Every time I take a walk I see trash. Bits and pieces of this and that, large and small. For a long time I allowed the trash to ruin my day. I just couldn’t understand why people would simply toss something on the ground.
Then it occurred to me that “trash happens”. Garbage bags break. The wind blows. Things fly out car windows. Dogs poop. Advertisements shoved under windshield wipers fly away. Get it? Trash Happens.
I decided to stop letting trash ruin my day. These days, I make it a personal mission to pick up trash and I invite you to do the same. Why? Because it feels good and it’s good for the environment. We can’t stop “Trash Happens”, but we can be part of the solution.
Why not try it? Jump on board and pick up some trash every time you’re out and about. You’ll be amazed at how great it feels.
It’s that time of year for summer picnics, get togethers and general outdoor enjoyment. Food and drink are inevitably a part of the festivities, which means many of us will default to disposables for serving because who wants to face collecting reusables to be washed later when you could be, I don’t know. . . playing volleyball or sipping margs (or both) instead?
This seems like a good time to offer Eco Patriots (and anyone else who is interested) some tips on zero waste summer fun. At the end of this article is a link to another article with some good info for minimizing waste at your outdoor extravaganza.
Please note in the article they offer up biodegradable disposables as a good alternate to reusable serving ware. Of course they mean compostable. This is just a hint of the confusion and misunderstanding in our industry in general. For more info on the distinction, check out this FAQ, and read under the compostable heading.
I happen to know a place where you can pick up some compostable foodservice items for your event. Mary Hubbard can help you place your order, if you ask nicely and give her plenty of notice before you actually need them. And no, they’re not free.
As every Eco-Products sales person knows well, striving for a zero waste event means ending up with a bag of recyclables, a bag of compostables, and maybe a very tiny bag of trash. It requires some extra set up and planning, but if you have access to commercial composting and a recycling program, it’s entirely possible. Here in Boulder, we are fortunate to have both. Here are some pointers:
- If you use any compostable servingware, use ALL compostable servingware. It really simplifies things to be able to say “if it touched food or drink, put it in the bin marked COMPOSTABLE.” Since bottles and cans are commonly recycled, a good goal is to recycle these, then compost everything else (although you’ll have to account for the random candy bar wrapper some teenager brought in).
- Three bin system. You’ll want well-marked bins (boxes, trash bins) for Recycle, Compost, & Landfill. It helps to tape samples of the actual compostable items to the compost bin, and a bottle and can on the recycle bin for easy reference. Or, make some posters if you’re feeling artsy fartsy. A visibly smaller landfill bin can help send the message this is the least desirable option. Note that Eco-Cycle rents bins for reasonable rates.
- Find a home for all three streams. Landfill and recycling are typically easy. If you need help finding a composter, contact Eco-Cycle if you’re in the Boulder area. They coordinate zero waste events all the time. Beyond the Front Range, check out www.findacomposter.com.
- If your event is large enough to have staff or volunteers, have a kick-off meeting explaining the zero waste thing and the 3 bin system. Yes, you’ll have to suffer the embarrassment of talking about it and may suffer a few “to near the Boulder bubble” jokes in the process. If there are no staff or volunteers, just spread the word to your pals.
- Expect to spend some time being a Trash Goalie to help folks figure out what goes in what bin. It isn’t rocket science, but people really benefit from a little guidance. Recruit some of your poor friends and family who have already suffered through your endless eco-jargon filled rants to help out.
- Don’t be a smarty pants or make people feel guilty for not knowing what to do at the bins. This will be a great learning experience for what our sales folks are ultimately up against. Plastic and foam have reigned for a long time, a plastic looking cup, even with the green swoop, still looks like trash to most people.
Read this article with more tips applicable to summer entertaining.
Did you know that there are SOCKS that are guaranteed for LIFE?
Today when something breaks, wears, or simply becomes obsolete it is quickly tossed and replaced by a newer, shinier and just-as-unreliable version. There are many drivers for this culture, including the fact cheap labor makes cranking out new products something that can be done with ease. There is also social pressure to always have “the latest and greatest”, making “old” products less desirable. Another big issue is that parts and accessories become hard to find or are incompatible between brands and models.
As our non-renewable resources continue to deplete, some in danger of running out altogether, it is crucial to find ways to make wares easily repairable or create items that simply never wear out. Luckily this idea is becoming a trend and it’s catching on fairly quickly.
Companies like Patagonia, Darn Tough Socks, and Dr. Martens are understanding this need, and offer free repairs when their merchandise breaks or simply wears out. They also build their products to last from the beginning making sure “that your gear has a long and interesting life.”
There is also a website, called IFIXIT that has thousands of step-by-step guides to fix everything from your leaking shower head to your Super Nintendo from 1991. They also sell the parts, tools, needed and have an answer forum to help you tackle the projects yourself.
So the next time you are purchasing a soccer ball for your favorite child or are ready to toss your favorite jacket because of a broken zipper, take a few moments to change the throwaway culture. If a sock can last a lifetime, so can anything else.
