10 Quick Rethink Tips for Every Day!

There is a lot you can do every day to reduce your waste and Rethink your relationship to your stuff. Here are a few for you to ponder:


1.) Say no thanks to single-use utensils and paper napkins with your take out!

If you order food for delivery, ask the restaurant to hold the disposable silverware and napkins and use your own at home. Since delivery is on the rise because of the COVID epidemic, that means more single-use disposables are ending up in the trash. Do your part by using reusables!

And if you order from an app, let them know!

2.) Sign up for Loop to reduce new container purchasing and reuse the existing ones.

Have you checked out TerraCycle’s Loop shop? You can buy your consumable products in a reusable container that you return for a refill. The products are currently available online, but Loop has partnered with some brick and mortar stores to offer a reusable experience without the shipping.

The pandemic seems to be helping Loop grow even faster since people aren’t shopping in stores as much. And more and more big-name brands are getting on board the Loop train. Have you tried Loop? What do you think?

3.) Love your clothes til the very end of their life.

Ok well, this one is Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle all in one. Did you know it takes 1,500 gallons of water to manufacture just one T-shirt and pair of jeans? So let’s keep those jeans that you loved SO much out of the landfill. How?

Here 3 ideas:

  • Buy clothes that are either second hand or well made so they last longer
  • Turn older pants into shorts!
  • Sew the cut legs into a reusable bag.
  • Too loved to wear? You can also recycle them into building insulation: Recycling with Zappos

Reduce – Wasted Food

4.) Refresh your floppy carrots, don’t toss them!

Have you ever experienced squishy, flaccid carrots from leaving them in the fridge for too long? Do this to your carrots to crisp them back up: simply place them in a glass of water!

You can get more food waste prevention tips here.

5.) Preserve your food.

Food In JarsFood preservation is amazing:

  • It prevents wasted food
  • It makes GREAT homemade gifts
  • It can be a creative outlet!

Check out this long and thorough list of how to preserve different all different kinds of food through canning, pickling, drying, and more! Thanks, Oregon State University Extension Service!!


6.) Make reusable “water balloons”!

During HOT summer months, how about a good old fashioned water balloon fight to keep cool and have some playtime? Watch these kiddos toss over and over and over because…here’s the kicker: Reuseable “Water Balloons”!

Why? Less waste, fewer bits of microplastics entering the environment in our parks, gardens, and waterways. Plus, a good activity to put them together with the kiddos?

Here’s what you need:

  • Sponges
  • Scissors
  • Something to tie them with (string, rubber bands, zip ties)

Here’s how to do it:

  • Cut sponges into strips
  • Stack them on top of each other
  • Tie together: tada!
  • Here‘s a how-to video if you need more

Another method on the interwebs if you have some yarn and crochet hooks. Google it, test it out, let me know how it goes!


7.) Recycle cardboard: break it down, put it in the bin, and keep it clean and dry.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, there is less recyclable corrugated cardboard sent to be recycled because the suppliers (mainly large commercial entities with big cardboard recycling collection programs) are not selling as many wares.
Meanwhile, the residential sector is ordering more for online delivery and receiving more packages that can be recycled.
Rachel Kenyon, senior vice president for the Fibre Box Association said, “When commercial collections stalled because of COVID-19 shutdowns, the corrugated industry recognized the need to encourage greater residential recycling,” she said, adding the industry “needs clean, dry corrugated to ensure we maintain our balanced system.”

8.) Plastic lids are not recyclable in Deschutes County.

Q – Why aren’t plastic lids recyclable?

A – Your curbside commingled recyclables are collected, baled, and taken to a Materials Recovery Facility — in Deschutes County’s case: to Portland. There, thousands of pounds of mixed materials are poured onto conveyor belts and physically sorted by hand and sometimes by robots. Because of the massive quantities of materials, it is difficult to efficiently and effectively sort small pieces. Also, the small lids can get caught in the gears of the conveyor belts.

