Go Green in Every Room: Low Waste Kitchen

kitchen

There are many easy ways to reduce waste in the home, and one of the best places to start is somewhere most people spend a lot of their time: the kitchen. Taking simple actions such as choosing reusable bakeware over disposable plastics, or replacing single-use items with washables are a great way to start.

Be an Earth-Friendly Baker

Many recipes for baked treats call for a special type of pan and a special way to line the pan when baking. Silicone baking mats are non-stick, easy to use, and come in a variety of sizes useful for lining many types of pans. These mats replace the need for tin foil or parchment paper in baking, and also make a pan easier to wash when you’re all done. When choosing the right pan to bake in, look for something durable that can be used many times, and avoid single-use tins, which don’t hold up and create unnecessary waste.

How to Clean up the Mess

When you’re done cooking or baking, try cleaning up with washable towels and a homemade cleaning solution. Washable cloth towels are a great replacement for paper towels. Over time they work out to be less expensive than their paper counterpart and they eliminate a significant amount of waste. Many common household products such as white vinegar, essential oils, or baking soda can be mixed to create simple cleaning solutions that help you clean up without the chemicals. This article provides chemical-free DIY cleaning solution mixtures for a variety of different surface types in your home. Lastly, try placing your homemade cleaning solution in a glass or plastic spray bottle for easy use and storage.

The Green — and Tasty — Benefits of Local Produce

tomatoes

Food mileage – the distance food travels to reach your plate – has increased fourfold since the 1960s.

While there is no certification label or specific definition to buying “local,” you can identify where your food is coming from by checking the packaging or signage at the grocery store. Choosing local produce at the store or farmers market, has many benefits including:

Lower Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Food is transported around the world by truck, cargo ship, airplane and rail, all of which release carbon dioxide. Buying from local farms means lower transportation-related emissions and environmental impact.

Healthier Food

Eating fresh produce maximizes its taste and nutritional value. A University of California study showed that vegetables can lose 15 to 55 percent of vitamin C within a week of being picked. Because food grown locally spends less time en route to its destination, it can be picked when it is ripe.

Strengthen the Local Economy

Now more than ever it is important to support local small businesses, including farms, within San José and surrounding communities. Buying directly from the farmer through a CSA box or at the famers’ market helps supports local businesses directly and keeps your dollars in the local economy.

Please Don’t Recycle Your Face Masks and Gloves

latex gloves heart

In the midst of a global pandemic, it’s not surprising that the use of disposable face masks and gloves has been on the rise. While these items of personal protective equipment (PPE) are helping to reduce the transmission of the coronavirus, they are also causing problems for our waste streams when disposed of improperly. All face masks, gloves and other PPE should be tossed in the garbage whether or not they have been used.

When these items are tossed into the recycling they are taken to a Materials Recovery Facility to be sorted by material type. Sanitation workers at these facilities have to remove these items from the sorting line — often by hand — because they are not recyclable. In addition, disposable masks with their elastic bands are more likely to get snagged in machinery where they will have to be removed by workers.

Help keep our essential sanitation workers safe by disposing of all face masks, gloves and other PPE in the garbage whether or not they have been used.

Plastic Free July: 3 Easy Ways to Avoid Plastic Every Day

plastic free picnic

July, with its long, sunshine-filled days is one of the warmest months of the year. Many of us celebrate this summer month by flocking to the beach, grilling in the backyard, picnicking, or spending more time outside. Going green this July, however, doesn’t mean any of that has to change. Reducing plastic consumption within the flow of daily activities is an easy step you can take that doesn’t take much extra time or effort. Here are a few plastic-free tips for taking on summer in style.

Alternative Packaging

Look for sunscreen options that come in a tin as opposed to a non-recyclable plastic tube. Lotion can also be purchased in bulk and stored in a reusable glass or plastic container. Many moisturizers are also available in solid bar form and can be kept in a reusable storage tin.

