reduce reuse recycle

5 Easy Ways to Minimize Waste in Your Home

There are so many items we use in our everyday lives that, while small, add so much waste to the landfill every year. I’ve found some replacements and hope that you will give these a whirl in your own home!

The Laundry Room
Image result for wool dryer balls will get you crafting!
I’ve been using dryer sheets for years. They make my clothes so soft! However, while there may be several uses for them, I think it’s time to try a new reusable product that I won’t have to throw away week after week, load after load. How about a wool dryer ball? They’re an all-natural (read: no chemicals!) laundry softener that shorten dryer time, remove pet hair and soften fabrics. You can put as many as you want in your dryer depending on size of load and you won’t have to throw them out after one or two uses!

If you’re feeling crafty, you can easily make your own with very few items! Will you try this?

The Vanity
Most ladies use eye makeup remover and whether you use pre-soaked pads or a tissue or cotton ball with a liquid or cream remover, you’re throwing something away every day. S.W. Basics of Brooklyn has solved this issue! They make reusable and washable cotton rounds that come with their own mini laundry bag. For just over $20, you get 8 pads, giving you an extra pad for laundry day and a mesh bag for the pads so you don’t lose them in your washing machine. They’re made from certified organic cotton and they get pretty stellar reviews. The company has estimated that these 8 little pads eliminate about $50 worth of disposable cotton from going to landfill. That’s over 20 bags of cotton balls! How great is that?

The Shower
It's like candy for your body and hair!
Photo source: My Chic Sweetness
All of us go through a few bottles of shampoo, conditioner and body wash each year. Do you ever wonder how you might reduce this kind of waste, recyclable bottles or not? Lush is a British company that prides itself on having fresh, unpackaged and handmade cosmetics. Their shampoo bars are not only beautiful and wonderfully scented, but just one will last for about 80 shampoos!! They have solid conditioning bars and beautiful and moisturizing soaps, too. Go to a store near you and see what all the fuss is about. The little to no packaging as well as the freshness of all ingredients used will be hard to pass up.

The Floors
Do you love your Swiffer? I thought you might. They’re pretty great and so easy to use. Those disposable pads on the bottom pose a problem, though. Like makeup remover pads and dryer sheets, they add up and fill your trash. I have an easy solution for you, though. Buy a reusable and washable microfiber pad instead of box after box of disposable wipes. They work just as well and rinse super easily; plus, they can go right in the washing machine when they get extra dirty.

The Kitchen
Stop storing items in Ziploc bags and Saran wrap. These are some of the most wasteful items partly because you can’t even recycle them. Instead use glass containers with lids; they’re durable, washable and come in every size. If you still want a sandwich bag for your PB&J sandwich or your toiletries when you travel, consider buying some from Blue Avocado instead! They, too, are reusable and washable. Plus, they’re pretty cute and versatile!

My verdict: I’m definitely making the switch to these items! Will you? What’s your favorite reusable item you use in your everyday life?

Going Green at a Music Festival?

First off let me start with answering the question in this blogs heading...YES they can!! I am a trusted source since I have seen it first hand at this years Bottlerock.

Just this past Memorial Day weekend I attended the 3rd Annual Bottlerock Music Festival in Napa, CA. This annual festival boasts 30 wineries for wine tasting, 81 gourmet food vendors, 26 local breweries and about 25 performers per day. Some of the headliners of the festival in the past have been Outkast, No Doubt, Florence & the Time Machine as well as the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The festival continues to grow year to year thanks to its evolving music line-up. Over the last four years attendance at Bottlerock has grown from a mere 30,000 to a whopping 120,000.  With growing attendance comes growing environmental issues. When you are talking about quadrupling your attendance you need to look at ways you can minimize your impact on the community and surrounding area.

Napa Valley and surrounding cities are very environmentally conscious when it comes to waste, trash and emissions. If you were to walk from restaurant to tasting room, depending on rathers, you would see how items are farm to table whether that be your wine or chicken sandwich. So why wouldn't a music festival follow suit?

When Bottlerock first originated  in 2013 the event planners were focused on having a successful music festival with environmental issues not top of mind. As the music festival has evolved over the years so has the thinking of environmental actions. The festival has tried to tackle waste, trash and emissions in every way possible. They have even gone so far as to create a "Green Team of Volunteers" for the three day weekend of festivities. These green team volunteers are there to help attendees dispose of items in their respective bins in case the illustrations on the bins, see picture to left, are not enough. A lot of people get hung up on what waste items go where. Having someone help guide you to the right bins helps to make sure items are disposed of correctly. Outside organizations such as Sustainable Napa County, Napa Recycling & Waste Services, and Napa Valley Expo joined forces to put a plan in place for the vendors of the event. The group put together guidelines for food and beverage vendors so that items used for eating and drinking were either reusable, recyclable or compostable. The main goal for this years event was to divert 65% of waste compare to the 2015 event so that 2/3 of materials created from the attendees of the event are either recycled or composted.

