How to Live Zero Waste

For most of us, zero waste is a lofty goal. The average American creates about 4.4 pounds of trash each day. Curious how someone can lead a life that creates almost no waste at all?

Bea Johnson is the author of Zero Waste Home: The Ultimate Guide to Simplifying Your Life by Reducing Your Waste. To get inspired, take a peek inside Johnson’s own zero waste home, and listen to her top advice on cutting back.

Keep Those Recycling Bins Closed!

closed bin lids

Keep your recycling bin lids closed! Not only does it prevent loose items from blowing away in the wind, it also keeps your recyclables dry.

This is especially important during a stormy season. Wet paper and cardboard cannot be recycled, and what’s worse, their wet, damaged fibers can contaminate other paper materials once they are combined.

So remember: Keep your recyclables safe and dry by keeping your bin lids closed!

5 Eco-Resolutions That Will Make a Difference

new year's resolutions

Craving some New Year’s resolutions for your lifestyle that will have a serious impact on the planet? Look no further — these five eco-resolutions will do the trick.

dine in restaurant1. Avoid takeout food — or do takeout differently.

Takeout food creates a ton of waste. Well, a lot more than a ton. The boxes, cartons, cups, lids, bags, silverware, straws, napkins, packaged mini condiments — they all add up. Containers and packaging make up over 23 percent of the material that gets landfilled in the U.S. each year.

What can you do about it? First, get takeout less often. Either eat at home, or when you want restaurant food, take the time to dine in. Second, bring your own reusable takeout container! Instead of having a restaurant box up your food (in a container that will make its way into your garbage, recycling or compost within minutes), bring a reusable food container. Jars are perfect for beverages and other liquids. Third, if you are going to order takeout regardless, and you don’t want to use your own containers, simply refuse the unnecessary items: the plastic bag, the silverware, the condiments you won’t use, the napkins you don’t need. Every bit of trash you refuse helps make a difference and change the status-quo.

One of our local Truckee restaurants, Red Truck, has a reusable to-go box program to reduce takeout waste. To participate, simply request your to-go meal in a reusable green box when you place your order. Just purchase your first box for $5, then bring it back to trade for a new one with your next order!

towels2. Trade in paper towels for real towels.

According to The Atlantic, the U.S. spends $5.7 billion each year on paper towels — that’s nearly as much as the rest of the world combined. The waste adds up. Paper towels and other kinds of tissue paper make up 7.4 billion pounds of waste a year. To give you an idea of how much that is, that’s the weight of nearly 30,000 blue whales — more whales than exist on our planet today.

In other parts of the world, fewer people rely on paper towels. Rags are a popular go-to, along with scrubbing brushes and sponges. So take the plunge — if you don’t have towels on hand, visit your local thrift store to find some. Worried about absorbency? Loose-woven fabrics will work best to mop up spills. Worried about cleanliness? If you wash and dry your towels on hot settings, they will be plenty clean enough to use over and over again.

shop secondhand3. Buy your clothing secondhand.

The fashion industry is far from environmentally innocent. Globally, more than 8 percent of greenhouse-gas emissions are produced by the apparel and footwear industries. Not only does the majority of clothing get tossed instead of donated or recycled — most of the clothing that gets tossed is also nowhere near worn out.

The good news? Buying one item of used clothing extends its life by an average of 2.2 years. And by buying used instead of new, you’re reducing electricity use, and water use, greenhouse gas emissions, plus the amount of plastics used to make synthetic clothing. It isn’t just environmentally friendly — often, you can buy higher quality clothing for a fraction of its original price, so you’re getting more value from the money you spend.

You can find used clothing at secondhand stores, consignment shops, vintage boutiques, thrift shops, and resale websites. As far as online vendors go, ThredUp, Poshmark, The RealReal, eBay and depop are popular choices. Used clothing stores are all part of a growing industry called “recommerce.” Recommerce is a $20 billion industry, and it’s growing faster than sales of new clothing.

repair4. Don’t toss it, repair it.

