TerraCycle offers a range of free programs that are funded by conscientious companies, as well as recycling solutions available for purchase for almost every form of waste.
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!
TerraCycle reuses, upcycles, and recycles waste instead of incinerating or land filling it. This moves waste from a linear system to a circular one, allowing it to keep cycling in our economy.
You can collect points, by collecting trash for your specific program and then redeeming your points. You can redeem your points by either receiving a cash value, or you can donate the points to charity. There’s a list of charities that team up with TerraCycle, in which you can choose to donate your points to.
I always donate my points, since I think this program is a great way for charities and companies to get involved with creating less waste, and I really don’t value the cash redemption as much.
Some of the charity organizations I was looking at to donate my points were:
100 points = Help safeguard 1 acre of rain forest for 1 year in the Northwest Gaia Amazon.
300 points = Have a tree planted in an American forest through Arbor Day Foundation
300 points = You can provide one year’s supply of clean drinking water to a person who otherwise would lack access to this most essential element.
625 points = You can help the D’Addario Music Foundation give one child a free music lesson.
2500 points = You can help the D’addario Music Foundation provide a child with 4 music lessons for a week. Kids who study music are 5x more likely to stay in school, graduate on time and apply to college.
100 points = For every 100 points, TerraCycle will send $1 to the American Red Cross to provide aid to those affected by natural disasters.
For this round, I decided to split my points between a couple of different charities. I decided to redeem my points with:
Providing one year’s supply of clean drinking water to a person who otherwise would lack access to this most essential element
If you want to participate in the TerraCycle programs, check them out at https://www.terracycle.com/en-US/select-country to see which programs you can join. The participating companies change often, so check back with the website to see updates. There are a lot of programs to choose from and supporting the partnership between TerraCycle and the participating companies creates more awareness to how much trash we produce, and how companies take responsibility for the trash they pass onto us consumers.
Zero Waste Week is here! This year we have more participants and the event is hoping to reach a larger audience. Rachelle Strauss is the creator and director behind Zero Waste Week, an annual awareness campaign since 2008. It takes place in the first full week in September each year, and promotes awareness in producing rash and the disposal of trash. Zero Waste Week encourages the public to be more aware of how much trash they produce as well has encouraging people and businesses to live and work more sustainable and reduce their carbon footprint. She has been featured in The Guardian, National Geographic and The Sun for her efforts in promoting awareness for a more sustainable future.
This is my third year participating in Zero Waste Week as an ambassador. I’m so grateful and proud to be a part of this movement. There are many others who are and have been a part of this movement long before I came along, you can meet them atZero Waste Week Ambassadors. You can also read all about this week and get involved at Zero Waste Week- About. Use the hashtag #ZeroWasteWeek to show us your progress!
This year, the theme is Climate Change, and our decisions that effect climate change.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases always have been present in the atmosphere, keeping the earth hospitable to life by trapping heat. Yet, since the industrial revolution, emissions of these gases from human activity have accumulated steadily, trapping more heat and exacerbating the natural greenhouse effect.
As a result, global average temperatures have risen both on land and in the oceans, with observable impacts already occurring that foretell increasingly severe changes in the future. Polar ice is melting. Glaciers around the globe are in retreat. Storms are increasing in intensity. Ecosystems around the world already are reacting, as plant and animal species struggle to adapt to a shifting climate, and new climate-related threats emerge.
September 2, 2019, DAY 1:
This year’s topic is climate change.
An overwhelming body of scientific evidence paints a clear picture: climate change is happening, it is caused in large part by human activity, and it will have many serious and potentially damaging effects in the decades ahead. Scientists have confirmed that the earth is warming, and that greenhouse gas emissions from cars, power plants and other man made sources are the primary cause.
September 3, 2019, DAY 2
Reducing food waste and food packaging in the kitchen.
An estimated one third of all food produced in the world, goes to waste; that’s equivalent to 1.3 billion tons of food. This loss of food could be for a number of reasons, such as the fact that the foods never leave their farms, get lost or spoiled during transportation or are simply thrown away. When we waste food, we waste all of the energy and water used to used to produce the foods as well. Here are a few blog posts on my methods to deal with food waste and how purchase my food.
Choosing slow fashion has been a hot topic in the past few years. The textile industry. is one of the most polluting industries, producing 1.2 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent ( CO2e ) per year, which is more emissions than international flights and maritime shipping. Over 60% of textiles are used in the clothing industry and a large proportions of clothing manufacturing occurs in China and India, countries which rely on coal-fueled power plants, increasing the footprint of each garment. It has been stated that around 5% of total global emissions come from the fashion industry.
Fast fashion is produced on shorter time frames with new designs appearing every few weeks to satisfy demand for the latest trends, but with this comes increased consumption and more waste. It has been estimated that there are 20 new garments manufactured per person each year and we are buying 60% more than we were in 2000.
By choosing to shop at thrift shops, or swapping with friends and neighbors, helps reduce the amount of newly manufactured clothing brought into the home, and it helps reduce the amount of clothing that ends up in the landfill.
Below are a few blog posts related to fast fashion, and how I deal with that issue. I love every piece of my wardrobe and I try to repair my clothes as often as I can, to lengthen the life of my garments. I buy new clothes very seldom, because thrift shops offer so much more variety to chose form.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency names phosphorus, nitrogen, ammonia and chemicals grouped under the term “Volatile Organic Compounds” as the worst environmental hazards in household cleaners.
