Composting when you don’t have a yard or a public service.

  • I live in a small apartment and there is no composting on the property.

  • I have a yard, but my HOA says I can’t have a compost pile.

  • I live outside city limits so I don’t get yard debris service and I don’t want to deal with a compost pile.

Do any of these statements sound like you? I’m here to help! First, learn to reduce your wasted food as much as you can. Here is a link for tips and tricks to do just that with the Rethink Food Waste Challenge. Second, below are a few options that might work for you.

1.) Get a worm bin: learn vermiculture.

Vermiculture, or worm cultivation, is for you if you mainly have fruit and vegetable scraps. In addition to produce, worms will eat eggshells, tea bags, coffee grounds with the filter, and shredded paper. Some sources say other stuff as well: do your own research. Worms can live outside if you insulate their bin. The laundry room or garage is another good place to keep them. Another cool thing: our local Wonder Worman can supply your worms! Here is our guide to Worm Bin Composting for everything you need to know.

2.) Find a friend with a compost pile you can add to!

Or find one who has chickens or pigs. My chickens love any veggie scraps I will spare them.

Scrap-happy chickens from one Rethink Food Waste Challenge participant.

3.) Hire Project Green Bin to pick up your compost.

Project Green Bin is a service here in Central Oregon that will come pick up your compost and take it to Rainshadow Organics where it gets fed to their pigs. You can close the loop by turning your scraps into pork.

4.) Try out Bokashi: a Japanese method of anaerobic composting.

This method sounds really great! I’ve never seen it in action, so will you test it out for me? Bokashi actually ferments food scraps (all food scraps) using microorganisms. Apparently, it has no odor whatsoever. Check out Face Down Waste’s blog post for one person’s experience.

How do you compost?

Rethink Waste: DIY Beeswax Wrap!

We’re up to our armpits in our second Rethink Food Waste Challenge! Folks are learning all about ways to reduce their household food waste through shopping with a list, keeping their refrigerator organized with an Eat First shelf (a place to keep all the food that needs to be eaten soon!), and only buying what they know they will eat. Another great tip? Shop your kitchen first and make a meal plan for the week before making a list! Beeswax wraps are a useful tool for preventing food waste AND preventing single-use disposable waste in your kitchen.

What’s a beeswax wrap?

Food waste is not the only kind of waste that happens in a kitchen.  Stores are full of single-use items like ziplock bags and plastic wrap. A Meliwrap beeswax wrap is a great reusable alternative! If you’ve never seen one in action, check it out here. You can use them to cover a bowl or to wrap a sandwich, for example. You can find these locally made Meliwraps at the Gear Fix, Locavore, Newport Market, and other places around Bend or you can buy them online for delivery!

DIY Beeswax Wraps

If you don’t want to buy them, you can make them! This is a fun DIY project to produce an alternative to that use and toss mindset. This recipe does not use tree resin and plant oils like the Meliwrap, so they are a little less sticky. Beeswax by itself is a little easier to handle in the home kitchen, but if you get adventurous, let us know about your project!

Using the wrap

I like to use my wraps to hold a burrito. Just for simplicity’s sake, I like to wrap my burrito in a cloth napkin first and then use the beeswax wrapper. This way food doesn’t get on them. If food does get on them, you can wipe them off with a washcloth or with your hand with a tiny bit of soap and water, but you don’t want to scrub it too hard because it could remove the wax.

Directions

For these beeswax wraps, here’s what you need:

  • Some cotton cloth (I used an old clean bed sheet.)
  • Beeswax (check in with your favorite honey producer to see if they have some in stock! Also available at craft stores and Natural Grocers.)
  • Cheese grater (I recommend having one specifically for crafts.)
  • Cookie sheet
  • Scissors or pinking shears
  • An old paintbursh

Step 1

Cut your fabric into whatever size of wrapper you want. It’s nice to have a variety of sizes, but my favorite is about 12″ x 12″. If you have scissors that make a patterned cut like pinking shears, you can use those, but normal scissors are ok too.

