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Prepping for Plastic Free July Webinar Follow-Up

RethinkWaste held a Prepping for Plastic Free July Webinar on June 29, 2021. We presented on the history of waste, shared a video showcasing different experiences in waste reduction, followed by a discussion with our community about reducing waste solutions.

This page provides the presentation slides and links to resources. If you have questions, fill out the form at the bottom of the page.

Resources

If you have questions, fill out the form below!

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The Benefits of a Circular Economy

If you’ve heard the term “circular economy,” you probably know that the system’s goal is to make waste virtually nonexistent. The name describes its meaning – a circular economy is a closed loop system where a product is made and reused until its true end of its life. This is very different from our society’s linear system where products are made, used, and then disposed of.

For example, consider a pair of jeans that have recently ripped. Nowadays, mending jeans has almost become a best-case scenario. In a linear system, those ripped jeans would get donated or landfilled and a new pair of jeans would be purchased. However, a circular economy would have a vastly different approach: the denim from the old jeans could be collected and re-purchased by manufacturers who would use the material to make more jeans. With a more environmentally-friendly approach, a circular economy sounds promising! However, circular economies are challenging to instill.

For starters, a true circular economy has no waste­. Zero waste generation is already difficult for individuals, let alone on larger scales. Additionally, the quality of some materials deteriorate as they are remade, like plastics. A circular economy would move away from convenient products and toward products with longevity. Finally, circular economies often come with a large upfront cost. Transitions within companies may require a change in supplier and/or infrastructure. Still, a 2015 study found that a circular economy could be worth $4.5 trillion by 2030 if businesses prioritized “circular supplies, resource recovery, product life extension, sharing platforms, and product-as-a-service.”

Despite a few potential challenges, many companies see the value in moving toward a circular economy. Here are some examples of circular economy approaches that large companies are using now:

  1. Reusable Packaging for Everyday Items: As many companies focus on making their products more “environmentally friendly” by incorporating recyclable packing, others are flipping that model on its head. By making the conscious decision to package products in reusable containers, businesses ensure that their packaging will continue to be in use. There are even companies that put products from well-known brands that we already love and trust – from a favorite ice cream brand to a beloved haircare brand – into reusable containers! When the product is empty, consumers send the container back to be cleaned and either request a refill or are refunded the deposit. Companies like this set the precedent for making widespread reuse possible for modern brands.
  2. Focusing on Repair: Other companies are popularizing sustainable material use by focusing on “repair” instead of “replace.” These organizations showcase a closed loop system by fixing old and/or worn items from their brand. Despite being able to capitalize on those seeking to buy new items to replace their old gear, there are some companies choosing to minimize waste by mending fabric that is already in existence. These companies extend the lifecycle of their clothing by giving store credit for old or broken textiles, mending the items, and reselling them at a discount.
  3. Innovative Reuse: Yet another approach to closing the loop is to think outside the box: how can old materials be made into a completely different item? Look no further than the tech industry, where brands are trying to reduce electronic waste with innovative ideas. From “pollution printer ink” made of soot from diesel generators to a jewelry collection made using gold recovered from old laptops, the circular economy approach shows that we can create value from materials that already exist, without having to add many new resources!

Manufacturers play a large role in moving toward a circular economy, but consumers can also help by changing our everyday habits. Recycling is a step toward closing the loop, but we can do even more! To most efficiently use materials, we should try and limit our own waste and support businesses working to do the same.

Exploring Fashion’s Waste And The Ways To Reduce It

When we think of our waste stream, we often focus on daily-use items associated with food such as bottles, cans, paper, food scraps, straws, and plastic film. However, we may often neglect thinking about another source of waste that we also use every day: clothing. Perhaps you have never thrown a clothing item into your garbage, but nonetheless one garbage truck worth of textiles is wasted every second.

One of the main reasons we do not realize how much clothing ends up in landfills is that there is significant waste created even before consumer purchase. This waste, also known as upstream waste, consists of discarded material that does not become part of a finished garment. On the downstream end, clothing in poor condition that are sent to donation centers may also end up in the landfill. Another environmental impact of clothing production less visible to consumers, is the large amounts of water it takes to make clothing. On average, making just one cotton t-shirt requires approximately 2,700 liters of water. Fortunately, there are many ways to curb our waste associated with clothing.

