A few thoughts about waste, awareness, and November.

Imagine your perfect 4th-Thursday-in-November holiday scenario. What does it look like? In the year 2020 (an election year, at that), the economy isn’t doing great and many people have lost their jobs due to a global pandemic. It’s unsafe to travel and gather in large groups. And we are in the midst of the biggest civil rights movement since the 1960s. There is a lot of hard stuff going on in the world. Does that change the image of your November holiday?

I encourage folks to gather (safely) and be grateful and waste less during this holiday season but to have awareness around historical and current times while it’s happening. Should you choose to celebrate in some way (traditional or not), do so with appreciation, intention, and reflection during this unique moment in time. Here are six ways to Rethink the November holidays in the name of waste and humanity:

1.) Give yourself a history lesson.

The 4th Thursday of November is a national holiday with an ugly, violent history. If you need a refresher, here is a good place to start. Take time this month to learn about the history where you live, whose native land you’re on, and how you perpetuate ongoing colonialism. If you’re not Indigenous to this place, have these sometimes uncomfortable conversations with your peers and family. Truth is powerful! 

2.) Give back, get involved.

Be an active part of the community, not a sideline observer. Acknowledge your own privileges AND the suffering of friends, neighbors, community members, and family. This year, the pandemic has disproportionately impacted historically marginalized communities, especially Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and neighbors of color. Learn about people and places in Central Oregon that need support and find a way to give back, whether it’s time, money, a social media share, or otherwise.

3.) Don’t waste food.

Before COVID-19, approximately 40% of the food that was grown to be eaten ended up going to waste. The upset in our food supply chain, as Michael Pollan wrote about in the June 11, 2020 edition of the New York Review, caused an enormous amount of extra food waste AND an increase in hungry people. As you’re creating your holiday meal plan, think about that. Learn about how to stop wasting food at home.

4.) Buy less stuff.

  • Make some holiday decorations from found items.
  • Getting ready for gift giving? Think about handmade options and giving the gift of experiences.
  • If you are going to participate in Black Friday, read this.
  • Appreciate the stuff you already have.

5.) Gather with loved ones (safely).

Please, by all means: eat, drink, and be merry! But when you do so, be cautious. Consider COVID-19 protocols and remember that we’re still in this thing and people are vulnerable. Find creative ways to gather virtually, outdoors, or in smaller groups than usual. Consider the health and safety of the greater community. And consider the health of the planet. Here are a few waste reduction tips for parties, even small ones:

  • Choose reusable plates, cups, and silverware.
  • Have a compost bin in case there is wasted food.
  • Set up a waste station with GOOD recycling signage.
  • Encourage people to bring reusable to-go containers so you don’t get stuck with more leftovers than you can eat!

6.) Have gratitude…

…for the place you live, for the people who were here before you, for the food in front of you, and for those around you who you love and who love you back. Coming from a place of gratitude can help you be open to growth, ideas, perspectives, and traditions that honor and appreciate.

3 Tips for a Low Waste Halloween

Halloween! Such a fun fantastical holiday when you can really be whoever you want to be:

  • Storm from the X-Men?
  • Willy Wonka?
  • Or popular and scary Freddy Krueger?

Well, even scarier might be the incredible amount of plastic waste generated during this holiday. One study estimated that the UK tossed over 2,000 tons of new plastic waste from throwaway Halloween clothing alone during the 2019 holiday. Whaaaaa? That’s scary. And that isn’t even counting waste from candy wrappers and jack-o-lanterns.

Good news, though. This is avoidable!

In any case, there is a good chance that some waste will be avoided this year because of COVID since trick-or-treating won’t be allowed in many places. But here are 3 easy things to do to reduce waste during Halloween.

1.) Make a Jack-o-lantern!

Get your pumpkins, everybody! But roast the seeds. Also, when your pumpkin starts to go, put it in your yard debris bin or compost pile to be composted instead of throwing it in the trash.

2.) Get creative with your costume. Say no to single-use.

Tim as Alastair Moody!

Do you have your costume or your kiddo’s costume dialed in yet? Here’s a reminder to get creative rather than buying a brand new packaged plastic firefighter suit.

  • Can you buy a second-hand suit from the thrift store?
  • Can you avoid using costumes with pieces of plastic that will just fall off and end up in the yard?
  • Can you use non-toxic face paint and makeup?
  • Channel your inner DIY ninja!

