items needing heavy duty sewing or patching. The Gear Fix is located at 345 SW Century Drive in Bend.

“Repairing instead of replacing prevents waste and conserves resources”, says Denise Rowcroft, Rethink Waste Project Manager, “but what really makes repair cafes great, is that doing it with other people makes it fun and cultivates community.” She adds, “The Gear Fix is a great place to hold this event, because their business model is based on keeping outdoor goods out of the landfill through resale and repair, and this is a great opportunity to highlight all the repair services they offer.”

The first Repair Cafe started in 2009 in Amsterdam and has since spread all around the world.  Locally, The Environmental Center organized the first Repair Café in November 2013, and since then over 70 items have been repaired thanks to local skilled volunteers.

Attendees are asked to bring broken items and any replacement parts they think might be needed (or cash to buy some on the spot). There is no guarantee all broken items can be repaired that evening – more research may be needed, a part may need to be ordered – but the volunteers will do their best with what they have.  Food will be available for purchase from the resident food cart at The Gear Fix.

Rethink Waste is a program of The Environmental Center in partnership with Deschutes County Department of Solid Waste, Bend Garbage & Recycling, Deschutes Recycling, High County Disposal and Cascade Disposal.

About the Rethink Waste Project:
The Rethink Waste Project is an initiative to raise awareness about the impact of waste in our community and to engage individuals, families, and businesses in reducing, reusing and recycling waste.  Our educational-based programs provide the tools and resources you need to reduce waste – and rethink the way you think about waste.  To learn more visit

About The Environmental Center:
The Environmental Center educates and advocates for a sustainable future in Central Oregon.  We believe that sustainability hinges on how we live our daily lives: at home, at school and at work. The Center’s focus areas include educating kids, promoting zero waste, supporting local businesses, and promoting energy efficiency and renewables. To learn more about The Environmental Center, visit online at or at our facility 16 NW Kansas Avenue in Downtown Bend.



FREE Composting 101 Class!

Join us in The Environmental Center’s Learning Garden to get an overview of composting. We’ll go over what to include and what not, pros and cons of different methods, and address common questions and concerns. This is a great intro class for the novice composter, or for those needing to address some issues with their own compost system.

This event is free, and coffee will be provided!

Join us either on Friday June 27th or Saturday June 28th, 2014, from 10:00 – 11:00 am (same presentation each day).

#WeCompost, Do You?

If you already compost locally, help us spread the word about all the different ways #WeCompost! Join our social media campaign by taking a picture of your compost set up and adding the hashtag #WeCompost on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. We’ll even enter you into a raffle for cool prizes like a steel countertop compost pail, hydroflask reusable bottles, and upcycled bags! Winners will be drawn through June & July!




I first found the Buyerarchy when perusing the Creative Reuse: Art From Trash face book page (CRAFT). The chart (which is a nod to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs) delineates all the options one has before one makes a purchase, working from the bottom up so that buying is the last option.

I was three-quarters of the way through my most recent “rethink waste” project when I realized I had been following the Buyerarchy of needs without even realizing it! The project was reviving an old dresser from 3 coats of gnarly paint to no coats, all wood. Turns out, I avoided 3 purchases as a result of the Buyerarchy…

First, because I chose to ‘use what I have‘, I didn’t have to buy a new dresser. Refurbishments with furniture tends to be less expensive than buying new. Refurbishment in this degree might also qualify as ‘make‘, as the dresser was “S and S BAR’ed” in the process (Sanded and Stripped Beyond All Recognition). Second, I ‘borrowed‘ a sander to smooth the wood after I stripped the paint. It is unlikely that I would ever use an electric sander often enough to warrant private ownership. And finally, I used ‘thrift‘ store rags to catch the falling paint and floor clean up.

During the restoration process, I realized use of this chart is ever present in my decision making, often unconsciously. Has anyone else surprised themselves with use of the Buyerarchy?