Reduce Clothing Consumption

Stopping fashion waste can be thought of like stopping an overflowing bathtub. The first and most important step is to turn off the faucet! In this case, the faucet is our global annual production of 80 billion pieces of clothing! As an individual, the best way to help is to limit how many new clothing items you purchase. Of course, this is easier said than done, but here are several strategies that can help.

  • Limit yourself to a certain number of clothing purchases per year. This strategy works well if you know you buy a lot of clothing each year and need a tangible target to help limit yourself.
  • Only visit clothing stores when you need a specific clothing item. Remember that online stores count too!
  • When you do purchase clothing, limit waste by purchasing secondhand. This prevents an unwanted item from going to the landfill, but it also avoids all the upstream waste associated with the production of new clothing.
  • If you have to purchase new, try to buy durable clothing that you know you will enjoy for a long period of time. Look out for brands that are very transparent about the environmental impact of their production, as these companies make a large effort to reduce their impact and treat their workers fairly.

Extend Clothing Life

After long exposure to the elements and a certain number of washes, some clothes may have a few holes or a tear, but this doesn’t mean you have to throw it away. With just a needle and some thread, we can extend the life of our garments. Extending the life of a piece of clothing by just nine months can reduce its environmental impact by 20 to 30%! Another way to extend the life of your clothing is to repurpose it into a different clothing item. For example, a t-shirt can easily be turned into a tank top or a pair of pants can be turned into shorts.

If an article of clothing no longer fits you or your taste in style has changed, there are likely many other people that can still appreciate it. Here are a few different ways to extend the life of your clothing.

  • Give to a friend or family member
  • Participate in a clothing swap (or organize your own with friends, family or co-workers!)
  • Sell at an online secondhand clothing market or platforms such as Craigslist or Ebay
  • Donate to a thrift store or donation center
  • Repurpose into other items such as rags to clean around the house, a cloth napkin, or even stitch together into a reusable bag!

Clothing Disposal

Unfortunately, some clothing does eventually reach a stage where it cannot be passed on to somebody else or fixed. There are some brands and stores that have drop-off locations to recycle clothing. This should be the last-ditch option because recycling clothing is energy intensive and companies are only able to recycle a very small fraction of the textiles they collect for recycling.

The fashion industry has significant environmental and social impacts, but curbing our impact does not mean we have to give up clothing or sacrifice our sense of style. While it may take more effort to look for used or sustainably sourced clothing, refreshing old clothes and finding a new home or use for retired clothing, it is a process that can be fun, rewarding, and most importantly will help protect our natural resources!

RethinkWaste Holiday Show Follow-Up

RethinkWaste held a Holiday Show on December 11, 2020. This page provides the webinar recording, presentation slides, links to more resources, and all of the questions submitted by attendees. If you have additional questions, fill out the form at the bottom of the page.

We know the holidays are usually a pretty wasteful time so we put on this informative webinar to give tips on how to reduce waste this holiday season. We also spread some cheer with waste-related carols and had a fun and informative round of trivia.

We hope you find the following resources helpful in your personal journey to reduce waste this holiday season.

To view a recording of the webinar and the live Q&A, click the recording below.

1. Where does tinsel go?

Ideally you can reuse it and keep it in your decorations box to reuse every year, but otherwise, it has to be landfilled.

2. Are Christmas lights recyclable?

Yes! But NOT in your regular recycle cart or bin. Christmas lights contain precious materials that can still be recycled, you just have to bring them to certain drop-off locations that take them back. Places like GreenCitizen (located in Burlingame), Home Depot, Lowes, Ace Hardware all accept string lights. You can even consider donating them to thrift stores, if they are still in good working condition.

3. What do you think about using all the little scraps of wrapping paper? You can tape the scraps together to wrap a gift. It uses a lot of tape, but wastes less paper.

