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 holidays.

Decorating:

  • 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 or Craft-O at the Work House!

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 containers for leftovers. Or if you cooked too much for your small gathering, put the food in containers and deliver to your friends! Porch food swap?
  • 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

Buying in Bulk: What’s the Big Deal?

In considering whether or not to buy in bulk, there are many pros. And in my book, there are also some challenges. (To clarify, for the purposes of this posting, bulk is when you can get any amount of something you want.  Pre-packaged items do not count.)

First, here are some benefits:

  1. Less packaging waste
    This is especially true if you bring your own container.
  2. Less food waste!
    By buying in bulk, you are able to buy only what you need.
  3. It can save you some money
    Buying heavily packaged products can mean that you are paying more for the packaging. That is, you are paying for something that you will throw away immediately.

Ok, what about the challenges?

  1. It’s not always the least expensive option.
    But you can still save money by buying less quantity and buying only what you need. If you do this, it is less likely for food to go bad, which is like throwing money away.
  2. It takes time to learn to remember your containers.
    Forming new habits takes time. And more than the mythical 21 days. While it would be nice to change yourself in 3 weeks, one study found it takes closer to 2 months. But you just have to start doing it and it will get easier every time!

So where can you buy bulk in Deschutes County? Zero-Waste extraordinaire Bea Johnson started a bulk finder website with a database of bulk sellers. There are quite a few in the area! If you know of one that isn’t on the site, you can add it. The biggest lack we noticed was beauty and animal products. As far as we know, Cornucopia Natural Foods in Redmond is the only place that sells bulk laundry and dishwasher detergent as well as shampoo and conditioner. Market of Choice does have liquid Castille soap (Dr. Bronners) on tap!

One type of bulk is loose produce: whole fruit and vegetables that are not pre-packaged. Potatoes can be put in a reusable bag rather than taking the big bag of potatoes that are pre-packaged. You can buy a whole apple and cut it up rather than buying a pre-sliced apple.

Buying your beer in a growler definitely counts as buying in bulk, by the way! Growler fill stations are not included in the list below, but most places will do it for you.

Before you go: get your clean, dry containers ready! Don’t forget to make sure they are labeled with the tare weight. You can also re-use plastic bags and mesh produce bags.

 

Deschutes County Bulk Locations

Below is a list of stores we know carry bulk. I didn’t include any breweries, but buying your beer in a growler definitely counts as buying in bulk! No, our list isn’t long, but we do have some great options here:

Central Oregon Locavore (1841 NE 3rd St, Bend)

Notables: Teas! Locavore also puts a deposit on your egg carton. They have deposits for some of their cream and milk as well.

Cornucopia Natural Foods
111 NW 6th St, Redmond

Notables: As far as we know, the only shop in the county that sells bulk laundry soap, dishwashing soap, shampoo, and conditioner! Plus almond oil. (In addition to Dr. Bronner’s Castille soap, spices, teas, herbs, and other general dry goods.)

Country Store (57100 Beaver Dr, Sunriver)

Fettle Botanic
19570 Amber Meadow Dr #120, Bend

Notables: Medicinal and culinary herbs, tinctures, and teas.

Food for Less (63455 N highway 97, Bend)

Notables: Maple syrup! Balsamic vinegar, liquid aminos, soy sauce. Good spice section.

Fred Meyer (61535 South Highway 97, Bend and 944 SW Veterans Way, Redmond)

Hawthorne Healing Arts
39 NW Louisiana Ave, Bend

Medicinal herbs

Market of Choice (115 NW Sisemore St, Bend)

Notables: In addition to many types of dry goods including grains, candies, fruits and nuts, Market of Choice has honey, nut butters, oils, cider vinegar, spices, teas, soy sauce, and vanilla extract! Plus, they are the only store we know of that sells bulk liquid soap (Dr. Bronners). Coffee!