Over the last 100 or so years, the U.S. has been slowly cultivating a culture of disposability. Even in the 60s, 70s and 80s, repairing an item was far more common than it is now. The disposable mentality we have is partly due to how cheap everything has become — clothing, electronics and appliances are all more affordable than they used to be. It makes sense that someone would rather replace a cheap, defective item than pay to have it repaired by a specialist.

However, the fix-it culture we lost touch with is making a rebound, and for good reason. We simply have too much trash, with the average American generating 4.4 lbs of waste each day. Instead of tossing items that need to be repaired, more people are trying to fix them.

So the next time you come across something you have that’s broken, think of how you could fix it. Can you do it yourself, using an iFixit manual or a YouTube video? Is there a local repair cafe or fix-it workshop you could visit to get help from a local expert? Keep Truckee Green hosts Fixit Clinics at the Truckee Roundhouse — look for the next one in April! Or if it is something a tailor, shoe repair shop, or electronics shop could help you with, look for one nearby. Every time you prevent an item from making its way to the landfill you are making a difference.

collection reminders5. Sign up for Collection Reminders!

When you sign up for our collection reminders, not only do you get an email each week reminding you when it’s time to put out your cart(s), you’ll also get a weekly tip on how to be a better recycler and live a greener lifestyle! By following our tips, you can feel good about reducing your carbon footprint all year long. Sign up for collection reminders here!

Ditch the Takeout Waste — Here’s How

Napkins, plastic cutlery, condiment packets, to-go boxes, cups, lids, straws, bags — the amount of waste created by takeout food is huge. Mostly, these are single-use items that go into the trash within minutes or even seconds of getting them.

Takeout food can be delicious, but it can also be super wasteful. In the U.S., single-use items make up 10 percent of all our waste.

One of our local Truckee restaurants, Red Truck, is tackling takeout waste with a reusable to-go box program. With a $5 one-time fee, you can participate in the reusable box program:

  1. Whenever you order your food to-go, ask for your meal in a reusable green box.   
  2. Bring back your box the next time you come in, and trade it for a new box with your next order.
  3. Repeat!

Get more tips on how you can reduce your takeout waste by watching this video.

 

Truckee Christmas Tree Collection

christmas tree

Recycle your Christmas tree! The week of January 14 -18, put your Christmas tree out on your regular trash day for collection. Trees should be exposed to obvious view and clear of snow to be collected. Note that collection is free of charge on your regular collection day during the above noted dates, but subject to additional charge prior or thereafter.

  • Trees should be cut into 3-foot segments.
  • All lights, tinsel, ornaments and stands must be removed from the trees.
  • No flocked or painted trees will be accepted.

 

OR, between December 26 and January 18, drop off your Christmas tree anytime at one of the below locations. Place trees inside the TTSD bins. Clean, undecorated trees only, please!

Tahoe Donner Clubhouse
Map & Directions

High School Soccer Fields
Map & Directions

Glenshire Clubhouse
Map & Directions

Truckee Airport (Soaring and Aviation Way)
Map & Directions

 

The Best Way to Get Rid of All Your Holiday Gift Wrap

holiday gift wrap

The winter holidays are here, and they’re brimming with holiday cheer. Unfortunately, the winter holidays are also brimming with waste! Here in the U.S., we generate an extra one million tons of waste between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. Trash might not be at the top of your holiday priorities, but this quick guide will give you all the information you need to dispose of gift wrap correctly — and even help you reduce the waste you create in the first place.

Wrapping Paper

Wrapping paper cannot be recycled because of its glossy coating. Toss it in the trash.

Reduce: Don’t toss wrapping paper after it’s been used — fold it and put it away for next year. If you want to cut down on waste even further, wrap your presents with newspaper or other scrap paper that is not glossy and could be recycled.

