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Rethink Picnic Waste

When we reflect back to one of our favorite pastime activities during the height of the pandemic, outdoor picnics were among one of our favorites. We hope this guide will help introduce a more sustainable way to picnic by applying the 3 Rs: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.

  1. REDUCE: Plan ahead for the menu
    1. Prepare finger foods and bite sized items: Cupcakes, cookies, pastries, cheese boards, sandwiches, chicken wings, pizza, hot dogs, and burgers are examples of finger foods. Pre-cutting fruits and vegetables also eliminates the need to bring plates and extra utensils. Please note that not all parks have compost receptacles/services; therefore, composting the undesirable and inedible parts at home helps divert more organic materials away from the landfill.
    2. Bring a reusable cooler with reusable ice packs to keep drinks cold or pre-chilling drinks and keep in a portable cooler. It keeps drinks cooler without wasting water/ice cubes.
    3. Avoid plastic garnishes in drinks. Spice up your drinks with herbs, spices, and fruit instead. Not only are the garnishes edible, but also elevates the flavor profile of any drink.
  2. REUSE: Bring your reusables
    1. Use cloth napkins. Use cloth napkins that can be washed and upgrade a picnic experience and avoid paper ones.
    2. Use reusable sandwich bags and containers, to put your food in and for leftovers!
    3. Use reusable utensils and straws. Eliminate single-use utensils, by bringing your own silverware and reusable straws. Single-use utensils not only contributes to microplastics into the environment, but also creates additional unnecessary waste.
    4. BYO cups and/or bottles. Avoid single-use cups, instead bring reusable cups or reusable water bottles. Water bottles can keep drinks colder and longer and can be used for any occasion.
  3. RECYCLE: Use what you have
    1. Picnic Blanket– If you don’t already have one, try using a throw blanket around the house or DIY a picnic blanket out of old clothes.
    2. Table cloth– Try covering picnic tables with an older tablecloth instead of using plastic table covers.
    3. Picnic Basket– Utilize your reusable grocery bags to carry your picnic materials.   

There are so many different ways to re-think picnic waste by reducing, reusing and recycling. Share how you are rethinking picnics this year by tagging us on social media on Instagram, Twitter, and/or Facebook! However you choose to picnic this year, remember to continue to sort your waste by placing any single-use utensils and soft flimsy plastics in the garbage bins at parks!

Rethinker Spotlight Webinar Follow-Up

RethinkWaste held a Rethinker Spotlight Webinar on June 29, 2022 featuring local artist, Harriete Estel Berman. Harriete shared in-depth details about her art, the materials she uses, and the messaging behind the art pieces, followed by a discussion where attendees got to ask Harriete questions.

This page provides the links to resources, the recording of the event, and questions and answers from the audience.

Resources

Webinar Recording

Questions and Answers

1. What inspired you [Harriete] to turn ordinary waste material into extraordinary pieces of art? Can you talk a little bit about your inspiration?

In 1980 moving to California, there was no curbside pick-up recycling. I lived in Palo Alto near the Stanford campus and became aware that they had recycling on campus. I would collect newspaper, glass, and tin cans.

In 1988, I simply decided that I was only going to use recycled materials. At that time, I started using recycled tin cans. And using this material inspires new work all the time. The patterns on the tin cans, the lettering, and the messages from our consumer society are all the things that inspired me. When I started working with plastic waste, I must admit it was kind of embarrassing. The piece that I show you with a necklace in the fruit crate label, I submitted to an exhibition, and a colleague of mine admired my jewelry piece made up of plastic waste. So, I was admitted because my craftsmanship is impeccable, but truly, I am working with waste material.

2. When you [Harriete] heat and bend the plastic, what tool do you use, and do you do it outdoors?

I’ve done lots of experiments that don’t require heating. While I don’t heat the plastic, I am always doing new experiments with plastic! I work with the garage doors open, as I believe in the fresh air, but try to be as nontoxic as possible. Heating plastic is not something I would generally recommend. I did experiments with laser cutters, and that doesn’t work either because it is essentially hot. So, the point of my answer is to think about how you can use your materials in the most environmentally friendly way possible.

3. What is your [Harriete] favorite kind of scissors to use? And how do you avoid accidentally cutting your fingers when working with cans?