Melvin’s (160 S Fir St, Sisters)

Notables: nuts, beans, grains, coffee

Navidi’s Olive Oil and Vinegars (120 NW Minnesota Ave, Bend)

Notables: An amazing array of oils and vinegars. BONUS: bottom of the barrel oils that is too small a volume to sell or a little bit old gets taken to a local soapmaker who turns it into bar soap that’s sold in the shop! You can bring your own bottle as long as it is CLEAN and DRY. Plus, it must be a size they sell. That is, either 200 mL or 375 mL bottles that are clearly labeled as such.

Safeway (All 3 locations in Bend and the 1 in Redmond)

Notables: coffee!

TeaBuzz – Global TeaBar
45 NW Greeley Ave, Bend

Notables: loose leaf tea where you can bring your own container!

Whole Foods (2610 NE Hwy 20, Bend)

Notables: Bulk bar soap, liquid dairy with deposit bottles

Any place we’re missing?

 

Talkin’ Trash: July’s City Club Forum, Round 2 questions!

Below is a continuation from a previous blog from July’s City Club event Talkin Trash. More questions from you: answered! Denise and I tag-teamed these again. Do you have more questions? We love them — send them our way.

Are reusable bags better/more sustainable than paper? How cost-effective?!

Yes, reusable bags are better than paper bags. Paper bags actually require more energy than plastic to be made (and also contribute to deforestation in places) and do cost stores more than plastic. Plastic bags are made from a petroleum byproduct, but as we know they last forever in the environment. The benefit of paper bags here is that they break down eventually or are easily recycled. Paper bags have a bigger “upstream impact” and plastic bags have a bigger “downstream” impact.

The answer is to use the reusable bags you already have, and if you don’t already have some, every thrift store has some, so no need for new ones. I am personally disappointed that the 10 cent fee is going away because in the short week I saw it implemented at stores I witnessed many people carry out their groceries or put them back in their cart for unloading into their car. Meaning, 10 cents was actually enough to change behavior.   -denise

What happens to the stuff in the recycling that’s not supposed to be there?

All of our curbside comingled recycling gets bundled up into 2,000-pound bales at a facility across the street from 10 barrel. From there it gets sent to a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) where it gets cut apart and placed on the floor of a giant warehouse. It then gets sorted both by machines and by hand depending on the material. If the bales are too contaminated with trash, they can end up in the landfill. If it is minor contamination, it may still get through. However, the comingled recycling in the United States has been so contaminated that the overseas markets that used to take it now refuse. Because our recycling was so contaminated with stuff that wasn’t supposed to be there, much of those bales ended up in overseas landfills or, worse, in the ocean. The trash that is picked out by hand by people at the MRF gets sent to a local Oregon landfill. -Ani

What is the status of recycling economics in Deschutes County, i.e. can we sell our recycling to be cost-effective?

The global recycling markets continue to be volatile and changing.  There is currently a cost to recycle the materials listed on your recycling guide. It is important for our residents to Recycle Right and only include the materials that are listed on the recycling guide to help keep contamination at a minimum.  The commingle material is baled in Bend and shipped to a Material Recovery Facility (MRF’s), where the material is sorted and sent to market.  Any trash or other material that is not included in the recycling program will be disposed of.  -Ani

What percentage of the items put in [curbside] recycling containers end up being thrown out because they are not in fact recyclable?

The Oregon DEQ last did a recycling composition /contamination report in 2009 / 2010 and it indicated about 9%-10% of incoming commingled materials were contaminants and not supposed to be set out for recycling as part of the commingled recycling mix. -Ani

China is no longer buying recycling. Where is ours going?

All of our curbside comingled recycling gets bundled up into 2,000-pound bales at a facility across the street from 10 barrel. From there it gets sent to a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) in Portland where it gets cut apart and placed on the floor of a giant warehouse. It then gets sorted by both machine and re-baled into like materials and sold as commodities. As far as we have learned, Deschutes County’s recycling is actually getting recycled. Below is a list we received from the MRF where our recycling currently goes, although they wouldn’t disclose any company names to protect their clients and the competitive market. This is all the information they were currently able to give:

All Plastics – most stay domestic going different places within the US but some goes to Canada

Cardboard – stays domestic and goes to 4 different mills on the West Coast.