You can also consider switching to reusable fabric. Wrapping gifts in fabric is both beautiful and eco-friendly. It’s very popular in Japan, where they call it furoshiki. Download this PDF guide to learn how to wrap anything by furoshiki. Or, check out Pinterest for more fabric-wrapping ideas.

Bows, Ribbon and Tinsel

Bows, ribbon and tinsel cannot be recycled. Toss them in the trash.

Reduce: Save your decorations and reuse them next year! Bows can always be taped onto a new package. You can also add used decorations to your arts and crafts supply for a future project.

Gift Bags

Gift bags aren’t always recyclable. If your gift bag is glossy, that means it’s made from a plastic-paper combination, and it needs to go in the trash. If your gift bag isn’t glossy, and it doesn’t have metallic foil or glitter, it can be recycled. Remove all ribbons and bows before putting it in your recycling.

Reduce: Return your gift bag to the sender to reuse, or save the gift bag and regift it next year. Gift bags can also be handy for storing items around the house or bringing things along on car trips.

Tissue Paper

Tissue paper cannot be recycled. Toss it in the trash.

Reduce: Save your tissue paper for next year if it’s in OK shape. If it’s a little on the battered side, save it to use as packing material the next time you’re sending a package or putting something into storage.

You can also skip buying tissue paper altogether. Try cutting up an old magazine or other recyclable paper (such as regular paper or even newspaper) to use for your gifts instead.

Want more ideas for how to make your holiday eco-friendly? Check out our guide to minimalist gift-giving.

How the Plastic in Our Clothes Is Polluting Our Water

plastic in our clothes

Communities in California have been rallying around the issue of plastic pollution, addressing major culprits from plastic bags to straws to water bottles. One huge culprit that hasn’t been addressed yet is the plastic in our clothes — simply by washing them, we’re polluting our water.

How is that possible? About 60 percent of all clothing in recent years has been made from synthetic fabrics — polyester, nylon, and acrylic, to name a few. Unlike clothing made from natural fabrics, such as cotton, these materials are made from plastic fibers that won’t ever fully biodegrade. Instead, they’ll continue to break down into smaller and smaller pieces of plastic. Over time, this plastic will accumulate in our water, our soil and our bodies.

One load of laundry is estimated to shake loose anywhere from 1,900 to 200,000 plastic microfibers. The microfiber-full water from our laundry machines travels to nearby water treatment plants, where some of these fibers are removed. However, most of them are too small to be filtered out of the water. The rest of the microfibers go on to enter rivers, lakes and oceans.

A recent study showed that over 80 percent of tap water tested positive for plastic fibers. Scientists aren’t completely sure what the health risks of consuming plastic microfibers are. However, studies have shown in zooplankton, microfiber consumption affects growth and reproduction. A similar study on crabs showed that those eating a small amount of microfibers ate less overall and had less energy.

So if we’re tired of drinking our plastic clothes, what can we do about it?

  1. Purchase clothing made from natural fibers whenever possible, and avoid synthetic fabrics.
  2. Wear — and wash — synthetic clothes less frequently.
  3. Use front-loading laundry machines, because they loosen fewer fibers than top-loaders.
  4. Use liquid laundry soap instead of powder soap.
  5. Wash clothes on cold water instead of hot. Hot water is tougher on them, and causes more fibers to loosen.
  6. If you have the means, consider installing a home water filter for microfibers.
  7. Try using a device to collect the fibers in your washing machine, such as a Cora Ball or a Guppyfriend.
  8. Make sure to put dryer lint in the trash — never wash it down the drain.

Still curious? Learn more about how you can reduce the impact of clothing on the environment.

You Can Recycle Plastic Bags, But Not at the Curb

When you put plastic bags in your curbside recycling carts, they won’t get recycled. But this doesn’t mean you can’t recycle plastic bags. In fact, because plastic bags are a top pollutant and dangerous to marine life, they are one of the most important materials to recycle.