Tough question! Since those scraps of wrapping paper can be recycled, and the tape cannot, we recommend simply recycling those little scraps rather than using lots of tape to put the scraps together.

4. Is glue more environmentally friendly than tape? Could you use water-soluble glue to decoupage a package with small leftover scraps of paper?

Another tough question, because it can be difficult to clearly distinguish which is more environmentally friendly. When it comes to either using glue or tape, there is probably a little bit of a difference in the environmental impact, but there is nothing that leads us to believe one alternative is much better than the other. If choosing between the two option, use whichever you are comfortable with. But to really lower your environmental impact, we recommend minimizing your use of both glue and tape.

5. Do you have any zero waste ideas for gifts for pets?

One zero waste idea that works great for pets is homemade treats! We recommend whipping up a special batch of treat made with extra love for the pets in your family.

6. What can I do with my holiday tree?

For residents that live in a single-family household, remove all the tinsel, lights, decorations, and stands from your holiday tree, and then you can leave it next to your green Compost Cart and Recology will pick it up for you between January 2 and January 31 on your regular collection day. Make sure if your tree is larger than 8 feet to cut it in half before leaving it next to your green Compost Cart.

For residents that live in apartments or condos, your property manager has to arrange for collection of holiday trees so feel free to remind them to schedule it!

If you don’t live in the RethinkWaste Service Area, check with your local hauler to know your collection schedule.

7. If my regular collection day falls on Christmas or New Year’s, when will my waste get picked up?

There’s no collection services on Christmas or New Year’s and collection will be moved one day to Saturday 12/26 and Saturday 1/2. Regular collection will resume the week after New Year’s Day.

If you have more questions, fill out the form below!

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‘Tis the Season for Gifting and Receiving

The holiday season will soon be upon us! Here are tips for gifting and receiving gifts that are a little easier on the Earth.

If Gifting:

  1. Try a new experience. Giving the gift of an experience is an easy way to reduce waste while still being fun and thoughtful. This could be something like tickets to a botanical garden, museum, or outdoor activity!
  2. Get crafty. Making gifts can lead to meaningful keepsakes that come with a lighter ecological footprint. Make a quilt or bag from fabric, yarn or old clothes, make some candles, or construct a memory book of cherished photos.
  3. Give the gift of knowledge. There is nothing like curling up with a blanket with your favorite…e-book! E-books allow you to read something new without any of the paper. When they’re done, they can easily download the book to share with others. Alternatively, you can gift them credit for a fun virtual class!
  4. Donate to a cause they care about. Donations to organizations can make a positive impact while making little to no waste!
  5. Fill their tummies with their favorite foods. Does your loved one have a favorite local restaurant? A gift card or warm meal from there is an easy way to make them smile while supporting a local business. Just remember to ask for no disposable utensils!
  6. Shop local. There are plenty of great small businesses in the RethinkWaste service area. Shopping locally and in-person (if possible) supports the local economy while reducing waste and emissions from shipping.
  7. Repurpose wrapping. Paper grocery bags or old newspapers make great wrapping paper. Tie it together with some twine and pine needles from outside for a rustic feel. Or reuse last year’s wrapping paper and gift bags or try using scrap sewing material or a colorful scarf.
  8. Power up. Many electronics, toys, and gadgets require batteries. If batteries are not included, consider rechargeable batteries. They help reduce waste and can save you money, too.
  9. Disposal directions. When giving gifts, providing directions for disposal can help ensure that the receiver knows how to properly sort any waste that comes from it. This is especially important for gifts that contain batteries, as batteries are very dangerous when put in the wrong bin!

If Receiving:

  1. Make a list. If you plan on exchanging gifts with loved ones this year, make a list of items you may want or need. Giving your gifter ideas may spoil some of the surprise, but it does allow you to receive something you want instead of something that may go to waste. Also, it’s OK to say no to friends and family if you don’t really want a gift, or consider one of the ideas above if you’re trying to avoid too much consumerism.
  2. Sort it out. Make sure you sort your gift wrapping and packaging into the correct cart or bin—or better yet—save materials to reuse next year! If you’re not sure where it goes, check out WhatBin.com.
  3. Energize. As you start receiving and using new gadgets, make sure to properly dispose of your spent household batteries. Learn how to do this on our battery page.
  4. Donate. To make room for your new gifts at home, consider donating items in good condition that you no longer need instead of trashing them. Check out San Mateo County’s Reduce, Reuse and Recycle Guide to learn more.