Mixed paper
– this includes office paper, catalogs, newsprint, junk mail, paperboard, and all paper other than cardboard — goes to other countries including Korea, India, and Indonesia. It is made into recycled paper rolls and also lightweight box board.

Glass – when recycled curbside gets sent to a company in Portland called Glass-to-Glass. There, the crushed and comingled bits of glass get sorted by color using an optical machine that tests for clarity! It’s amazing. Then most of the sorted glass gets sold down the street to Owens-Illinois where the glass is melted and made into new bottles.

Microplastics: Ani’s maritime adventure, bottles to fabric, and end of life (or afterlife) for plastics.

Early last month I had the absolute pleasure of heading north to Seattle and spending 4 days on an incredible floating classroom called the Schooner Adventuress. I was invited back after 6 years of absence to participate in a particularly dear-to-my-heart program called Girls at the Helm. Onboard were:

  • 18 girl participants between 7th and 12th grades
  • 13 adult self-identified lady crew members
  • 5 self-identified lady mentors who have careers in STEM fields: science, technology, engineering, and mathematics

This yearly trip is an opportunity to demonstrate to girls that women are capable, strong, and intelligent leaders in areas typically dominated by men. Studies show girls are more likely to pursue any particular career if they see a woman in that position. With a female captain, female engineer, female mate, and an all-female crew on board, we hope to inspire those girls to reach for their dreams.

One of the mentors was Dr. Julie Masura who studies the presence and abundance of microplastics in marine surface water, bed sediments, and beach sands. She is a Senior Lecturer and Research Scientist at the University of Washington Tacoma. Julie brought a special surface towing net to collect marine debris with the girls and look at what is in the waters of Puget Sound. My experience onboard as well as my time with Julie is what prompted this post.

This is a HUGE and overwhelming topic.

My full-time job is to educate people about waste reduction, upstream and downstream impacts of consumption, and how to recycle correctly. I spend a lot of time reading and digesting related topics. Plastic has been the toughest for two main reasons. First, because of its current status (or lack of status) in the recycling market. And second, due to the attention it has received because of its impacts (especially from single-use) on climate change and sea life. There are a lot of opinions to dig through and there’s an excruciatingly large amount of information to understand. So I’m going to share with you what I have learned, even if it is just the tip of the iceberg.

Ani Kasch peering at microplastics from Puget Sound
Ani Kasch peering at microplastics pulled out of Puget Sound.

What is plastic and how is it made?

Most plastics in use today are made from petroleum; either from crude oil or natural gas. Here is a quick step by step of how it’s made taken directly from this National Geographic video.

  1. Extraction: Fossil fuels — either natural gas or crude oil — are extracted from the ground.
  2. Refinement: Fossil fuels are made into products: ethane from crude oil and propane from natural gas.
  3. Cracking: Products are broken down into smaller molecules — ethane into ethylene, propane into propylene.
  4. Polymerization: A catalyst is added to the cracked product that links molecules together to form polymers (long flexible chains of chemical compounds) called resins. This state allows the plastic to be easily molded and stretched into useful shapes. Ethylene becomes polyethylene, propylene becomes polypropylene. 
  5. Final Product: At that point, the resins are melted and broken up into pellets that are then sold to manufacturers.

5 quick facts about plastic

  • Plastic can usually be recycled only once or twice because the polymers degrade, get shorter, and therefore become weaker during the recycling process.
  • Not all plastic can be recycled! In your Deschutes County curbside bin, it is bottles tubs and jugs. Not sure? Throw it in the trash or ask !
  • The chasing arrows symbol you see on plastic does not mean that plastic is recyclable. The number inside the arrows tells you what types of chemicals are used to make the plastic — it is the resin identification code.
  • Paper coffee cups are lined with polyethylene (plastic), which is why they aren’t recyclable in our curbside bin.
  • People in the US throw away 50 billion single-use coffee cups per year. #BringYourOwnCup

Ok, so what are microplastics, and why does Julie study them?