I learned to work with my materials very carefully! When I work with my tools and materials, I always rethink my approach to the material. You’d be stunned to realize how difficult it is to cut plastic waste. I investigate all different kinds of shears that will cut the plastic. So, when I work with my materials, I am always as safe and environmentally conscious as can be. I’m also thinking about the impact that it has on my body. So generally, if I’m cutting plastic, I’m only cutting a few hours out of the day because it’s difficult to cut. You’re going to want to think about how you can be aware of using your materials in a way that you can sustain that for yourself as the artist.

4. What kinds of tools do you [Harriete] use for cutting metal and how long have you been cutting metal?

I have the privilege of having both a Bachelor of Fine Arts and a Master of Fine Arts in Metal Smithing. I have a lot of technical skills, but I will say that I have an aptitude for working with materials. Even though I have a lot of technical background, it was a leap to take my traditional metalsmithing skills and work with tins cans and waste to turn waste to art. That’s one of my objectives- to truly transform my materials! I am really not inspired if the final outcome looks trashy. I want people to look at my work and be like “Wow, how did she make that!?” and not have it be so obvious that it might have been an old tin can, milk bottle, or orange juice container.

5. Do you [Harriete] have a favorite material to work with and if so, why?

I don’t really have a favorite material, but I am always experimenting. I am always going back and forth with tin cans and plastic, which I have been doing for eight years. The bigger project that I like is the black plastic necklace which took about four months. Also, I am always focusing on one project or the next, so therefore I am always experimenting.

6. What inspires you [Harriete] to make art that addresses the economic sphere of society?

I am more inspired by what I see in politics and just around me in my own neighborhood, so I feel like I must address that. The children are not bulletproof pin was made for a show about politics. The message and children are not bulletproof is more resonant now than it was 20 years ago when I made it. With my grass sculpture made entirely from tin cans, I was thinking about the environmental impacts of lawns. Keep in mind that this was 22 years ago, and people thought I was insane. But now- as we continue to have lawns, face related climate change, experience a 100-year drought- for the first-time, people must realize the environmental impact of having a grass lawn.

7. Do you [Harriete] have a favorite personal art piece?

My favorite personal art piece is the functional chair I created that is attached to the wall. It describes what I am seeing in our consumer society where people create an identity for themselves by what they buy and why they buy it. I am very, almost painfully, aware of the impact of our consumption and overconsumption. We are talking about plastic waste, packaging, consumption, and climate change. It all has to do with our consumption. I cannot stop thinking about that! So, I am generally aware, which is the reason why I only get takeout once a year. Not only that, but I also get a guilt attack when they use a plastic container. I mean, there are a lot of places that are changing the law that they can’t use single-use plastic for takeout, but instead must shift to containers that are recyclable or environmentally friendly. Still, we continue to create volumes of waste in our society. That is hard for me too!

8. We are starting to see white plastic being used to replace black plastic containers: are those recyclable?

The response to that is that it depends. If you see a chasing arrow symbol with numbers one or two, then yes, it is recyclable! If it does not have these, then unfortunately, it will have to go in the garbage bin, or you can do something else with it. Hopefully after this webinar, you get inspired to rethink it and use it for another time or creation!

Clean Your Home without Toxic Chemicals

Dust, mold, stains, and dirt are inevitable in any household. Environmentally friendly cleaners not only tackle these common household issues, but can also lower waste production.

Switching from toxic chemicals to environmentally friendly cleaners can eliminate hazardous waste-related accidents that can affect an individual’s health and safety. Creating your own cleaning solution can also reduce the time and cost associated with bringing hazardous waste directly to San Mateo County’s Household Hazardous Waste Program for special disposal. Lastly, having safer cleaning products can lead to developing healthier habits sooner as some of these cleaning alternatives can be found right in your pantry!

Let’s jump into some examples of common household hazardous chemicals:

Examples of Common Household Chemicals

  • Bleach
  • Drain cleaner
  • Shower cleaner
  • Degreaser
  • Antifreeze
  • Automotive cleaners
  • Pesticides
  • Paint strippers and removers
  • Pool Cleaner

How Can Toxic Chemicals Be Harmful?