Holiday celebrations may look a little different this year, but there are still plenty of ways to show your love to friends, family, and the planet! How are you reducing waste this holiday season? Tag us on social media – #RethinkHolidays on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

Do-It-Yourself Face Mask with Scrap Fabric

Wearing a mask when leaving your house has become the norm now. While disposable masks are convenient, they are a single-use item and can often be found littered on the streets, meaning they can travel through waterways and storm drains and eventually make their way into the Bay and ocean. Many brands have come out with stylish masks, but making your own is an easy way to use up fabric scraps that you may already have at home, while preventing unnecessary emissions from shipping a new mask.

DIY masks are most effective when made from a tightly woven material. Examples of this are bedsheets and t-shirts with minimal stretch. Other components of the mask, such as the nose-bridge piece, can be made from craft pipe cleaners, twist ties, or other flexible materials. The mask can be made with either ear loops, which are typically elastic, but can be made with other stretch materials, or a long string.

If you are using a reusable mask, it is imperative that it is washed after use with warm water and sent through the dryer OR put out in the sun to dry.

The DIY method below is being shared by a friend of RethinkWaste, Gail Oshima, and written by Dr. Katie Fry and Emily Knapp, RN.

You will need…

  • A sewing machine
  • Thread
  • Scissors
  • Pins
  • Fabric for the mask
  • Pipe cleaner
  • Iron (optional)

Glossary

  • Right side: The side that you would like to show when the project is finished
  • Seam allowance: How far away the stitches are from the edge of the fabric

Instructions

Step 1. Cut fabric into a 7.5” x 15” rectangle (see “You will need” section above).

The print should be in the direction that you want going the 15” way. If you have a thin fabric that you like, consider doubling up by using a sheet or other tightly-woven fabric.

Stack the rectangles on top of each other.

Step 2. Fold in half width-wise (hamburger style) with right sides together.

Step 3. To make a 3 in. filter opening, mark 2.25 in. from both right and left raw edges. Sew from the edge to the 2.25 in. mark.

Step 4. Flip right side out.

Step 5a. Fold and pin down the raw edges of the filter opening.

Step 5b. Sew them down

Step 6. Adjust the mask so the filter opening is where you would like it.

Step 7a. Measure your pipe cleaner (or other bendy material) for width and length. From the top of the mask, mark a line that is the length of the pipe cleaner and 1/8 of an inch wider than it.

Step 7b. Sew 2 out of 3 sides, insert the pipe cleaner, and sew the 3rd side closed.

Step 8. Make your mask pleats. There should be a total of 4. Pin them in place. If you are using an iron, use it to press the pleats down.

Step 9. Sew the pleats down with a ¼ in. seam allowance form each side. This is around the edge of the foot. Be sure to catch all folds.

Step 10. Measure the width of your mask (most likely around 3 inches wide). Cut 2 rectangles of fabric that are 3 inches wide and ¾ in. longer than the mask width (ex: 3 ¾ in. x 3 in.).

Step 11a. Pin them to the front of the mask with right sides together. 

Step 11b. Sew down at ½ in. seam allowance.

Step 12. Fold this over and outward, then fold the 3 remaining edges in at about ¼ in. Press.

Step 13. Fold this to the inside of the mask, leaving plenty of room for your elastic or other fabric strips to slip through. Pin down and sew at ¼ in. seam allowance.

Step 14. Press again if desired, and thread your chosen attachment method (elastic or fabric strip). Enjoy your homemade mask!

Now you can start making your own face masks! Remember this is a great way to use up things like ripped sheets (you don’t need to buy new fabric), while creating something you’ll need! It also is a creative way to practice one of the 4 R’s – Reduce. There are also so many other simple projects – such as rags, bags, and scrunchies that can utilize old clothes or sheets too!