According to Julie, “microplastics are any polymer with a long diameter < 5mm” — so basically, tiny bits of plastic. She characterizes other sizes in her studies, but that is the broad definition. Microplastics have become ubiquitous in our environment. Julie believes it is very important to understand how common microplastics are, where they end up, and how they impact our environment and ourselves. 

Where do microplastics come from?

As any plastic gets used, reused, and recycled, its polymers start to break down into those little microplastic bits that end up in our environment–locally, regionally, and globally. Some microplastics are big enough to be seen with the naked eye, but others are microscopic. Here are a couple of examples:

  1. Plastic bags can easily blow away and end up in a bush whose branches tear it to pieces that end up in the river.
  2. Washing and wearing synthetic clothing releases microfibers, a type of microplastic, into the water. Think of our yoga pants, fleece mid-layers, and latex bike shorts for example. Check out this incredible (albeit slightly disheartening) video from The Story of Stuff Project showing how it happens.
  3. The process of turning old plastic bottles into those synthetic fabrics has a byproduct of microplastic bits. Check out this amazing video from the insides of several factories showing how a solid piece of plastic is made into a soft fluffy fleece jacket!
  4. Microplastics are often in your cleaning products in the form of microbeads.

What did you find in the net on Adventuress?

The net that Julie brought on board is designed to float on the surface of the water using hollow wings. Thus the contraption has earned the name “Manta Net” after the large marine ray. As the boat Adventuress sails through the water, the net is towed behind collecting any marine debris in its path. All of the following photos were taken by (and are used with permission of) Girls at the Helm founder Elizabeth T. Becker. Check out her amazing work at www.seaportphotography.com.

After the net is hauled in, a hose is used to rinse all the debris down to a bottle at the tip of the net called the “cod end”. Next, all the contents of the net are poured into a pan for examination.

The participants got to look through everything we pulled up. There was a fair amount of seaweed, plankton, and fish along with a surprising amount of plastic. Although sometimes hard to see, it is there when you look closely. It made me think: how much plastic do I inadvertently swallow? And how is it affecting me?

  • Am I ingesting plastic while swimming in salt or freshwater?
  • How about while showering at home?
  • While eating fish that ate the plastic?
  • Or is the stuff in bathroom products I use regularly — even when the label says it’s safe?

Yikes. There is concern about the negative effects of plastics on human health due to the chemicals and toxicity in them. Here is an article from the Oregon Environmental Council where you can learn more.

Um, Ani? We live in the desert. We don’t have an ocean anywhere around.

Here’s a quick geography lesson. Do you know the Deschutes River, the one that flows through Bend? That flows north and into the Columbia River. And the Columbia River flows westward, collects all the water from the Willamette River near Portland, and continues past Astoria to the ocean. That is to say, anything that ends up in our river could easily end up in the ocean. Up to 700,000 fibers per load of laundry go into the greywater that goes into the wastewater treatment plant. Whew.

OPB recently put out a story about microplastics in Oregon’s rivers. Here are their results:

From “Hunt For Answers Shows Oregon Rivers Not Immune To Microplastic Pollution” by Jes Burns and Cassandra Profita, OPB. Notice what happens after the Deschutes passes through Bend. (Click on image for link to article)

I asked Julie whether she thinks our actions here in Bend — hundreds of miles from a coastline — have any impact on her studies and what happens in the sea. “Most definitely!” she replied. “Reducing waste will lessen the chance of material being transferred into the environment.  Each time waste is moved, there is a percentage of material that falls onto the ground, washes into a stream, is caught by a wind current.  Also, if every citizen uses less, the demand decreases and reduces the impacts in all municipalities including coastal states.”

Ok, now what?