Step 2

Grate the beeswax! This can be a tricky step as sometimes the wax clogs your grater holes and you have to scrape it out. Place one or two cloths on your cookie sheet and sprinkle a small amount of wax onto each cloth. Finding the right amount of wax will take some practice, but err on the side of too little!

Step 3

Place the cookie sheet in your oven at THE LOWEST TEMPERATURE setting available. Watch it through the window to see when the wax is melty. When it looks spreadable, take the cookie sheet out and use your paintbrush to spread the wax as evenly as possible. If necessary to redistribute the wax, put it back in for a bit. The key is even distribution and not soo much wax that it pools, which will cake and crust when it dries.

Step 4

Pull your new wrappers out of the oven and pick each up by a corner. Wave it in the air for a bit to cool it off and then hang it up to dry completely. Voila! You’ve got yourself a new reusable beeswax wrap!

Refreshing an old wrapper

As you use your wraps, they show signs of wear. But it’s easy to renew it! If there is enough wax on the wrap, you can just put it in the oven for a minute and it will re-melt into all the cloth crevices. If too much wax has rubbed off, you can grate a little more onto the wrap when you heat it and repeat step 3 above.

The used wrapper on the left has been around for about 2 years. The one on the right has just been refreshed.

 

Have you made beeswax wraps? How did they turn out?

Springtime Reuse in the Garden

Spring is in full-fledged now. Frosty nights (my chicken’s water was frozen over this morning) make way for warm days and sprouting seeds. As you move through your garden deciding on new places to plant, expand, and build, I challenge you to find places creative reuse.

Why should I care about reuse?

  1. The newest DEQ report for our local landfill revealed Deschutes County residents threw away 179,991 tons of waste. The good news is that we recovered (either through recycling or composting) 83,472 tons. That’s a recovery rate of 31.7%, but our goal is 45%! As a community, we need to work together to lower the amount of waste we generate AND do our best to divert waste through recycling, composting, and (most fun of all) repurposing.
  2. Repurposing is fun! It’s a creative outlet. You can head down a serious rabbit hole if you start in on Pinterest reuse ideas.

Ok I’ve got my armor on: hit me with some ideas, Ani!

Here goes! Below are all the examples of creative reuse in our Kansas Avenue Learning Garden at The Environmental Center:

One side of an old broken bed frame supports the end of a garden bed and old tires become seats for weeding!

What creative reuse do you see in your garden?

Join the Spring 2020 Rethink Food Waste Challenge!

Join over 700 households who have taken the challenge!

In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, we are bringing you a FREE home challenge to reduce your household’s wasted food. This interactive challenge (May 11 – June 7) will help you understand what is going to waste in your own household with tips and tricks on how to reduce that wasted food. You’ll learn why it’s an important topic and what people around the globe are doing to help combat this enormous problem. And we have $1,000 worth of prizes to give away.

Want to sign up?

Find the sign-up form here. You must be a Deschutes County resident to be eligible for prizes, but anyone can take the challenge. Questions? Send them to: ani AT EnviroCenter.org

Why does wasted food matter?

Wasting food has social, financial, and environmental implications. Especially now during this pandemic, food insecurity is a real and tangible and GROWING issue for many of us. Over the course of the challenge, you will learn many things about the state of wasted food. For starters, did you know that 40% of the food that is grown to be eaten in the US ends up not being eaten? Yet in Deschutes County, 1 in 6 people is food insecure, meaning they don’t always know where their next meal will come from?

What do I have to do?

  1. As a household, you will collect your wasted food (everything that was at one time edible — not eggshells and onion skins) in a lidded bucket.
  2. At the end of each week, you will weigh or measure your wasted food.
  3. Then you will enter the data into an online form, which will also enter you into the weekly prize drawing.
  4. After you measure your food waste for the week, you don’t have to save it. Compost it!
  5. The challenge lasts for 4 weeks starting May 11.
  6. Each week you will receive emails learning tips and tricks to reduce your wasted food.

Ok. What do I need?