Ammonia is a multipurpose household cleaner that is found in many cleaning products that do everything from degreasing to sanitizing and removing allergens.
Household cleaning seems to be a sensitive subject for many. There are a variety of sanitary concerns and medical concerns. As for me, I use a vinegar and water mix, baking soda and a bristle brush to clean.
You can read more about my approach to household cleaning in the links below.
Zero Waste is for life, not just a week! Plastic pollution, trash pollution, water and soil pollution is an ongoing battle. A zero waste lifestyle does require an awareness of oneself and decisions. There are parameters that some of us deal with, and that others don’t, such as medical conditions, personal health and financial constraints.
The proliferation of single-use plastic around the world is accelerating climate change. Plastic production is expanding worldwide, fueled in part by the fracking boom in the US. Plastic contributes to greenhouse gas emissions at every stage of its life cycle, from its production to its refining and the way it is managed as a waste product
By reducing your plastic waste, plastic purchases, and opting for more environmentally friendly alternatives, can help alleviate the amount of plastic waste you produce. Also, by choosing slow fashion, and more sustainable garment materials, will also help lengthen the life of your wardrobe pieces and not contribute to the fast fashion industry. Additionally, using non-toxic alternative household cleaners, will also help your indoor air quality. Using non- toxic chemicals also will help keep Nitrogen, phosphorus and ammonia out of the rivers, streams, lakes and other waterways.
If you want to read about my moments and lessons throughout my zero waste journey, you can check out the links to my previous blog posts below.
I hope you will want to take the pledge and reduce the amount of trash you consume, and reduce your carbon footprint. If you want to read about my journey and how I got started, you can read that here in, How I Got Started.
September 2- September 6, is #ZeroWasteWeek – Sign up here! goo.gl/oqHvRk. Isn’t it time to ReThink Waste? We think so! Join @myzerowaste for this year’s #ZeroWasteWeek goo.gl/oqHvRk. Come participate with all of us!
At the end of the week’s festivities, it’s time to take all you’ve learned during the week and start/continue your own plastic free and climate change journey. There are a lot of Pinterest boards, Facebook Groups and forums that offer tips to start a zero waste lifestyle or tips for different experiences with the zero waste lifestyle. You can check out my own social media boards and follow me, or you can follow the Zero waste Week community on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.
Reducing the amount of trash that comes into your home is not as hard as it sounds. It might sound like a daunting task because we as consumers, buy a lot of packaged items that we bring into our home. However, it’s a simple process of elimination.
For instance, if you evaluate your kitchen items and everything you buy weekly, monthly, and yearly- that’s pretty much your entire list. For the yearly items, if you can find reusable alternatives, you can essentially eliminate your yearly inventory shopping.
Then, list all your weekly items that you tend to buy, and find reusable, non-toxic alternatives for those items. Your weekly and daily items are most likely the trash culprits. Half of the time, we don’t realize how many coffee cups we buy every day or even plastic packaged lunch items that we purchase daily. Eliminating the daily trash will help greatly reduce the amount of trash that enters your home. There are a lot of reasonable alternatives when it comes to kitchen items. Using cloth napkins in lieu of paper napkins, and using real dishware instead of paper plates can help eliminate the disposable trash output. You can also use real utensils instead of disposable utensils. You can bring a reusable coffee Tumbler when you go to get tea or coffee, so you don’t end up with a disposable cup.
A lot of people don’t know that the paper containers provided for us at grocery stores, and food establishments are lined with plastic, and those containers do not compost or bio degrade. The plastic layer, prevents it from composting completely. It’s a little bit like green washing because you may think your container is completely made of cardboard but it really isn’t. Using reusable items is a much better alternative, because you are in control of how much trash you are producing.
For your bathroom items, it’s the same process as evaluating your kitchen items. Go through your items and figure out which products you use and purchase, yearly, weekly and daily. Slowly replace the yearly items with reusable and sustainable options, as well as a weekly and daily items.
When it comes to medications or anything medical, I suggest that you consult with a doctor before you decide to eliminate certain products. I purchase sunscreen consistently. I live in California, where the sun is strong, and skin cancer is a real concern. I’m very aware that I am producing plastic trash with my sunscreen bottles. However, I would never want to put my health at risk just so I can proclaim that “My lifestyle is absolutely zero waste!”, and I wouldn’t want you to do that either.
Health concerns are very personal, so you know your own limit. If you can eliminate a plastic contained product and opt for a reusable version, than I think that’s great. Right now, I buy my conditioner, body lotion, bar soap, liquid soap, and tooth powder, in bulk. When it comes to sunscreen, face moisturizer and dental floss, those come in packaging.
You can use this evaluation process for the other rooms in your home. The biggest trash producers are the kitchen and the bathrooms. Some people have other rooms where they tend to buy a lot of items for, and those can be also evaluated in the same fashion.
This process takes time, and it takes self awareness to be consistent. Start slow and just work on an area or room in a certain amount of time. If you give yourself a time limit, staying consistent and motivated, becomes easier.
Even when I buy items in glass jars because I can’t find a refillable version of it, I always end up with these plastic shrink bands. It seems that zero waste is never an absolute. Sometimes when I do buy produce that is free plastic packaging, I’ll still end up with rubber bands or twist ties. The good thing is I can actually reuse those items, but it’s preferred that I don’t have to.