Everything on earth is connected in one way or another. So here are a couple of waste reduction tips for you in regards to microplastics and our environment:

  • Put a filter on your washing machine: The Cora Ball collects microfibers while in the washing machine, or the Lint LUV-R strains water that comes out of the washing machine.
  • Bring your own cup, water bottle, utensils, and to-go containers!
  • If you buy and use synthetic clothing, only wash it when you actually need to wash it.
  • When buying home cleaning, self-cleaning, dog cleaning, any cleaning product, look at the ingredients and know what you’re buying. Does it contain plastics? If so, maybe you can find an alternative.
  • Avoid buying things with unnecessary plastic packaging.
  • Refuse freebies, handouts, and single-use stuff. I’m talking about cheap sunglasses, straws, and plastic swag.
  • Do you need to buy it, whatever it is, in the first place?

In closing, Julie reminded me that even “the actions in the desert can transfer to all communities.” She says reminds us that it is important not to use too much and that we should all practice good waste hygiene. Thanks, Julie. That’s good advice.

What do you think?

You can’t see all the things down in the water when you’re standing on the deck. Learn more about Adventuress and her programs at www.soundexp.org.

Talkin’ Trash: July’s City Club Forum

In the middle of July, the Rethink Waste Project was invited to come present at the monthly City Club Forum. Our own Denise Rowcroft did an amazing job talking all about waste reduction, recycling correctly, and the impacts that our consumption has on the earth. She spoke alongside Timm Schimke, Deschutes County’s Director of Solid Waste, who spoke about the short future of Knott’s Landfill, which is projected to be full by 2029. He also touched on options for where our trash will go once Knott is full. In case you missed the forum, you can watch it here

Have you ever been to a City Club meeting? After the speakers present, there is an allotted time for audience questions. After the forum, we received a list of all audience questions that didn’t have time to be answered. There are some really great questions in the list, so we decided to share some with you here. Since there were so many, look for future posts with more questions answered!

I really appreciate the work of the Rethink Waste Project. How will you continue to reach all the new people moving to Bend? 

Thanks!  We realize that visitors to our area (and new residents) bring knowledge and behavior from wherever they come. Maybe their home city accepts much more items in its recycling bins than we do. This totally contaminates our local stream. Or they may come from a rural area that doesn’t have any recycling in place at all, so they put recyclable items in the trash. And sometimes it is just hard to do the right thing in a new community if you are given no information, tools, or motivation to do it. Vacation brain, anyone?

Realizing there is work to be done in this area, this past spring we brought together a couple of focus groups gathering two dozen people from across the tourism sector. Lodging, recreation, retail, travel, resorts and breweries were represented to get input on ways that we could reach visitors. We also spoke with other communities to learn about what is happening (or not happening) in similar communities that experience tourism. We are currently compiling this information to come up with a recommended action plan that specifically address these concerns. If you are tapped into this sector in any way (vacation rentals, for example) please reach out to us! -denise

Could you please tell us more about the program starting this fall that allows food waste in the yard debris bins? 

Currently, anyone in Bend city limits can opt in for yard debris service. This cart is picked up every other week on glass recycling week, and can currently accept leaves, grass clipping, branches, weeds, coffee grounds, plus raw fruit and vegetable kitchen scraps (like you would put in a backyard composting bin). {Here’s a link to what they currently accept: https://bendgarbage.com/residential-yard-debris-service/ }

Beginning later this year (official date TBD) all residents in city limits that opt-in to this yard debris pick up service will be able to put ALL food waste in their bins for composting (including anything that’s left on the plate, including meat, bread, oily foods that you wouldn’t put in a home bin.)  This is really exciting as it will greatly help us reduce the organics heading to the landfill. However, just because you can compost it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t also be working to avoid wasted food in the first place. Get tips on that here: http://www.RethinkWasteProject.org/FoodWaste/ -denise

Please educate me: is kitty litter “yard waste” or regular garbage waste? 

Kitty litter is garbage waste. And although dogs are different species than your question addresses, here is a great article from The Source Weekly about dog poop. –Ani

What sites are being considered within the county for potential landfill locations? 

The county has not disclosed any information about specific sites at this time. –Ani

Are there tool (lending) libraries in Bend?