Flat plastic lids like those from yogurt tubs can get caught between stacks of paper on those conveyor belts and cause contamination.
And as for why we don’t just keep the caps attached to the bottles so they don’t get lost in the conveyor belts? When the materials are baled before shipping, they are compressed to save space on the trucks. That compression will cause bottles with lids to explode which can be harmful to workers in the facility — little bottle cap rockets shooting who knows which way.

SO: please toss your plastic lids in the trash!

9.) Put your receipts in the trash.

Did you know most receipts are NOT recyclable? This is because most are printed using thermal paper that contains a toxic chemical called BPA (and sometimes, even if it’s BPA free, it could contain BPS). There is no good way to tell whether or not the paper is thermal or not, so it’s best to toss your receipts in the garbage. Also, it’s probably best if you don’t lick them.

Here are a couple other tips for Deschutes County recycling:

  • We do NOT recycle by number here. Just because it has a recycling symbol on it does not mean it is recyclable.
  • Clamshells, paper coffee cups, and plastic (both petroleum and compostable) cups are also not recyclable here.
  • Curious about what else is and isn’t recyclable? Learn more here.

10.) We do NOT “recycle by number” in Deschutes County.

The chasing arrows symbol does NOT inherently mean a container is recyclable.

Did you know we do NOT “recycle by number” in Deschutes County? The universal recycling symbol is deceiving because it does not mean something is recyclable. The numbers tell us what kind the chemical composition of the plastic. While they do recycle by number in some places, not in here!

What plastics are accepted curbside here? Bottles, tubs, and jugs — no lids. Not sure if your item can go in? Ask us! Or throw it out. It’s more important than ever not to contaminate the recycling.

Buckingham 4th Graders Visit Knott Landfill

(Pictured above: Our lovely Sustainability Educators having a little fun during the field trip!)

Earlier this month, 4th grade students from Buckingham Elementary took a field trip to Knott Landfill. As part of our EarthSmart program and partnership with Deschutes County Solid Waste, students are able to tour the very place where all of our waste and recycling goes and learn that nothing truly ever goes “away.”

There are three stations the students tour: the landfill hole, the recycling center, and the transfer station.

At the big hole, students are able to see just how big a space is needed to bury all of our trash. Some highlights are learning about and feeling what the landfill liners are like, asking questions about the methane flare, and watching the huge dump trucks pack down all the incoming trash.

At the recycling center, students learn from the expert, Rigo, about what can/cannot be recycled and why, and get to watch the compactor crush down all the commingling, which is an exciting event! They also learn how certain materials like electronics, paint, and oil can be recycled here, too.

Lastly, at the transfer station, students put on their detective hats and check out the types of materials folks are disposing. They learn that all items unloaded at the transfer station ultimately end up in the landfill. Students are the first ones to notice materials that could have been recycled, or even better, donated or reused over again instead of sending them right to the landfill. It’s quite a shock to watch the amount of things being unloaded here, especially in such a short amount of time.

Students from Mrs. Buckman’s class wrote responses to their landfill visit. When I returned to their classroom the next week, I was welcomed by their drawings and informative knowledge. Students shared what they learned, noticed, and want to share with their friends and family from their tour:

“We learned that the difference between a dump and a landfill is that a landfill has two liners so that the leachate doesn’t leak out and a dump does not have liners. We also learned that they burn methane gas in a big pipe. We noticed that a lot of people throw away recyclable items. We also noticed there was a lot of loose trash everywhere in the landfill. We want to tell our friends and family, “If you have any cooking oil or motor oil, recycle it here!” We also want to tell them to recycle any old electric devices.”

“We noticed that people were throwing away recyclable items and paying for them when they could have recycled them for free!”

“We noticed that there was a lot of garbage that was not in the right bins. That effects a lot of things and sometimes workers have to hand pick it out.”

“I learned that Knott Landfill will fill up in 9.5 years in 2029.”

Touring the landfill is an eye-opening experience for anyone. When students see it at this age, the hope is that they are aware of how these systems and processes work and want to make changes to decrease the amount of waste they create in the first place and to educate their friends and family on the importance of recycling right.

We love taking students to the landfill and have gotten so many requests from parents and adults in the community to tour the landfill as well, so we now host community landfill tours in the spring and fall! Be on the lookout for these free events on our website and through Rethink Waste Project.