Most of my dry goods are sold in bulk bins, so I am lucky that I have the privilege to buy package free dry goods from bulk items.
During the process of transitioning over to a zero waste lifestyle, I knew that I would end up giving up a lot of foods that I enjoyed. I personally love potato chips to snack on, but it was one thing I knew I had to give up, since the packaging wouldn’t fit my zero waste lifestyle. I gave up a lot of snacks such as packaged cookies, packaged crackers and packaged candy. There were alternatives to these packaged items, such as certain bulk options.
When I realized I had to give up certain foods, I also sought out alternative food substitutes. There are good substitutes out there, but sometimes, seeking out the alternatives require more work than expected. Once in awhile I will indulge in a packaged food, and then that packaging will get added to my pile of trash for that year. During my journey, I did come across a company called TerraCycle. They team up with certain companies who participate in different recycling programs with TerraCycle. These companies offer recycling programs through TerraCycle, in which customers who purchase their products, can join their recycling program, and send back the packaging to the company for free. It’s an option, and the program change frequently, so checking their website updates is helpful.
I’m extremely lucky to have local bulk grocery stores, who provide the option of bulk shopping, so I can continue this lifestyle. Only once in awhile, I’ll need an item and the glass jar will have the plastic shrink band on it. If I can, I try to only need and use items that are only sold in bulk.
I definitely have plastics in the bathroom. I did try to transition to glass bottles for my bathroom products, but the glass was too slippery and didn’t seem efficient. When it comes to products are used in the bathroom, I do have a set amount of items that I can refill. However, there are items that do come in plastic packaging and plastic bottles, that end up being recycled or go into the landfill.
I have bottles that I refill for my Dr. Bronner’s liquid peppermint soap, my body lotion, and my conditioner. I use bar soaps a lot, so I buy bar soaps that either don’t have packaging at all, or come in recyclable paper packaging.
For the items that do come in plastic packaging, that includes my sunblock, my face moisturizer as well as dental floss.
My bathroom isn’t completely zero waste. I do use plastic containers and refill them as needed. And for specialty items, they come in plastic containers. I wish sunblock didn’t come in plastic containers, but so far, mine do. I think it’s entirely possible to have zero waste bathroom though; mine just isn’t. When it comes to my conditioner, I will transfer some of it into a larger stainless steel water bottle, and add water to dilute the formula. I’ve noticed that my hair responds better when my hair doesn’t have residue left over from the conditioner. For my other items that come in plastic containers such as dental floss, face moisturizer, I haven’t found a good alternative is for my skin yet. I’ll keep looking though, I think the battle is always on going when it comes to striving for a zero waste lifestyle.
My trash doesn’t fit in a jar anymore. When I started my zero waste journey, my trash did fit in a 16 ounce mason jar. However, int he past few years, I needed to purchase items that had extra packaging in which would not fit in my nice little jar anymore.
A lot of the time, when we shop at bulk bins in grocery stores, although we don’t bring home trash into our homes, products do get shipped to grocery stores in packaging. We as consumers don’t see it, but it doesn’t mean that the packaging doesn’t exist. Now, I’m not saying that every company is wasteful, but truth be told that is how our products are packaged from the manufacturer and then transferred to the distribution companies.
Trash pollution, plastic pollution is hidden in plain sight. We as consumers, do have the choice to not bring trash into our homes, and that’s a privilege. But packaging does exist, it’s not always compostable, and it may not even be sustainable. We as consumers can still vote with our dollar, and we still need to remind manufacturing companies that our trash pollution is at the highest quantity right now. I do think the tide is turning, but with The daily production of trash in the speed at which it is produced, we’re going out to tackle a very, very large problem and that’s with magnified with an unimaginable speed.
I live in the Bay Area, and bulk food items and products are readily available here. There are plenty of other states and areas, which bulk food is not available. If you can fit your trash into a small jar and continue to do so, I think that’s amazing and admirable. If your trash can’t fit into a jar, just keep in mind, the trash you’re producing and keep putting effort towards living a more zero waste lifestyle. I think using the glass jar as a standard is a bit unreasonable, because not all of us are lucky enough to live and afford certain amenities where we are located.
So my trash doesn’t fit in a jar this year, maybe next year it will be less. If not, I’ll keep trying to continue to strive to live a zero waste life.
When it comes to recycling CDs and DVDs, the information was never really clear as to where to recycle these type of materials. I did some research and found out that there is The CD Recycling Center of America, who provides that exact service.
Each year, billions of CDs and DVDs are manufactured, while millions of these discs end up in landfills and incinerators. If you use, sell, promote, distribute, or manufacture compact discs, it is your responsibility to promote how to recycle them. Compacts Discs, when recycled properly, will stop unnecessary pollution, conserve natural resources, and help slow global warming. Spread the word to help us save the world we all live in.
For those companies that require a certificate of destruction, that service is available as well.
The CD Recycling Center of America collects old CDs, DVDs and cases and securely deconstructs the items. CDs and DVDs contain different metals and materials that should be separated safely. They contain materials such as:
Aluminum-the most abundant metal element in the Earth’s crust. Bauxite ore is the main source of aluminum and is extracted from the Earth.
Polycarbonate-a type of plastic, which is made from crude oil and natural gas extracted from the Earth.