{Thanks to guest blogger/photographer Krystal Collins: CollinsRocksMedia}



matt welding front

Like many Bend locals, we were sad to hear about Pakit Liquidators upcoming closure.

For over 20 years Pakit has been a staple in Bend’s Do-It-Yourself scene, inspiring people to Rethink Waste by turning leftover, discarded, broken or outdated items into art, furniture, gardens, greenhouses, green buildings and more.  It’s an alternative reuse site, over flowing with authenticity, that requires careful walking and the ability to see an items potential over its often neglected state.

Pakit is all about Rethinking Waste, having hosted the annual creative reuse junk art event, Trashformations, for many years – benefitting the now defunct Artists Local 101  and then The Environmental Center’s Learning Garden more recently.

If you attended our recent Repair Cafe at Pakit, you know that the DIY vibe made it the perfect venue for this unique event. Owner Matt Korish not only donated the space, he jumped in for a welding repair when someone brought in a flamingo garden sculpture that needed some tail feathers re-attached. This is what Pakit is all about. Having sparked and melded such innovation, collaboration, and creativity, it’s difficult to imagine loosing this space for future Repair Cafes, art events, music and good old junk picking.

{Thanks to Krystal at}



Stepping into Gear Fix, formally known as Repeat Performance Sports, one might be fooled into thinking the outfit is just an outdoor consignment store. Not so. Bringing a six year dream to fruition, in the past several months, owner Joshua Sims has overhauled the operation to fulfill a market need for gear repair, a viable business that fully manifests the phrase “Rethink Waste”.  The shop, still a “work in progress” Sims cautions, now includes ski, bike, sewing, and sole repair services. (They’ll be providing sewing repairs and bike tunes at the repair cafe – hit them up at the shop for your other repair needs!)

Acquiring Repeat Performance Sports in 2006 after a brief stent as an employee, Sims was driven to operate a business in service to the community. He immediately began consulting the Environmental Center and the Rethink Waste Project. The Repair Cafe is important to Sims because he wants to see a trend where “It’s cool to get things fixed.” He adds, “Fixing stuff starts at the time of purchase, asking the question ‘is this repairable?’”. Sims spread this philosophy at last November’s Repair Cafe. When items couldn’t be fixed he took the time to show people why, so they could make more informed decisions during their future purchases (translation: buy repairable goods!)

Perhaps the most impressive of Sims recent expansions is the cobblers workshop located in the loft space above the consignment floor. Perusing the inventory of worn shoes and intricate machinery of the shop, Sims explains the lost art of shoe repair. The days of apprenticeship long past, he has invested in several local gear enthusiasts paying them to learn to be cobblers. He is on track to be the only high volume climbing shoe re-soler in Oregon, although able to handle nearly all shoe repairs. First the footwear is fitted with a last, a dense wood or plastic surrogate foot which maintains the shape of the shoe. Then the grinder is used to wear down the old sole so the new sole can be fashioned, all the while collecting every scrap and making sure they are properly recycled. 

Sims sees the entire operation as a present day trading post and it seems a fitting analogy especially because the recent expansions were customer driven. I have personally consigned many goods at Gear Fix for which the proceeds funded installation and parts for cycling re-refurbishments and my first pair of chamois bike shorts.  Like many of us in Bend, I work in the service industry and cannot afford new goods for my outdoor hobbies even if I wanted to buy them new. I may have never obtained padded biking shorts if it wasn’t for Sims vision. How many of us can express a similar experience? All built on what would have been discarded goods.

The folks from the Gear Fix will be at our Spring Repair Cafe on April 3 repairing bikes and outdoor gear needing heavy duty sewing. Join us!

Interview and photo by Krystal Collins



Sitting amongst towers of fabric Alison Murphy, owner of Utilitu commands a kind of seamstress royal prowess. When asked what “Rethink Waste” means to her, Murphy says craftsmen like her have no choice but to reuse. She proceeds to explain there can be a discrepancy in value of discarded goods and collecting those goods can be cost effective for a small business owner. Utilizing and sometimes by her own admission hoarding fabric is perhaps the most visual clue in her garage studio that she chooses to “Re-think Waste”.

