This February, we partnered with City of Oceanside for an eight week program to empower the Fire Mountain community to go green and reduce unnecessary waste through a series of weekend workshops! This past weekend, we kept it moving by engaging in a hands-on assessment of how to keep items out of the landfill. We dissected and scrutinized brave and willing participants' household waste. We also discussed water conservation, green cleaning products, and addressed maintaining and troubleshooting their compost bins. Sifting through one's household waste is not an easy thing to do and so we thank our participants for helping create a safe place for all of us to learn and improve our eco-footprint. In fact, City of Oceanside's Solid Waste and Recycling Senior Management Analyst Colleen Foster writes (below) about her own lessons learned from the Fire Mountain Love Your Planet program through her family trash bin.
Hello Zero Wasters, First of all, thank you to all for making the launch of our pilot "Love Your Planet" neighborhood based program a success. We had great attendance, great discussion, and great weather for our first two workshops. I can't believe we are already 4 weeks into our 8 week initiative to go Zero Waste at home and in life!!! Great job to our Fire Mountain families, and special thanks to our partners Solana Center for Environmental Innovation, and volunteer Master Composters! After going through each of our participants' trash bags at this weekend's workshops, I decided that I needed to practice what I preach and go through my trash bag at home (as well as my parent's trash bag). I think I ruffled a few feathers in the process, especially after the hour long presentation I decided to give my dad at our weekly family dinner! Here are a few things I noticed and a bit of "food for thought" on my Road to Zero Waste.
- Excess packaging Plastic film leads to an unhealthy heart as well as goes into the landfill. All the plastic film that ended up in my family's trash bin, for the most part, was related to unhealthy snacking habits like chips, cookies, and fast food. When I looked at alternative options such as fruits, carrots, nuts, or homemade snack boxes, I noticed that not only would I eliminate all my plastic film waste, I would end up eating a bit healthier too.
- We are in a drought Say no to the disposable lifestyle. My parents are taking extreme measures to save water at home. They have installed low-flow fixtures, removed turf in favor of drought tolerant landscaping, and they watch the faucet like a hawk. However, even though they are doing all these wonderful things, their trash bin is full of disposable single-use items. Some of that includes foam plates, takeout packaging, paper plates, and disposable plastic utensils-- all of which take more water to produce than reusable dishware, even with the dish washing. For example, using a reusable water bottle can save more water than turning off the tap while brushing your teeth. The production of disposables requires the use of a significant amount of water and other natural resources to produce. You can save water and reduce your "waste" bin size by going reusable.
- Food too good to waste After cleaning out my fridge last night, I found a perfectly good box of raspberries that had spoiled in my fridge. After a crazy week, my fridge organization went to the wayside. These wonderful raspberries were, as a result, hidden and lost to my compost bin. I decided that I needed to do this week's homework just like everyone else. First off, I emptied my fridge out, and organized items based on use, date of expiration, and visibility. I put the items that needed to be eaten right away to the front of the fridge and on the top shelf. I found three of the same mustards (a common mistake I make when going to the grocery store unprepared). I combined the mustards, washed out one of the containers and filled it with shampoo for my travel kit as a way to reuse before recycling. I recycled all the 99% eaten hummus containers after making a few final scrapes, and for the first time in ages I sat down and made a grocery list that valued food and valued what I had at home versus just my hungry stomach. And lo and behold, my new shopping list now comprised 25% fewer items. I realized major costs savings to my monthly shopping budget.
- Say no to paper towels and save $$$$$ During my monthly Costco trip, I spend at minimum 15 dollars on a big bag of paper towels. After buying a set of reusable rags, along with a new "sponge that acts like a paper towel" from the newly opened Go Eco-Mercantile store in South Oceanside, I can now say no to paper towel waste which had made up 80% of my total waste. Guess what? They actually work better than tough paper towels! The new eco-towel I bought for a one-time cost of 6 dollars holds up better to spills and can easily be washed with the rest of my towels.
After reviewing my own waste, I had a lot to reflect on. I hope these thoughts and exercises will inspire some of your own. Don't forget to connect with your groups and share new Zero Waste habits and green awakenings. Also remember to continue to fill out your tracking sheet and participate in this week's activity. Organize your fridge and take the time to plan your meals. You will see a decrease in your food and packaging waste and your grocery bill too! We are looking forward to seeing all of your progress and celebrating your journey to Zero Waste at the "Love Your Planet" Celebration Brunch on Saturday, April 25th in the Palmquist Garden. Mark your calendars! There will be more information coming in the next few weeks. Thank you, Colleen Foster and the City of Oceanside Zero Waste Team, Jenna Roripaugh and Sarah Davis