If this sparked your interest and you thought, “Wow! I want to make sure I’m recycling right!” Here is a link to our great resource, The Rethink Waste Guide, to inform you.

4 Spring cleaning tips that can save you energy too

Clean your refrigerator coils.

Before your fridge starts to work extra hard in the heat of summer, give it a leg up by cleaning the condenser coils that are underneath your fridge. We are known for lots of dirt and pet hair here in Central Oregon which can build up on the coils. When they get clogged, they don’t release heat like they’re supposed to and end up working overtime. This uses more energy and can shorten the life of your appliance. You can look up how to clean your specific fridge or for most, you will just need to unplug your fridge, remove the grill plate at the bottom, and use a coil brush to brush the coils. Make sure to sweep or use a vacuum crevice tool to pick up any debris you knocked off the coils under your fridge.

Clean your dryer vent.

While you’re at it, let’s get your dryer up to snuff too. When you clean your vent, you will reduce a major fire risk in your home. The US Fire Administration reports that more than 2,900 home fires are started by clothes dryers each year. The removable lint trap in your dryer does a great job of collecting lint and other debris from your clothes, but it does not catch everything—especially if you’re not cleaning it out after each use! After you’ve taken out the lint trap filter, vacuum the lint in the trap housing. Next up, you’ll need a dryer vent cleaning kit. This is important because you’ll need a long flexible-handled brush to clean the rest of your ductwork. Get step by step instructions from Ace Hardware here.

Dust off your ceiling fan.

Yes, we know, that’s not an energy tip. The tip here is while you’re cleaning, flip the switch to make sure it’s going the right direction for cooling. In the summer, you want a counter-clockwise direction which will push air down and create a soft breeze. Ceiling fans make us feel cooler but don’t lower the temperature so turn them off when you aren’t in the room.

Change your AC and/or furnace filter. 

You should be changing your furnace and/or AC filter every three months. It’s OK, there is no time like the present to build this good habit! Try signing up for a delivery service that sends you filters when you need them or just scheduling a reminder. This is important to maintain good indoor air quality, to keep your furnace operating efficiently, and to prolong the life of your HVAC system. Get step by step instructions for your AC here and furnace here.

Oregon Electric Vehicle Rebates

Did you know that Oregon Has one of the best EV incentives in the country? The Oregon Clean Energy Rebate Program offers Oregon residents a rebate of up to $2,500, when paired with the $7,500 Federal tax credit drivers can save $10,000 off a new electric car.

In addition to the standard rebate there is an extra rebate available for Low to Moderate Income drivers called the Charge Ahead Program that offers up to $2,500 off a new or used electric car!

You want to make sure you know what is available and what qualifies before you start shopping.

What Cars Qualify?

Some of these requirements are a little wonky but there is a list of eligible cars and the rebate they qualify for that can be found here.

A qualifying vehicle for the new Oregon rebate must:

  • Have a base manufacturer’s suggested retail price of less than $50,000 (This includes Tesla Model 3s because the base is $35k)
  • Be covered by a manufacturer’s express warranty on the vehicle drive train, including the battery pack, for at least 24 months from the date of purchase
  • Be either a battery electric vehicle OR a plug-in hybrid vehicle that has at least 10 miles of EPA-rated all-electric range and warranty of at least 15 years and 150,000 miles on emission control components.
    1. $2,500 goes to vehicles with battery capacities above 10 kWh.
    2. $1,500 goes to vehicles with a battery capacity of 10 kWh or less.
  • Be a new vehicle, or used only as a dealership floor model or test-drive vehicle
  • The rebate will apply to new electric vehicles that are purchased or leased, with a minimum 24-month lease term.

How does the state rebate work?

  • You have to apply for your rebate within 6 months of your purchase.
  • You can find your application forms here.
  • The rebate will be returned to you as a check not a tax credit which means you don’t have to wait till tax return season and it is available even if you don’t have a large enough tax liability in Oregon.

Income qualified additional incentive.