We would love to see how you practice reducing and creative reuse. Take a picture of your action(s) and tag us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram!

Beyond Recycling: The Other “R’s” Webinar Follow-Up

RethinkWaste and Recology San Mateo County held a webinar on June 30, 2020. This page provides the webinar recording, presentation slides, links to more resources, and all of the questions submitted. If you have more questions, fill out the form at the bottom of the page.

To view a recording of the webinar and the live Q&A, click the recording below.

1. Where does tinsel go?

Ideally you can reuse it and keep it in your decorations box to reuse every year, but otherwise, it has to be landfilled.

4. Is glue more environmentally friendly than tape? Could you use water-soluble glue to decoupage a package with small leftover scraps of paper?

Another tough question, because it can be difficult to clearly distinguish which is more environmentally friendly. When it comes to either using glue or tape, there is probably a little bit of a difference in the environmental impact, but there is nothing that leads us to believe one alternative is much better than the other. If choosing between the two option, use whichever you are comfortable with. But to really lower your environmental impact, we recommend minimizing your use of both glue and tape.

5. Do you have any zero waste ideas for gifts for pets?

One zero waste idea that works great for pets is homemade treats! We recommend whipping up a special batch of treat made with extra love for the pets in your family.

6. What can I do with my holiday tree?

For residents that live in a single-family household, remove all the tinsel, lights, decorations, and stands from your holiday tree, and then you can leave it next to your green Compost Cart and Recology will pick it up for you between January 2 and January 31 on your regular collection day. Make sure if your tree is larger than 8 feet to cut it in half before leaving it next to your green Compost Cart.

For residents that live in apartments or condos, your property manager has to arrange for collection of holiday trees so feel free to remind them to schedule it!

If you don’t live in the RethinkWaste Service Area, check with your local hauler to know your collection schedule.

5. Should we put shredded paper in paper or plastic bags?

Put shredded paper in a closed paper bag labelled “Shredded Paper,” to avoid it from flying around and becoming litter.

6. What is the smallest size for a ball of tinfoil that is accepted? Does clean aluminum foil ball go to recycle? What about food soiled aluminum foil?

Combine small pieces of clean (free of food) tinfoil together so they make a larger tinfoil ball. Clean aluminum goes into your recycling cart. If foil is food-soiled, try your best to empty the crumbs or food remnants in the compost, and then ball up the foil, food side on the inside to ensure any leftover food stays inside to not soil the rest of your recycling.

7. Do plastic net bags for onions and potatoes go in the recycling cart?

No, plastic net bags for produce go into the garbage.

8. Can old lightbulbs be put in my orange battery bin?

No, lightbulbs do not belong in the orange battery bucket. If you have an incandescent lightbulb, they can be thrown in the garbage. If you have a fluorescent lightbulb, these lights container mercury and must be brought to a local drop off location such as a hardware store where it can be disposed of properly. You can find drop off locations for fluorescent lights and LED lights at RecycleStuff.org.

9. Are spiral bound notebooks recyclable?

Yes, spiral bound notebooks can go in the recycling cart.

10. Are small plastic sauce containers that are from restaurants and have the #1-7 recyclable?

As long as the plastic containers have a chasing arrows sign with the number 1-7 on it, it can go in the recycling.

11. What do I do with the bubble wrap envelopes? Also, what’s the best way to get rid of styrofoam?

Sometimes bubble wrap envelopes have a “Store Drop-off” label on it, which usually means you can bring it to a participating store that takes it back to get recycled. If it does not have that label, it goes into the garbage.

12. Can you talk about thin plastic?

Thin, flimsy plastic refers to cling wrap, zip-top bags, or other crinkly plastics like plastic bags. These plastics DO NOT go into the recycling cart because they jam the machines at the Shoreway recycling facility. If you cannot reuse them, they go into the garbage.

13. Are rubberbands recyclable?

Rubberbands are not recyclable but they can be reused.

14. How much of the good plastic you take in is actually recycled and used in products again? What percentage of plastic is just going to landfills?