With early inspiration from family to upcycle, Murphy says she has been re-thinking waste before there was a phrase for it. Her mother would sew her elaborate costumes for school productions of Shakespeare from thrift store eighties dresses. At the age of eight she began finding worn garments and transforming them into backpacks and embroidered bags which she would sell to class mates. As a mother, Alison has already been passing on her Do-it-Yourself and upcycling philosophy to her children designing a beautiful tool belt for her six year old son Sailor.

Choosing to work in an industry that is all about repair gives Alison a sense of community membership that she is excited to share at the upcoming Repair Cafe, April 3rd, at Pakit Liquidators. Fixing a zipper or applying a patch she explains “It’s not just a pair of pants, the interaction will shepherd all these other positive actions”. These community connections and repercussions for her work fuel a deep passion to deliver a quality product.

During the first Repair Cafe last November, Alison says making participants happy made helping out totally worth it. She looks forward to seeing everyone’s projects not knowing what each person will need for their repair, saying, “Being challenged keeps me quick on my feet and a better seamstress”. Please join the Environmental Center and the Rethink Waste Project for the Repair Cafe and you will have a chance to consult Alison Murphy on your sewing needs.

Photo and Interview by Krystal Collins




Yes, I really do still have a flip phone. And yes I’m eligible for a smartphone upgrade – I have been for years. And truthfully, eventually I will. But for now I’m not falling prey to the culture of constant upgrades: of bigger or smaller, newer or better, colorful or cool.  I’m decidedly choosing to walk against the tide on this one for now, and here’s why.

1.) It still works.

Despite how many times I’ve dropped it – in the snow, on the pavement, on the wood floors – it still works. This includes my 15 month old playing with it often (“Hiyaa!”) and (almost) dropping it in the dog’s water bowl. And when it does, no big loss. No phone insurance needed.

2.) I don’t take it to bed.

Unless a family member is sick, or a close friend is in labor, it generally stays on a shelf in the living room for the night. (Oh, that’s also because the old battery needs to charge pretty much nightly.) But that’s how I want to keep it.

3.) I can change the battery.

Ok, so I clearly need to do this (see #2). But at least I can. Try doing that with your iphone. When I do upgrade, I’ll be checking out‘s repairability scorecard to guide my purchase.

4.) It’s cheap.

Any deal I come across still has an extra data plan needed for a smart phone. Except for Republic Wireless, so I may go that route when I do eventually get one. But at least there’s no surprises on my monthly bill as it is now.

5.) Life has enough distractions.

Isn’t it hard enough having an internet access to stay focused on the task at hand? I can’t imagine being notified 24/7 every time I get an email, a like, a comment, a retweet, or some other kind of push notification. As it is now I need to take regular unplug breaks, and I’m not even plugged in all the time.

6.) That free phone isn’t really free. It cost the earth every day.

It’s easy to be blind to this one, but it’s the main reason I don’t want to get caught on the upgrade train. Phones take resources – finite, non-renewable resources – to get made. And yeah, you can recycle your phone, but recycling is not the answer. Check out my new favorite website,, to get up to speed on the impact of manufacturing electronics, recycling them, and then go to to get psyched to repair stuff!





The American Dream is changing – finally. People all across the nation are realizing we don’t to keep up with the Jones’s – who needs all that stress? The new peer to peer sharing economy is making it easier to own less and live more. People are making money from what we own but don’t utilize all the time, renting items that are only needed occasionally, or sharing resources without a profit motive.  If I can rent or borrow a truck, I don’t need to own it. If I can borrow a lawnmower, I don’t need the space to store it.  If I can give away things I don’t need to others who can use them, I free myself up from the responsibility of storing, caring and organizing extraneous stuff in my life to pare down to more essential items for a simplified, decluttered life.