  • Prolonged exposure to chemicals can lead to adverse reproductive risks and cancer-related illness
  • Can cause irritation to skin and eyes
  • Can cause corrosion to pipes
  • Can catch fire, react, or explode
  • Some chemicals can deplete the atmospheric ozone
  • Can lead to groundwater contamination when disposed improperly in landfills
  • Chemicals that enter storm drains can pollute the water we drink and swim in, and pollute the marine life in the water
  • Hazardous to children and pets if left unguarded around the house
  • Certain types of HHW have the potential to cause physical injury to sanitation workers, contaminate septic tanks or wastewater treatment systems if poured down drains or toilets

Tips to Reduce Cleaning Waste

When purchasing cleaning supplies for long term usage, keep an eye out for these:

  • Refillable bottles
  • Paper packaging
  • Recycled-content packaging
  • Pump sprays rather than aerosols
  • Reusable towels
  • Purchasing in bulk

Preventative Measures

  • Clean and dry any damp or wet areas within 24-48 hours to prevent mold growth.
  • Reduce indoor humidity (to 30-60%) to decrease mold growth by:
    • Venting bathrooms, dryers and other moisture-generating sources to the outside
    • Using air conditioners and dehumidifiers
    • Increasing ventilation
    • Using exhaust fans whenever cooking, dishwashing and cleaning
  • Wiping up spills and stains immediately can reduce the need for stronger solvents
  • Increasing monthly cleaning routines reduces the need for household chemicals 

Cleaning Alternatives

All Purpose Cleaner:2 cups water, 2 cups distilled vinegar, (Optional: Juice of 1 large lemon or 20-30 drops of tea tree oil for fragrance and antibacterial properties) Mix ingredients, spray on surface, and wipe after 5 minutes.
Deodorizer:Sprinkle carpet(s) with baking soda. Wait at least 15 minutes and vacuum. Repeat if necessary.
Drain Cleaner:The first option is to use a plunger or plumber’s snake. The second option is to pour a half cup of baking soda down the drain. Follow up with half a cup of vinegar. After 15 minutes, follow with 2 quarts of boiling water.
Glass Cleaner:Mix one tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice in one quart of water. Spray on and use newspaper to dry.
Furniture Polish:Mix one teaspoon of lemon juice in one pint of mineral or vegetable oil and wipe furniture.
Limescale Remover for Kettle:Lemon wedges and water. Bring the mixture to a boil, turn the burner off, and let the kettle sit for a few hours. Rinse with clear water.
Silver Polish:Boil two to three inches of water in a shallow pan with one teaspoon of salt, one teaspoon of baking soda and a sheet of aluminum foil. Totally submerge silver and boil for two to three more minutes. Wipe away tarnish and repeat if necessary.
Mothballs:Use cedar chips, lavender flowers, rosemary, mint or white peppercorns.
Toilet Bowl Cleaner:¼ cup baking soda mixed with 1 cup vinegar; pour into toilet bowl and let it sit before scrubbing
Weed Remover:30% Vinegar. Spray over weeds
Check out these products instead of household chemicals:EPA certified products
More safe cleaning tips can be found via San Mateo County Environmental Health

We hope that these tips help you reduce toxic chemicals in your home! Share with us how you have switched to greener cleaning products this season by tagging us on social media! Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Sources:

https://www.epa.gov/hw/household-hazardous-waste-hhw

https://cfpub.epa.gov/npstbx/files/riswchemicals.pdf

https://www.epa.gov/greenerproducts/identifying-greener-cleaning-products

https://www.epa.gov/mold/ten-things-you-should-know-about-mold

Rethink New Year’s Resolutions

From actions big to small, every new commitment to sustainable living can have a dramatic impact on our environment! As the year draws to a close, RethinkWaste would like to provide a few sustainability tips that we could all put on our New Year’s Resolutions! Consider adding some of these ideas to your everyday routine. Every bit helps!

1. Reduce and Reuse

At RethinkWaste, we like to guide ourselves using the 4R’s (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Rot). While these are all important in reducing our environmental impact on the planet, reducing and reusing are the most significant actions we can take on an individual basis. Reducing and reusing is a guarantee that items will not end up in the landfill!

Here are a few ideas to get started:

  • Start using a refillable water bottle
  • Make a grocery list to avoid purchasing excess food
  • Save and reuse plastic bags
  • Repurpose old clothing (for example, to use as a rag)
  • Repurpose glass jars into handy containers

2. Make your own coffee

If you’re a coffee drinker, you may enjoy a nice cup of coffee in the morning. However, buying from coffee shops produces a lot of waste! Usually, the cups and straws are not recyclable or compostable. By making coffee at home, you’re able to eliminate waste, and try out all sorts of different coffee blends. We recommend using coffee grounds in a french press or drip coffee to avoid extra waste from single-serve coffee machines. After brewing, you can place the grounds in your compost bin or in your own garden: it makes for great compost!