Although there are currently no specific lending libraries in Bend, there are places that rent tools. But even better than renting tools, have you heard of the DIYcave? If you’ve never heard of this unique and inspiring maker’s space, go check it out. They offer membership as well as classes with an incredible array of woodworking, metalworking, welding tools — and more.

Another great option is to create a sharing space amongst your friends and neighbors. You can start an excel google doc where people can list what they have to borrow. You can have columns with whatever rules or restrictions you want with a check out column. This can allow your friends to try out tools or appliances they might not have without having to buy one. A few examples of what I have borrowed from some of my friends? A cider press, a pasta maker, a multimeter, a circular saw, a wetsuit. Some things I have lent out to my friends: a food dehydrator, a food processor, a bicycle pannier, a bicycle trailer. –Ani

How do you view Amazon as a company as it relates to over-consumption, purchasing of “stuff” in this day and age?

I think I’m one of the Amazon holdouts.  Once you sign up for free 2 day shipping, not choosing that becomes so much more of a hassle. Why take the time to go downtown and look to see if they have the book you want in stock, when you can have it shipped right to your door?! It definitely has some benefits for our society. For example, people in rural communities now have equal access to getting what they need and getting it delivered. Also, the reviews can be super helpful in learning about the quality of the product. It is a fact that most products are actually engineered for “planned obsolescence” and break in 6 months or less.

But the impacts of online shopping can’t be ignored. The carbon footprint of the item’s traveling distance to obscene amounts of packaging has enormous downstream effects. And the widespread, increased consumption that online shopping promotes has many unseen upstream impacts. Plus, Amazon is so full of cheap stuff that it distorts what we think things should cost. Often that cheap stuff just becomes instant garbage.

I choose to shop used first for most things, then brick and mortar – both big box and local businesses. And I shop online when I can’t find something in town. If I am buying a gift for someone out of town, it won’t be on time if I have to ship it myself, so online shopping it is! OK, off my soapbox now. -denise

Update 8/20/19: Here are answers to even more questions, published on the City Club website. 

Volunteer Spotlight: Repair Cafe Fixer Mike!

Have you ever been to one of our Repair Cafes? With 5-6 per year, these free events connect people with broken stuff to people who like to fix stuff. If you haven’t been, you should really check one out. Even if you don’t have anything that needs fixing — it’s a fun and community driven event that is inspiring every time. The whole thing exists because of our AMAZING volunteer fixers.

Meet: Mike De La Mater!

Mike has been volunteering with Rethink Waste Project’s Repair Cafes since the beginning in 2013. We got a chance to ask him a few questions about what it’s like to be him and we want to share his answers with you since we think he’s so great. So here it is to share with you in his own words:

What sparked your interest in fixing?

I’ve always wanted to fix things. Ever since I was little I took things apart and put them back together. As an adult though, I realized that some people didn’t know how to fix things. Sometimes it’s aptitude, other times it’s just knowledge. That’s why I always show people what I’m doing when I fix their stuff.  If they can’t fix their own stuff, they might just throw it away, which seems like such a waste of resources. Some things are definitely worth fixing, and easy to fix, but some people don’t know how. That’s why I love Repair Cafe. Less useful stuff winds up in landfills.

Where can we find you when you’re not fixing?

Mostly at home or in the shop where I make things for myself or my friends. I enjoy hobby blacksmithing.

If you were to share a lecture on one topic you’re passionate about, what would you discuss?

Lecture? Golly. I’m more of a personal influencer. We live in community and it sure would be cool if we could stop judging each other and do decent things for each other. I want to get rid of this culture of contempt that I find around me.

Where would you most like to go in the world that you haven’t visited yet?

I’d really like to see Machu Picchu. The technology needed to make it is amazing.

What’s your favorite sustainable practice at home?

I work at reducing waste. I buy durable products and jump on products that have less packaging. Oh, don’t even try to hand me a disposable water bottle, either.

Mike’s closing remarks remind us to be better individuals. “I think you should do for others whatever doesn’t cost you much,” he said. “Basically, be decent to each other.” Well, that’s great advice.