And its beginning to make head way in Central Oregon. It seems like everyone knows someone who rents out a room occasionally through AirBnB to supplement their income. A recent stuff swap, organized by friends on Facebook, encouraged people to declutter their lives and give stuff away to others who may make use of them before donating to local thrift stores. Clothing exchanges have also been happening here for a long time but Facebook makes it easier to quickly round up friends to exchange clothes. Sharing has been around a long time, but new peer to peer online sharing platforms are popping up all over the world, and while most of them are regionally based there are some that work no matter where you live.

Here are a few of my favorite sharing sites: online, old school, local, and international:

  • Repair Cafe – Connecting broken items that need fixing with people who like to fix things for free. Next one is scheduled for Thursday, April 3rd 2014 at Pakit.
  • High Desert Maker Mill – Coming soon, this maker space will be a community hub of all things DIY, with community access to tools for metal work, wood working, electronics and more.
  • yerdle – Post items to give away and get items for free, with a point system so the only money exchanged is paying subsidized shipping through yerdle (unless you live in San Fransisco).
  • SkillShare – Experts share skills through online video tutorials for a fee. Learn what you want, when you want!
  • Neighborgoods – Post items to lend to others in your neighborhood, and post items you are looking for. There are about 25 local folks signed up so the infrastructure is there, but it works best if other locals are signed up, so sign up today!
  • Streetbank– Similar to Neighborgoods but with a clearer layout, this needs locals signed up in order to really work.
  • Gear Commons –  Based out of MA but spreading across the country, this is a peer to peer gear rental platform. This could give locals extra cash for renting outdoor gear to visitors or other locals.


More sharing resources:


Obviously you don’t need online apps for everything sharing related…so what are some ways you like to share?



Just in time for the holiday party season, beginning December 19th we’ll have a new way to recycle cans and bottles for deposit in Bend. The Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative (OBRC) is opening a one stop shop – called BottleDrop – to redeem cans and bottles for your deposit. While small outlying neighborhood grocery stores will still accept bottles for return, (they will only accept a maximum of 24) participating retailers (ie: most supermarkets in Bend) will no longer be accepting any bottles or cans for return, instead referring their customers to the centrally located Bottle Drop location (the old Salvation Army, on 2nd Street between Franklin and Greenwood).

The BottleDrop redemption center (open 9am-6pm, 7 days a week) offer 3 different options to redeem your recyclables to fit your needs:

Less Than 50, Hand Count

Bring in your small amount of returnables – less than 50 – and someone will hand count them for you right then and you’ll leave with cash in hand.

Up to 350, Reverse Vending Machines

Bring up to 350 returnables and use the reverse vending machines provided.  These machines are different than the ones you see at grocery stores because you can process any returnable at the same machine – glass, plastic and aluminum. It’s also much faster because it simply whisks the bottles and cans away via a conveyor belt behind the machine to be processed in another part of the building. Redeem for instant cash and the payment station.

EZ Drop

The EZ Drop System is the most intriguing as we haven’t seen a service like this in the area yet. I went to the Town Hall forum recently to hear more about how the system works. Here is what I learned:

  • The EZ Drop System lets you drop off a bag of returnables 24/7 and it credits your account within 48 hours. The first 2 bags are free and after that it’s .15/bag.
  • When you open an account, you receive your BottleDrop card and 2 large green bags with a sticker put on it that corresponds to your card account.
  • Fill the bags up with your returnables (cans and some glass) then drop off up to 2 bags 24 hours a day. A drop-off area will have a small locked door that opens after you scan the bar code on your bag, and closes after it.
  • Your account is credited within 48 hours. Withdraw cash from your account at participating retailers (there will be a BottleDrop kiosk where you scan your card and print a slip, then cash out at the register, similar to getting cash for your bottles now) or at the BottleDrop redemption center’s payment station. Pretty easy.

So start saving your bottles and cans today – those nickel’s add up fast and now its easier than ever to get ’em back!

Head over to BottleDrop for more info!