  1. A bucket or container in which you can collect your food waste. One with a lid is nice to keep in any odors.
  2. A kitchen scale would be nice, but you can also record your waste by volume.

That’s it, really.

What’s in it for you?

We have $1,000 worth of prizes that we’ll be giving away including two $250 grand prizes in farm bucks good for a local farm (TBD).

The Zero Waste Movement Will Survive COVID-19

1.) YOU DON’T NECESSARILY NEED NEW CLEANING CHEMICALS TO GET RID OF THE VIRUS.

Many household cleaners that aren’t chemically based do kill the virus. Good old fashioned soap and water, hydrogen peroxide, isopropyl alcohol to name a few. Vinegar, while one of my favorite cleaners, does not disinfect.

2.) KEEP USING REUSABLES!

The coronavirus can travel on many types of surfaces, not just reused materials. It can be attached to brand new never before used single-use disposable plastic bags and straws and they can be transmitted through reusable bags. To avoid getting the virus, wash your hands, wash your reusable bags, and wash your reusable coffee cups.

3.) USE YOUR HANDKERCHIEF, KEEP IT CLEAN.

Don’t sneeze into the air, but do so into the crook of your arm. If you use a handkerchief, make sure you wash it often.

4.) YOU CAN STILL BUY IN BULK WITH YOUR OWN CONTAINER IF YOU’RE CAREFUL.

Although some stores have closed their bulk sections out of fear of virus transmission, Food for Less and Locavore are two stores whose bulk sections are still open. If you do bring your own containers, just be ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN they are freshly washed and totally clean. Your hands should be clean, too.

5.) DON’T WASTE YOUR FOOD: WASTED FOOD IS WASTED MONEY.

Many of us are losing our jobs or having our hours cut. We aren’t eating out as much – although if we can afford to, it’s a good idea to support small businesses! Since we may have less income, it’s as important as ever to use up every last bit of food we have rather than waste it. Want to learn more about how to reduce your food waste? Here‘s some information all about the best ways to store food.

6.) AS IMPORTANT AS EVER: DON’T BE A WISHFUL RECYCLER.

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. Know what goes in and what stays out. Need help? Check out these resources or watch this helpful video:

Tip #1 Know what goes into your curbside recycling bin

As a countdown to our virtual Earth Day celebration, on April 25th, we will be posting tips to reduce, reuse and recycle!Putting the wrong materials in your commingled recycling bin causes multiple problems like damaging machinery and harming workers at materials recovery facilities. Please take a minute to educate yourself about what's accepted in your curbside recycling bin in Deschutes County.

Posted by Rethink Waste Project on Friday, April 10, 2020

Featured Image Credit: Historical Society of Pennsylvania

Meet Tess: Our Newest Rockstar Team Member!

We are so excited to introduce you to Tess Freeman who has come on board at TEC to lead our DEQ Materials Management grant-funded Multifamily Recycling Project over the next year! Born and raised in Carbondale, Colorado, Tess became an Oregonian when she attended the U of O. She has lived in Bend for 5 years sharing stories with the community through her videography at the Bulletin. Her background in and passion for photojournalism will be an asset to her new position enabling her to connect with all kinds of folks. And is she passionate about other things? You betcha!: sustainability, reducing waste in her home, and DIY projects to name a few. She is also curious about the way things work, and excited about sharing knowledge. We’re lucky to have her with us.

Below are a few questions and answers I asked Tess to learn a little more about her background and interests — I’m sharing them with you so you can get to know her better, too. We hope you think she’s as rad as we do!

What do you appreciate or enjoy about living in Central Oregon?

I enjoy living in a place where I can access the trails from my backyard and be in the mountains within a short drive. The access to the outdoors along with the combination of music, art and the emerging discussions about diversity is what keeps me in Central Oregon. Growing up in Colorado, I love living in a similar climate where we get to experience the magic of all four seasons.  

What’s one thing you’re looking forward to this year?

