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?

Learn from the kids: reusables!

Reusables! They are the best. Sometimes they do require an upfront investment, but over time, as you use, the costs equalize. Yes, costs. You won’t have to buy single-use disposables over and over AND the tax on the earth also lessens.

Reusables are great for:

  • Camping – You can just set up a dishwashing station. More about camping here.
  • Parties – Holiday parties, kid’s birthday parties, bachelorette parties, weddings. Don’t have enough of your own for the number of guests? You can buy dishes from a second-hand store, ask a friend if they have a set, or encourage your guests to bring their own. More about holidays here.
  • To go containers – BYO to the restaurant and pile in your leftovers.
  • Kid camps – Check out these kids below who are showing how easy it can be to use reusables.

Use and wash and reuse and wash and reuse and wash…

Below some kids demonstrate a good way to wash dishes whether or not we’re in a pandemic!

Here are some kids bringing reusables to camp, but we can also bring our own to school, work, or on the go:

A note about reusables during COVID-19 pandemic

There’s a lot of confusing and conflicting information out there about reuse during the time of COVID. But here is a fact supported by a quote from Dr. Ben Locwin, epidemiologist:

Reuseable materials do not inherently give you coronavirus.

“You can’t be innoculated by the coronavirus by just touching a surface that has it on it. It has to not only be on the surface AND viable AND in enough quantity, but then you ALSO have to bring the vector to your eyes, nose or moutn in order to introduce it.”

The likelihood of getting COVID through a reusable surface is technically equal to getting it through a single-use disposable surface and THAT likelihood is very low. We just need to make sure to wash our reusable before we reuse them and wash our hands before touching our faces.

Rethink Waste in and around your garden with Bend Urban Gardens

There is so much waste that can happen in backyard gardening: building materials, toxic chemicals from herbicides and pesticides, not to mention water, energy, and food waste potentials that can occur. I had a chance to sit down with a professional to learn about some best practices around waste reduction in the garden. From non-toxic alternatives to building and decorating with found materials, Ashley Joyce (in header photo) of Bend Urban Gardens tells us what’s up.

And some exciting news: it isn’t too late in the year to plant stuff! There are plenty of crops that go in for a fall harvest. Read on.

RW: Who are you? Tell us about yourself. What’s your company called and who do you serve? 

AJ: I am Ashley Joyce, the founder, lead gardener, and vegetable enthusiast of Bend Urban Gardens LLC. Our mission is to bring research-based information to local gardeners through personalized on-site coaching, offering guidance for success in growing nutritious and delicious food in the high desert. Growing vegetables in Central Oregon can be intimidating and overwhelming, but we make gardening in our climate accessible through inspiration, education, and ongoing support. We serve aspiring vegetable gardeners with little to no experience growing food as well as folks who are looking to expand or improve their existing edible landscapes.

RW: What is your history with Central Oregon? How long have you been involved in gardening here and how did you get started with gardening?

AJ: I moved to Bend when I was eleven years old, but it wasn’t until my AmeriCorps VISTA service, in my early twenties, that I developed an interest in where food comes from. During that time, I volunteered on an urban farm and cared for a small container garden on my rooftop. Even though I lost my first tomatoes to city squirrels, I persevered and spent a few growing seasons interning on diversified organic vegetable farms. It was at the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems at UC Santa Cruz (CASFS), a training program for organic farmers and gardeners, where I led farm field trips for kids, that I realized applying my food production knowledge to educating others about growing and preparing food was my niche. In 2009, after completing the program and earning a Certificate in Ecological Horticulture, I moved home to Bend and spent nearly nine years teaching nutrition, cooking, and gardening, as an educator with the OSU Extension Service SNAP-ED Program in Deschutes County.

Once back in Bend, I started gardening on a very small scale, amending patches of soil in the backyards where I lived. I was a member of the Hollinshead Community Garden for a season before finally landing at my current home, where I’ve been since 2012. In 2015, my husband and I were honored to share our garden with the community on the High Desert Garden Tour presented by the OSU Extension Service and the Central Oregon Chapter of OSU Master Gardeners. We showcased the possibilities of using season extension to grow a CSA share in a back (and now front, too!) yard in Bend, despite our unpredictable, short growing season. 

RW: In regards to material waste, what are some ways you see excess pertaining to gardening, and what are some suggestions you have for creative reuse in the garden? 

