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.

 

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?

 

 

 

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?

 

Potty Talk: Plastics in the bathroom

Everybody has an opinion and not everyone’s opinion is the same. I have the opinion that plastic is an amazingly versatile and useful substance. It is ubiquitous in our lives; but I am also under the opinion that we do not need to use it nearly as much as we do. I’m speaking specifically to single use plastics–that is defined as plastic packaging or containers or silverware or anything that is only used one time and is disposed up just after use. Humanity has made a lot of recent progress around reducing single use plastics, but there is a lot of work to be done. As an associated side point, The Story of Cosmetics has an interesting 9 minute video about the contents of self care products.

So, what can you do? Today, rethink your bathroom purchases.

  • Do you really need to buy that item?
  • Can you choose a product that comes in a smaller amount of packaging? Or maybe no packaging at all?
  • Can you buy a product in bulk reusing containers you already have available?
  • Can you make it yourself instead?

Here are a few specific items you can think about while reducing bathroom plastic. And here is a great article from Earth911.

Cleaning Your Pearly Whites

  • Toothbrushes are made of single use plastic and they come in a single use plastic container. There are some greener options for this. Apparently it is tough on your gums to use biodegradable bristles, so the best options all seem to have synthetic bristles. I would love to be told otherwise about this! Here are a few I found available locally:
    • Senza Bamboo – available at Market of Choice. Bamboo handle (a variety not eaten by pandas). Boasts 100% compostable packaging. Offers a tip on how to remove plastic bristles before tossing the handle in your yard debris bin.
    • Woo Bamboo – available at Safeway and Natural Grocers
    • Preserve – available all over! Handle is made from old yogurt cups. After you’re done using it, you can toss it into the Gimme 5 recycling bin at Whole Foods Market (check in with them to make sure program is currently running before heading over). According to the package, the case that the toothbrush comes in is also recyclable in the Gimme 5 bin.
  • Dental Floss is plastic string that comes in a plastic case. There are some alternatives you can find in town such as floss made from 100% silk and cases that are paper or metal. Another option is an electric water flosser: reusable over and over again!
  • Mouthwash is one of those things that we often tend toward after flossing. It rinses those bits away and leaves your mouth feeling fresh and clean. But what is actually in it to make your mouth fresh? Ever read the ingredients on the back of those bottles? Anyway, there are some pretty simple mixtures that you can try out. Just take a gander at some DIY recipes. HumanKind has some mouthwash tablets,
  • Toothpaste comes in a single use tube that is not recyclable that always comes inside of a cardboard box that is recyclable, but what’s the point? There are a few options here. Here is a pretty good review of some plastic free options.
    • Toothpaste that comes in glass jars. I’ve seen a couple options here at grocery store.
    • Toothpaste tabs! Although I haven’t found any of these available in Bend, there are lots of online options. Some come with more packaging than others, but you can do some research.
    • DIY toothpaste!

Deodorant!

This is a tough one for a lot of people. I, for one, have had a hard time finding a good-for-you (i.e. without aluminum) deodorant that actually works. I tried the crystal, I tried the all natural Tom’s of Maine and others similar… I didn’t have a lot of luck. But I just tried a new one: Armpit Armor from Bohemian Peddler. And I have to say, I’m a big fan. And you know what else? It’s made in Madras, Oregon. And it comes in a paper tube! Check it out at locavore.

Another option that a friend just told me about is DIY deodorant. It has similar ingredients to the Armpit Armor, so I would like to try it out!

There is a company called Myro that offers refillable deodorant stick. That is definitely something to try, too! The refillable tube is plastic, but at least it’s refillable. HumanKind does refillable deodorant, too.

Everyone has a different body pH, so something that works for some might not work for others. I would love to know more about what works for different folks.

Bar Soap

This is probably the easiest thing to switch to to eliminate some plastic from your bathroom. Here is a great article about the benefits of bars.

There are SO many local bar soap options that come in minimal or no packaging. Just stop by locavore to discover your options! Steena’s Suds makes some great ones including a Shampoo Bar — of which I am now a convert. It works great and feels good in my hair after washing. It leaves a little squeaky feel to it, but only at first. I really recommend it.

