The Simple Route To Less Trash

11.01.2016

0800

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The route to the zero waste lifestyle is quite simple. As you can see from the illustration above, this route can have nine stops along the way. Even with nine stops, some of these steps can be combined with one another being as the actions follow one another quite closely. The beginning of the journey is a little difficult because you’re still unprepared to get rid of your wasteful items and you haven’t bought items to replace the functional use. To prepare for this, I do suggest you examine what you ABSOLUTELY NEED in your daily routines and then find/purchase products that will compensate easily. Here is a simple outline of how you can get started:

  1. Simplify:
    Edit your belongings. Understand your true wants and needs. This can be in a list form or simply going through each day and examining each routine you go through.
  2. Refuse:
    Refuse single-use disposable items. That’s anything you use once and then dispose of it. This can easily be done because all you really have to do is say no.
  3. Bring your own:
    Have durables to keep single-use plastics away. Items like a reusable bag, straw, tumbler and water bottle. Always bring these items items wherever you go. I’ve been stuck a few times in situations where I did not pack all of my utensils (reusable cup, fork, spoon and metal straw) because I didn’t think I’d run into situations where I would need them.
  4. Whole Foods:
    Become resourceful with food by learning to make easy & quick meals from unprocessed and unpackaged foods. I like to make simple meals from whole produce combined with food I buy from the bulk bins. I don’t like spending a lot of time cooking, so my grocery list is pretty repetitive and simple.
  5. Compost:
    Separate your food waste! From backyard to warm composting, don’t let your food scraps go to the landfill! Composting is a great way to divert your foods waste and also create better soil for your garden.
  6. Buy Better & Repair:
    Buy less, buy better. Seek multifunctional, repairable, and lasting products.If you can learn one or two stitches with a needle and thread, you’d be surprised how much longer you can extend the life of your possessions.
  7. Recycle well:
    Recycling is good, but it’s not the solution. Reduce the amount you recycle by reducing  the amount you consume. This is a really good rule because although “recycling” seems like a solution, there’s still energy and resources being put into the recycling plants and not all “recyclable items” are 100% recyclable. Some items cannot be broken down and others have to be picked apart in order to extract the recyclable materials, which means the rest of the materials that made up the item will subsequently go to the landfill. The best solution here is to simply not rely on recycling alone.
  8. Use your voice:
    Kindly use your voice to express how you want products designed and recovered. Give companies businesses and manufacturers incentive to make the change! If you speak up, companies will listen. It may not feel like it or seem like it, but as a consumer, you have the choice to make each time you purchase any item. You’re voice speaks through your actions and that’s pretty loud.
  9. Support the community:
    Get to know your community. Shop local or start a community garden. You can walk, bike, bus, as a means of transportation too. I tend to shop at local stores because I don’t want to purchase items that are simple cookie cutter products. At times, yes, I will need a cookie cutter item such as a power strip or power cord, but majority of the time I don’t. Local businesses do need our support and voice to continue to let them thrive and flourish. Create a change- be the change.

Understanding Recycling Paper And Cardboard

 

10.18.2016

0800

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Paper Recycling Process Link

Paper is one of the more utilized materials that we use in our society. It’s an amazing material that is very versatile in many uses. Although recycling paper seems like a simple process, different types of paper, create different issues when it comes to the recycling process.

In 2011, 66.8 percent of paper consumed in the United States was recycled. Every ton of paper recycled saves more than 3.3 cubic yards of landfill space, and if you measure by weight, more paper is recovered for recycling than plastic, aluminum and glass combined. Paper is a material that we’re used to recycling, since 87 percent of us have access to curbside or drop-off recycling for paper.

The process of recycling paper can be summed up into a few simple steps:

  1. Paper is taken from the bin and deposited in a large recycling container along with paper from other recycling bins.
  2. The paper is taken to a recycling plant where it is separated into types and grades.
  3. The separated paper is then washed with soapy water to remove inks, plastic film, staples and glue. The paper is put into a large holder where it is mixed with water to create ‘slurry’.
  4. By adding different materials to the slurry, different paper products can be created, such as cardboard, newsprints or office paper.
  5. The slurry is spread using large rollers into large thin sheets.
  6. The paper is left to dry, and then it is rolled up ready to be cut and sent back to the shops.