This year is an exciting one in many ways! I feel very fortunate to join the staff at The Environmental Center and for the opportunity to use my creativity to work on a new pilot project that focuses on reducing waste and recycling. I am also very excited about my sister’s book, No Option but North, which comes out in April. She spent a year interviewing Central American migrants on their journey to the United States and I was able to join her to photograph some of the migrants whose stories are featured in her book. I believe the stories, combined with the portraits, create empathy for the people who make the difficult journey across Mexico to the U.S. border. I’m hopeful that this book will help give much needed insight into such a complex issue like immigration.

What book are you currently reading? Or a film you’ve seen recently?

I’m currently reading Samantha Power’s memoir The Education of a Young Idealist. Power was Obama’s human rights advisor and then later was the youngest American appointed to be the US ambassador for the UN. She interweaves her career track with her personal life in a unique way that makes her struggles and accomplishments relatable. This narrative is especially inspiring to see from a person who has held such a high level position in our government.

If you were to facilitate a discussion on one topic you’re passionate about, what would it be?

I am incredibly passionate about photojournalism, storytelling with imagery and the way the use of images has changed even in the short time that I’ve been in the working world. To me, this discussion focuses on the approach and purpose of photography instead of the technical aspects of cameras, which is very easy to get distracted by because cameras are very cool gadgets. I believe that capturing raw, truthful moments of humanity with photography is important art to protect and I love diving into all the discussions surrounding the changing world of journalism.

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.

Community Grants Awarded For Waste Reduction

Five organizations / businesses have won a grant from The Environmental Center’s Rethink Waste Community Grants Program to support waste reduction efforts!

Out of 30 compelling applications, there were three winning projects tackling single-use disposables, one working on diversion of wasted food, and one that addresses recycling contamination. The grants totaled more than $7,000.

We are so excited to have been able to fund the following projects:

  • Council on Aging of Central Oregon – to implement reusable bags for their Meals on Wheels community-based food delivery program for aging adults across Central Oregon
  • Central Oregon Community College – to design and install signage across campus for consistent and accurate education that addresses recycling contamination and encourages increased diversion of recyclables from the landfill
  • SCP (Soul, Community, Planet) Hotel in Redmond – to help implement an on-site composting program
  • Taco Del Mar: Bend and Redmond – to replace single-use disposable foodware and utensils with reusables for eat-in diners
  • Sunriver Owner’s Association – to replace Styrofoam single-use coffee cups with reusable coffee mugs in their establishment

Another round of Rethink Waste community grant applications will open this fall — stay tuned for more information on that!

What Teaching About Forks and Spoons to 1,000 Elementary Schoolers Taught Me

This is a guest blog post from Isa Merel, a Bend High graduate who attends Occidental College (’23). During her winter break, she helped to educate local students about reducing cafeteria waste. We are so grateful for her time and effort! 


“They say you can learn a lot from young people. Their enthusiasm, optimism, and free spirits are envious and inspiring as we age into cautious, skeptical adults. As a 19-year-old college student, I didn’t think I was old enough to learn from people only a few years younger than me. After all, I was only in elementary school less than a decade ago. To my surprise, however, the boys and girls I interacted with over the two weeks I interned with the Environmental Center have taught me more about myself and the ever-growing need for optimism in today’s world.

Everyone told me my first winter break of college would be unbearably long and lonely. After the last few months of new-found independence, friendships, and growth in college, it was easy to believe that going home for six weeks would be boring, especially in Bend, where I have grown up. At my small liberal arts school in Los Angeles, it was easy to get lost in the fun and freedom of freshman year in the SoCal sunshine. There was always something new to do, someplace new to explore; in LA, there’s excitement around every busy sidewalk corner. Bend, though beautiful, is small enough that I think I’ve been to every coffee shop three times and done every hike at least once. So, I made a choice to make the most of my time at home, not just to catch up with friends and family, but to use my new college skills and knowledge to better my community, even in a small way.

