We Have Reached the Half Way Mark!

Day 183 – Half the year is over and my family has made a lot of changes for the better. However, we still have another half to go, to learn and share ways to help protect our planet. Some changes have stuck, while others didn’t make the cut. I thought I would share what is working and what has not.

Our Top Ten Most Loved Changes

  1. Composting – On Day 2, Day 118 and Day 149, I have written about how awesome composting is and how using Waste Not Compost has changed our lives. For anyone wanting to make a difference, this is my #1 suggestion. Since, starting back in December 2020, my family of six has diverted 258 pounds of food waste from the landfill. Instead that food has created nutrient rich soil. Anyone that can add $10 to their weekly budget, should be composting!
  2. Recycling through the North Park Recycling Center – On Day 4, I wrote about how my family stopped putting our recyclables in the blue bin. After finding out how dismal our recycling percentage is in the city, I decided to send our recyclables to the North Park Village Recycling Center. We go once a month and sometimes I can stretch it out to two months. If you can avoid putting your recyclables in the blue bin and can find a reliable recycler, I encourage you to go that route.
  3. Using a Zero Waste Box – On Day 77, I wrote about how we invested in a TerraCycle Zero Waste Box. It has actually been three boxes. I first purchased a candy wrapper and snack bag box, thinking that would cover a lot of non-recyclable waste we were producing. I then moved into the kitchen box, which accepted many other things, like plastic packaging, paper Packaging, cleaning accessories, coffee and tea accessories, party supplies and dining disposables, interior home furnishings, prescription drug packaging, fabrics and clothing. I have finally came to the realization that the All-in-one box is the way to go. Just a few of the items accepted in the All-in-one box: art supplies, books & magazines, E-waste, eye wear, home cleaning accessories, fabrics, and clothing, office supplies, pet products (non-food), plastic cards, shipping materials, storage media, plastic and paper packaging, kitchen gear, filters (air/water), coffee capsules and coffee bags, party supplies and dining disposables. With the help of zero waste boxes, we have gone from two bags of garbage a week to one bag of garbage every three weeks.
  4. Reusable produce bags and storage bags – On Day 13 and Day 34, I wrote about how we switched to reusable produce bags and storage bags. This has been a game changer. The amount of plastic produce bags and Ziploc Storage bags (of all sizes) that we have avoided is substantial. This change is a no brainer and very easy to do!
  5. Blueland Products – On Day 21, I wrote about switching our cleaning products to Blueland and their line of plastic free products. We have know had a chance to use every product, but the glass cleaner and dish soap (still working on our original supply). We love every product, especially the foaming hand soap and dishwasher tablets. It feels so good to avoid purchasing all those cleaning products in plastic bottles. It’s also awesome that all the Blueland tablets arrive in compostable packaging.
  6. Who Gives a Crap – On Day 26, I wrote about switching to Who Gives a Crap toilet paper. This has been a real feel good purchase. Not only are we saving trees by using toilet paper made from recycled paper, but the company donates funds to build toilets in countries without such facilities. Love this company!
  7. Cloth Napkins – On Day 38, I wrote about how we have cut back on our paper towel use. A big thanks goes to my sister-in-law for making us cloth napkins that we use everyday, for every meal. Because of these pretty pieces of cloth, we have drastically cut back on our paper towel use.
  8. Plastic free laundry detergent – On Day 51, I wrote about ditching the liquid laundry detergent in the plastic bottle and going with Meliora’s powered detergent in a reusable canister. I have been using the detergent for months and have been very happy with it. I love that cleaning my laundry has become plastic free.
  9. Reducing the purchase of food in plastic containers – This one hasn’t been easy, but by cutting some products out of our lives and switching to glass or aluminum packaging, we have reduced our plastic waste. We no longer purchase spreadable butter and have avoided purchasing fruit in plastic packaging (strawberries and blueberries), just to name a few changes we have made. We will continue to work on this one.
  10. The switch to plastic free toiletries – We have made the switch to bar soap in plastic free packaging, bamboo toothbrushes and plastic free deodorant. We recycle our toothpaste tubes and shampoo bottles though TerraCycle.

What didn’t work out

  1. Reusable shaver – On Day 71, I wrote about how I switched to a reusable shaver. Unfortunately, I have found that I am not a very skilled shaver. I had numerous cuts, but the last one was a doozy. I decided that for now, I needed to go back to a safer option. I am using a Gillette razor with replaceable blades and recycling those blades through TerraCycle.
  2. Misfits Market – On Day 36, I wrote about how we started a biweekly (every two weeks) subscription to Misfits Markets. We received shipments for numerous months. A couple weeks ago we decided to suspend our prescription. We had three orders with items missing and replaced with products we did not want. I was also not a fan of the packaging. Even though it was all recyclable, there was a lot. We are making a point to visit farms markets this summer to enjoy locally grown produce.

As you can see, almost all the changes we have made are working and we don’t mind doing them. They are all easy and not too difficult to implement. What changes are you ready to make?

Tomorrow, celebrating International Plastic Bag Free Day.

Plastic Bags: They’re still here

Day 8– It’s crazy to think that the inventor of the plastic bag, Swedish engineer, Sten Gustaf Thulin, created them in 1959 to save the planet. The bags were developed as an alternative to paper bags, which were considered bad because they resulted in trees being chopped down. Fast forward 62 years and they are not saving the planet, but causing extreme damage to the environment.