About 83% of the material that comes to our recycling facility goes on to get recycled, including plastic mixed paper, cardboard, glass, and metals, leaving 17% of the remaining material going to landfill. We currently do not have a breakdown of how much of the total plastic that comes through the facility is recycled versus going to landfill.

15. Where do plastic and metal bottle caps go?

We ask that you keep plastic and metal bottle caps attached to their bottle and put the whole item in the recycling. If bottle caps are loose in your cart, they are likely to get littered into the street when your carts are being serviced.

16. What do you advise as best option for disposing of e-waste?

You can bring select electronic waste to GreenCitizen in Burlingame at no charge or hold onto it until the Shoreway Public Recycling Center is open for free disposal.

17. Where does wood go?

If the wood is clean, untreated wood, it can go into the compost cart as long as it is cut down to fit inside the cart so the lid can close. If the wood is treated or has paint on it, it must go in the garbage.

18. Is waxed cardboard recyclable?

Waxed cardboard goes into your compost cart.

19. Are receipts recyclable?

No, receipts are made up more than one material and contain BPA chemicals, so they go in the garbage.

20. Where do tissues used to wipe wet hands go?

Tissues used to wipe wet hands are soiled paper so they can go into the compost.

21. Are there any other items that you commonly see recycled or composted that shouldn’t be?

Personal protective equipment (PPE) like gloves and masks, along with plastic bags and film have been found in all three carts, but they belong in only the garbage cart.

22. Does 100% cotton scrap fabric go in the compost?

Textiles of any type are not accepted in any of your three carts. You can find places to donate unwanted textiles at RecycleStuff.org.

23. Can flimsy plastic go in the plastic shopping bag containers at the grocery stores?

Yes, if grocery stores are accepting plastic bags to recycle, you can bring them there to get recycled.

24. Where do I start? What will help me reduce the most amount of waste?

Start small, by switching out one single-use item with a reusable one. For example, start with saying no to straws, and once that becomes a habit, move to utensils. Try doing a waste audit to see what you throw out the most. Check your recycling bin too, as reducing items you throw into the recycling also has a very positive impact. Also try examining items around your house, and start with an item that you feel that you can reduce your use of/repair/replace with a reusable option.

If you have more questions, fill out the form below!

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5 Tips for Managing Your Recycling, Compost & Garbage

[1] The Sorting Hat

Not sure what goes where? Check out WhatBin.com to learn what materials belong in each cart. Think you’re a master sorter? Test out your skills with our Interactive Carts Game.

[2] Let’s Break It Down

Optimize space in your blue recycling cart by keeping recyclables loose (not bagged) and breaking down boxes.

Remember that you are able to place all recyclables in the same cart—this includes cardboard, clean paper products, glass bottles and jars, metals, and plastics containers #1-7. Shredded paper may be placed inside a paper bag labeled “shredded paper.”

Please make sure lids are completely closed to prevent items from falling out of your cart.

[3] Bag Your Garbage Before You Toss It

Do your part to keep drivers safe and reduce litter. Garbage should be secured in bags to prevent unwanted critters and materials from blowing onto the street. Make sure all garbage fits inside your cart, with the lid completely closed.

[4] Save Your Donations

Put reusable items aside for now. Once Shelter-In-Place restrictions are lifted, donate reusable goods to a local charity, non-profit, family or friend. They will appreciate the donation, and it won’t go to the landfill. You can also find a location for your donatable items at: RecycleStuff.org

[5] Roll Out!

Place residential carts out by 6:00 a.m. on your service day. Drivers may pick up carts earlier or later due to temporary routing changes. Carts should be put away within 24 hours of service. Remember to position carts two feet apart to allow automated trucks to collect carts efficiently.

4 Tips to Reducing Waste During Quarantine

With Shelter-In-Place orders in San Mateo County and Statewide, the sudden spread of COVID-19 has caused each of us to pause before going out on simple trips to the grocery store, even leading many of us to favor services that deliver food and goods. With so much additional time spent in home, items like soft plastics associated with shipping have increased in our waste stream. While not all waste is avoidable, this time at home can be a wonderful opportunity to form better habits and learn something new about the ways we generate waste.