AJ: There are so many creative ways to upcycle materials in a garden, whether it is for building garden beds or trellises, or for decoration, depending on the aesthetic you are going for in your outdoor living space.

Old lumber: Repurposing old lumber into raised beds for edible plants is a popular way to reuse materials. However, be sure the wood isn’t treated or painted with lead paint if you are using it to grow edible plants. 

Pallets: If you are going to plant directly into a pallet, look for pallets that are heat-treated instead of chemical treated, and make sure you are comfortable with where they came from. 

Old tires: Also a popular material for repurposing into garden spaces, especially since they can retain heat well and offer warmth to your plants when they are in direct sunlight, although there is some evidence that chemicals in tires can leach into edible crops over time, so we don’t recommend planting food crops in tires, but you could use them for a flower garden. 

Trellises: Branches, old bike wheels, and even headboards can make great trellises for viney climbing plants. If you are spending more time at home and engaging in home projects, think about the ways you can repurpose materials instead of sending them to the landfill. This season I took apart a portion of my chicken coop (to convert to more garden space, of course!) and reused the gate as a trellis for my peas! 

Check out what these two Bend Urban Gardens clients did with upcycled bits for their gardens:

One easy way to reduce waste is to get bulk soil for your raised beds instead of bagged soil.

In our household, we have accumulated a variety of bike parts over the years and have decorated our raised beds with chainrings and also used busted bike tubes as a durable protector to cover the area where our greenhouse plastic is attached to our hoop house hoops.

Cloches decorated with a bicycle chainring. Used bike tubes line the outside of the hoops for protection.

RW: What about on a smaller scale? Like just a pot of herbs?

AJ: Growing herbs in containers can be a great gateway into urban gardening. New pots can be expensive, especially large ones, but virtually any food-safe container that is at least 12 inches deep and 8 inches in diameter can make a good home for most plants. As long as there is some way for the container to allow for drainage, you can get creative. The Environmental Center has some innovative examples of rain gutter vertical gardens. Hanging shoe organizers that no longer have a clear purpose in your home after you’ve embraced a more minimalist lifestyle can be converted into gardens! Even old furniture, like dressers, can be turned into gardens. 

For seed starting on a home scale or growing microgreens, try reusing plastic clamshell containers with openings at the bottom, or even making drainage holes in tofu, yogurt, sour cream, and rotisserie chicken containers (also great for an easy greenhouse). 

RW: There are a lot of chemicals out there that people can purchase for use in their garden for both pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers. What kind of non-toxic alternatives do you recommend? 

AJ: Building healthy garden soil is the best thing you can do to prevent the need for pesticides and supplementing with a lot of fertilizers. Of course, even in a vegetable garden with healthy soil, there are still creatures and plant diseases that can come along, and weeds can easily outcompete your plants if they aren’t managed. Our local garden centers have a variety of non-toxic products to choose from depending on your issue. 

Pesticides: For new gardeners (especially those spending a lot of time watching their plants during COVID times), it can sometimes be challenging to judge the severity of a pest issue. Simply being ok with sharing some of your plants can help you reduce the need for interventions in the first place. But, when pests are really making an impact on your ability to grow food, then some sort of intervention is usually needed. This spring, for example, cutworms devoured my spring greens. The bugs eat the bottom of the plant stems thereby killing the plant. I could’ve applied diatomaceous earth (a non-toxic pest control) once I realized that handpicking them out each day wasn’t reducing their population enough to save my plants, but I know that diatomaceous earth could’ve also done harm to beneficial insects. So, I pulled used toilet paper rolls out of my fire starting bin and made plant collars for the remaining bok choy and spinach plants as well as around my basil starts. I used coffee cup sleeves for my tomatoes. The collars protect the plants (and their stems) by being a physical barrier around the base!

Toilet paper roll and coffee sleeve collars to prevent insects from eating young greens!

I try to minimize the chance of having an infestation in the first place, by rotating my crops from season to season and attracting beneficial insects by planting flowers near my vegetable garden. Companion planting with fragrant herbs and flowers can deter some unwanted pests or become trap crops, sacrificial crops to help protect the plants you are growing for food. If those actions fail, I have had success with making a homemade insecticidal soap spray of 1 tablespoon dish soap and 1-quart water.

Herbicides: I don’t use herbicides. Solarizing and mulching are techniques I’ve practiced while apprenticing on farms to keep weeds down. Vinegar can be an effective weed killer, but I typically recommend simply using hand tools to remove weeds when they are small and easy to uproot. The hula hoe and hori hori are my favorites. 