Stay tuned for our next repair cafe by signing up for our monthly newsletter here! We’ll keep you in the loop.

If Mike inspires you to be a volunteer fixer, email for more details!

Single Use Plastics and their Impacts. Can we change it?

Plastics are a problem

Is the image of a sea turtle with a single use straw up its nose or a beach completely blanketed in plastic trash burned into your brain like it is in mine? No need to stab the fallen. But seriously: plastic (especially the single use variety) is a problem. And sometimes it seems utterly overwhelming a topic to think about let alone to change. After attending the Association of Oregon Recyclers Sustainable Oregon 2019 conference last week, I have been thinking a lot about plastics:

  • the rise of the use of plastics after World War 2 as an amazing, cheap, functional new thing
  • how plastics have become profusely ubiquitous in every facet of my life (the bathroom, the produce aisle, the doctor’s office, the restaurant)
  • about its recyclability AND lack of recyclability
  • the question of whether plastic alternatives have more or less environmental impact

According to the Ocean Conservancy beach cleanup, here is the list of the top 10 most common trash items found in the 2018 International Coastal Clean Up report along with the number of those items picked up off the coasts:

    Cigarette butts: 2,412,151
    Food wrappers: 1,739,743
    Plastic drink bottles: 1,5689,135
    Plastic bottle caps: 1,091,107
    Plastic grocery bags: 757,532
    Other plastic bags: 746,211
    Straws, stirrers: 643,562
    Plastic take-out containers: 632,874
    Plastic lids: 624,878
    Foam take-out containers: 580,570

Although we aren’t very close to the ocean, we still ship all of our recycling to Portland, much of which gets transported overseas. So we ARE affecting those numbers, too, despite our distance from the sea. 

The most profound thing about this list to me is that every item on this list was used one time. And it is all avoidable waste — each thing can be replaced with a reusable thing. (Pipe tobacco, anyone? Ok, I don’t endorse tobacco use, but if that’s your jam, consider a pipe!)

In May, the Center for International Environmental Law came out with a 108 page report entitled Plastic and Climate: The Hidden Costs of a Plastic Planet that addresses the fact that the plastic lifestyle we have embraced on this earth is having a direct and visceral impact on climate change. Here is the summary. If we can’t let go of our dependence on single use plastics (including straws, cups, cutlery, packaging, grocery bags and so much more), we will not be able meet global climate targets such as laid out in Climate Action Steering Committee and the European Union climate action policy.

What are we doing about it locally?

The plastic bag ban passed in the City of Bend in December 2018 with heavy education around bringing your own reusable bags and why that is important. In June 2019, the Oregon State legislature passed a similar ordinance causing talk of repealing the bag ban in Bend so not to cause confusion. This conversation will happen in late July. Regardless, a plastic bag ban is happening across Oregon! Don’t wait until July 1, though, bring those reusable bags now!

For those of us who smoke cigarettes (remember it was the number one most commonly found item on the coasts), you do you. But if you are going to smoke, get those butts off the streets. In downtown Bend, the Broomsmen has set up cigarette butt recycling stations! If you put your butt in there, it will get turned into things like park benches. If you aren’t downtown, please put your butts in the trash. The Broomsmen is also setting up some recycling programs in partnership with some local organizations and a company in Portland called Agylix. They are collecting polystyrene cups from some breweries and hope to expand the business to have monthly collection days for the public. 

Organizations like Les Schwab and 4 Peaks are allowing reuse of silipints purchased in the venue for beer or wine vessels. Just remember to keep reusing them later! Bring them on your camping trip, for example.

What can we do?

  1. Sign up for Plastic Free July!
  2. Buy less stuff! Think about your purchases. Do you really need it?
  3. Pay attention to the packaging your purchases come in. Is there a choice with less packaging? Can you buy it in bulk with a BYO Glass Jar or reused bag?
  4. Have a “togo kit” you keep at hand for outings: reusable bag, reusable silverware, reusable cup for coffee or beer, and even a reusable togo container for when you know you are going out to eat.
  5. Talk about it. Tell your friends. Tell your neighbors. Teach your kids.
  6. Know — without a doubt — what is and isn’t recyclable!