Plastic bags and other film plastics include grocery store bags, bread bags, produce bags, newspaper bags, packaging overwrap, and Ziploc bags. Bring these items to the white plastic bag containers outside our local Save Mart and Safeway stores to be recycled. Or, visit https://www.plasticfilmrecycling.org/ to find another drop-off location near you.

Plastic trash bags and blue bags are also included in the film plastic category. To avoid using blue bags, sign up to receive a blue recycling cart, being introduced to Truckee neighborhoods 2018-2020. When you dispose of your recyclables into your blue cart, do not bag them. Your recyclable materials should go directly into your cart without using a plastic bag. Tip: Line your household container with a paper bag or newspaper to avoid messes!

Better yet, avoid using film plastics all together: Purchase reusable grocery bags and produce bags, and use reusable containers instead of Ziplocs! Moreover, avoid plastic packaging when making purchases at the store.

Watch this video to learn more about plastic bag recycling.

Wasting Food at Thanksgiving? Not This Year

thanksgiving food

Thanksgiving is a great holiday, full of delicious home-cooked food, quality time with friends and family, and sometimes a little football! It’s also all about being grateful — and what better way to be grateful than by sharing a delicious meal with your favorite people?

But on a holiday that’s all about gratitude, it’s surprising how much food can be wasted. Unfortunately, it’s pretty common — as much as 40 percent of food in America goes to waste. And the amount of waste we generate over the holidays is 25 percent more than during the rest of the year.

Don’t worry — by following a few of our tips, your Thanksgiving celebration can practice more gratitude for food than ever.

1. Estimate how much food you’ll need to make in advance. Make a guest list and ask everyone to RSVP so you have an accurate headcount. Then, use the NRDC’s Guest-imator, which will help you plan portions based on how many guests you’re expecting. If that seems too confusing, try these guidelines from The Spruce.

2. Plan fewer side dishes, especially ones that only a couple of people will want. Make sure your side dishes are ones you would personally enjoy eating as leftovers once the big day is over.

3. Shop smart. Buy groceries you know you’ll use based on your recipes, and calculate the quantities you need ahead of time. That way you won’t have leftover ingredients that you don’t have time to use.

4. Less peeling, less work! When it comes to vegetables such as potatoes and carrots, skip the peeling. Vegetable skins have a lot of nutritional value, and they just need to be rinsed clean. Plus, if you peel less, you’ll make less food waste, and you’ll have less work to do! Who doesn’t want Thanksgiving cooking to be easier?

5. Assign your guests specific dishes to bring. If everyone has a specific dish to bring, you won’t end up with duplicate dishes (that won’t get eaten).

6. Make plans for your leftovers. The possibilities for Thanksgiving leftovers are endless, and far from boring — take a look at this list by Taste of Home for inspiration. Do you always end up with leftover turkey and bread? Make some extra cranberry sauce for turkey sandwiches! Once you have a plan in place, you’ll be more likely to follow through. If you don’t think you’ll be able to use up all your leftovers in time, freeze them and enjoy that turkey whenever you’re in the mood.

7. Send leftovers home with guests in reusable food containers, or even in the containers they brought their side dishes in.

8. Compost your food scraps. No matter how hard you try, you’re always going to end up with a few scraps here and there. (Onion skins, anyone?) Put them to good use by tossing them in a home compost or worm bin.

Happy Thanksgiving!

America Recycles Day

America Recycles Day is November 15th. This day is the perfect time to recognize how much recycling helps our country and our planet.

Recycling is a big job. In the U.S., recycling and reuse activities provide 757,000 jobs and produce $36 billion in wages each year. All these jobs and wages go to a good cause — according to the EPA, the U.S. is able to keep 34.7 percent of its trash out of the landfill through recycling and composting.

In honor of America Recycles Day, challenge yourself to find new ways to use less and recycle more. Need some inspiration? Here are some ideas to get you started:

Happy recycling!