Fertilizers: Nutrients aren’t typically as accessible to plants in a new garden (or in colder spring weather), mainly since microorganisms haven’t yet had the chance to turn the nutrients in your compost and the minerals in your soil into a form that your plants can use, so a balanced organic fertilizer can really help give your plants a boost at the beginning of the season in new garden beds and throughout the season for your heavy feeding plants like tomatoes, peppers, and squash.

RW: Watering is also a big issue, especially in the heat of mid-summer in drought conditions. What are your tips for the best time to water your vegetable garden?

AJ: First, I would definitely suggest reaching out to a licensed irrigation professional to help you use water most efficiently in your landscape. Many new vegetable gardeners choose to hand water or they place their vegetable gardens near existing overhead irrigation and end up putting down way too much water at once. I recommend watering in the early morning and practicing a cycle and soak approach, watering for short intervals of time, more frequently. This helps to avoid run off and to ensure that water is getting down to the roots of your plants. Feel your soil regularly to check the soil moisture to determine if you need to adjust your watering schedule. Investing in a drip irrigation system for your veggie garden will not only save you time, but is very effective at applying water. I recommend 1/4” drip lines with emitters every 6”  with lines spaced 8” apart in a garden bed. This should allow for enough lateral movement of the water to reach all of your plants right at their roots. 

RW: What about some good plants for Central Oregon xeriscaping? What’s your take on lawns? Is there a responsible way to do it or should we just get rid of them?

Bend Urban Gardens specializes in edible gardening. In our demonstration garden, there are a variety of flowering landscape plants near our edible annuals and perennials to help attract pollinators. We have chosen some natives, like Oregon Sunshine and penstemons that have low water needs. Everyone has different preferences and goals for their personal landscapes. In mine, if I’m going to consume water, I want it to be helping to grow food or pollinator habitat. I know that my puppy would love to have a patch of grass to roll around on, but it motivates us to get some exercise and walk to the park for that!

RW: Would you mind highlighting one plant that does well in Central Oregon?

AJ: Just one!?! Cold tolerant greens tend to do great in Central Oregon, and growing your own salad mix can definitely help you avoid the packaging that greens tend to be sold in. Choosing more heat resistant varieties for summer and planting them to the north of tall crops or covering them with shade cloth can help you continue your harvest through the heat of summer. 

It’s not too late to plant some vegetables for the fall and even to overwinter! This month, try sowing short-season varieties of beets, carrots, and leafy greens, as well as transplanting broccoli and cabbage. Plant garlic in October. At the end of August and into September, you can plant successions of spinach. It won’t grow much over the winter, but it could hold if covered with row cover and greenhouse plastic, for some fabulous early spring greens. Brassica family plants do very well in Central Oregon because they are so cold tolerant and can offer a continuous harvest throughout the growing season. Broccoli, cabbage, kale, kohlrabi, boy choy, radishes, and Hakurei salad turnips are some of my favorites.

RW: Anything else you would like to add about waste in the garden? 

AJ: First off, growing an edible garden, in general, is a great way to reduce food waste for families because kids are often more likely to eat veggies that they helped grow or harvest. 

Also, plant spacing is really important in the garden because plants that are spaced too close together often don’t thrive and this can impact the other plants growing around them, wasting water and energy to grow plants that aren’t able to reach maturity. Bend Urban Gardens offers personalized crop plans to help you maximize your space and increase your chance of getting a bountiful harvest from what you grow. We also offer garden lessons to help you learn when to harvest your food, so that you don’t end up wasting the food you are working so hard to grow! 

Out the door with disposable diapers? And other questions answered by the pros.

Waste with babies! It can be overwhelming when you start to look at the increase in volume of waste in your garbage can when an infant joins the household:

  • Diapers!
  • Cleaning up after your baby
  • Food waste and garbage associated with food packaging
  • So much more…

I am not a mother, so I can’t claim to know anything about the difficulties of caring for a baby and thinking about reducing waste at the same time. So I reached out to all the parents I know for some input on this subject, and I’m excited to share with you here what I learned from the pros. Below are the answers from Tim P., Lindsey L., Lindsey H., Marianne P., Jackie W. and Denise R. Thanks for your input y’all! Couldn’ta done it without ya. The parents wanted me to let you know this is not exhaustive! Just a few thought opportunities.

1.) Diapers!! What are your thoughts on reusables?