Bottom Line

Really, it’s just important to stop and think and notice what you are buying and what you are bringing into your house. Again: do you need it? Can you find an item with less packaging? Can you make it yourself?

You choose with your dollar. I would like to reduce the use of single plastics in my house. What about yours?

Your Old Clothes: Too hole-y, even for church? Or lots of life to live?

What do you do with your old clothes? There are lots of ways to make more space in your closet without throwing clothes in the trash. According to the Oregon DEQ, Americans throw away over 32 billion pounds of textiles a year, but over 90% of clothing and shoes are recyclable. Textile recovery is an important issue. So let’s keep those clothes out of the landfill and make sure they are used to their full potential!

Here is a list, in order of importance, about how to deal with your textiles:

  1. First, think about your clothing purchase to begin with. Do you really need that?
  2. Now, if you DO need it, think about HOW you’re buying it:
    • Can you get a used item rather than a new one?
      — Get it from a thriftstore like ReGroup or the Humane Society Thrift Store, to name a couple in Bend.
      — Shop a consignment store like GearFix or Bag Ladies.
      — You can shop for used clothes online, too, and some even have a personal stylist!
      The Renewal Workshop: a company that fixes and resells outdoor clothing
      And We Evolve: a personalized style company with secondhand clothes
      ThredUP: a consignment store where you can shop by item
    • Can’t find it used and really do need it? Think about the quality of the item you are buying. Textiles that are cheaply and poorly made don’t last as long on your body. Since making clothing is resource intensive (1,500 gallons of water to manufacture just one T-shirt and pair of jeans!), it’s best to get all you can out of every article of clothing.
    • The importance of sustainable clothing choices — something related to waste prevention, but not really discussed here — is also worth learning about. Check out this podcast from Big Closets, Small Planet: A Crash Course in Sustainable Fashion. In 13 minutes, learn a little bit about the environmental and social impacts of the apparel industry. You can stay up on all textile news with Ecotextile News and learn more about textile recovery from RRS.
  3. Take care of the clothes that you buy!
    • Only use the dryer when you have to. It is hard on clothes.
    • Wash your clothes inside out and in cold water.
    • Don’t wash them unless they actually need to be cleaned! You don’t need to wash your pants every time you wear them. Sniff test anyone?
    • Bring it to a Repair Cafe! There’s one coming up in Bend: April 2 at the Gear Fix.
  4. If you are actually done with some of the clothes in your closet — yeah I know! tastes and fashion changes — what can you do with them?
    • DONATE THEM! Are the items still good to wear? Not too many holes or stains? There are many thrift stores that accept donated clothes in town. This way, someone else can wear them. Plus, thrift stores are typically non-profits that earn money based on donations to help good causes. Find the thrift store whose cause you care about.
    • Is it a Patagonia product? Drop it off at the Patagonia store here in Bend!
      • If the item is usable, you can get credit for it because they will resell it online through Patagonia Worn Wear. They will fix what is broken (like a zipper or patchable hole) and make it usable again.
  5. Ok — sometimes clothes really are at the end of their life as a piece of clothing. But there are still things you can do with them.
    • Re-purpose it!
      • Change that old sweater into a hat from the good bits.
      • Holes in the knees of your jeans? Cut-offs are always in style. Don’t like cut-offs? Hem them up! Then, make a dog toy from the legs!
      • There are SO many blog posts for DIY upcycled sewing projects. Google it or check out Pinterest.
      • Have an old t-shirt you LOVE but it’s just time to go? Or an old hole-y flannel shirt? It’s winter outside, y’all: how about a handkerchief? Here’s a cool reversible one.
    • If it’s no longer usable, you can still recycle it.
      • Is it a Patagonia product? Take it to the Patagonia store!
        • If the item is no longer usable, Patagonia’s Common Threads Initiative will recycle it: break it down and recycle it into new fiber or fabric or repurpose what can’t yet be recycled.
      • Turn old jeans into home insulation! Blue Jeans Go Green recently celebrated recycling over 1 million pieces of denim.
      • Do you have towels and blankets in decent condition? You can donate them to the Humane Society!
      • Some thrift stores may accept old unsellable clothing. Call ahead to double check.
      • Get a TerraCycle Box and recycle it through the mail.
      • Here are 10 household textiles you might not have known can be recycled (thanks to TerraCycle’s Make Garbage Great book):
        • Stuffed Animals
        • Entire bedding sets
        • Halloween costumes
        • Boots
        • Cloth napkins
        • Purses and handbags
        • Pillows
        • Curtains and drapes
        • Belts
        • Athletic jerseys
  6. The only time fabrics should head to the landfill is if you have already used them to clean off all the greasy bits from your bicycle chain or automobile. Last resort.