Here are a few waste-reduction tips to try out during quarantine:

1) Conduct a Home Waste Audit: Hold yourself accountable of the waste you generate by taking note of everything you throw into any of your 3 carts. Your audit could be for just one day or even a week’s worth of waste, but the goal is to become more aware of the volume of waste we are personally responsible for. Take note of each item, what it’s made of, and which cart it’s tossed into. At the end of your audit, reflect on what types of items were tossed the most, and consider finding at least one solution to preventing this waste. Here’s a Home Waste Audit Campaign that can help you get started. If you have children or roommates, this makes for a great group activity!

2) Ditch To-Go Disposables: As many of us turn to delivery options from our favorite local restaurants, it can be easy for unnecessary single-use plastics to pile up. A simple way to avoid excess utensils, straws, or napkins is by requesting in the “special instructions” that your order is delivered without them! Our collective actions can make a significant impact!

3) Explore Eco-Alternatives:  Support smaller businesses online and reduce trips to the store by trying out low-packaging or compostable products. Many of these products may not be available at a regular grocery store, so quarantine is a great time to browse the internet and find your new favorite eco-alternative! Some examples may be: toothpaste tablets, reusable coffee filter, bar shampoo/conditioner, bamboo dish scrubber, or a silicone baking mat.

4) Trash to Art: If you’ve got kiddos at home this one’s especially for you – exercise your creativity by turning items that would otherwise go into the landfill into a beautiful masterpiece! Whether it be a sculpture of your favorite cartoon character, a re-creation of your favorite painting, or something entirely original, this is a fun activity to give your waste a second life. If you know a 3rd-5th grader that goes to school in the RethinkWaste service area, you’re in luck! The RethinkWaste Trash to Art competition is open until May 8, and your submission might just get recognized!

With restrictions surrounding reusable cups and bags, as well as a surge in medical waste like gloves, these days we are seeing the return of single-use garbage in our environment. Although much of this waste is difficult to avoid during this time (and most of it belongs in our garbage and not the streets), it’s important that we continue to look for small changes we can make at home that will keep the zero waste movement alive. As we continue to be conscious of the items we throw out, know that the time for reusables will come again, and it will be as important as ever to enact these habits of environmental responsibility.

5 Pantry/Freezer Recipes to Try

With the current shelter in place orders, many of us are having to “shop” in our own pantries and freezers. This doesn’t mean your meals have to be boring! Below are 5 recipes you can make with ingredients that you might already have in your home, whether it be in your cupboards or the freezer. Shopping in our own kitchen is also an easy way to prevent food waste while saving yourself a trip to the grocery store (and the emissions that may come with it)! Enjoy these recipes! 

Fresh Pasta

Making homemade pasta requires few ingredients. If you don’t want to eat all the pasta at once, you can separate it into serving sizes, dust it with a bit of flour so it doesn’t stick together and then put it into the freezer on a sheet pan. Once it’s frozen, store it in a container or bag until ready to eat!

You will need:
1 large mixing bowl
1 clean kitchen towel
1 sharp knife
1 cutting board

Ingredients:
3 large eggs, beaten to blend
2 cups all-purpose flour
1.25 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt

  • Mix eggs, flour, oil, and salt in a large mixing bowl with your hands until a sticky dough forms. Knead until dough is smooth and elastic. Cover dough with a wet towel and let rest at least 30 minutes. This allows the gluten to form!
  • Cut and roll as desired.

Minestrone Soup

Minestrone soup is hearty, yummy, and a great way to use up any vegetables that might expire soon. Play with the ratios to find your ideal flavor!