LL: We love using reusable diapers!! We use reusables to reduce the waste our household creates. 

DR: We used reusable diapers — but not for the first 3 months because we were just adjusting to a new life. After that, we’d use reusables entirely at home, and save disposables for when we were out and about/on the go. She was able to do reusables at daycare too, but they saved them in a bag for us to deal with. I just kept buying used cloth diapers over craigslist so I had a little of everything, and then the ones that I felt worked best I bought a few of those new.

TP: Owen never wore a single disposable diaper. We were dedicated to reusables. They can be a pretty significant investment upfront, but they last and you can turn them over when you need to upgrade. We were fortunate and got gifted or found a whole bunch of them early on so we were ready when Owen was born. Also, he was potty trained before he was two. Which is one of the benefits of cloth diapers, from what I understand, it seems many kids using disposables continue to wear diapers until they are 4 or 5. 

JW: Get the pocket diapers! They are the best.

LH: If I were a better person, I would use 100% reusable. I was given a few and I bought a few at a consignment store. After about 3 months, my goal was to use at least one reusable a day. I picked a goal that I knew I could manage and wouldn’t get frustrated with.

On Cleaning Reusables

LL: We have a very handy pre-wash rinsing system that makes our diaper situation odor-free, has kept our diapers completely stain-free, and is super simple! After each soiled diaper is removed from our baby’s bum, we rinse it down with a sprayer that is attached to our toilet water inlet line. We clip the diapers into a “splash guard” for easy rinsing, then ring them out by hand. We give each one a quick spritz with a light bleach water solution that we mix in a spray bottle and then hang them to dry overnight on retractable a clothesline we installed in our guest shower. Once the diapers are dry (each morning), we toss them in a bin in the bathroom until its time to do the wash.

I think one “turn off” for using cloth diapers is the perceived mess….no one wants to dump a bunch-o-poo in their washing machine, and tossing wet diapers into a bin while you wait to have enough to wash often leads to mold/a bad smell/mildew, etc. The prewash system avoids that. It might not be quite as easy as throwing a disposable in the trash each time, but it’s still pretty easy… people with babies want “easy!”

TP: We would rinse them in a bottomless bucket with a sprayer over the toilet, once rinsed and wet they could sit for a day or two until you had a load ready to run. Then we would run the load once with cold water and then we’d run it a second time with warm water and vinegar. I don’t think we used a lot of detergents, Owen had very sensitive skin so we had to use eco-friendly hypo-allergenic soap for anything he wore. He rarely wore clothes though. 

Diaper service is the easiest way to enjoy reusable diapers but that can get pretty expensive. However, a month or three of diaper service makes a really excellent gift for expecting parents. That way they have time to get used to using the diapers without the full stress of cleaning them right off the bat.

MP: I did reusables from the start, and it wasn’t a big deal. Rinse in the toilet and then toss them in the bucket until it was time to do a load. Do a rinse with vinegar if they get stinky.

You can save money with reusables!

LL: We purchased ours off of craigslist (30 for $125): we would need to use each diaper 24 times in order to start saving money over the cheaper disposables at 0.18 each; we’ve easily already accomplished that goal in the first 8 months. We use Bum Genius and Alva Baby. The bum genius diapers are pretty expensive new (like around 15-20 bucks each!), but the Alva baby ones are $4.79 each on their website. You’d only have to use the Alva Baby diaper 27 times to “break-even” with the cheaper disposable brands. With 30 diapers, we have to wash them every 4th or 5th day. Our baby has fat little legs (great for a tight seal), so we don’t really have a brand preference, they both work great and grow with your baby, so no need to purchase different sizes.

JW: You can buy enough secondhand cloth diapers with $150 and that be equivalent to $2000 for disposable!

Cons with reusable diapers

LL: We do use a disposable at night because they wick moisture away (and hold TONS of pee!), keeping Anvers asleep longer. One small bag of soiled disposable diapers is SO HEFTY and we really feel the impact of the use of plastic each time we haul a bag to the bin.

TP: Running every load of diapers twice burned up our washing machine in the first month, so there was that expense. Also, you generate less waste but it does take a lot of water. 

When the baby is newborn, you don’t know what size they will be. We had a ton of diapers that never got used because Owen was too big for them when he was born. 

LH: I had a ton of trouble with Theodore soaking through in like an hour and a half. That has gotten way better since all of his nutrition doesn’t come in liquid form anymore so my advice would be to not give up! If you find one stage hard, like when all their poop is quickly and gross, try them again in the next phase.