Lacquer-made of acrylic, another type of plastic.
Gold-a metal that is mined from the Earth.
Dyes-chemicals made in a laboratory, partially from petroleum products that come from the Earth.
Other materials such as water, glass, silver, and nickel.
There are different programs offered to different types of business and institutions, so the parameters of how they will receive your recycling material will differ. All you have to do, is scroll down to your category and pick the program that fits your needs. They have programs for:
Individuals / households
Radio & Television
Since I’m recycling as a household, I checked the “Programs” tab, and scrolled down to the “Individuals / households” section, to read my requirements.
They do ask that the broken disc cases be kept separated from the other cases. I separated my shipment into four categories, and labeled them as needed:
Zero Waste Week is almost here! This year we have more participants and the event is hoping to reach a larger audience. Rachelle Strauss is the creator and director behind Zero Waste Week, an annual awareness campaign since 2008. It takes place in the first full week in September each year, and promotes awareness in producing rash and the disposal of trash. Zero Waste Week encourages the public to be more aware of how much trash they produce as well has encouraging people and businesses to live and work more sustainable and reduce their carbon footprint. She has been featured in The Guardian, National Geographic and The Sun for her efforts in promoting awareness for a more sustainable future.
This is my second year participating in Zero Waste Week as an ambassador. I’m so grateful and proud to be a part of this movement. There are many others who are and have been a part of this movement long before I came along, you can meet them atZero Waste Week Ambassadors. You can also read all about this week and get involved at Zero Waste Week- About. Use the hashtag #ZeroWasteWeek to show us your progress!
Each day has a theme of Zero Waste which focuses on different aspects of creating less waste. For Zero Waste Week 2018, I listed the topic for each day and I linked some of my blog posts that pertain to each topic
September 3, 2018, DAY 1
We will be discussing the difference between ‘necessary’ and unnecessary plastics. The amount of plastic polluting the ocean is astounding. By 2050,plastic in the oceans will outweigh fish, predicts a report from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, in partnership with the World Economic Forum. Herare a few past blog posts which explain how and why I became very conscientious about my purchases.
Auditing our daily personal care routine! Plastic containers in the bathroom are nothing new. However, because we use bathroom items so frequently, the amount of plastic containers we go through can be unnerving when you look at the statistics. As the zero waste movement has caught on, more stores are offering bulk bathroom items and refill stations. If you want to read about some of my zero waste bathroom blog posts, check them out below.
Plastics in the kitchen and food packaging seem to be a huge problem for those starting out on their zero waste journey. To make your kitchen zero waste, can be quite challenging. Creating a zero waste kitchen took time and trial and error in my own experience. To read more about the challenges I faced, check out the blog posts below.
Household cleaning seems to be a sensitive subject for many. There are a variety of sanitary concerns and medical concerns. As for me, I use a vinegar and water mix, baking soda and a bristle brush to clean. You can read more about my method in the link below.
Zero Waste is for life, not just a week! Plastic pollution, trash pollution, water and soil pollution is an ongoing battle. A zero waste lifestyle does require an awareness of oneself and decisions. There are parameters that some of us deal with, and that others don’t, such as medical conditions, personal health and financial constraints. As long as the effort and awareness of product consumption is considered on a day to day basis, reducing trash is inevitable. If you want to read about my moments and lessons throughout my zero waste journey, you can check out the links to my previous blog posts below.
I hope you will want to take the pledge and reduce the amount of trash you consume, and if you want to read about my journey and how I got started, you can read that here in, How I Got Started. At the end of the week’s festivities, it’s time to take all you’ve learned during the week and start/continue your own plastic free journey. There are a lot of Pinterest boards, Facebook Groups and forums that offer tips to start a zero waste lifestyle or tips for different experiences with the zero waste lifestyle. You can check out my own social media boards and follow me, or you can follow the Zero waste Week community on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.
I’ve talked about what I don’t buy, but I thought I’d tell you about what I do buy in relation to my daily bathroom routine. When I go grocery shopping, there are items I do keep an eye out for. These items are the items I will use on a daily basis and keep stock of at home. So here it is…
What I stock up on:
Eyeliner (used often)
Mascara (used often)
Eye Shadow (used often)
Apple Cider Vinegar
Not used often:
Liquid Foundation (Vegan Makeup)
Matte Bronzer (Vegan Makeup)
Lipstick (Vegan Makeup)
Angled Blush Brush
There are other investments that I bought a while back, which did produce some form of trash, but they were only a one time investment.
One time investments:
Set of Dental picks
Set of stainless steel ear pick tools
Morning: Before Workout Routine: In the morning I will wash my face with soap and brush my teeth with baking soda. I’ll then apply sunscreen before heading out, because skin cancer is real and the exposure to the sun’s rays can be very dangerous, so I take precautions.
Morning: After Workout Routine: After working out, I’ll wash my face again and apply some dry shampoo (combination of equal parts cornstarch and Hershey’s Cocoa, here is the link to my blog post about DIY Dry Shampoo). I’ll then apply my makeup, and depending on the occasion, it might be more or less. My makeup is cruelty free and not tested on animals, but it does come in packaging that is not recyclable. The good part about my makeup routine is that I don’t use excessive amounts of it so I don’t use up my makeup quickly.