Reusable Picnic Ware

Who doesn’t love a crisp cold salad or some BBQ on a hot summer’s day? In order to make your picnic or takeout meal plastic-free, bring along washable napkins and reusable silverware. If you are bringing food from home, consider using a reusable container and plates to keep your picnic zero waste.

Bring A Bottle

Americans consume over 50 billion bottles of water are consumed in America each year. Of those, 80% are not recycled and end up in a landfill. Use a reusable water bottle when you need water on the go. If you’re not in love with the taste of your tap water, use a water filter. Second, if you need to grab a plastic water bottle in a pinch make sure to recycle it!

Want more plastic free ideas? Check out plasticfreejuly.org

Ask the Experts: How Can I Dispose of Charcoal?

grill
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Q: How Can I Dispose of Charcoal? Can it be Reused or Repurposed?

A: We all know what summer means: It’s time to get grilling! If you’re grilling with charcoal, make sure you follow these instructions to dispose of leftover coals and ashes safely.

How to Dispose of Charcoal

Allow ashes to cool or pour water onto them and stir thoroughly to speed up the process. After the ashes have fully cooled, wrap them in aluminum foil or place them in a small metal container, such as a coffee can. Then dispose of them in an outdoor garbage bin. Do not place ashes or coals near anything that could catch fire.

How to Reuse Charcoal

Want to put used charcoal to good use before tossing it? You can grill with charcoal more than once! Simply follow these steps:

  1. Once coals have cooled (see above), rake through used charcoal to dislodge extra ash.
  2. Empty loose ash from the grill.
  3. Add half the amount of new charcoal you would normally use to start the grill.
  4. Light the charcoal. Wait 5-10 minutes before adding food to the grill.

Skip the Disposable Foam Coolers this Summer

foam cooler

Warm weather means days by the water, at the park, and in the woods. Wherever you recreate, remember to practice social distancing. While outdoors, however, you will need to keep your snacks and beverages cool and fresh. The convenient choice is a foam cooler: they’re inexpensive and available at most grocery stores. However — like many convenient choices — foam coolers are not great for the planet.

The Popularity of Disposable Foam Coolers

In the 1950s, foam became a favorite for keeping hot things hot and cold things cold. People started using foam coolers because of convenience and affordability. Foam coolers also don’t grow mold or bacteria. To top it off, they’re disposable so you throw them in the garbage when you’re done! Perfect solution, right? Unfortunately they have a major drawback — lots of non-recyclable waste after just a few uses.

The Ugly, Indisposable Truth

Disposable is a funny word. When you dispose of foam, does it really disappear? By some estimates it takes up to 500 years or more for foam to biodegrade. One common estimate is that styrofoam can take up 30 percent of the space in some landfills. It’s also estimated that at least 20 percent of foam ends up as litter. The breakdown process is ugly, too. Foam breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces that can choke wildlife. As the sun heats it up, it emits toxic chemicals like methane.

Other Cool-er Options

Invest in a reusable cooler!

  • Basic foam cooler with hard plastic exterior and interior: an inexpensive option
  • Metal or durable plastic cooler: have it forever
  • Soft cooler: wear it over your shoulder
  • Backpack cooler: free up your hands and carry it farther

When you know which type you’d like to purchase, check to see if you can buy used online or at a thrift store. If buying new, look for quality durable products that will last. Many coolers have lifetime guarantees.

If you need a disposable cooler, there are biodegradable pulp-based coolers for one-time use. They’re convenient and sustainable. Put them in the yard trimmings cart/pile, or compost at home, and they decompose in weeks!

What if I Already Have a Foam Cooler?

Use any foam cooler you do have until you can’t anymore. Then dispose of it in the garbage or the City’s free Junk Pickup program.

Go Green in Every Room: Reducing Plastic in Your Bathroom

bar soap

One great, easy way to reduce your impact on the planet is to reduce your plastic consumption at home. This doesn’t mean big changes are in order. Slightly altering the products you purchase can help prevent unnecessary use of plastics throughout your home. Today, we’ll start with the bathroom.