MP: If you don’t have a washer that might be a challenge as I’m guessing the wash services are $$.

2.) Cleaning up after the baby can generate a lot of waste: what are some ways you have worked toward making that less?

LH: I use a reusable liner for the diaper pail. Since we bring it out twice a week, we could end up using a ton of garbage bags or pail liners so I have two that I rotate through and wash with the diapers. I also have a waterproof reusable bag in the diaper bag for collecting messy clothes (read: clothes covered in poop) when we’re out and about instead of using disposable plastic bags.

LL: We decided to make our own wipes to reduce the plastics we throw away and so that we know EXACTLY what is going in them/on our little guy’s bum. Each package of wipes you purchase means a plastic bag/container goes in the trash. We purchase a GIANT supply of paper towels from Costco, with the least amount of packaging as possible, and then cut them in half with a circular saw (a serrated bread knife works too!). We have a container that fits the rolls perfectly that we keep next to the changing table. We make up the recipe for the solution that goes on the wipes, then pour it over the half roll of paper towels in the container. Once the roll is nice and damp, you can pull the cardboard center right out! You can then pull the wipes from the center for use. We also do this with a smaller batch of reusable wipes (you can make them from flannel scraps for super cheap!) Some people go completely reusable, but we’ve opted to use disposable homemade wipes for poop situations and reusable wipes for other situations. Placing either cloth or disposable homemade wipes in a reusable plastic bag or Tupperware makes them easy to take on the go as well.

The recipe is as follows: 2 cups water (boil then let cool), 2 tbsp. almond, apricot or other oil, 1.5 tbsp. Dr. Bronners castile soap (unscented), 4 drops tea tree oil, 2 drops lavender oil. We have seen ZERO diaper rash with these things. One of my girlfriends also just brings dry reusable wipes along with her and has a little spray bottle that has the solution in it. She just sprays the wipes with the solution when its time to use them on the go, rather than carrying wet wipes with her.

Cleaning products for homemade wet wipes.

TP: We only used vinegar for cleaning. Natalie found a recipe for baby wipes on-line and we made our own baby wipes also. Essentially, pre-torn and stacked paper towels soaked in water, vinegar, and a mild castile soap. They worked fine and we could customize them for Owen’s mild skin. 

LH: I cut up a few old t-shirts to use as a face and hand rags for after meals and snack clean up instead of using wet wipes for his face. I go through so many of these a day that I needed a ton and needed something soft enough for soft cheeks. T-shirts are perfect!

MP: We used wet wipes for the yuckies and then washables next. I think we added backout to the load with regular arm and hammer. Stay away from the chemicals. Dr. Bronners and vinegar are good.

3.) Food! It’s easy to buy a ton of micro jars of baby food and now folks use the squeezy packets. Do you have a good alternative to that?

JW: Making baby food is very easy. You can find free reusable containers on Nextdoor or buy nothing project! You can get a couple of the reusable squeeze containers to refill, too.

Options for reusable snack containers.

TP: It’s easy to make your own baby food. Steam or boil and blend. Although, we loved the squeeze packets on the go because they weren’t messy and a baby can basically feed themself. 

LL: We make all of our own baby food! We basically take any vegetable we can think of (hopefully from the garden!) and steam it for 15-20 minutes, then either mash it by hand or puree it in the blender. Sometimes we combine ingredients, sometimes we stick with a single veggie. Once the puree has been created, we freeze them in a little “single serving” silicon freezer tray. After they freeze overnight, we pop them out and put them in freezer bags (that we label, and reuse).

Cube tray for frozen food.

If we are on the go, we pop a frozen treat into a Tupperware and either heat it a bit before we leave or let it thaw naturally. You can also cook fruits (think homemade apple sauce, pear sauce, etc.) and do the same thing! We’ve even frozen oatmeal this way for easy prep. We do food prep once every few weeks, so its not a terrible time suck. A minute in the microwave takes a little more time than opening a jar, but there isn’t any trash associated with our freezer cubes, and that’s what we like!

If we opt for other foods that are premade, like yogurt, we always buy a big container rather than individual servings to try to reduce our plastic use. We also try to feed him things we are purchasing/eating already, so there isn’t food waste from unused portions. 

LH: For pumping and breast milk storage, I was lucky to be given some extra plastic reusable bottles so I had enough to store milk in as I was pumping throughout the week. Before I put milk in the bags to freeze, I would wait and collect enough milk to make sure the bag was full.