When I do decide to get more dressed up, my makeup packaging includes all of the following packaging below. All of my makeup will come with the makeup container as well as the makeup packaging as well.
Evening Routine: My evening routine mimics my morning routine, where I will floss my teeth, brush my teeth, wash my face with soap, and then apply my evening cream.
Non-Daily Use Items: There are a few “one time purchase” items that I did invest in, which did produce some form of trash that was not recyclable. However, these were one time purchases and they’ve lasted a very long time. These items include my deodorant crystal, pumice stone, dental pick set and my set of stainless steel ear pick tools. (The Visine is rarely used and I doubt I’ll ever purchase it again.)
For the Bathroom: Products I use to clean my bathroom or need to stock up on, include Apple Cider Vinegar, paper wrapped toilet paper and essential oils. The essential oils does get used, but not often. I always buy toilet paper wrapped in paper so that I don’t produce any extra plastic trash.
Living a zero waste lifestyle can never truly be completely zero waste. Trash will be produced at one point or another; whether it’s in the beginning of the production line or at the very end where the consumer is left with it. When you purchase products in bulk, a lot of the packaging is left for the distributor to deal with.
This post was a transparent view of the reality of my own bathroom trash. Even though I do still produce a bit of trash, I have significantly reduced the amount of my bathroom trash since I began this zero waste journey. Still, to this day, I know I can reduce it even more, but that means I have to give up using certain products or try to find alternative products.
San Francisco, it’s a beautiful city with so much history, it’s mesmerizing. This city made a significant impact on my life because my zero waste journey started with this city. I don’t share this story often, but I thought I’d finally give a background to how I started my zero waste journey seven years ago.
I had moved to San Francisco to attend graduate school. It was a big city with so many places, restaurants and activities to explore, I couldn’t even keep track of everything I wanted to do. At the time, I was working as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) for a large, and well know ambulance company.
Fulton Avenue and Stanyan Avenue path into Golden Gate Park.
I had moved into a studio apartment in the Richmond District and it was on the third floor of a three story building. It was a beautiful studio. With hardwood floors and a cozy interior, I settled in. My building stood directly across the street from Golden Gate Park. It was an interesting location because on the weekends, the park was closed to cars on Saturdays, so the foot traffic was busy. I could also open up my windows on the weekends and I listen to the music performances from inside of the park. Since I was on the top floor, sunlight consistently illuminated my apartment all day and all year long. I lucked out on that part because San Francisco can become very cold and foggy during certain seasons.
One of the Golden Gate Park entrances off of Fulton Avenue. (at Fulton Avenue and Arguello Avenue)
I was raised and lived in the suburbs my entire life so living in a condensed large city was quite a new experience. All of my routines including grocery shopping, working out and even parking was new and took a bit of an adjustment. I parked on the street since my apartment didn’t have a parking lot. This is also how I learned to become a stealth car parking spotter. Understanding and knowing which streets you could park on in the city was a must in order to avoid parking tickets. San Francisco streets are each scheduled for street cleaning all week long on different days and at different hours, so you have to be careful of where you park, or you’ll get a ticket for blocking the street cleaner.
Living in San Francisco also introduced me to trash chutes. A trash chute is a smooth, open shaft in a multistory building, used to convey trash from upper floors to a collection room. My building’s trash chute could only be accessed from the exterior wooden staircase on the side of the building. From each floor, there was an door which allowed access to the staircase. The problem was that these doors were very heavy and never stayed open. It took quite a bit of effort to even open these doors and step out on the balcony in order to access the trash chute; it seemed that they were installed to slam shut. It could have been an issue with the spring on the door, but regardless, it took a lot of force to open the door and hold it open.
San Francisco also separates their trash out into categories: trash, recyclables and compostables. Therefore, I had to separate my disposable items. This is where my problem lay. When I first moved into the apartment, I thought the trash chute was great. It was useful, accessible and being that I was located on the third floor, it seemed convenient for me. However, it only gave access to the trash bin, not the compost bin or the recyclables bin.
When I used the trash chute, my trash bag would bounce around the chute all the way down to the trash bin. It made quite a bit of noise and I thought that wasn’t appropriate since I didn’t know if my neighbors worked night shifts or slept during the day. So I would carry my trash all the way down the narrow exterior stairs. These stairs were very old and were designed to be very narrow. This meant I had to carry my three seperate bags directly in front of me. Some weeks this was not ideal since my bags would be so full, so I had to take two trips. Taking two trips meant that I would carry two bags down together, let the stairwell door slam shut behind me, walk down the exterior stairs and throw my bags away, exit the side yard in order to enter my building from the front. I would then walk up the inside staircase to my apartment, and grab the last bag to repeat this routine. In order for me to throw away all three bags, I routinely had to exit my building twice and enter it twice; all the meanwhile walking up and down two sets of stairs. I didn’t like taking two trips just to throw out trash, so I decided that I had to eliminate one of the bags.
This is where my zero waste journey began. In order to simplify my weekly “taking out the garbage routine,” I decided that getting rid of my trash bag would be the easiest solution. I had to first start swapping out all of my disposable items and figure out how to either replace the items with more sustainable solutions or eliminate them from my life completely. I decided to tackle all of my disposable items in the kitchen first. I started by swapping out my kitchen sponges for smaller washcloths, and then started buying food without packaging. That took a little bit more planning because I had to purchase glass tupperware and change my diet slightly. Changing my diet included giving up certain foods that came in packaging such as certain types of meat, candy, snacks and cereal. I switched those out for bulk snacks such as nuts, granola mixes, whole vegetables and fruit. I started eating whole grains for breakfast and really took solace in my progress towards a zero waste life.