Here Are Some Facts About Paper Grades:

  • Paper Grades – There are five basic paper grade categories, according to theEPA. While these terms may be most useful to paper mills looking to process certain kinds of paper, you may hear these terms once in a while, and it’s possible you’ll need to be able to distinguish between them.
    • Old Corrugated Containers – You might know this as “corrugated cardboard.” It’s most often found in boxes and product packaging.
    • Mixed Paper – This is a broad category of paper that includes things like mail, catalogs, phone books and magazines.
    • Old Newspapers – This one is pretty self-explanatory. Mills use newspapers, a lower grade paper, to make more newsprint, tissue and other products.
    • High Grade Deinked Paper – This quality paper consists of things like envelopes, copy paper and letterhead that has gone through the printing process and had the ink removed.
    • Pulp Substitutes – This paper is usually discarded scraps from mills, and you probably won’t have to worry about running into it, though it may find its way into products you buy.

Some Paper Recycling Curiosities:

  • Once you know what kind of paper recycling is available to you and which types of paper are recyclable, you might still have some questions about paper recycling. Here are a few common items that cause confusion:
    • Shredded Paper – Ever wondered whether shredded paper can be recycled? The answer is yes, though you may encounter some restrictions regarding the size of the shredded pieces and the way the paper is contained. Check with your local recycling program for specific information.
    • Staples & Paper Clips – Believe it or not, equipment at paper mills that recycle recovered paper is designed to remove things like staples and paper clips, so you don’t need to remove them before recycling. It is probably in your best interest to remove paper clips, though, so they can be reused.
    • Sticky Notes – If your local recycling program accepts mixed paper, it will most likely accept sticky notes. Paper mills that process mixed paper are able to remove adhesives. To be on the safe side, check with your local program to make sure sticky notes aren’t a problem.

Understanding Recycling Glass

10.13.2016

0800

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Glass Recycling Process Link

Of all the materials that we are continually reminded of as consumers to recycle, glass has to be within the top three on that list; the other being paper and aluminum. I have to admit that I prefer glass and aluminum over paper though. Paper cannot be washed clean of oils and for paper that has oil soaked into it, it can’t be recycled along with clean paper. The simple reason for that is because paper is usually heated and washed which will release the oils into the batch of paper being recycled and therefore contaminate the other clean paper. It will however, compost nicely.

But I digress. If I absolutely must buy a product, I will search for it first in a non-packaged form, then I will look for the product packaged in glass or aluminum. If I look for paper packaged products, it has to be paper packaging that is clean of food oils. I tend to buy very few products that have packaging in the first place, but this is my criteria.

So I thought I would run through a simple and basic run down of the life cycle of a glass container, so here it goes:

  1. The consumer throws glass into a recycle bin.
  2. Glass is taken from the bin and taken to a glass treatment plant.
  3. The glass is sorted by colour and washed to remove any impurities.
  4. The glass is then crushed and melted, then moulded into new products such as bottles and jars. Or it may be used for alternative purposes such as brick manufacture or decorative uses.
  5. The glass is then sent back to the shops ready to be used again.
  6. Glass does not degrade through the recycling process, so it can be recycled again and again.

Some Fact About Recycling Glass:

  • Glass is 100% recyclable and can be recycled endlessly without loss in quality or purity.
  • Glass is made from readily-available domestic materials, such as sand, soda ash, limestone and “cullet,” the industry term for furnace-ready recycled glass.
  • The only material used in greater volumes than cullet is sand. These materials are mixed, or “batched,” heated to a temperature of 2600 to 2800 degrees Fahrenheit and molded into the desired shape.
  • Recycled glass can be substituted for up to 95% of raw materials.
  • Manufacturers benefit from recycling in several ways: Recycled glass reduces emissions and consumption of raw materials, extends the life of plant equipment, such as furnaces, and saves energy.
  • Recycled glass containers are always needed because glass manufacturers require high-quality recycled container glass to meet market demands for new glass containers.
  • Recycled glass is always part of the recipe for glass, and the more that is used, the greater the decrease in energy used in the furnace. This makes using recycled glass profitable in the long run, lowering costs for glass container manufacturers—and benefiting the environment.
  • Glass containers for food and beverages are 100% recyclable, but not with other types of glass. Other kinds of glass, like windows, ovenware, Pyrex, crystal, etc. are manufactured through a different process. If these materials are introduced into the glass container manufacturing process, they can cause production problems and defective containers.
  • Color sorting makes a difference, too. Glass manufacturers are limited in the amount of mixed color-cullet (called “3 mix”) they can use to manufacture new containers. Separating recycled container glass by color allows the industry to ensure that new bottles match the color standards required by glass container customers.
  • Some recycled glass containers are not able to be used in the manufacture of new glass bottles and jars or to make fiberglass. This may be because there is too much contamination or the recycled glass pieces are too small to meet manufacturing specifications. Or, it may be that there is not a nearby market for bottle-to-bottle recycling. This recovered glass is then used for non-container glass products. These “secondary” uses for recycled container glass can include tile, filtration, sand blasting, concrete pavements and parking lots.
  • The recycling approach that the industry favors is any recycling program that results in contaminant-free recycled glass. This helps ensure that these materials are recycled into new glass containers. While curbside collection of glass recyclables can generate high participation and large amounts of recyclables, drop-off and commercial collection programs tend to yield higher quality recovered container glass.

I do think that if you need to consume products that are packed, please consider the type of packaging that it comes in. It may cost a little more to buy the glass jar of mustard instead of the plastic bottle, but our oceans are riddled with plastic trash that gets lost through the transportation process or even dumped carelessly. Eventually, it will get back to us and then there will have to be a whole new strategy for us to figure out how to not consume plastic from the animals that accidentally consume it first. It is a nightmare loop, but we can either take preventative measures or create ways to try to exit it.

Understanding Recycling Batteries

 

10.06.2016

0800

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Recycling Car Batteries Link

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Processing Alkaline Batteries Link

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Recycling Lithium Batteries Link

I question the honesty of how items are recycled (especially electronics) and to be more informed is always better. The next series of posts I’m going to post up with cover a small section of the majority of materials that are deemed recyclable. Although the concept of recycling seems like a savior process for all items- it really isn’t. There are uncomfortable truths that the public is not informed about. I hope these next posts will be helpful for those who are seeking more information.

In a nutshell, batteries vary in how they are recycled. Batteries range from lead acid based to alkaline, lithium ion, nickel, zinc and even mercury batteries. Here is an overall information haul about the variety of them but I also included links to some recycling processes under the infographics above. I always hear mixed reviews as to what actually happens to batteries when we recycle them and this is why I thought I should post some information. I tend to use more alkaline and lithium batteries in my day to day life, so those infographics apply more to me. Hopefully this will bring some more information to you as you come into contact with your day to day electronics that use batteries.

  1. Lead Acid– The battery is broken apart in a hammer mill, a machine that hammers the battery into pieces. The broken battery pieces are then placed into a vat, where the lead and heavy materials fall to the bottom and the plastic floats. At this point, the polypropylene pieces are scooped away and the liquids are drawn off, leaving the lead and heavy metals. Each of the materials goes into a different recycling “stream”.
    1. Plastic- Polypropylene pieces are washed, blown dry and sent to a plastic recycler where the pieces are melted together into an almost liquid state. The molten plastic is put through an extruder that produces small plastic pellets of a uniform size. The pellets are put back into manufacturing battery cases and the process begins again.
    2. Lead- Lead grids, lead oxide and other lead parts are cleaned and heated within smelting furnaces. The molten melted lead is then poured into ingot molds. After a few minutes, the impurities float to the top of the still molten lead in the ingot molds. These impurities are scraped away and the ingots are left to cool. When the ingots are cool, they’re removed from the molds and sent to battery manufacturers, where they’re re-melted and used in the production of new batteries.
    3. Sulfuric Acid- Old battery acid can be handled in two ways:
      1. The acid is neutralized with an industrial compound similar to household baking soda. Neutralization turns the acid into water. The water is then treated, cleaned, tested in a wastewater treatment plant to be sure it meets clean water standards.
      2. The acid is processed and converted to sodium sulfate, an odorless white powder that’s used in laundry detergent, glass and textile manufacturing.Lead acid batteries are closed-loop recycled, meaning each part the the old batteries is recycled into a new battery. It is estimated that 98% of all lead acid batteries are recycled.
  2. Alkaline batteries– Alkaline batteries such as (AAA, AA, C, D, 9V, etc.) are recycled in a specialized “room temperature,” mechanical separation process where the battery components are separated into three end products. These items are a zinc and manganese concentrate, steel, and paper, plastic and brass fractions. All of these products are put back into the market place for reuse in new products to offset the cost of the recycling process. These batteries are 100% recycled.