You will need:
1 large pot
1 knife
1 cutting board
1 can opener
1 wooden spoon or other spoon for cooking

Ingredients: 
Olive oil
Onions, diced
Garlic, diced
Canned beans or other protein
Vegetables, cut into small pieces (examples are carrots, celery, potatoes, or chard stalks – anything that requires a bit longer to cook)
Tomato sauce (this is a great way to use up any half-jars of sauce, though a whole jar is best)
Stock (if you don’t have stock and are a meat-eater, browning the meat + using water instead is a good substitute)
Leafy greens (spinach, chard leaves, etc.)
Cheese (optional, dairy-free, or vegan)
Salt & pepper, to taste

  • If using meat – Add olive oil to a stock pot and brown the meat.
  • Add onions and sauté until almost translucent.
  • Add garlic and cook until both onions and garlic are fragrant and translucent.
  • Add your vegetables that take longer to cook (carrots, celery, chard stalks, etc.). Cook until soft.
  • Add tomato sauce and stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.  Let simmer for 10 minutes.
  • When finished simmering, add any leafy greens and/or canned beans. Let simmer for a few minutes.
  • Add cheese and stir.
  • Taste your soup and add any salt or pepper if needed. Enjoy!

Tomato Stew

An easy, filling dish that goes great with rice. Any protein will do, but if you’re using canned beans make sure to let them stew for a while so they absorb the flavor.

You will need:
1 large pot
1 knife
1 cutting board
1 wooden spoon or other spoon for cooking

Ingredients:
Olive oil
Onion, diced
Garlic, diced
Canned tomato sauce and/or fresh tomatoes, salted
Bayleaf
Protein (if using pork or beef, cut into 1” cubes)
Soy sauce
Worcestershire sauce
Salt & pepper, to taste

  • Sauté onions and garlic in olive oil until translucent.
  • Add tomatoes or tomato sauce & bayleaf. Simmer until tomatoes soften & cook down.
  • Add protein into simmering sauce.
  • Season with 2-3 dashes of Worcestershire sauce & soy sauce.
  • Cover and let simmer until meat (or other protein) is tender and cooked through.
  • Taste your stew and add any salt or pepper if needed. Enjoy!

Fried Rice

Day-old rice is best, but if you don’t have any on-hand, cook some rice and let it sit out for a bit. Feel free to add any other spices or sauces that you like!

You will need:
1 large pan
1 cutting board
1 knife
1 spoon or spatula
1 fork

Ingredients:
Oil
Onion, diced
Garlic, diced
Frozen or wilting vegetables, diced
Cooked meat, cut into small pieces
Rice
Egg (leave out if vegan)
Soy sauce

  • Sauté onions and garlic in a pan until translucent.
  • Add your vegetables and cook until soft.
  • Add your meat and stir.
  • Add your rice and mix thoroughly.
  • If adding an egg, make a small well in the middle of the pan. Crack the egg into the hole and either cook until sunny-side up OR scramble with a fork.
  • Add a few dashes of soy sauce and/or other sauces that you like. Stir and let cook until the rice is to your desired doneness.

Casserole

Casseroles are an easy, one-dish meal that serves as a tasty way to clean out your fridge.

You will need:
1 large mixing bowl
1 wooden spoon or other spoon for cooking
1 oven-safe baking dish
1 can opener
1 knife

Ingredients:
Canned cream of mushroom soup
Stock
Milk, alternative milk, or water
Thyme, rosemary, or other herbs
Salt
Uncooked pasta
Chicken (uncooked or cooked then shredded) or other protein
Mushrooms (optional)

  • Preheat the oven to 425°F.
  • Mix canned soup, stock, milk (or alternative milk or water), thyme, and salt in a large mixing bowl.
  • Add uncooked pasta, protein, and mushrooms. Give it another good stir.
  • Pour into an oven-safe baking dish. Cover with foil.
  • Put in the oven and let bake for 35-40 minutes or until pasta and chicken are cooked through.

These meals are meant to be adaptable to your palate, so have fun with them! If you like your casseroles a little spicier, add some red pepper flakes. If you like herbs in your pasta, fold in some basil! This can also be a fun activity for kids if you want to pretend you’re in a cooking competition.

Whether you use these recipes or not, it’s always important to think about minimizing food waste. If food waste is sent to landfills, it becomes a source of methane emission, which is a greenhouse gas and contributor to climate change. Even if food waste is composted, there is still water, land, emissions, and labor that is wasted. By shopping our own pantries and freezers while being creative about our cooking, we can all make a difference!