Although swapping out disposable items meant that my laundry load would increase, it really didn’t increase by a lot. I went through my kitchen items and then moved over to my bathroom items. I paid attention to the materials of the items I was replacing my disposable with. I always tried to choose 100% cotton material, bamboo, stainless steel or glass. I then went through my clothes and started donating everything I didn’t need.
My journey to a zero waste life took about a year and half. It sounds like a significant amount of time, but if you think about auditing your entire life, there’s a lot of stuff to go through and get rid of. During my zero waste journey, I also started minimizing my life where I also implemented a minimalistic lifestyle.
I’m writing about this story of how I got started because truth be told, it started because I was lazy. That’s the honest truth. Each blogger has a story of how they got started and this is mine. A lot of bloggers tend to move towards this lifestyle based on their awareness of their own plastic use and it’s commendable that they started living with less plastic. I wanted to write my experience so that my audience may know that not all zero waste journeys need to start with fighting for the environment. Sometimes it happens on a fluke, a chance encounter, but that it’s very possible to live this way. I did notice the benefits of living a zero waste life as I dove deeper and deeper into it and the environmental impacts became more evident as I continued on. But my story doesn’t start with an ethically conscious mindset. It started because the exterior stairs at my apartment building was too narrow to carry three bags down to the trash bin.
This is my story of how I got started to living a zero waste life. #truth
Our trash never goes away. What we produce, purchase and consume, never really goes away. Unless we truly understand the consequences of our actions, we won’t understand the trap we’ve set up for ourselves. Our relationship with plastic bags only started in 1950 and now it’s increased 620% since 1975.
There are five main ocean gyres on our earth. These gyres follow a circular path which converge ocean pollution. This isn’t a solid convergence being that plastics go through photodegradation and bits and pieces are strewn about around the patches. But there is an estimated size for each garbage ocean patch.
The Indian Ocean Garbage Patch and was discovered in 2010, is a gyre of marine litter suspended in the upper water column of the central Indian Ocean, specifically the Indian Ocean Gyre, one of the five major oceanic gyres.The patch does not appear as a continuous debris field. As with other patches in each of the five oceanic gyres, the plastics in it break down to even smaller particles, and to constituent polymers. As with the other patches, the field constitutes an elevated level of pelagic plastics, chemical sludge, and other debris; primarily particles that are invisible to the naked eye.
North Atlantic Gyre, which contains the North Atlantic Garbage Patch, equal to the North Pacific Garbage Patch is an area of man-made marine debris found floating within the North Atlantic Gyre, originally documented in 1972.The patch is estimated to be hundreds of kilometres across in size, with a density of over 200,000 pieces of debris per square kilometer. The debris zone shifts by as much as 1,600 km (990 mi) north and south seasonally, and drifts even farther south during the El Niño-Southern Oscillation.
North Pacific Gyre, which contains The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, also described as the Pacific trash vortex, which was discovered between 1985 and 1988. It is located roughly between 135°W to 155°W and 35°N and 42°N. The patch extends over an indeterminate area of widely varying range depending on the degree of plastic concentration used to define the affected area.
The Great Pacific garbage patch has one of the highest levels known of plastic particulate suspended in the upper water column. As a result, it is one of several oceanic regions where researchers have studied the effects and impact of plastic photodegradation in the neustonic layer of water. Unlike organic debris, which biodegrades, the photodegraded plastic disintegrates into ever smaller pieces while remaining a polymer. This process continues down to the molecular level. As the plastic flotsam photodegrades into smaller and smaller pieces, it concentrates in the upper water column. As it disintegrates, the plastic ultimately becomes small enough to be ingested by aquatic organisms that reside near the ocean’s surface. In this way, plastic may become concentrated in neuston, thereby entering the food chain.
The patch is characterized by exceptionally high relative concentrations of pelagic plastics, chemical sludge and other debris that have been trapped by the currents of the North Pacific Gyre. Its low density (4 particles per cubic meter) prevents detection by satellite photography, or even by casual boaters or divers in the area. It consists primarily of a small increase in suspended, often microscopic, particles in the upper water column.
South Atlantic Gyre, which is the subtropical gyre in the south Atlantic Ocean. In the southern portion of the gyre, northwesterly (or southeastward-flowing) winds drive eastward-flowing currents that are difficult to distinguish from the northern boundary of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current. Like other oceanic gyres, it collects vast amounts of floating debris.
South Pacific Gyre, which is part of the Earth’s system of rotating ocean currents, bounded by the Equator to the north, Australia to the west, the Antarctic Circumpolar Current to the south, and South America to the east. The center of the South Pacific Gyre is the site on Earth farthest from any continents and productive ocean regions and is regarded as Earth’s largest oceanic desert.
Some of these long-lasting plastics end up in the stomachs of marine animals, and their young, including sea turtles and the black-footed albatross. Midway Atoll receives substantial amounts of marine debris from the patch. Of the 1.5 million Laysan albatrosses that inhabit Midway, nearly all are likely to have plastic in their digestive system. Approximately one-third of their chicks die, and many of those deaths are due to being fed plastic from their parents. Twenty tons of plastic debris washes up on Midway every year with five tons of that debris being fed to albatross chicks.