  3. Lithium Ion– Prior to the recycling process, plastics are separated from the metal components. The metals are then recycled via a high temperature metal reclamation (HTMR) process during which all of the high temperature metals contained within the battery feedstock (i.e. nickel, iron, manganese and chromium) report to the molten-metal bath within the furnace, amalgamate, then solidify during the casting operation. The low-melt metals (i.e. zinc) separate during the melting. The metals and plastic are then returned to be reused in new products. These batteries are 100% recycled.

  4. Nickel-Cadmium- Prior to the recycling process, plastics are separated from the metal components. The metals are then recycled via a high temperature metal reclamation (HTMR) process during which all of the high temperature metals contained within the battery feedstock (i.e. nickel, iron, manganese, and chromium) report to the molten-metal bath within the furnace, amalgamate, then solidify during the casting operation. The low-melt metals (i.e. zinc and cadmium) separate during the melting. The metals and plastic are then returned to be reused in new products. These batteries are 100% recycled.

  5. Nickel Metal Hydride– Prior to the recycling process, the plastics are removed from the cell portion. The cells go through a drying process to remove moisture (potassium hydroxide (KOH) electrolyte and H2O) from the cells. The drying process heats the cells in a time and temperature controlled manner via a proprietary and proven formula. Once these cells are dried they become a valuable feedstock for the stainless steel and or alloy manufacturing industries.  The metals and plastic are then returned to be reused in new products. These batteries are 100% recycled.

  6. Lithium Batteries– The contents of the batteries are exposed using a shredder or a high-speed hammer depending on battery size. The contents are then submerged in caustic (basic not acidic) water. This caustic solution neutralizes the electrolytes, and ferrous and non-ferrous metals are recovered. The clean scrap metal is then sold to metal recyclers to offset the cost of recycling these batteries. The solution is then filtered. The carbon is recovered and pressed into moist sheets of carbon cake. Some of the carbon is recycled with cobalt. The lithium in the solution (lithium hydroxide) is converted to lithium carbonate, a fine white powder. What results is technical grade lithium carbonate, which is used to make lithium ingot metal and foil for batteries. It also provides lithium metal for resale and for the manufacture of sulfur dioxide batteries.

  7. Mercury Batteries– The batteries and heavy metals are recovered through a controlled-temperature process. It’s important to note: the percentage of mercuric oxide batteries is decreasing since the passage of the Mercury-Containing Rechargeable Battery Management Act (The Battery Act) of 1996. This act prohibits, or otherwise conditions, the sale of certain types of mercury-containing batteries (i.e., alkaline manganese, zinc carbon, button cell mercuric-oxide and other mercuric-oxide batteries) in the United States.

  8. Zinc-Carbon– Zinc-carbon (AAA, AA, C, D, 9V, etc.) and zinc-air batteries are recycled in the same way as alkaline batteries or by using high temperature metal reclamation (HTMR) method to melt the metals. These metals are then reused in new products. These batteries are 100% recycled.

  9. Zinc-Air– Zinc-carbon (AAA, AA, C, D, 9V, etc.) and zinc-air batteries are recycled in the same way as alkaline batteries or by using high temperature metal reclamation (HTMR) method to melt the metals. These metals are then reused in new products. These batteries are 100% recycled.

