Why Less Matters

Explore how the stuff we buy, use and get rid of everyday, is impacting our world. From furniture to food, our purchasing decisions and behaviors are where we have the most impact, both positively and negatively. We all know the 3 R’s: Reduce Reuse and Recycle, but while most people focus on the 3rd R, – Recycling – it’s Reduce that is the most important. Join staff from The Environmental Center’s Rethink Waste Project to learn more about why stuff matters, globally and here in Deschutes County, and leave with hands on tips to do something about it.

There are three events this series:

  • February 7 @ 6:00 pm – East Bend Library
  • February 8 @ 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm – Sunriver Library
  • February 20 @ 12:00 pm – 12:55 PM – Sisters Library

Denise Rowcroft and Ani Kasch are Sustainability Educators with The Environmental Center, a local non-profit organization working to embed sustainability into daily life in Central Oregon. Denise has managed their Rethink Waste Project and Learning Garden since 2011, and enjoys creatively repurposing leftover and found materials. Ani has been coordinating our LED light bulb installations since 2016 and this past spring kicked off our community Rethink Food Waste Challenge. She is an avid bike commuter and loves cooking meals only with things found in her kitchen.

Residential Composting Pilot in Bend

Last week, Bend Garbage & Recycling and Cascade Disposal announced that they’ll be introducing a residential food waste pilot program to some areas in Bend. About 300 households from each company will participate in the pilot, which allows customers to put more food in their standard yard debris bins for curbside collection and composting. (Raw fruit and veggie scraps can currently be added to this bin. During the pilot program, they will accept meat, dairy, bakery items, and more.) If all goes well, residential composting could be available to all of their customers sometime in 2019. We’re very excited to hear this news, because it’s estimated that 26% of Knott Landfill is food waste!

We have partnered with both haulers to provide food waste prevention information for those selected for the pilot, including an Eat First card: a tool from our Rethink Food Waste Toolkit that helps you separate out foods in your fridge that need to be eaten first so they don’t end up in the compost pile. Of course we want to keep food out of the landfill and turn it into beautiful and useful compost, but we encourage you to prevent food waste in the first place. Sign up for our Rethink Food Waste Challenge to learn more and access helpful resources around food waste prevention.

You can read the full press from Bend Garbage & Recycling and Cascade Disposal here.

View the article from from KTVZ.

Celebrating Five Years of Repair Cafés in Central Oregon

On Thursday, October 18, 2018, it will be exactly nine years since Martine Postma organized the very first Repair Café in Amsterdam. Today there are over 1,600 Repair Cafés in 33 countries on six continents. Here in our own backyard, The Environmental Center’s Rethink Waste Project organized the first local event five years ago at Pakit Liquidators, which has since transformed into the shared maker space, DIY Cave.

Repair Cafés are events that connect people with broken stuff, with people who like to fix stuff. Over the past five years, over 400 items have been repaired through 15 local events with different host partners including The Gear Fix, DIY Cave, Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore, Deschutes Public Library, Central Oregon Community College, and more.

“For us, Repair Cafés fit into the mission of the Rethink Waste Project by preventing tangible waste through repair instead of replacement,” said Denise Rowcroft, Rethink Waste Program Manager with The Environmental Center. “But the really cool side effect of having repair events is less tangible – it’s about connecting people to their stuff in a way that gets them thinking about how they consume and the purchases they make, which is ultimately where we have more impact.”

Repair Cafés are free and staffed by volunteer fixers. Volunteers bring their own tools and variety of expertise, and will often troubleshoot difficult-to-repair items together or share tools. They have expertise in small appliances and electronics, clothing, outdoor gear, jewelry, and small furniture. Rowcroft added that volunteers receive a lot of satisfaction in keeping things out of the landfill, and attendees often really enjoy their interactions with volunteers and learning more about repair.

“It’s exciting to be a part of a global network of people, helping each other out by fixing stuff. It’s building community and resilience, and it’s just really fun.”

Shortly following International Repair Café Week, October 13 -21, the next local Repair Café will be on October 30, 2018 at the Redmond Public Library from 5:30 -7:30 p.m. People can bring in multiple items for repair, but are asked to sign up for one at a time so as not to dominate one volunteer for the whole evening.

