Aug 2017: Zero Waste Back to School
Know your ABC's and your RRR's!
1. The first step in a plan for Zero Waste Back-to-School is to go back into your storage closet, your boxes in the garage, your bins under the bed or your miscellaneous drawer in the kitchen - wherever you stashed the supplies that came home last year and take an inventory. Use your inventory to edit your shopping list carefully and avoid impulse buys. Practice the first R, toReduce,by buying only what you need.
2. Expand your inventory to include other families, friends, neighbors, or teammates. A mix of age groups will add variety and up the odds of finding that advanced middle school calculator or other obscure item on the list.
3. In this process, you may also find some things that you can Reuse. Have fun patching up an old 3-ring binder with duct tape or turning over a spiral notebook and using it from back to front. More fun ideas here.
4.When you do get ready to make a purchase, source items that are made from Recycledmaterials and consider investing in items that will last. Factor in the full life-cycle of the things you're buying and, where possible, avoid the ones that are designed to be disposable. Additional information here and here.
5. Don't forget reusable lunch bags and water bottles - an average student will generate the equivalent of his or her body weight in trash in a single school year using lunches prepared with disposable packaging.
6.Once you're settled into the new year, look for ways to help your school minimize waste. Pledge to use less paper by writing on both sides and using email to communicate between the classroom and home. Know where the school recycling bins are and how to use them. Teachers, contact the Recycling Center for help with information or signs, to schedule a classroom speaker, or to plan a Recycling Center tour.
July 2017: Zero Waste in the Backcountry
Back to school is the best time to go back It can be surprisingly hard to reduce waste in the backcountry. The outdoors are supposed to be simple, but even hard core zero wasters may find that they rely heavily on the amenities in their homes, like refrigerators and dishwashers, to minimize their discards. Here are a few tips and reminders to make it a little easier. Not surprisingly, even out in the wild, it's the 3 R's - Reduce, Reuse, Recycle - that serve as the best guideposts:
- Reduce by borrowing gear from a friend, neighbor or fellow enthusiast instead of buying new.
- Repair old gear rather than discarding. See the Teton County Reuse Resource Guide for local repair, reuse and donation resources.
- Remember reusable picnic and camping supplies and maybe even a refillable propane container.
- For fire starter, instead of burning newspaper, which has value as a recyclable, start your campfire with dryer lint and toilet paper rolls. These are low value materials that don't have a higher use.
- When it comes to food, planning ahead, buying in bulk, and preparing as much as possible at home can cut down on the extra packaging (and extra cost) of last minute shopping. Make your own ideas: gorp, pancake batter, and even ice!
- Carry home any recyclables or compostables if the place you're visiting doesn't offer these services.
- Use your outing as an opportunity to measure your waste-print. Packing-It-In andPacking-It-Out provides a great visual by which to measure your habits, cut down on waste where you can, and celebrate the things you are doing well. If you really get into it, scroll down to January 2017 and revisit the household waste audit activity.
When you get home, note that the Recycling Center accepts:
- Bear spray - drop-off in the red container by the west entrance
- Used batteries of all types - drop-off in the blue bins at the west entrance
- 16oz propane canisters - drop-off in the metal cage located on your left as you turn into the Recycling Center driveway (next to the cardboard bins)
- Smaller propane canisters for backcountry mini-stoves should be used completely and then recycled with tin cans
March 2017: Spring into REUSE
Reuse is the 2nd of the 3 R's. The R for when it's too late to Reduce but maybe too early to Recycle. It's the time for creativity and innovation. A time to rely on the resourcefulness within ourselves, our households and our community. By doing so, we have the opportunity to extend the life of a product in its original form, for as long as possible before expending the energy and resources to turn it into something else.
According to the organization We Hate To Waste, "Within products and packaging are embedded materials and energy that will go to waste if you dispose — even recycle or compost — prematurely. Don’t get rid of something before its time is really up. Opt for repairing rather than replacing or get those creative juices flowing and find a new niche for an item." See some of their ideas for repair and repurpose projects here.
Teton County possesses a wealth of Reuse opportunities through businesses and organizations that offer resale, donation, repair and other services. In fact, Teton County ISWR and several community partners are developing a Reuse Resource Guide for publication later this spring. If you are part of one of these businesses or organizations, please provide your contact information so that we can include you as a local reuse resource. Watch for an ad in the JH News and Guide mid-March with more information on how to participate.
In the meantime, before you toss an item into recycling or trash, consider ways in which it can be repaired, repurposed, resold, or otherwise reused - and tell us about it! Send an email to email@example.com. Need more inspiration? Try these:
Send Valentines, Stop Junk Mail!
Step 1 - Start the process with www.dmachoice.org. It's not immediate but very customizable.
Step 2 - Opt out of phonebook deliveries from Dex.
Step 3 - Ask your credit card companies not to sell your information by requesting to be put on their "in house" list.
Step 4 - Check with your post office about options to refuse or return unwanted solicitations.
Step 5 - Additional advice (and other terrific zero waste resources) available from Ecocycle.org
Step 6 - It won't stop the junk mail from coming, but it's better than buying new...? Get out your hot glue gun and turn junk mail and other discarded items into one-of-a-kind repurposed Valentine's greetings. Click here for ideas.
Household Waste Inventory
It's resolution time! The first step in establishing new habits or energizing commitments to old ones is to recognize your starting line. If your 2017 goals center around reducing household waste, here's an activity you might enjoy...
What you will need: a tarp, a pencil, a bathroom scale (optional)
and a typical day in your household, office, classroom or organization.
Let us know how it goes!
Email your results, photos, and any questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
And follow along throughout 2017 for monthly activities to build upon the results of your waste inventory and Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Compost more by this time next year.
Zero Waste Gift Wrap Ideas
It goes without saying that the holidays are a time when many of us (in a hurry) are tempted to relax our Reduce-Reuse-Recycle regimen and get carried away with the season. Statistics show that 1 million extra tons of waste is generated by Americans between Thanksgiving and Christmas, 25% more than at any other time during the year. It's understandable, but it doesn't have to be inevitable. A great place to cut down on unnecessary waste is in the materials used for gift wrap. Here are some tips and resources that will add to the quality of your gifts without having to be added to your trash bin.
Reusable gift bags - place your packages in a reusable bag that will last for many years to come. Bonus: make or buy reusable bags that incorporate repurposed fabrics.
Recyclable wrapping paper - traditional wrapping paper is not recyclable. It can contain hard to recycle dyes as well as numerous non-paper additives. Consider using repurposed or recyclable paper, such as the comic strip or sports page from the newspaper, your child's drawings from art class, or the pages of your 2016 calendar.
Tie a reusable bow - ribbon is not recyclable, but it can be reused if it's of lasting quality and can be easily untied and used again. Here are some creative ideas using kitchen twine that can be kept in a drawer and repurposed for any number of tasks.
Put it in a mason jar - much like reusable bags, these darlings of the zero waste movement make ideal containers for edible as well as non-edible gifts and then, in the new year, transition seamlessly into a kitchen pantry staple with infinite reuse potential. Here is one of many many examples found on Pinterest.com.
Styro-don't - it's no suprise that styrofoam is on the no-no list when it comes to zero waste. But you might not know about all of the creative alternatives to protect packages during shipping. Consider items that are already in your home. Toilet paper rolls cut into spirals, for instance, make springy cushions for your breakables.