We wrote a whole blog about DIY costumes a few years ago!

Tess as the Loch-Tess Monster!
Kailey as Guess Who’s Maria!

3.) Can we green-up the trick-or-treat candy?

Even if you aren’t going trick-or-treating, there are better ways to buy candy to reduce waste. Here are a couple of ideas:

  • AlterEco has compostable wrappers.
  • Choose candy that comes in cardboard boxes or foil so that you have recyclable wrappers.
  • Can you find your favorite candies in the bulk section at Bend Food 4 Less, Market of Choice, or Fred Meyer​, for example?

Rethink Waste Over the Holidays

It is estimated that between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, 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 and around the world to create all the new stuff people buy this time of year.

The good news is that if we pay a little more attention, we can reduce this number. Below are a few tips for you as you plan your holiday party or gift exchange.


  • Use pine boughs and clove covered oranges rather than single-use disposables.
  • Use LED light bulb strings to reduce energy costs.

Gift Giving

  • Consider a gift of experience instead of more stuff: concert tickets, a coupon for a hike, a trip to the Bend Rock Gym, a museum membership, or a community-supported agriculture share?
  • Get creative with your wrapping paper: use the funnies, an old Mt. Bachelor ski trails map, or a pillowcase with a reusable ribbon!
  • When purchasing material gifts, consider buying things with little to no or reusable packaging.
  • Consider making a donation to your favorite charity or non-profit in name of your gift recipient.
  • Buy local: Check out Locavore’s Holiday Gift Faire on December 7 or Craft-O at the Work House December 14 & 15!

Food Waste

  • 40% of the food that is grown to be eaten in the US ends up in the landfill. Be thoughtful with what you purchase: make a plan and stick to it!
  • Encourage your holiday party guests to bring leftovers containers.
  • Have a dish sign-up sheet to prevent having two dishes of mashed potatoes.
  • Compost all wasted food in your yard debris bin!

Post-Holiday Clean-Up

  • Don’t trash your holiday tree: either pay the Boy Scouts to pick it up, cut it up and put it in your yard debris bin, or take it to Deschutes Recycling at Knott Landfill. #Compost!
  • Do you have strings of holiday lights that no longer work? Don’t trash them – recycle them at Deschutes Recycling at Knott Landfill.
  • Know what is recyclable in Deschutes County and have a recycling station set up at your gift exchange.
    • Reuse: fabric ribbons, gift bags, wrapping paper
    • Recycle: wrapping paper (except foil), paperboard packaging, cardboard boxes, paper holiday cards, ripped and unusable gift bags
    • Trash: tissue paper, foil wrapping paper, plastic ribbon, plastic packaging, photo printed holiday cards

Learn more at RethinkWasteProject.org. Rethink Waste Project is an Environmental Center program.

Presents that Require Presence

In a meeting recently I heard about a wonderful gift idea. A jar filled with 365 slips of paper, each with its own memory, given to a parent. It turns out, memory jars are really popular projects on Pinterest and have a variety of applications. What are other gift ideas like this, that are really meaningful, require very little in the way of cash, maybe more of a time input?

Here are some other ideas along those lines, most of which can be found on the website New Dream.

What alternatives to traditional gifts have you come across?


Black Friday Shoppers: This is the Least We Can Do.

In the past we’ve written about 10 things to do on Black Friday other than go shopping. 4 years ago REI started their #OptOutside campaign, and began closing its doors on Friday to make a pretty bold statement about using this day as an opportunity to choose being outdoors over our cultural push to just keep.buying.more.stuff.  Almost every year I do my best to celebrate Buy Nothing Day, which is easy when it means don’t go to a big box store (that technically opened on Thanksgiving…thanks corporate America). But this year I’ve been thinking about how I’m in the minority on this topic, and most of our society is just going to go ahead and buy.more.stuff. So if you insist on shopping on Black Friday, consider adopting one of these 3 standards to guide your spending and use your hard-earned dollars in a way that strengthens our community and prevents future waste.