Eight states have banned the use of plastic bags – California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, New York, Oregon and Vermont. Fourteen other states have adopted laws to protect the use of plastic bags. A Politico article, written in January 2020, explains why plastic bags are not going anywhere, anytime soon. It all comes down to money. Making plastic bags is a big business and those involved in their production are making sure they stick around, even though they are harmful to the environment.

In Chicago, there is no ban, but a fee is applied to your purchase when accepting a plastic bag. Most of us bring along our reusable shopping bags on our trips to the store to avoid using the plastic bags. However, it seems almost impossible to keep these plastic bags out of your household, no matter how hard you try. They find there way in, oneway or another. This pandemic has made it even harder to avoid them. Many stores are not allowing your reusable bags from home.

So, what to do with those plastic bags? Some will use them to line their waste baskets at home or use them to pick up their pet’s waste. The unfortunate thing with those uses is that they end up in a landfill, where they can take hundreds of years to decompose. Another option is to drop them off at a plastic bag recycling kiosks. Many stores offer these drop-offs. My go to places are Target and Jewel.

It appears that these programs are legitimate. However, the success of the program depends on the actions of each store and their handling of the plastic bags. I would like to think that these companies are doing the right thing and providing a program that does exactly what it says it will do, recycle plastic bags.

Did you know those plastic bag kiosks except more than just grocery store plastic bags? Here is everything they except:

  1. Paper towel / Toilet Paper plastic bags
  2. Bread Bags
  3. Air Pillows (plenty of these arrive in my Amazon purchases)
  4. Case wrapping (water bottles, Gatorde, etc)
  5. Food Storage Bags (sandwich, storage and freezer bags)
  6. Produce bags
  7. Shopping bags
  8. Plastic shipping envelopes (remove labels)
  9. Cereal box bags
  10. Anything with How2Recycle Label stating plastic bag

Between the composting and keeping a lot of these plastic bags out of the garbage, we have reduced our household waste immensely. We went from two garbage bags a week, to one bag, every 9-10 days. Not too bad, but I know we can do better. I keep a bag under the kitchen sink where all our plastic bags (of all kinds) end up. Once, I have plenty collected I drop them off on my next visit to Target or the grocery store.

It’s great that these programs exist, but ultimately we need to find ways to avoid these plastic bags. Throughout this year, I will discuss how my family is making changes to keep these bags, in whatever form, out of our house.

Tomorrow, we’ll look a little closer at how2recycle and how their labels are taking the guess work out of recycling.

Single-Stream Recycling: It just doesn’t work

Day 6 “For those of us who spent most of our lives painstakingly separating plastic, glass, paper and metal, single-stream recycling is easy to love. No longer must we labor. Gone is the struggle to store two, three, four or even five different bags under the kitchen sink. Just throw everything into one dumpster, season liberally with hopes and dreams, and serve it up to your local trash collector. What better way to save the planet?”

This is the opening paragraph in an article written by Maggie Koerth for FiveThirtyEight. The article goes on to describe a program that no longer works. Too many contaminated recyclables ending up in the landfill and a change in China’s standard for accepting contaminated recyclables has completely changed the game.

Chicago’s use of the single-stream recycling process is just part of their overall recycling problem. In comparison, the Resource Center separates all their recyclables, reducing the potential for contamination. The key to their success is for those participating in their program to follow the directions and to only drop off items allowed. Placing non-recyclable items in the designated bins is damaging to the program.

So, knowing I needed numerous containers, I got myself to Target and picked up three garbage cans ($10 each). I labeled them (1) plastic (2) glass (3) tin / metal. I also took a large storage bin and labeled it (4) cardboard. Lastly, I took two waste baskets and labeled them (5) paper and (6) aluminum. It quickly becomes clear that a large amount of our recyclables are cardboard and plastic. The plan is to visit the Resource Center twice a month. The tin and glass containers will not need to be emptied as frequently. There’s another plan for the aluminum (to be discussed tomorrow).

In a couple days I will be discussing the 47th Ward’s Green Council. However, I wanted to notify you (if you happen to be a resident of the 47th Ward) of an upcoming meeting, tomorrow, January 7th @ 6:30pm. You can register HERE.

Tomorrow, I’ll reveal the hot new item in our household that is a total flashback to my childhood.

Chicago Recycling: We can do better!

Day 4 – Filling our designated indoor recycle container twice a week and bringing it out to the blue bin has been our practice for years. We thought we were helping and making a difference. Little did we know that it was not making a big impact, or any kind of impact, for that matter. I knew Chicago’s recycling program was not great, but I was definitely in denial as to how bad it really was. As I dug a little deeper, I found that Chicago ranks as the worst major city in the United States for recycling rates in residential areas, with less than 9 percent of waste being recycled. The program is beyond flawed and the solutions do not seem easy to correct.

If you want to read the Better Government Association‘s report on Chicago’s recycling program, click HERE.

So, I was on a mission to find other options. I found a plethora of organizations that will recycle a variety of hard to recycle items. However, it took a little extra digging to find a place that will except my blue bin recyclables. I came across the Resource Center and their North Park Village drop-off location was not too far from home.

North Park Village Recycling Station – 5801 N. Pulaski Road, Chicago, IL 60646 (Hours: 10am-4pm daily)

They accept cardboard and food packaging (made from cardboard), newspapers, magazines, white paper, office paper and shredded paper, metal (tin cans), aluminum, brown and yellow glass, green and blue glass, clear glass (no windows, drinking glasses, nothing “treated”), plastics #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #7.

In future posts, I’ll discuss the need to find other options and not depend on recycling programs. However, for now, I have found a partner and it’s time to get my recyclables in order!

Tomorrow, holiday cards and their afterlife.