Take home: keep those textiles out of the landfill!

Want to learn more about the textile industry, the importance of preventing textile waste, and how to get involved? Check out these great resources from Resource Recycling Systems.

Presents that Require Presence

In a meeting recently I heard about a wonderful gift idea. A jar filled with 365 slips of paper, each with its own memory, given to a parent. It turns out, memory jars are really popular projects on Pinterest and have a variety of applications. What are other gift ideas like this, that are really meaningful, require very little in the way of cash, maybe more of a time input?

Here are some other ideas along those lines, most of which can be found on the website New Dream.

What alternatives to traditional gifts have you come across?

 

Black Friday Shoppers: This is the Least You Can Do.

In the past we’ve written about 10 things to do on Black Friday other than go shopping. 4 years ago REI started their #OptOutside campaign, and began closing its doors on Friday to make a pretty bold statement about using this day as an opportunity to choose being outdoors over our cultural push to just keep.buying.more.stuff.  Oregon State Parks recently announced that once again they are waiving all entrance fees as a way to encourage people to make Black Friday a Green Friday.  Almost every year I do my best to celebrate Buy Nothing Day, which is easy when it means don’t go to a big box store (that technically opened on Thanksgiving…thanks corporate America). But this year I’ve been thinking about how I’m in the minority on this topic, and most of our society is just going to go ahead and buy.more.stuff. So if you insist on shopping on Black Friday, consider adopting one of these 3 standards to guide your spending and use your hard-earned dollars in a way that strengthens our community and prevents future waste.

  • Buy Local: Yes there’s also Small Business Saturday, but hey, you can’t hit every local store in one day and many have sales the whole weekend, so spread that love around! For instance, Pine Mountain Sports will donate half of all sales to Cascade Youth and Family Center, allowing your money to go even deeper into our community.
  • Buy Energy Efficient: It seems that Black Friday is not just about holiday shopping for others, but about scoring big deals for yourself. So, if you find that you are using Black Friday as a day to stock up on appliances, use this opportunity to buy ones with an Energy Star rating. Check out this Energy Challenge (another Environmental Center program) article and resource on Energy Saving 101 with appliances.
  • Buy Quality: The one thing that sales are good at (other than getting our dopamine all jacked up for getting a good deal on crap we don’t need) is allowing our money to go further by allowing us to buy a better product at an amount we can afford. This may be in the form of a gift, for your home, or for yourself. Think Quality Over Quantity. Do your research and read reviews so that you buy something that will not break within 6 months, is made to last for years, and is made with repairability and source materials in mind.

For most of us, our time is exchanged for money. So when you spend your money, you are essentially trading your time for that item.
Was it worth it?

 

 

Rethink Food Waste: Shop Smarter and technology

The age of technology means we have an utterly overwhelming supply of information at our fingertips. Sometimes it’s a bane, but often a blessing! I just found some food on the verge of going bad that needs to be used tonight. What should I do?

5 ways to reduce food waste with technology:

  1. Make a list! Whether it’s with pen and paper (tape it to the fridge!) or with an app. A list of what you need but also a list of what you have in the fridge and freezer.
  2. Use a menu planning app.
    –There are a billion of them out there. I’ve heard great things about Evernote, which is good for your lists, note-taking, and meal planning. Do you have one that you like?
  3. Check out these search engines you can use for specific ingredients:
    –Meal Hero’s Fridge to Table
    –Recipe Lab’s Recipe Puppy
  4. Here are 8 things to do with leftover herbs
  5. Use the internet to search for things to do with scraps — or things you might not have known were edible! Like the leaves from cauliflower leaves or cilantro stems. Check out this section of Save the food.com.