My Cat Is Not Zero Waste

09.21.2016

0800

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Trying to create zero trash for my cat is almost impossible. I’ve tried, but due to some medical conditions, it’s virtually impossible. I have a male cat and he was neutered when he was younger. Unfortunately, male cats who are neutered, are more prone to urinary tract infections and therefore, require special diet food that has a low sodium content. Also, in order for him to not develop another urinary tract infection, he needed fresh water constantly. We bought him a small drinking fountain which he helped himself to. These two requirements produced empty tin cans of cat UTI management food as well as charcoal filters.

As he aged, he developed Diabetes and requires insulin shots twice a day. This required insulin medication as well as insulin needles. He’s a large cat, but he’s always been a large cat so weight gain was his genetic default. Lucky for us, he’s always been an indoor and outdoor cat, so he always used the backyard as his giant toilet. But with him being an indoor and outdoor cat, he required flea medication. I’ve been asked “Why don’t you just make him an indoor cat? It would cut back on the flea medication trash that you produce.” But forcing an animal to stay inside when we clearly have outdoor roaming space for him seemed unnatural to me. I wanted him to roam free and go play outside when we weren’t home. So the diabetes and flea medication produced tin cans of glucose management food, insulin needles, insulin medication and the flea applicators.

Over the years, he also got into a few fights with other cats or raccoons that roamed the neighborhood. For those special occasions, he required medication and sometimes even surgery which produced trash as well. I usually return the pill bottles and jars to the veterinarian so they can dispose of it. I’m lucky that I live in an area that allows free medical waste dumping, and even if I didn’t, I know my veterinarian will collect the medical waste from his patients for a small fee.

As for toys, he never loved to play with a lot of toys. In fact, he really only likes his catnip pillow, shoelaces and metal chain necklaces . I had a catnip plant that I grew for him awhile back and once in awhile, I would dry the catnip leaves and compost the old catnip. I would then refill his pillow with new dry catnip. Unfortunately he liked it so much that he would lay on it and eventually crushed the life out of it. That too went into the compost bin. I’m lucky that he’s easily entertained. He also never wanted his own bed, he always just adopted any place in the house to sleep.

Facts:

  1. Urinary Tract Infection Medical History = Prescription Diet c/d canned food & Filtered water with charcoal filters
  2. Diabetes II Medical History= Glucose Management m/d canned food, insulin needles, insulin medication
  3. Indoor & Outdoor cat = Advantage Flea Medication BUT no litter box
  4. Entertainment = Catnip pillow, but I refill the catnip pillow with fresh catnip. He just likes to play with shoelaces and metal chain necklaces.

So the recyclable items that I do produce are the tin cans of UTI food and diabetic food. His insulin medication, insulin needles and other medications are also recycleable, but considered medical waste recycling. The charcoal filters and advantage flea medication are the items that do end up in the landfill. I actually have a separate jar of trash that comes from owning a cat. He also no longer uses the water fountain that used the charcoal filters, he requests fresh water from the faucet when he’s thirsty with a drawn out meow.

Trying to own a pet and not produce trash from them is quite difficult. I know this much, to take on a pet is a great amount of responsibility and it is not a simple responsibility to ignore. I am not a veterinarian and I do not know what nutrients he needs and the sufficient amount of each nutrient and vitamin, therefore I do not attempt to make cat food on my own. He has very few toys, only wants his catnip pillow, which I will stuff with fresh catnip and compost the old catnip.

I started this journey almost five years ago, so I’ve compiled a nice amount of Advantage Flea Medication applicators for cats as well as charcoal filters. He stopped using the water fountain about three years ago, so he hasn’t produced anymore trash from that. He probably won’t last through the end of this year, but it’s amazing to see how much owning a pet can add to your trash collection. Once you lay it all out and calculate the amount of trash that’s produced, it’s an eye opening realization of what you’re contributing to the landfill.

