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.

An Easy Way to Recycle Your Snack Bags

Day 137 – Lots of chips are eaten in my house. Potato, tortilla, pretzel, and anything else you can find in chip form are consumed by my home’s inhabitants. Back on Day 77, I wrote about my purchase of a kitchen zero waste box from TerraCycle. I mentioned that among many things allowed in the box, snack bags and candy wrappers are included. I also mentioned how expensive the zero waste boxes are and because of that cost, they are not a viable option for many people.

Thankfully, Subaru has partnered with TerraCycle to bring FREE recycling programs to their dealerships.

“Visit your local Subaru retailer and recycle your disposable cups, lids, and straws; candy and snack wrappers; and coffee and creamer capsules.”TerraCycle

When you type in your address, you will see the closest Subaru dealership that is offering the program. Take note that not every Subaru dealership is participating. You should also call the dealership even if it shows up on the TerraCycle website. Due to the pandemic, some dealerships put the program on hold.

With a few strokes of the computer keys and a phone call, you could be on your way to recycling those hard to recycle candy and snack wrappers, along with coffee and creamer capsules.

Tomorrow, the recyclability of plastic.

Shower Curtains: Recycle or Trash

Day 131 – My shower curtain is fabric, but I needed something to keep the water inside the tub, during showers. I bought the cheapest liner possible. It was a few bucks and made from a plastic/vinyl combination. After about 6 months or so, it would become rather gross and I would throw it away and buy a new one. A few years ago, I realized that if I spent a little more on a nice liner, I could easily clean it. By tossing it in the washing machine, I was able to use it over and over.

Besides the washable polyester shower curtain liner that I started to use, there are other earth friendly options.

  1. 100% cotton or hemp curtain – Once these curtains lived out their lives they could be cut up and placed in your compost.
  2. Shower door – This is not an option for everyone, but having a shower door would take away the need for a curtain.

If you decide to switch out your shower curtain for a more eco-friendly option, then you’re faced with the question, “What do I do with my old plastic shower curtain?”

Earth911 came up with a list of ideas:

  • Dropcloth for interior painting
  • Table cover for messy DIY or craft projects
  • Protect your car seats under kids’ booster seats
  • Line your vehicle’s trunk
  • Liner under the cat’s litter box
  • Liner for inside the cabinet under kitchen sink
  • When camping, use it to protect firewood from rain, as a waterproof tablecloth, a tent tarp, or to divide food in the cooler.

Remember, that your plastic shower curtain can not be recycled curbside. Unless, you’re willing to pay for a bathroom zero waste box from TerraCycle , your other option is to repurpose it or throw it in the trash. Hopefully, you find a new purpose for your old shower curtain and your new curtain is plastic free.

Tomorrow, so many options to recycle your old electronics.

No One Wants Your Broken Stuff

Day 128 – Many people try to avoid throwing things away. They don’t want to add to the endless piles of trash that end up in the landfill. Unfortunately, the next option (for some) is to donate those items. They get boxed up and dropped off at the nearest donation center. Unfortunately, no one wants your broken stuff and all those “donations” end up exactly where you were hoping they would not, in the landfill.

In a recent NPR article, a Goodwill store spokesperson in New Hampshire was interviewed. She oversees 30 Goodwill stores in New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine. Their trash bill adds up to around $1 million a year with about $13 million pounds of waste. This is just one organization, in only three states. Multiply those numbers by thousands of organizations across the country and you have an astronomical amount of waste. Waste that no one cares about or gives a second thought about, because it’s believed it has all gone to a “good cause.”

“A lampshade, which is stained and disgusting and literally falling apart. There’s a small table missing a leg, cracked purple food-storage containers and a used sponge. They’re just a representative sample of the useless stuff dropped off the day before.” – Heather Steeves (Goodwill spokesperson)

Goodwill and other organizations will try to recycle what they can, but when people are donating, what can only be described as trash, then it becomes very difficult.

On Day 72, I shared a list of over 90 items that Best Buy will take and recycle. The City of Chicago has a Household Chemicals & Computer Recycling Facility that accepts numerous items. Click HERE for the complete list of accepted items. I have shared how to recycle clothes and shoes that are not fit for donation. Sometimes a simple Google search can send you in the right direction when looking for a recycler, because your items are not worth donating.

I saw first hand, when volunteering at Cradles to Crayons, the amount of donated waste. The kids and I were put in the toy section. A majority of the donated toys were not considered acceptable. Games with missing pieces, deflated balls, nonworking electronic toys, dolls and action figures missing limbs, random happy meal toys, were just some of the discarded toys. I ended up coming home with two large boxes of toys that were going to end up in the trash. This was just a two hour shift. I can’t even begin to imagine the amount of toys thrown out on a daily basis. I have purchased a Zero Waste Box from TerraCycle to recycle the unwanted toys. TerraCycle has partnered with Hasbro, V-Tech, Leap Frog, Spin Master and L.O.L. Surprise to recycle their toys. You can always drop any of these toys at the monthly Northcenter Neighborhood Association Recycling Popup.