Besides the particles’ danger to wildlife, on the microscopic level the floating debris can absorb organic pollutants from seawater, including PCBs, DDT, and PAHs. Aside from toxic effects, when ingested, some of these are mistaken by the endocrine system as estradiol, causing hormone disruption in the affected animal. These toxin-containing plastic pieces are also eaten by jellyfish, which are then eaten by fish.
Many of these fish are then consumed by humans, resulting in their ingestion of toxic chemicals. While eating their normal sources of food, plastic ingestion can be unavoidable or the animal may mistake the plastic as a food source.
Marine plastics also facilitate the spread of invasive species that attach to floating plastic in one region and drift long distances to colonize other ecosystems. Research has shown that this plastic marine debris affects at least 267 species worldwide.
Charles J. Moore is an oceanographer and racing boat captain known for articles that recently brought attention to the ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’. He founded the Algalita Marine Research and Education and in 2008, the foundation organized the JUNK Raft project, to “creatively raise awareness about plastic debris and pollution in the ocean”, and specifically the Great Pacific Garbage Patch trapped in the North Pacific Gyre, by sailing 2,600 miles across the Pacific Ocean on a 30-foot-long (9.1 m) raft made from an old Cessna 310 aircraft fuselage and six pontoons filled with 15,000 old plastic bottles.
The JUNK Raft Project was organized by Dr. Marcus Eriksen, Joel Paschal and Anna Cummins in Long Beach, California in 2008, to bring attention to the issue of plastic pollution in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The project was launched with the Algalita Marine Research Foundation, after founder Charles J. Moore encountered the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in 1997. Organizers hoped to “creatively raise awareness about plastic debris and pollution in the ocean,” specifically the Great Pacific Garbage Patch trapped in the North Pacific Gyre.
There are many more organizations set up doing research to solve the plastic pollution problem in our oceans, but the main solution starts at the top with the banning of plastics from large corporate companies. When you make a purchase, you are voting with your consumer goods. Corporations do listen, we just need to tell them what we will not tolerate and what we need from them.
Other products are being tested on the market such as biodegradable plastics and even plastics made from food, so that when they enter back into nature, the animals won’t suffer when accidentally consuming them. I hope that this post helps in the understanding of why being consciously aware and responsible for our trash is a crucial role for the future of our planet. It can feel overwhelming and although a small change in your daily routine may not feel like an impact among the current issues we have, it does help. Make small changes first, then move towards bigger changes. It all adds up.
Whenever I go and do a beach cleanup, it’s never really a formal event. I use large fabric bags that I had sewed awhile back and I gather what I can. I use old running gloves to pick up the items because I don’t own a pair of rubber gloves anymore. I can easily also toss these gloves into the laundry when I’m done. With fabric gloves, I’m still very cautious about what I pick up and how I pick items up.
Most of the time, I’ll find anything and everything discarded on the beach. I usually walk along the shoreline and carefully look through the seaweed and debris that gets washed up from the ocean. A lot of ocean trash gets tangled up in the seaweed which then gets washed up on the beach.
I went to Roosevelt Beach this time for the beach clean up, and this beach looks fairly clean overall, but when you slow down and walk slowly, you can see little bits and pieces of trash everywhere like this:
On the surface the beach looks clean, but once I examined and shoreline and walked further and further, I kept finding more and more trash. At one point, it felt overwhelming because I knew I probably missed a bunch of pieces of trash due to the angle I was standing at or maybe my eyes simply couldn’t see the trash clearly. The reason why I like to do beach cleanups is because of the amount of trash that now occupies our ocean. There are different garbage patches that exist in five different ocean gyres in the world. With the ocean currents and the trash that’s discarded into the ocean, the combination creates different garbage patches which subsequently, kills the ocean wildlife. Since I live alone the Pacific Coast, the Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch is the closest garbage patch to me.
Here are the basic facts about the Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch;
7 million tons of weight
Twice the size of Texas
Up to 9 feet deep
In the Great Pacific Ocean Gyre there is 6 times more plastic than plankton, which the main food for many ocean animals
By estimation 80% of the plastic originates from land; floating in rivers to the ocean or blew by the wind into the ocean
The remaining 20% of the plastic originates from oil platforms and ships
According scientist it is the largest plastic dump on earth; so plastic patches are larger than waste dumps on land
Trash patches consist for 80 percent out of plastic
Scientific research from the Scrips Institution of Oceanography in California U.S. shows that 5 to 10% of the fish contain small pieces of plastic.
There are many reasons why I choose to live a zero waste life, or at least as close as I can to a completely zero waste life. Knowing that the trash we discard into the ocean is killing wildlife weighs on me. Although there are many concerns in the world that I do care about, this one hits close to home. We did this. Humans did this and are still doing this to wildlife.
There’s a program called Take 3 For the Sea, where they encourage that when you visit any location and pick up at least 3 pieces of trash, you too can help with reducing the amount of trash floating out in wildlife. This non-profit organization delivers education programs to inspire our global community to help create a cleaner planet for wildlife and future generations. You can pick up 3 pieces of trash wherever you go and that would make an impact on the environment.