Sometimes You’ll Produce Trash

08.31.2016

0800

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There are times when producing trash is inevitable. Living a zero waste life and the steps leading up to an efficient zero waste lifestyle will produce at least some trash. One way or another, it’s not necessarily a crushing result. If you can find a way to get an efficient zero waste lifestyle routine without producing trash, then that’s great, but for those who are attempting it, and may get frustrated with the goal of ‘no trash’ in mind and yet that is the result; don’t be too hard on yourself.

When I started this journey, there were a lot of blog posts talking about how those people and households were living efficient zero waste lifestyles, but no one talked about the journey and mistakes it took to get there. I even wrote a blog post about what to do first if you want to start this lifestyle, Seven Tips To Begin A Zero Waste Life. I made mistakes as I started this journey as well. My mistakes included testing out products that were recommended, which I discovered to be inefficient, as well as starting out using one product and finding new, package-free versions of the product later on. I still haven’t found solutions for certain products such as my hair ties and am still on the hunt for certain ingredients in bulk to make certain condiments.

The whole point of this journey is to find that happy medium where you can live that efficient zero waste lifestyle and that you’re content with it. Moving forward and making progress is always good. Even if you don’t make great strides everyday. The desire is to at least take positive and productive steps towards this lifestyle. There will be critics, there will be naysayers, but progress is key. Keep growing and evolving as you venture further along this zero waste journey.

Dining Out- Zero Waste Leftovers

08.29.2016

0800

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When I go out to eat, I will bring along a 3-tier Tiffin Carrier or a 2-tier Tiffin Carrier, depending on the type of restaurant I’m going to. If the dishes at the restaurant tend to contain large portions or give a variety in the meal, I’ll take the larger carrier. If the restaurant serves very simple and small dishes, or if I know that there will be a small amount to take home, due to habits, then I’ll bring along the smaller carrier. These carriers are very useful for separating different flavors of foods when desired and it also helps if you’re bringing home leftovers from different people, that way, no one gets their dishes mixed up and there’s no need for separate boxes.

When I first started using the tiffin carrier, I would hide it in my large shoulder bag, and at the end of the meal, I’d basically bust it out. There was a level of awkwardness to this action, but my family understood my intentions. It’s not necessary to use a box JUST for transport from the restaurant to home. I think that’s a waste, because you don’t need that extra box in the first place. You can always move the food from the carrier tray, onto tupperware and heat up later to eat. That extra disposable box from the restaurant to our home is only use for transportation. Granted, you may find a use for the disposable box later, but overall, trash is still being produced and manufactured for this simple step.

I do have two small separate sauce containers that came with the tiffin carriers, but I rarely use them. They’re also made of metal and the lid doesn’t have a tight seal, but I don’t really “bring home sauces”. I usually just pour whatever sauce from my meal right onto the food I’m bringing home. It’s one extra piece of the carrier set that I’d rather use for containing spices or other items at home.

I think these tiffin carriers are a great way of transporting leftover dishes anywhere. You can even pack lunches or small sets of meals in these if you wanted to. You can technically use these carriers for just about everything that involves a lot of smaller pieces. I actually use one as my sewing kit, which I’ll give you the link to right here, My Sewing Kit.
You may feel awkward in the beginning when using these, I certainly did. But it’s all for a good cause and you won’t produce that extra piece of trash (which can’t be recycled due to the oils and food particles stuck to it). You’ll save one less item to throw away which will end up in the landfill.

Trash Update

06.27.2016

0800

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So here is an update of my trash I’ve  produced since the beginning of this year:

  1. Gillette Disposable razor
  2. Clothing tags
  3. Plastic packaging and plumbing tape from a towel rack shelf I installed in the bathroom
  4. A plastic bag from a gift I received from a friend who traveled to Taiwan and brought back Oolong Tea.
  5. Hair ties after the rubber structure broke (I’m still trying to figure out how to contain my hair during workouts so I don’t have to use these)
  6. Fruit Stickers, which was my lack of paying attention to the fruit I bought and brought home.
  7. Dental floss due to the fact that I have round shaped teeth and I have to use dental floss in order to get to the food between the crevasses of my teeth. I wish I didn’t have to, but I have no choice.
  8. Elastic trim sewn into fabric, from making produce bags out of old linen sheets. These pieces are the elastic edges from the fitted sheets, which started to crumbled due to the age of the elastic. These elastic edges were so dry that the interior rubber material started to crumble and became a powder.
  9. Plastic seal, from a Vitamin E facial serum that I used.
  10. Plastic electrical prong covers from two power strips I had purchased.