For food: immersion blender! I found making food in anything that had to be cleaned out just made me not want to do it. I steamed or roasted veggies, put them in a large, wide-mouth mason jar and then just used an immersion blender. You can reuse baby food jars to put it into smaller portions for daycare. I bought a set of 10 containers that I portioned food into. We still use a ton of packets when we’re out and about because they’re just SO EASY to throw into your diaper bag and leave in there.

You can buy refillable pouches though which we use quite a bit to pack stuff for daycare and for snacks at home where they can be refrigerated. For the refillable pouches, even buying a giant jar of applesauce and refilling them is way better than buying the same amount of apple sauce in repacked little packets so don’t kill yourself making super fancy food–you can still make a difference. I mean at least I am assuming it’s better?

4.) Anything else you want to mention?

LL: We use craigslist a ton, as well as the baby resale shops in town! Babies go through things so quickly, so it’s easy to use “preused” items and then pass them along or trade them in for the next set of clothes/items you need! This keeps all the “new baby” packaging to a minimum as well. The pregnancy resource center is also a great resource, especially for those that have financial worries. They offer classes and other methods to earn “points” that can be redeemed for free donated baby items like clothes, diapers, blankets, formula etc. They also host events where you can get free baby clothes from their donated supplies. I’ve donated some items and talked with them about what they do: https://www.prcco.org 

LH: Over the Moon Diaper Service is a diaper service out of Redmond, OR. They have service to Bend, Sisters, and a bunch of other places in the county. You can see their website for details, but if you don’t want to do the diaper cleaning yourself, you can use them.

MP: Besides the car seat you don’t need most of the STUFF! We were in a small house with Emma, didn’t need a changing table, much easier on the floor or the bed. She slept in our bed or a pulled out drawer so no crib. They move through all the stages quickly so borrow the stuff. We had a high chair and a thing that hung from a door jam that she could sit in. Oh and a sling and backpack. Keep it simple.


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.


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?

The Zero Waste Movement Will Survive COVID-19


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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

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!

Pre-owned Paradise: Deschutes County, Oregon!

Secondhand. Worn. Hand-me-downs. Nearly new. Old. There are a lot of words for shopping used. Whatever you call it, shopping used rather than new is an excellent way to help prevent waste! Better than I could ever have said it, Roundabout Home Consignments has a great description of why second hand is so great on their environmental principles page. And we have no shortage of shops in Deschutes County that offer a wide array of used things. What are you looking for? Even if you don’t find it, studies show that shopping makes you feel good whether or not you actually buy stuff.

Adam Minter, the author of Secondhand, who recently did an interview on Fresh Air, says “The best thing you can do to reduce the environmental impact of your consumption…is not buy more stuff.” But the next best thing (particularly during the holiday increase of waste production) is to buy second-hand stuff! There are DOZENS of places in Deschutes County where you can find all kinds of second-hand stuff. Check out this handy map where you can find them all. Well, maybe — are we missing any place?

Here are a few highlights:

  1. The Gear Fix – This shop has a seasonal array of outdoor gear. It operates on consignment so you can earn a percentage for your old gear and clothes! Plus, they double as a fixit shop for the same gear: bicycles, shoes, clothing, and outdoor gear can be repaired!
    550 SW Industrial Way #183, Bend, OR 97702
  2. Second Tern – Sunriver’s best-kept secret! Although they are only open Friday and Saturday 10 am – 3 pm, it is well worth a trip!
    17377 Spring River Rd, Sunriver, OR 97707
  3. ReStores! – Did you know the EPA estimates that 548 million tons of construction and demolition waste is generated EVERY YEAR in the United States? When remodeling, ReStore is a great place to shop. The best part is there is one each in Bend, Redmond, Sisters, and La Pine!
    Bend: 224 NE Thurston Ave, Bend, OR 97701
    Redmond: 1242 S Hwy 97, Redmond, OR 97756
    Newberry/La Pine: 52684 US-97, La Pine, OR 97739
    Sisters: 254 W Adams Ave, Sisters, OR 97759
  4. Roundabouts Home Consignments is tucked away on 2nd and Lafayette in midtown Bend. Not only are the products of good quality and fairly priced, but there is also a tiered price reduction system depending on how long the item has been in the store. And better yet, Gavin, the shop’s co-owner, has a really great perspective on the environmental benefits of buying second hand.

What’s your favorite pre-owned shop?




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.