Just like any other large festival traffic is an issue at Bottlerock. Though many attendees are from  the Napa area a vast majority of attendees of the festival are out of towners, just like me. With that being said the festival promoters tried to cover all of the bases when it came to smooth sailing of traffic as well as curbing GHG emissions. On their website they cover opportunities for bus transportation, carpooling, ridesharing, bike parking as well as flying.

Bus transportation was offered for free for those within the Napa Valley area and if you resided within the surrounding 9 cities there were charter buses available for a low price. If you were to carpool with more than 4 people in a car you were automatically entered into a drawing to become VIP for the day. As for ridesharing, Uber and Lyft were lined up and ready to take riders. The ridesharing companies also offered discounts and coupons to those that entered in a Bottlerock discount code. As for bike parking it is as simple as it sounds. You would just ride your bike to the event and lock up your bike while security watched over them. Sadly I do not have the number of GHG emissions that were diverted by the actions of the festival promoters, but any little bit that was saved means it was a success.

With Bottlerock implementing sustainable measures into the foundation of the annual music festival and showing how easy it can be I have to ask will others follow suit? Sure Coachella does implement similar items into its annual festival but not to the same extent. Bottlerock is paving the way to sustainable music festivals that make humans and the earth happy.

Growing Green Kids

For a long time, we've been a "disposable" society. We use things for a brief time and throw them out; we don't pay attention to how much energy is consumed at our homes or offices. Conserving and cutting down on waste now seems like a chore or extra work and we don't even realize that these practices are actually more expensive for us, let alone far worse for our planet!

We've been wasteful for so long, that movements now exist revolving around raising green kids and instilling conservation values and practices in our children at a young age. We need to teach them quality over quantity and reduce reuse recycle.

At first, I thought this seemed silly. Why did we need a movement to raise green kids? However, I had already grown up as a green kid and didn't realize the extent of our throw-away society. My parents recycled, composted and were adamant about conserving energy. I grew up thinking it was normal and something everyone just did. I hated landfills and didn't understand why we would add to the smelly, toxic monstrosities. My sister and I were always told to turn the water off when we brushed our teeth. Even though we lived in upstate New York, our house was and still is kept at 63 degrees in the dead of winter; we were told to just layer up in the house and on our walk to school. When I'm home now, my dad still shuts the light off in my room even if I've hopped across the hall to the bathroom for ten seconds or less.

This guys looks like he's tough on waste!
Photo Source:
Then, I remembered my surprise when I went to my fiancé's hometown for the first time in 2012 and learned that the city was just beginning to hand out flyers about their new free recycling program. Yes! To recycle before late 2012, you had to pay and that's never the way to motivate people to "do more work". What stunned me even more is this city is Columbus, OH, the country's 15th largest city! This was not a small town without resources for a free recycling program. Maybe this green kid movement wasn't so silly after all.

As we have figured out the importance and the benefits of conservation and recycling, there is a push to reevaluate our buying and disposing practices. Growing green kids has to be done! We need superheroes who will fight for our future! This does not mean your child can't have fun decorations or activities at their birthday parties or exciting toys to play with, it just means you can and should get creative! Your kids will love making things themselves, too, and everything will be much more original and valuable.

Changing our society to one that protects our environment and our wallets is now a priority. We'll be healthier, happier, more prosperous and more creative. What's not to love about that?

How are you raising your green kid (or your green self)?

EEK-O-Friendly Halloween

It's Halloween time, and if you know me well, you’ll be surprised to hear that I was once terrified of what eventually became one of my favorite holidays. I used to hide under my family’s kitchen table every time the doorbell rang. I’m not kidding; it really was that bad. That was long ago, though, and by the time I was in first grade, I ventured out in my Jasmine costume and faced the world of trick-or-treating, which has, since then, become a lot more realistic and spooky.

My peacock costume
Halloween 2011
I’d like everyone to give my mama a big round of applause, because nearly twenty years ago, she was ahead of the game, making Halloween a reuse and recycle kind of holiday. My Jasmine costume was ribbon wound around the legs of old baggy sweatpants paired with the matching boat-neck sweatshirt. A few years later, she made me Piglet ears using scraps of poster board and a headband. This has rubbed off on me, and never, in my entire life, have I purchased a Halloween costume nor have I used anything but a spare pillowcase to carry my candy. Sure, I bought a pair of cat ears here and a pair of wings there when I was in a time crunch, but for the most part, I LOVE making my Halloween costumes and in recent years my costumes have only become bigger and more extravagant art projects (see pictures) using things around the house or a few small findings at a fabric store.

Making Pebbles and Bamm-
Bamm costumes in 2012. Yes,
I used real chicken bones.
DIY costumes are one way to cut down on waste and consumerism, especially if you’re using old clothes and things around the house. If you’re not the sewing type, however, costume swaps have gained tons of momentum around the country. Throw a costume swap party with a bunch of your friends… you’re bound to find something you like or something you can easily turn into this year's Halloween costume of your dreams! Making your own face paint is a good way to be green, too, not to mention a good way to avoid carcinogens and chemicals. As long as you look into natural food coloring or make your own (to prevent any potential allergic reactions), you can just add a few drops to unscented lotion or pure cocoa butter (found at your local health food store) and you’ve got face paint!