    Do you know what actually happens to your recycling? Or what happens to the garbage we put in our recycling bin because we think it is recyclable? Recycling is important but knowing what is recyclable is VERY important. The reason that China and other Asian countries stopped accepting recycling is because of contamination issues. That means we have been putting things in our curbside recycling bin that are not recyclable through the outlets where it is being taken. Are you a wishful recycler? We have to do it right! Are you confused about what is and isn’t recyclable? Ask us! You can schedule a presentation for free: . Or here is a handy sign you can hang by your household or workplace bins to help people learn. 

What else do YOU do?

 

4 Trail Food Ideas With Rethink Waste In Mind

Just because you’re heading out in the wilderness, doesn’t mean you have to eat poorly. It also doesn’t mean you have to throw your Rethink Waste lifestyle out the window. Don’t you find it frustrating when you see that little corner of someone’s Clifbar wrapper that fell out of their pocket along the trail? There are lots of ways to reduce your waste when thinking about what you’re going to eat on the trail. Here are a few of my favorite ways to eat well and keep thinking about waste reduction on the trail.

The two main takeaways for camping, backpacking, or hiking foods:

  • Buy bulk and bring reusable containers to the store with you
  • Avoid purchasing foods in non-reusable or non-recyclable containers when you can
  1. DINNER:
    Curried Cashew Chickpea Couscous – for 2 hungry people on an overnight

    Place the following in a ziplock bag (I re-used one that had sunflower seeds in it from a Natural Grocer’s purchase):
    1 c couscous
    1/4 c cashews
    1 T curry powder
    1 t hot pepper flakes, or as you like it
    salt to taste
    some dehydrated veggies such as kale and scallions

    Boil 1.5 c water. Off the heat, stir in contents of ziplock and let sit for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and then stir in 1 can tuna (drained), 1 cup cooked chickpeas, and 1/4 c golden raisins.

    BONUS: Dehydrate your veggies using the heat of your car instead of an energy-intensive food dehydrator! Solar power is free — kale, scallions, and morel mushrooms have worked great for me in Bend. (This only took 2 hours in my brown car parked in full sun from 12:30pm – 1:30pm on an 85 degree day).
  2. BREAKFAST:
    Oatmeal!

    Ok, so oatmeal isn’t very creative. And trust me — it has not always been my first breakfast choice. But it’s lightweight and versatile! I have come to find that my favorite oatmeal mix has dried mango, crystallized ginger, cardamom to taste, and pecans. You can add sugar if you like it sweet, but I think the mango and sugar from the ginger are enough. Just mix it all up in a reusable container of your choice. Boil water, pour in oatmeal, and cook til done! Yum.

    All of those ingredients are available in the bulk section at Food for Less, Market of Choice, and Fred Meyer. You can have your jar tarred at the front register to avoid using the plastic bags. Or you can bring some old plastic bags from home that you have washed out. Boil water, pour in oatmeal ingredients

  3. SNACK #1:
    Trail mix from the bulk section

    Just pick out whatever you like, remembering to bring your reusable jars or bags from home, and mix! This way you don’t have to worry about mining because you will like everything you put in the mix. I like pecans, cranberries, chocolate chips, and crystalized ginger. Again, all available in the bulk section.

  4. SNACK #2:
    Make your own bars!

    By buying ingredients from the bulk section and making bars at home we can monitor what goes into our bars AND reduce the amount of packaging we bring home from the store. Even if we use the plastic bulk bags, at least we can reuse them the next time in the bulk section or, as I sometimes do, use them to clean up after my dog. After the bars are made, you can freeze them and then stack them in a reusable container. When you head out on the trail, you can wrap a few in a beeswax wrap any other reusable container.

 

Here is a great formula for building your own bars from the No Meat Athlete.

And here is a link for some homemade Larabar hacks.

What is your favorite reduced waste trail meal?