  • Buy Local: Yes there’s also Small Business Saturday (to support local businesses the weekend after Black Friday) but hey, you can’t hit every local store in one day and many have sales the whole weekend, so spread that love around! For instance, Pine Mountain Sports will donate half of all sales to Saving Grace, allowing your money to go even deeper into our community.
  • Buy Energy Efficient: It seems that Black Friday is not just about holiday shopping for others, but about scoring big deals for yourself. So, if you find that you are using Black Friday as a day to stock up on appliances, use this opportunity to buy ones with an Energy Star rating. Check out this Energy Challenge (another Environmental Center program) article and resource on Energy Saving 101 with appliances.
  • Buy Quality: The one thing that sales are good at (other than getting our dopamine all jacked up for getting a good deal on crap we don’t need) is allowing our money to go further by allowing us to buy a better product at an amount we can afford. This may be in the form of a gift, for your home, or for yourself. Think Quality Over Quantity. Do your research and read reviews so that you buy something that will not break within 6 months, is made to last for years, and is made with repairability and source materials in mind.

For most of us, our time is exchanged for money. So when you spend your money, you are essentially trading your time for that item.
Was it worth it?



Less Waste, More Joy

 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.


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.

No Big Black Bag on Christmas Morning

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:


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.
  • 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).


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:

  • 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.


  • 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.

Handmade Holidays

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 homemade 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. 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.

December weekends feature fun holiday gift faires at various locations in the area! Check out websites for dates and times.

If you miss a faire, you can still find a ton of local products from The Workhouse throughout the holiday shopping season.


Experience Based Gifts – More Fun, Less Waste!

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, the amount of waste we generated per capita, and then disposed at the landfill, increased in 2016 from the previous year. In fact it has increased every year since the recession. Recycling has remained a bit more steady, but per capita we recovered less in 2016 then the previous year.

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:

  • Theater! Comedy! Music! Look for tickets, membership and gift certificates from the Tower Theater & Cascades Theatrical Company.
  • Plan a trip to Portland or Seattle! Taking care of all the logistics can make it more special.

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.



Gift Giving with the Person (and the planet) in Mind.

With America’s biggest shopping day of the year creeping into Thanksgiving, it seems like a good time to step back and think about how we want to spend our holidays.

Before we get caught up in holiday shopping it’s a good time to remember that as consumers when we shop is when we have the most control over the most important “R” of Reduce Reuse & Recycle. This season, we’ll focus on ways we can reduce waste around the holidays. Check back as we expand each tip to give you more ideas and resources. Think it can’t be done? Pick one and see for yourself, then let us know how it went!

1) Plan Ahead and Prepare:

Spend time really thinking about the person you are buying a gift for.  You’re more likely to get them something they will really want or need that won’t end up at a white elephant party or worse, in the trash. TIP: If they are on Pinterest, your job just got easier.

2) Make Memories, Not Garbage:

Support local businesses while making memories through experience based gifts like dining, outdoor recreation, theaters, spa treatments and more!

3) Quality Over Quantity:

You might save a few bucks upfront, but how long before it ends up in the garbage?  Holiday sales are a great time to get a higher quality product that will last, for less.

4) Buy Handmade:

Try Etsy online or The Workhouse locally for handmade products.  There are tons of eco-friendly, unique and upcycled gifts available from independent artists.

5) Buy the Product, Not the Packaging:

10% of what you spend goes to the packaging, most of which winds up in the landfill.  Avoid buying over packaged goods.

6) Buy Local:

If you’re going to spend money, keep it local.  More of your money stays in Central Oregon when you support local businesses. Gift cards are one way to keep your money local support a local while being sure your loved ones get what they want.

7) Choose Reuse:

Shopping bags and coffee mugs for shopping. Plates, cups, and napkins when entertaining. Gift bags and ribbon for gift giving. Avoid unnecessary waste by avoiding disposables and using reusables throughout the holiday season.

8) Think Outside of the Box:

Don’t get stuck wrapping boxes in paper that often just ends up in the landfill, even though wrapping paper is recyclable.  Have fun with reusable tins, gift bags, ribbon and fabric for unique gift giving.

9) Buy Used:

Last year’s gear is this year’s bargain.  Try local resale stores or craigslist for great deals without all the waste.

10) Spend Time, Not Money:

Instead of buying something for someone, do something with them or for them.  Go sledding, bake cookies, string popcorn, have a tea party, make gifts, babysit, repair a bike, build a bookshelf, surprise them with breakfast in bed.