Sugar-free, useful AND fun!
Photo Source:
I’m pretty sure candy and Halloween treats are the hardest thing to give up. Personally, I can’t resist a Snickers or Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. However, there are ways to make your Halloween healthier while simultaneously indulging yourself a little bit. Plus, you'll cut down on the number of wrappers going into a landfill this year. Our old SJVCEO coworker, Maureen, has a clever approach: she buys candy she doesn’t like so she’s not tempted to eat it all. Once my sister and I both left for college, my mom only bought two or three bags, set aside a few pieces for my dad, and closed up shop once the bags were empty. Another good idea is a combination of both of the above: buy a limited amount of candy that you won’t crave, get rid of it Halloween night and makesome funky AND healthy treats to keep around the house. School supplies, like fun pencils, are another sugar- and wrapper-free alternative. Or if you, like me, are a dark chocolate fiend, you can just get dark chocolate in bulk. It’s healthy so you don’t have to feel bad about sneaking some for yourself OR dishing it out to the neighborhood.

Here’s to a safe, fun and GREEN Halloween!

EE Tips for Back to School

It's that time of year again! Colleges and preK-12 schools are opening their doors for another year of teaching and learning. Most of you - whether you’re a student, teacher or parent - will have an emptier home over the next 9-10 months. An emptier home provides endless opportunities to lower that energy bill! Here are some energy-saving tips that I follow as well as others from

1.       Adjusting the thermostat
  • Turn off the thermostat completely, or...
  • Turn up the thermostat to 78 degrees or higher when using AC
  • Turn down the thermostat to 68 degrees or lower when using heat
  • Change the temperature remotely using a programmable thermostat and your smartphone
2.       Making lunches
  • Take out all the food you’ll use from the fridge at once - opening it multiple times uses an exorbitant amount of unnecessary energy
  • Use reusable lunch bags or boxes with insulating sides to keep things cold and reusable sandwich and snack containers to minimize waste
  •  Bring a cold lunch to avoid using a microwave
  • Fill up a reusable water bottle to stay hydrated. I like CamelBaks
3.       Unplugging electronics – gaming consoles, computers and rarely used kitchen appliances can use a lot of        power when off but still plugged in, so save some energy and unplug!

4.       Closing blinds
  • AC works a lot harder to keep your home cool when hot sunlight is pouring in
  • Get some insulating shades to keep your home even cooler
5.       Getting an audit
6.       Dressing appropriately – it’s still pretty warm out now, but it’ll cool down soon and if your school is air         conditioned, be prepared and wear layers!

7.       Going to and from school efficiently – walk or bike if you can, and carpool if you need a lift.

Photo Source:
Happy first day of school everyone! Have a safe, healthy and happy year. Learn lots!

Wellness Wednesday: Waste, your waist, & a song about recycling

Who would have thought that the little song I crafted back in early 1990s for an Odyssey of the Mind sketch would still be haunting me today. Only I could have come up with embarrassing lyrics that went a little something like, ‘R-E-C-Y-C-L-E, find out what it means to me!’ and watch my teammates perform them on stage because there was NO WAY I would be caught dead doing that. Too bad I didn't know Courtney back then because I am sure she would have been up to the task. After all, I somehow got her to meow at a small bird trying to eat her dinner.[note from Courtney: this is true.  It was a fat, rude bird that was not intimidated by meowing] Anyway…

An email floated across my desk just the other day explaining how Governor Jerry Brown has signed new restrictions on California’s bottle bill. In a nutshell this bill serves two main points: one, deter those cheater, cheater, pumpkin eaters from crossing state lines, importing bottles, and exploiting the system; and two, encourage (fair) recycling. When consumers purchase canned or bottled beverages and some packaged food products, they pay a fee. This fee can then be redeemed upon recycling. I remember gathering all the cans and bottles our family would accumulate and taking them to the recycling center with my dad. For our efforts he would let me keep the few bucks we received in exchange for our waste.

minimize waste = minimized waist
In addition to the benefit of the spare change as a reward for recycling, it is important to note that recycling can help to save energy. Making something from scratch takes far more energy and produces much more pollution than if a manufacturer were to use recycled materials. The best solution, however, is to simply use less. Yes, we are talking about those three R’s – reduce, reuse, recycle – and you can bet that was incorporated into my song. Not only does cutting down on what you use help to shed those pounds of greenhouse gas emissions, it can also help to shed those unwanted pounds of fat on your body! This is Wellness Wednesday, people. You should have expected that.

While it sounds silly, it is true. Packages, boxes, bags, cans, and bottles mean extra trash and a greater carbon footprint. They also signal that a food item has been processed and this typically means chemicals, preservatives, and sugar. Stick to Mother Nature’s packaging and opt for foods that come in their natural state – think fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Try to shop the bulk section of your grocery store and when you have to use packaging opt for the biodegradable brown bags over plastic.

So, no matter which waste/waist concerns you more you should always practice those three R’s and you (and the planet) will be reap the rewards.  

photo credit: MonotonousSarah via photopin cc

photo credit: matt.hintsa via photopin cc

Photo from California Integrated Waste Management Board

photo credit: bcmom via photopin cc