Ditch the Bottles: Buy in Bulk

Many grocery or natural food stores now offer body products such as moisturizers, soap, or shampoo in bulk, the same way you can buy granola or dried foods. Purchase a bottle or container once — or even use one you already have — then wash and refill it when it’s time to get more product. As a bonus, buying products in bulk is usually less expensive than buying them by the bottle!

Consider Using Solid Bar Products

Bar soap and shampoo are increasing in popularity and work just as well as their bottled counterparts to keep your body and hair clean. Many bar soaps are wrapped in simple paper or a small plastic film — look for some without any packaging at all. Scientific American also reports that <a ‘ href=’https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/plugged-in/the-benefits-of-a-bar-of-soap-that-is/’ rel=”noopener noreferrer”>bar soap requires fewer resources to manufacture than liquid soap.

Choose Recycled or Renewable Packaging

Most plastic waste generated in the bathroom comes from the packaging of body products, medicine, toilet tissue, and other items. To reduce this waste, many eco-conscious companies are using recycled or renewable materials in their packaging. Keep an eye out for products that are replacing plastic with more eco-friendly materials like paper or bamboo.

The Bottom Line

Before you purchase your next bathroom product, see if you can find it in bulk or bar form. If not, check the label to see if you can find it in recycled or renewable packaging. Staying aware and informed on the packaging of your products can help you save money!

Avoid Food Waste, Save Money

banana

With the COVID-19 pandemic closing many of the places we are accustomed to getting our meals, home cooking is having an unexpected moment. From people taking up baking as a new pastime, to families eating more meals together, there have been some unforeseen benefits to staying at home.

More meals cooked at home means more opportunities to reduce food waste — and save money at the same time. According to the USDA, the average American wastes 238 pounds of food per year — 21 percent of the food we buy — costing $1,800 per year. The good news is that most food waste is avoidable.

Check out our food waste page for a variety of tips on how you can eliminate food waste in your household and save money.

Tossing Takeout Containers — Garbage or Recycling?

takeout box

Ordering takeout from time to time during the COVID-19 pandemic is a great way to eat your favorite food, take a break from cooking and support local restaurants. When choosing a restaurant to order from, remember some are curbside or drive through pickup only, while others offer delivery. Whichever option you choose, you’ll likely end up with a few containers that need to be disposed of properly. Here’s a simple guide on how to dispose of each type of takeout container — keeping in mind that only containers not soiled by food or liquid are recyclable.

Need to dispose of plastic bags, plastic utensils or other items not listed above? Check out our handy Recycling Guide.

Eco-Conscious Ways to Show Your Mom Love on Mother’s Day While Social Distancing

mother's day card

May 10th offers a chance to show the moms of our lives just how much we appreciate them. Unlike in years past, social distancing is a factor this year. While this adds an extra challenge, it also provides a great opportunity to get creative.

Here are four ideas that are eco-friendly, keep you and your family safe and are sure to make mom smile:

  1. (Face)Time Together – What greater gift than spending quality time together? Since this won’t be possible for most of us this year, there are a plethora of options to set up a video call instead.
  2. Digital Photo Album – Upload a collection of family photos to a digital album or even make a slideshow, then send via email to mom. If you’re already planning on sending a greeting card you could include the photos on a memory card tucked inside.
  3. Greeting Card – Buy a greeting card at the store or make your own at home. Most greeting cards can be easily recycled, and some brands even make recycled-content options. Other eco-friendly options include making a homemade card or sending an eCard. Musical Greeting Cards are a lot of fun, but are not an eco-friendly option; they go in the eWaste bin.
  4. Send a Plant – If you can’t buy flowers due to store closures or are looking for a more sustainable option, consider a potted plant that can be enjoyed for years. Small online plant shops offer a great variety of plants and most are still open because they are operated from home.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there!