I emailed Jackie Wilson, Education Coordinator at the Environmental Center, about a month or so before I arrived in Bend asking if she had any work for me to do over the few weeks I’d be home. I wanted to do something— anything— to keep myself occupied over the break. I didn’t expect that she would offer me a full-paid short-term internship helping to educate elementary schoolers on the importance of reducing our ecological footprints by reducing waste in the school lunchroom. I’d also be helping to draft a proposal to the BLP School Board to switch to reusable cups in the cafeteria in place of milk cartons as well as implementing meatless meals to reduce the BLP District’s carbon footprint. Though teaching and interacting with what would end up being over a thousand elementary schoolers was a bit out of my comfort zone,the internship would keep me busy and give me something meaningful to put on my growing résumé. Little did I know that the experience would give me so much more than that.

I learned that I do, in fact, like kids. Even though there was one that insisted I was in middle school, even though one asked if I was “COOL” and when I said yes he said “Oh, so you’re a Constipated, Overweight, Out-of-style Loser?,” even though some of them stared blankly ahead as I attempted to engage them in learning, the overall consensus I came to is that kids are awesome. They have the energy and optimism to
make lofty goals and suggestions, something I’ve realized was lacking in my last years of high school and now in college. Around me, people tell me I’ll have to consolidate my goals to something more “achievable.” Even one of my favorite teachers in high school said I would just have to have to dream smaller. I never asked for reality checks, yet I always got them, and I figured that was just the way it was as an adult. But two weeks of nonstop youthful optimism threw me right back into my big dreams.

At the end of each presentation, I would ask the students if they had any questions, suggestions, or comments they wanted to contribute. Every time, without fail, the kids would ask
something to the effect of, “If plastic and waste is so bad, why don’t we just stop producing trash? What if we had reusable everything?” And, with a big smile on my face and hope for the future, I would tell them that, if they got really good at using reusable silverware, they could prove to their principals and teachers that they are responsible enough to have other reusable things like plates, cups, and more. They’d nod their heads and promise me they’d do a good job.

It might seem cliché, but they really did inspire me. Here I am, four weeks into only my second semester at college and I’m getting A’s on all my assignments, helping to plan Earth Month, starting a bird conservation club, and volunteering every weekend on different projects around Los Angeles. I even just washed my sheets! Last semester, I barely made it to my 8:30am class every week. And I fully believe that the positivity and motivation of the kids I worked with over Winter Break are the reason I’m able to aim— and land— so high. These kids want to make change. They know what’s going on in the world around them and they want to make it better. Most importantly, they believe in themselves and the world enough to think that change will actually happen. And you know what? I believe it, too.

Thank you to Jackie and the Environmental Center for giving me such an amazing experience! Cheers.”

Reusable bags at Whole Foods = support for our work!

We are excited to share that The Environmental Center has been selected as the Bag Donation Program recipient at Whole Foods Market in Bend this winter! Here’s how it works…

When you bring in your reusable bags for groceries, you’ll have the option to receive a ten-cent credit, OR to donate ten cents to a selected nonprofit organization. Local organizations are selected every quarter (four times per year) as recipients. The Environmental Center is currently the recipient in Bend until March 31, 2020!

Cashiers should be asking customers how they’d like to use their credit – but here’s a friendly reminder to be proactive in applying the credit to the donation program. In years past, this program has delivered over $1,300 to support our School Gardens program, which connects kids to outdoor classrooms and garden education. That’s a big deal for us, and we’d be thrilled to see similar support in the New Year so that we can strengthen our impact across Central Oregon.

Questions? Give us a call at 541-385-6908.

P.S. The statewide single-use plastic bag ban is now in effect, so be sure to keep reusable bags in your car, backpack, purse, pannier, etc. It’s time to make it a habit. Paying 5 cents extra for a paper bag every time is not the answer. In fact, you would need to use a paper bag at least 7 times to have the same carbon footprint as a plastic grocery bag. Of course, buying a new reusable bag every time and stockpiling them in your pantry is also not a great solution. If you don’t have a reusable shopping bag yet, the City of Bend gave us some ‘Bring Your Bag Bend’ ones share – so stop by our office at 16 NW Kansas Ave. to grab your own!