Heather from Goodwill suggests, “The key question to ask before dropping something off is: If you needed it, would you buy it in this condition?”

Tomorrow, supporting fair trade.

Zero Waste Boxes: Assisting you on your zero waste journey

Day 77 – I first talked about TerraCylce on Day 23. I gave a brief description of the various services they offered. On Day 56, I went into greater detail about the Free Recycling Programs. Today, I am sharing information about their Zero Waste Boxes.

Zero Waste Boxes collect anything from candy and snack wrappers to cassette tapes. They have boxes for pretty much anything. I purchased the Kitchen Separation box. The kitchen has been the most challenging room in the house when it comes to going zero waste. Food packaging is difficult to avoid and recycle. It’s the frozen fry bag, the shredded cheese bag, the tortilla chip bag, and so on and so on. All of this packaging used to go into the garbage and now it goes into the Zero Waste Box.

Some say that the existence of TerraCycle is encouraging companies to continue making products that are disposable and non-recyclable. I say, TerraCycle exists to help us on our journey to zero waste. We may never reach the end of that journey, but we can improve along the way. There is nothing easy about living a life of zero waste and it most certainly does not happen overnight. TerraCycle is there to help us recycle our trash, while we make adjustments to minimize the waste we produce.

After you order your Zero Waste Box and it arrives at your home or workplace, the collecting begins. Most of my trash that I put in the Kitchen Waste box is plastic bags (food packaging). I could put many other items in the box (plastic packaging, paper packaging, filters, cleaning accessories, coffee and tea accessories, party supplies and dining disposables, interior home furnishings, prescription drug packaging, fabrics and clothing), but I have found using the box for plastic packaging has been the most beneficial.

Now, the not so great news. The Zero Waste Boxes are not cheap. The cost of the box pays for the shipping of the box to TerraCycle and the recycling of the items in the box. It takes a real commitment to want to pay for these boxes and for many, it’s just not in the budget to cover the cost. If you’re interested, but the price tag is discouraging, I suggest you start a Zero Waste Box fund. Place loose change in a jar and save up that way. Or you could even suggest a Zero Waste Box for a gift suggestion around the holidays or for your birthday. If there is a will, there is a way. I collected my plastic food packaging in a regular brown box until I was able to purchase my first box. I also suggest that you sign-up for an account with TerraCycle, so you’ll receive updates and news when there is a sale on Zero Waste Boxes. And they do have sales.

With the help of the Zero Waste Box, recycling and the incredible ease of composting with Waste Not Compost, my family of six has gone from two bags of garbage (minimum) per week to one bag of garbage every two weeks. So we have gone from producing 104 bags of waste (on the low end) per year to just 24. Can we do better? There’s no doubt we can. We’ve only been at this new way of living for 3 months.

So, celebrate Global Recycling Day, by coming up with a plan to reduce your daily waste.

Tomorrow, ways to have a sustainable Easter.

TerraCycle: Eliminating the idea of waste

Day 23TerraCycle was born in 2001, when a freshman at Princeton University took food scraps to create quality fertilizer. Twenty years later, Tom Szaky has grown the company and its programs to include over 202 million people in 21 countries that have helped to collect and recycle enough waste to raise over 44 million dollars for charities around the world. TerraCycle has made recycling those hard to recycle items a little bit easier.

Here’s how it works (as seen on TerraCycles website):

  1. Free Recycling Programs – TerraCycle offers free recycling programs funded by brands, manufacturers, and retailers around the world to help you collect and recycle your hard-to-recycle waste. Simply choose the programs you’d like to join; start collecting in your home, school, or office; download free shipping labels; and send us your waste to be recycled. You can even earn rewards for your school or favorite non-profit!
  2. Zero Waste Box – TerraCycle’s Zero Waste Box™ platform allows you to recycle almost any type of waste, from your coffee capsules to complex laboratory waste. Choose the waste stream you’d like to recycle, purchase your preferred box size, collect your waste, and send it to TerraCycle to be repurposed (shipping is included).
  3. Municipal Programs – TerraCycle partners with many municipalities around the world to provide zero waste solutions such as city-wide programs for recycling cigarette butts.
  4. Industrial Waste Solutions – TerraCycle partners with many manufacturing facilities around the world to help recycle hard-to-recycle waste at the facility level. Our programs range from helping to recycle large volumes of packaging scrap to personal safety equipment.
  5. Regulated Waste Recycling – TerraCycle’s regulated waste division provides products and services to help you facilitate the effective and compliant management of regulated, universal and hazardous waste. This may include fluorescent lamps, bulbs, batteries, and e-waste as well as organic waste, medical waste and other waste streams that are potentially harmful to the environment.

In the coming months, I will discuss my participation in various programs offered by TerraCycle. I’ll be sure to include the pros and cons, so you can decide if it can be a viable option for your recycling needs.

Tomorrow, the dilemma of what to do with old furniture.