Did you know Alexa can help you with food waste? And other technologies, too.

  • Alexa has been programed to help you remember what’s in your fridge. If you use this device, it’s worth looking in to how to use this function! But it’s pretty interesting to know about, even if you don’t have it.
  • Check out this list of crazy new technologies that are also helping folks reduce food waste!
  • Holy moly– I also just heard of a blue tooth refrigerator that will take a photo of the inside of your fridge and send it to you while you are at the grocery store! Too much?

Rethink Food Waste: Shop Smarter

Way more often than not, we spend more money at the grocery store than we need to.

  • We get lured in by “buy one get one free” and “2 for 1” – you can save money doing this, but only if you actually eat what you buy
  • We buy what’s on sale – yes you save because it’s not full price, but will you eat that dollar-a-pound asparagus before it goes bad?
  • We tend toward the bulk buys and less expensive per ounce foods – it’s true, it’s cheaper by the pound, but how much of that food will you toss in the end?

Not only does this mean we are wasting money, but we are also wasting food. So this week, let’s focus on only buying what we need.

Here are some tips on how to shop:

  • First, make an Eat First basket or shelf in your fridge!
    • This is a basket with an “Eat First” label: a place for you to segregate the food in your fridge you know needs to be eaten sooner rather than later. If something doesn’t fit, place it nearby. Don’t have an Eat First card? You can print your own!
      Ani's Eat First Basket
  • Take a few minutes to organize your fridge so you know what is in there and where things are.
  • Before you add anything to your list, LOOK IN YOUR FRIDGE! What needs to be eaten this week? Are those green beans starting to turn? Is half of that rotisserie chicken still sitting there from a few days ago?
  • Try using a meal planning app like Handpick  or Mealime. Do you have one you already use and love? Let us know about it!
  • Buy only what you need.
  • Check out this blog about one person’s experience with meal planning.

Do you have ideas about smart shopping or meal planning or fridge organization? Let us know in the comments!

Experience Based Gifts – More Fun, Less Waste!

The holidays – a time to get together with friends and family, share laughs and spread joy, give and receive gifts, and create a ton of waste in the process.  Sorry, TONS of waste. Across the country, an average of 25% more waste is brought to the curb between Thanksgiving and New Years Day. Here in Deschutes County, the amount of waste we generated per capita, and then disposed at the landfill, increased in 2016 from the previous year. In fact it has increased every year since the recession. Recycling has remained a bit more steady, but per capita we recovered less in 2016 then the previous year.

So if there was ever a time to try and curb it, it’s now, at the time when we create the most.  To that end, here are some ideas for things you can give locally (or plant ideas for things you might want to get) for things that last the longest – memories, skills, experiences. These ideas also work for family living in other states, just look them up for their area.

Go Outside:

  • Check out new places with an Oregon State Parks Pass – you can also find these for family in other states.
  • Give gift certificates for rentals to try out a new sport – skis, snowshoes and ski trailers to tow the little one are available at Pine Mountain Sports and many small businesses around the country offer this.
  • Get on a fat bike with Cog Wild (or buy punch cards for mountain bike shuttle rides) or on snowshoes with Wanderlust Tours.
  • Offer to babysit so that your parents of young ones can get outside together, often a rarity.

Give a Skill:

  • COCC Community Learning has classes for youth and adults, from making kombucha and beer to writing your autobiography or discovering enneagrams.
  • Bend Parks and Recreation has classes for kids and adults, from art to swimming to ski touring and more.
  • DIYcave has welding date night workshops, other classes and memberships to use shop tools on your own time.

Get Culture:

  • Theater! Comedy! Music! Look for tickets, membership and gift certificates from the Tower Theater & Cascades Theatrical Company.
  • Plan a trip to Portland or Seattle! Taking care of all the logistics can make it more special.

Kiddo’s Only:

What ways are you gifting experiences this year? Let us know in the comments, then learn more tips to Reduce Waste Over the Holidays.