“Repair café events are a perfect fit for Library programming,” said Liz Goodrich of the Deschutes Public Library. “These fun, community-based events provide opportunities for the volunteers to share their skills with participants.”


WHAT: Redmond Repair Cafe 

WHEN: Tuesday October 30th 2018, 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. 

WHERE: Redmond Public Library, 827 SW Deschutes Ave, Redmond, OR 97756

Sign up for the Rethink Food Waste Challenge

Food waste is a big issue here in the United States! About 1/4 of what people bring home from the grocery store ends up in the trash. In this episode of EnviroAnswers, Ani provides some tips on how to organize your fridge and shop smarter – in ways that will reduce your waste.

Are you up to the challenge? Earlier this year, over 200 households in Central Oregon took the Rethink Food Waste Challenge. They weighed their wasted food each week, and received helpful resources, tips and ideas on how to reduce what ends up in the trash. Throughout the course of the Challenge, we’re happy to report that participants’ food waste dropped by a whopping 59%!

Now it’s your turn. We’ve made the Challenge available online! Sign up and you’ll receive a short email series that guides you through the process. You’ll learn what food you’re wasting in your home and how to prevent it. Pledge to waste less food! Sign up here.

Show us your clean campsite to win!

Camping is a great way to enjoy nature, spend time with your crew, and find some peace & quiet. But if you’re generating a lot of trash on your weekend adventures, it’s a real burn on Mother Earth. In this short video, we share some great tips on how to have a CLEAN CAMPSITE!
Now it’s your turn. Take a picture of something you do (or bring) while camping that helps reduce waste. Tag your photos #cleancampsite, and mention The Environmental Center, and you could win a prize package of reusable camp gear. Submit your photos through Labor Day! Full details on this giveaway can be found here.

Our Food is Too Good to Waste

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 a $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.

Learn more and sign up for the Rethink Food Waste Challenge at: http://www.RethinkWasteProject.org/FoodWaste/

The Rethink Food Waste Challenge is made 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.

The Environmental Center and Whole Foods Team Up to Recycle

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 one time per quarter, 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 28, July 28, and October 27. 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, July 28, October 27, all Saturdays, 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
denise@envirocenter.org or (541) 385-6908 x14

Becca Burda at Whole Foods
rebecca.burda@wholefoods.com or (541) 389-0151

It’s a Repair Revolution!

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 within 6 months. All that “instant garbage” has to go somewhere. But the bigger impact, the one we don’t witness, is all the materials extracted, then wasted, to turn raw materials into products that are then shipped overseas and trucked across the country to a store – only to break within a year.

But we’re starting to see people return to REPAIRS. Its resurgence can be attributed to many things: A growing maker movement sweeping the nation. People getting fed up with cheap crap. A feeling of pride that comes from being self-reliant. Or the emergence of repair events. It’s also encouraging to see the popularity of Patagonia’s Worn Wear program, which has put repairing clothing in the public eye and made it more accessible to more communities. Whatever the reasons, people are getting into repair all over the world. And it’s about time!


The Environmental Center operates a program called Rethink Waste Project. Through this program, we provide waste prevention/reduction education for Deschutes County residents through a partnership with Deschutes County Department of Solid Waste and our local garbage and recycling service providers. We work together to provide consistent information to the community regarding ideas for preventing waste in the first place, and options for responsible material management. You may be familiar with our Zero Waste stations at events around Bend, or perhaps you’ve seen a Rethink Waste presentation during a staff meeting or community gathering.

p1050092Since 2013, the Rethink Waste Project has organized 11 Repair Cafes – events that bring together volunteer ‘fixers’ and people with broken stuff. Our volunteers are hobbyists, professionals, and avid tinkerers. They attempt to repair broken items such as small furniture, appliances, jewelry, outdoor gear, clothes, and more. Our Repair Cafe events have fixed over 300 items and have provided DIY instructions on another 50. We just held our Fall Repair Cafe last Saturday, November 18th. But don’t worry! You can catch our Spring Repair Cafe on Thursday, April 5th at Ensworth Elementary School from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m.