I should be doing better but I was making a lot of small projects earlier on this year. I kept all of my extra fabric and thread from when I made a bunch of my cloth produce bags so I plan to reuse those materials in the future. Hopefully I’ll be able to produce less trash next year at this time. I’ll have an update of my trash collection in a few months and we’ll see where this pile ends up.

Lead By Example

05.18.2016

0800

So I got a new job recently and there was a lot of new people to get to know and a new environment to get used to. I also had a new routine to make a part of my day-to-day life. With my new job, my day gets started pretty early which also means that I don’t make my morning coffee at home like I used to. I usually make my morning coffee in my French Press. At my job the company has a Keurig machine, and my co-workers love using it. I love my morning coffee and I like getting my started with a warm drink.

However, I disliked using the Keurig machine due to the painful reputation that Keurig cup pods go straight to the landfill. Instead of giving up coffee and leaving out a part of my day that I love to experience, I had to find an answer to the Keurig cup pod dilemma. I started researching on different ways to recycle these pods and I came across two different comapnies. The first company is TerraCycle and they have a Coffee Capsules Zero Waste Box where you can pay a small fee for the box and then print out a packaging slip to send back to TerraCycle when the box is full. The other company I found is called Grounds To Grow On which is a part of the Keurig company. For a small fee, they will drop off a Grounds To Grow On box and pick up when the box is full. This program offers two different sized boxes, so one can sit on the kitchen counter or sit on the floor. I prefered using the Grounds To Grow On program due to the benefit of the free delivery and pick up advantage.

I didn’t know how my co-workers would feel about the program because it wasn’t free. We would be paying for Keurig to haul away our used pods AFTER they already bought the machine and still continue to buy the pods. So essentially, they would pay for more trash to be hauled away. I spent a week to get to know my co-workers and the culture at my new job. During that time, I continued to collect the Keurig cup pods on my own knowing full well that the company may not want to join the recycling program. I knew that even if they didn’t want to join, I would join and recycle the pods myself.

A few of my co-workers did see me bring pods back to my desk, but I always just smiled and kept walking, I honestly don’t know what they thought I was doing. Maybe they just thought the new kid on the block was just strange and liked to collect trash. At the end of the first week, I finally brought it up to the office manager and she researched the program. I found out that a lot of my co-workers were on board with the program and saw my cardboard box of Keurig pods that I had been collecting. They were all very supportive of the program and I was relieved to hear it. There is now a new location to toss the used pods into, and I couldn’t be happier.

Living a zero waste life isn’t an easy lifestyle for everyone to adapt to. It takes time, energy, and sacrifice to even start it. Not everything we eat is organic, not everything we own is toxic free and even everyday routines and possessions are used for the most part, out of convenience. The speed at which we tend to run our lives moves so fast, that it’s sometimes hard to take time out to adjust your day-to-day routine, but if you tackle one task a day, it eventually becomes a smooth and less stressful ride through life. For me, this  issue with the Keurig cup pods was a task I wanted to tackle. The other alternative answer to this problem is to not use the machine at all, not order pods anymore, but who am I to demand that everyone in the office give up their expensive machine? With this Grounds To Grow On program, perhaps it will spark a conversation to convert the office into a zero waste office.

So lead by example. Lead by example knowing that you might be standing alone. I signed up for the program, knowing full well that the office may not want to join it. I was prepared to be known as the Keurig Cup pod collector of the office and I would pay for the program on my own, but is that a very big sacrifice? In the overall scheme of the Keurig cup pod crisis, paying a small fee to have this specific trash hauled away , doesn’t seem that bad. At least with every sip of coffee I made from that machine, I know I was trying to do my part in the larger Keurig cup pod pollution.