3. Take a sustainability-themed class

Education is really important! Attending a sustainability-themed class or workshop can all help us learn to live with less waste. For example, RethinkWaste just recently hosted a kombucha workshop, where our participants learned to lower their grocery store waste! Many organizations also teach classes in areas such as zero-waste cooking, which can help lower grocery bills, reduce environmental damage, and make our food last longer! Keep posted on events by subscribing to our newsletter or check offerings from our partners at San Mateo County Office of Sustainability!

4. Get educated about waste

Are you afraid that you’re disposing of things in the wrong bin? Fear not, RethinkWaste can help! RethinkWaste hosts public, school, and business tours of our Shoreway Environmental Center (currently virtual), that can help you figure out exactly how to sort your waste and where it goes afterwards. Questions can also be sent to info@rethinkwaste.org, where we can answer any further waste-related questions you may have!

5. Unplug devices you’re not using

Did you know? Even if you turn off your electronics, they may still draw power from your outlet. While this is a small amount, it can add up over the course of a year! Just by unplugging, you’d save on your electricity bill while helping eliminate fossil fuel emissions from electricity consumption!

6. Try some plant-based meals

According to the United Nations Special Report on Climate Change and Land, reducing our consumption of animal products is one of the most effective strategies at countering climate change. We can reduce our impact on this planet one meal at a time! There are many plant-based recipes and restaurants that would surely be delectable. 

7. Invest in rechargeable batteries

Did you know that you can purchase rechargeable AA and AAA batteries? By using rechargeable batteries, you’ll be able to lower your electronic waste (e-waste). Every year, e-waste is becoming a bigger part of our waste stream. This is a worrying trend as e-waste is very harmful to the health of our workers, our community, and our environment. A one-time investment in rechargeable batteries helps reduce battery waste on a longer-term basis. 

8. Use public transit

If you’re able, catch a ride on the train or the bus! Not only does this help with urban congestion, you’d also be reducing urban pollution and carbon emissions. Of all the actions that help the environment, taking public transportation is one of the most impactful and immediate on our environmental outcomes. 

9. Reconsider: Do I really need it?

Whenever you are deciding on a purchase, ask yourself: Do I really need it? Sometimes, it might be easy to impulsively put things in your shopping cart. By asking ourselves this one simple question, we can make sure we think about everything we’re buying. It helps us recall that reducing and reusing are our most powerful tools in eliminating waste. 

We hope that these tips were helpful! Every action counts towards reducing our waste and improving the health of our communities and environment!

‘Tis the Season to Reduce Your Waste!

With the holiday season comes an increase in gifts and celebrations, which leads to an increase in packaging waste and food waste! Here are some gifting and celebration ideas that are a little easier on the planet.

Gifts:

1. Mindful Shopping! Support local businesses and online stores that use recyclable and/or less packaging.

2. Reuse! Repurpose last year’s gift bags or wrapping paper. Or get creative and use children’s artwork, old maps, and calendars to wrap gifts.

3. Celebrate! Rather than buying gifts, give homemade baked goods and handmade treasures. More importantly, make time to celebrate and share new experiences with your friends and family (in-person or virtual).

4. Regift! Don’t know what to do with gifts that you’ll never use? Regifting to someone that you know needs or would like it, is perfectly acceptable. Donating unused gifts to shelters and other non-profits is also another great option.

5. Rethink Gifting! Ask your gift recipient for a wish list so that you can get them exactly what they want, rather than accidentally giving them things they don’t need!

Celebrations:

1. Reduce Food Waste! Buy only what you need to avoid excess leftovers. Make a list before you do your food shopping.

2. Signage! Label a paper bag or your compost pail with “Food Scraps” so your guests know exactly what to do with any food scraps, such as bones or shells, from their plates.

3. Sort Waste Correctly! Brush up on what goes where by referencing our sorting page.

4. Reuse! Consider using cloth napkins and reusable cutlery to avoid purchasing single-use items that get thrown away after one use.

5. Enjoy leftovers! Repurpose leftovers into new, interesting recipes. You can even freeze them for easy-to-grab meals.

Although holiday gifts and celebrations naturally bring more waste during this time of the year, intentional preparation helps to reduce unnecessary waste. There are plenty of ways to show your love to friends, family, and the planet!

Share with us how you’re reducing your waste this holiday season by tagging us on social media! Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Enjoy this video of RethinkWaste staff sharing why waste reduction is important!

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!

Contact Form

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.