‘Tis the season for the holidays! For many of us the holidays are a time for gathering with family and friends and sharing plenty of food, drink and merriment. And for many households, more food is prepared than can be consumed.
Here in the U.S. we leave an insane amount of food unused. An average family of four leaves behind nearly $1,600 to $2,000 each year to food that is purchased but not eaten. Unfortunately of that unused food, 35 million tons goes to the landfill every year. “For the business sector, that economic impact is even more staggering,” says Mathy Stanislaus, assistant administrator to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Land and Emergency Management (OLEM).
A big part of addressing the problem is creating an awareness and educating the public on the social, economic and environmental impacts of unused food. With a better understanding of these impacts, setting goals to measure and improve food management is key to reducing food that becomes waste. In September 2015, the EPA and U.S. Department of Agriculture announced a new food-reduction goal: to cut the country’s food waste 50 percent by 2030.
What can we do to reduce unused food? Starting small is usually always a good approach. Buy only what you need, plan and save, and be a smart consumer. Be aware of buying big quantities in an effort to save. Finally, make sure to use those composters! Composting food is vital to reaching our reduction goal, as it is how we keep unused food from becoming waste. Here are some resources for becoming more food savvy:
Let’s Talk Trash – USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion has developed a new infographic which provides food waste & loss facts and reduction tips.
FoodKeeper App – helps you understand food and beverage storage food and beverage storage.
EPS’s suggestions for reducing food waste.
How do you find a commercial composter near you? Check out www.findacomposter.com. It’s an on-line database that is searchable by ZIP code.
Hopefully we can all think of ways to be more mindful of limiting our unused food not only at the holidays but throughout the year. On that note, I like this fitting quote by EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, “Let’s feed people, not landfills.”
Boulder, Colorado: A city famous for grandiose mountains, amazing culture, and being an epicenter of “green mindedness”. But wait, not so fast! While Boulder may be perceived as a “green” city there are some facts that might surprise you. For example in 2013 single-family homes diverted 48 percent of their waste; in comparison businesses only managed to divert 28 percent1. To raise awareness on this waste diversion issue and to enact change, local waste haulers, inspired residents, and companies like Eco-Products® rallied to pass a universal Zero Waste ordinance.
The ordinance, set to go into effect within a year, will require all property owners of businesses and multi-family units to provide recycling and composting services. This is a huge step for a city that has advocated green but not always practiced the philosophy. It also reflects a major shift in the attitude of residents towards waste and waste diversion.
Boulder is a shining example of community in action with a burgeoning desire for greater environmental consciousness. Though the process to pass the ordinance took several years, the results were well worth the hard work.
For more information go to this Daily Camera article.
1Moorman, R. & Fridland, D. (2015), Boulder Zero Waste Project: Multi-Family Unit Outreach, 2
Summer has arrived! With summer comes music festivals and other large scale events and plenty of big challenges in waste diversion and reduction. Be it baseball stadiums, concert venues, or outdoor festivals we’re seeing lots of examples of positive changes.
Here at Eco-Products® we love a good challenge and we love seeing the creative solutions used to help reduce waste. One such event that has successfully implemented a variety of measures is the Telluride Bluegrass Festival. Their website sums it up perfectly – For more than two decades, Planet Bluegrass has worked to present the finest musical experiences in some of the country’s most magnificent natural environments while striving to reduce our environmental footprint at the same time (http://www.bluegrass.com/green/).
This festival’s reduction programs can be placed into two categories.
Telluride tackles waste reduction by partnering with several vendors to encourage reusables. They sell Clean Kanteen steel cups at the Bluegrass festival store that can be filled by beer vendors at a discount. Don’t want to buy one? Well the beer tents sell all of their beer in reusable Eco-Products® souvenir cups (which can be refilled at a discount at these same booths). They do not offer any single use cups and in doing so they cut out an entire waste generator. Telluride estimates they save upwards of 75,000 cups from being thrown out just by making this one change of habit.
When it comes time to hydrate, you can fill up your water bottles (or souvenir cups) at one of Telluride’s water stations. All stations provide free filtered water to help keep festivarians hydrated without bringing in bottled water. This has resulted in many food vendors opting to not sell bottled water since water is readily available for free.
Lastly, there’s a vendor wide ban on all plastic bags. This means all purchases must be bagged in cloth bags (or backpacks since everyone is wearing them).
Of course you can’t ban all waste. Food vendors still need a way to serve their customer, but Telluride works closely with vendors to ensure what they serve on can be diverted. Telluride is able to divert more than 60% of their festival waste (https://www.bluegrass.com/green/waste.html) by requiring all vendors to use compostable plates and cutlery.
In order for festivarians to divert their waste correctly, Telluride provides a 3 bin system each with their own trained volunteer “trash goalie”. They help concert-goers place their waste in the correct bin (compost, recycling, or trash). Volunteers ensure cleaner waste streams by directing trash disposal and occasionally sorting mis-placed waste (in years past our VP of Marketing Wendell has been known to help out) and in turn get to enjoy the festival when not at work! If you want to volunteer next year, check out this link.