The Charge Ahead incentive is available for low and Moderate income households and offers a $2,500 rebate for the purchase of a new or used fully electric car. This can be used in addition to the standard rebate which would add up to $5,000 from the state! This program will help bring the benefits of electric vehicles to many more Oregonians.

In order to qualify for the rebate you must:
  • Be a low or moderate income household. (For Deschutes county this is $83,500 for a family of 4)
  • Be an Oregon resident (with a valid ID)
  • Purchase or lease a new or used plug in hybrid or battery electric vehicle from a dealer (no person-to-person sales or plug in hybrids)
    • Only vehicles purchased or leased after January 1, 2018 are eligible * Plug in hybrids purchased after 9/29/19 will also qualify for charge ahead*
  • Register the car in Oregon, and retain registration for at least 24 months
  • Provide documentation showing proof of income eligibility
  • Submit your application within 6 months after the purchase or lease date

The state is working hard  on making this a sustainable process for many years to come. Charge Ahead rebates should start being issued in Q1 2020.

As with all EV questions please reach out to for more details.

Buying a new appliance? There’s a cert for that.

Are you an Energy Star?

Did you know that there are Energy Star certifications for more than 38 common household appliances? Well, now you know so the next time you are thinking about buying something new, make sure you are checking for those Energy Star certifications.

Below are just a few of the products in your home that could be Energy Star certified. Which ones do you need to replace?

Information from energystar.gov.  Visit the Energy Star website for the full and most up-to-date information.


Energy Star Appliance

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Programming your savings

When used correctly, programmable thermostats can be a boon for energy savings during heating and cooling seasons.

General guidelines are that you should be scheduling your thermostat to be lowered when you are at work and at night.The Department of Energy recommends that you set your thermostat to 68°F while you’re home and 60 – 62°F while you are away and at night. A great goal is to hit a setback point for 8 hours or more. The real question is: How low can you go? (General rule of thumb is stay above 55 to avoid pipes freezing).

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Staying warm when you drop the temps

Just because you’ve set your thermostat back a few degrees, doesn’t mean that you should have to sacrifice comfort.

If you do it right, you may find that you feel even warmer after you lower your thermostat by making a few easy changes. 

Run ceiling fans in reverse (clockwise in the winter) to create an up-draft and pull cool air up. You want to pull cool air up to force the warm air back down because warm air will naturally rise. This will then redistribute warm air, helping you to feel warmer.

  • If you have a remote, the forward button is usually set for summer settings, and the back button for winter.
  • If you have a horizontal toggle switch, you usually need to flip to the right for winter and to the left for summer.
  • If you have a vertical toggle switch, switching up usually means pulling air up for winter.

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Maintaining your heat pump

Outdoor Ductless Heat Pump Unit

Do you know what kind of heating system you have? It’s OK if you don’t—this question catches many people off guard. This shouldn’t, however, be an excuse for not maintaining that system!

If you have an outdoor unit, it is either part of your air conditioner, or means that you are heating and cooling your home with a heat pump.  There are two types of heat pumps—ducted and ductless. If you have registers that supply heat in each room, you have a ducted system. You  will usually find your air handler in your garage or basement with large ducting coming off of the system that moves the conditioned air through your home.  If you have a unit mounted on your wall, commonly called a distribution head, you have a ductless system. Often times you will have a couple of centrally located heads with your ductless system.

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Furnace Filters 101–Why are they important?

Clean vs dirty filters

100% of the air in your home passes through a filter, typically twice every hour. Since clean, quality air filters keep the air in your home fresh, the people inside stay healthier. A quality air filters captures the harmful bacteria typically found in sneezes, coughs, viruses and molds, as well as pollutants like dust and car fumes.

Clean filters also keep your HVAC system healthy–they enable it to run more efficiently, keep repair costs to a minimum, and reduce monthly energy bills. About half of your monthly energy bill is attributed to HVAC, and keeping clean air filters is the single most effective way to improve HVAC efficiency. Clogged filters make the HVAC work harder as it conditions your home, which raises your energy bill. (And if there are no filters, the coils will clog, which is even worse for your system!)