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A Zero Waste Bathroom

01.16.2016

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So I filled out the “About” section of my website yesterday and I know I wrote that I’m trying to live a zero waste lifestyle. I use the word trying because the system isn’t perfect. As we all change and get older, our needs change, whether it be mental needs, health needs or the needs of our loved ones. So this is the trash I’ve accumulated so far in 2016:

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I started trying to live a zero waste lifestyle in 2010 and over the years my system became more refined. I found better alternatives for current products I use and even had to opt out of certain products. To give you a better perspective of what I gave up, I made a list: (of what I could remember)

Bathroom In The Past:

  1. Tampons (Tampax)
  2. Scented bedroom spray (Bed Bath & Beyond)
  3. Bug spray for your body (OFF)
  4. Face wash (Clearsil)
  5. Deodorant (Secret Invisible solid)
  6. Toothpaste (Colgate)
  7. Toothbrushes (made of plastic that would end up in the landfill)
  8. Candles (Bed Bath & Beyond)
  9. Band aids (BAND-AID)
  10. Antibiotic ointment (Neosporin)
  11. Nail polish (from wherever)
  12. Nail polish remover (store brand)
  13. Shampoo bottles (Garnier)
  14. Conditioner bottles (Garnier)
  15. Harmful bathroom cleaning sprays (Scrub/409)
  16. Toilet cleaner (Scrubbing Bubbles)
  17. Jewlery cleaning liquid (La Sonic Jewelery Cleaner Concentrate)
  18. Cotton balls (store brand)
  19. Cotton swabs to clean my ears (Q-tips)
  20. Candles (to make the bathrom smell nice)
  21. Fancy body lotions from (Victoria’s Secret)
  22. Face lotion (Neutrogena)
  23. Rubbing alcohol (store brand)
  24. Toilet Paper (Store brand- packaged in plastic)
  25. Make-up (chap stick/lipstick/eye shadow/eyeliner/mascara)
  26. Disposable razors (Gillette)
  27. Dental Floss (Oral-B SuperFloss Dental Floss)

Bathroom During the Present: (Product details can be found under: Store> Store Link)

  1. Vinegar
  2. Toilet paper (wrapped in paper)
  3. Dr. Bronner’s soap bars (which I use for 6 different household cleaning tasks)
  4. Deodorant crystal
  5. Baking Soda
  6. Stainless steel seasoning container (to contain my baking soda)
  7. Compostable toothbrushes
  8. Citrus essential oil
  9. Keeper Moon Cup
  10. Dental floss (ECO-dent)
  11. Bulk lotion
  12. Gauze and paper tape
  13. ALBA Sunblock
  14. Pumice Stone & Wash rag
  15. Sage leaves (I burn sage to release the aroma and use it as a cleansing method )

I think that’s pretty much the entire list. If I’ve left out anything I’ll come back to edit it. This is what my bathroom looks like now:

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From the list of items I used to buy, the one criteria I needed each product to pass was the plastic packaging issue. Now I buy items packaged in glass or stainless steel OR paper (and not the glossy kind of paper- just raw paper). I have seen bulk soap sold in stores, but they always have a sticker price tag attached to them, which is not recyclable. I use my Dr. Bronner’s soap for cleaning my bathroom, as a body wash, as a face wash, pet shampoo, laundry detergent, and dish washing soap. With the amount of use I get from one bar of soap, I think this investment pays for itself. I now only use candles in my emergency kit in case of a power outage. My list also was tested with the help of another blog called “The Zero Waste Home” with Bea Johnson and her family. I followed a majority of what she suggested but there were a few that I did not agree with. If you want to check them out, here is the link The Zero Waste Home

There are a few hang ups with this system that still doesn’t make it completely 100% zero waste, such as sunblock and make up. However I did discover a company called TerraCycle who will let you mail them certain trash to be reused into other items as long as you join one of their brigades. Check them out here TerraCycle- Outsmart Waste Currently I’m on their wait list for their Personal Care and Beauty Brigade.