I encourage you to do this. Please help clean up your local beaches. You can even download the app by Ocean Conservancy called Clean Swell. It’s a global movement to keep beaches, waterways and the ocean trash free. Head out to your favorite beach and use the app to easily record each item of trash you collect. Then share your effort with family and friends.
You can also find local beach clean up organizations near you. I have been a member of the Surfrider Foundation and they hold monthly beach clean ups.
Who knew that when I joined TerraCycle, that I would end up adopting and protecting 16 acres of land. Let me start from the beginning…
I first joined TerraCycle in an attempt to recycle my beauty products, this included my makeup and bathroom product bottles. They offer programs that will collect certain kinds of trash and recycle them. They have free recycling programs, large scale recycling programs as well as zero waste boxes, which are not free.
There were about 28 free recycling programs when I first joined in 2015 and they now they have about 36 free recycling programs. The programs all have a different point reward system for how much trash you’re able to return to the program. They also offer a variety of contests and promotions for different programs at different times.
You can collect points and either receive a cash reward, collect point for a specific school or organization or donate the points to a good cause. The organizations can provide resources such as clean drinking water, provide a meals, adopt wildlife land, reduce two pounds of carbon from the atmosphere, provide education or even help disaster victims.
Yellowstone is home to the most diverse assortment of wildlife found anywhere in North America. But once these iconic species leave the protected borders of the park—they are often at odds with neighboring ranchers who utilize public lands for livestock grazing. Grizzly bears and wolves are often killed or relocated when they attack livestock on National Forest lands where ranchers hold grazing privileges.
National Wildlife Federation’s Adopt a Wildlife Acre program addresses the conflicts between livestock and wildlife with a voluntary, market-based approach. We offer ranchers a fair price in exchange for their agreement to retire their public land grazing leases.
In most cases, livestock producers use our funds to relocate their livestock to areas without conflict. Wildlife has secure habitat, and rancher’s cattle can graze in an area with fewer problems.
It’s an interesting program and I really liked contributing to it. I initially donated my points to towards this program but then, decided to make a donation to cover more of how much I was helping protect the wildlife land.
This goes without saying, but there are many different organizations to donate to and it’s up to you to decide how much you want to participate in each. I wanted to share what the decision of joining a recycling program lead me to. I never thought I’d adopt 16 acres of wildlife land. This has been an amazing journey and I’m so glad I took a chance to start with this organization.
My last part in my ongoing list of “Items I’ve stopped buying” focuses on my garage, living room and holiday items. This list is very small in reference to the items I frequently bought. The garage items focus around doing laundry and the items needed to do laundry. The holiday items refer to items I used to buy for wrapping gifts.
Doing my laundry is my least favorite chore and ever since I simplified the amount of clothes I own, it’s not as bad as it used to be. (My capsule wardrobe now consists of 27 items.) But also not needing dryer sheets or dropping my items off at a dry cleaners also make for a simple laundry routine. I have so few items when I do laundry, that I simply hang everything up when I’m done. I used to sit and fold my items for a good amount of time, and had to set aside time to do it.
Admittedly, my simplistic routines have made me slightly lazier, but it’s also saved me time so I’m not packing my days off with things I need to get done. I actually HAVE time to be lazy- it’s weird. But I’ll take it. It’s weird because I’ve been conditioned to constantly be busy or with the tasks I need to get done each weekend or every other weekend. These tasks are supposed to take up a good amount of my day (that way I feel I’ve accomplished something for that day). When you get to the point when you find time to breathe (I mean a lot of time), it’s well worth the zero waste journey.
There’s more planning involved in the beginning and routines to get used to, but honestly….. who doesn’t love naps??
Dryer Sheets ——————-> N/A
Dry Cleaning ——————-> Hang items in bathroom while showering so they can steam.(I’ll iron if I ABSOLUTELY have to.)
Laundry Soap ——————> Paper Packaged Powder Laundry Soap
Candles (Bed Bath & Beyond) ——> Sage leaves
Flower Bouquets —————-> Fresh Flowers from backyard
Wrapping Paper —————-> Colorful Bandanas [wrap and tuck] & old t-shirts made into reuseable gift bags.
So my list of “Items That I No Longer Buy” continues onto the kitchen area. This list will include items I stopped buying for the sink area, cooking and dining area. As well as a short list of items I no longer buy for grocery shopping as well as the refrigerator.
For the kitchen items, switching over to reusable items really cut down time for shopping and running errands. I didn’t have to constantly keep track of what I was running out of or running low on. Plus, looking for sales wasn’t as stressful as before. Since I shop so little now, I actually tend to only look for a sale once, and just stock up on the bulk item in my glass container. The products that I do stock up on now, will last me for a much longer period of time.
It’s interesting when I do go shopping for bulk kitchen items such as soap, vinegar or baking soda, because I know exactly where the items are located in the stores, but I’ll walk around thinking that I’m forgetting an item (also because my basket will ultimately have a total of 4 items in it). When in the end, the total number of items I need is just the four…. for the next 5 months, because that’s how long it lasts. It’s great. You should try it!
Dishwashing Soap ———————–> Bulk Dr. Bronner’s Liquid soap
Plastic Dish Rack ————————> In-sink Metal Dish Rack
Paper Towels —————————> Fabric Kitchen Towels
Kitchen Cleaning Spray ——————-> Vinegar & water mix, Baking Soda as an exfoliant