10 Ways to Cut Pounds — of Waste! — This Thanksgiving

thanksgiving pie

Thanksgiving is around the corner, and we all know how labor-intensive preparing the big meal can be. But we’re not always aware of how much extra waste we create!

On average, household waste increases by 25 percent between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, according to the EPA. We become so busy during the holidays, it can easily become a time to think less and waste more.

This Thanksgiving, try out these tips to keep some of those extra pounds of waste out of the landfill.

1. Remember to bring your reusable bags when grocery shopping, including reusable produce bags.

2. Choose products that have minimal packaging, or packaging that can be recycled. It’s easier to avoid waste by shopping from fresh produce sections, bulk bins and farmer’s markets. Also, food cans are more eco-friendly than plastic packaging, but they aren’t as green as fresh produce brought home in a reusable produce bag.

3. At home, skip the aluminum pan and use a roasting pan instead. Even though aluminum trays are recyclable, recycling requires a lot of resources, so a reusable pan is a greener choice.

4. Break out your reusable dishes and silverware for the holiday instead of using disposable plates.

5. Use cloth napkins instead of paper napkins — you’ll add elegance and reduce waste at the same time.

6. When serving beverages, opt for tap water over bottled water — you can add some lemon or cucumber slices to jazz it up. You can also make holiday beverages like apple cider, spiced wine or sangria in bulk, instead of serving individual beverage containers.

7. Avoid plastic wrap when storing leftovers by using food storage containers instead.

8. Use natural objects such as gourds, cinnamon sticks, acorns and pinecones to brighten your space instead of shopping for store-bought decor. If you’re feeling crafty, here are some additional ideas from Pinterest:

9. If you’re planning some crafts for the kiddos in your family, recruit them to help make upcycled holiday decor by cutting shapes out of old newspaper, wrapping paper or construction paper.

10. Remember to recycle! If you’re not sure if something belongs in your recycling, just look it up in our Recycling Guide!

As important as it is to reduce waste and recycle, no matter how you choose to celebrate, remember to be thankful for who you’re with and all that you have.

Happy Thanksgiving!

5 Reasons to Recycle for America Recycles Day

recycling

What if you knew there was something easy you could do every day that creates jobs while saving money, energy and water? Actually, there is: Recycling!

To celebrate America Recycles Day, check out these 5 reasons why we should all be recycling, every chance we get.

1. Recycling keeps trash out of the landfill.

According to the EPA, in the U.S. we are currently able to keep 35 percent of our trash out of landfills and incinerators through recycling and composting. In California, we manage to keep 44 percent of our trash out of the landfill. That’s a good start, but there’s still a lot of room for improvement. It’s important to keep as much material out of the landfill as possible because all items that we produce are made from valuable and limited resources. We want to hang onto as much of it as we can for future use.

2. Recycling reduces our need for new raw materials.

Extracting raw materials from the environment is expensive. It also uses up a lot of water and energy. When we recycle, we extract less, which conserves many of our precious (and finite!) natural resources, including trees, water, oil and metals. The more we recycle, the more we protect our resources!

3. Recycling conserves energy.

Recycling saves a lot of energy. Every year, recyclers across the country save the same amount of energy it would take to power 14 million homes for a full year. That’s the equivalent of turning off the power for one out of every 10 homes for an entire year.

4. Recycling creates jobs.

In the U.S., recycling and reuse activities provide 757,000 jobs and produce $36 billion in wages each year. Choosing to recycle isn’t just good for the environment, it’s good for the economy too.

5. Recycling reduces pollution.

The process of extracting raw materials can produce a lot of pollution. Because more recycling means less extraction, it also means less pollution. Even better, when we recycle more, we send less material to landfills. Material decaying in landfills often emits methane, a greenhouse gas 30 times as potent as carbon dioxide, so the less of that, the better!

How Can You Recycle Correctly?

It’s important to recycle correctly! Items that don’t belong in the recycling can damage sorting machinery, causing expensive delays. Also, when the wrong materials get mixed in with the right ones (known as “contamination” in the recycling world), it reduces the value of other recyclables that were sorted correctly.

So how can you find out how to recycle correctly? By using our searchable Recycling Guide. Simply look up any item in our Recycling Guide, and you’ll find tips on recycling, reusing and reducing that item.

Happy recycling!

How to Fix a Hole in a Sweater (Video)

Winter is well on its way, but what if your sweaters aren’t ready for sweater weather?

There’s no need to toss a sweater over small holes. Check out this DIY tutorial to see how you can fix them, and by the time you’re done your sweater will be almost as good as new!

Daylight Saving Time: Time to Make Sure Your Smoke Detector Is Working Properly

smoke detector

November 3 is the end of Daylight Saving Time, which means we have to move the clocks back an hour. Daylight Saving Time is the perfect time to maintenance your smoke detectors!

The risk of dying in a home fire is cut in half in homes with working smoke alarms. When it comes to fire safety, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

It’s easy to make sure your smoke detector is working properly! Here’s how:

1. Test your smoke detectors once a month. Push the test button to make sure the alarm is working. If it isn’t working, try changing the batteries before replacing the alarm itself.

2. Change the smoke detector battery at least once a year. Find out how to dispose of batteries. If your smoke detector has a lithium battery, you cannot (and should not) replace the lithium battery. Instead, replace the entire smoke alarm as needed, according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

3. Replace your smoke detectors every 10 years. Smoke alarms do not last forever. If you have an alarm that is 10 years old or older, replace it with a new alarm. Find out: Remove each smoke alarm from the wall or ceiling and look on the back to find the date of manufacture. If it is older than 10 years, it needs to be replaced. If it is less than 10 years old, put it back on the ceiling or wall.

What do I do with an old smoke detector?

If you have a photoelectric smoke detector, you can dispose of it as e-waste.

However, most home alarms are ionization smoke detectors, which means they contain a small amount of radioactive material. Dispose of these smoke detectors carefully, as follows:

Toss Those Halloween Candy Wrappers

halloween candy

Halloween is fast approaching, and as you work your way through the never-ending supply of candy, remember that candy wrappers are not recyclable. They need to be thrown in the trash.

Candy wrappers can’t be recycled because they are made of a mix of materials — often a combination of paper, plastic and aluminum — that are difficult and expensive to separate.

However, if you’re organizing a big halloween party, and there’s going to be a ton of candy, consider ordering a TerraCycle Candy and Snack Wrappers Zero Waste Box. This way the wrappers can be mailed in to be recycled through TerraCycle’s special program.

How to Fix a Zipper (Video)

From stuck zippers to zippers that just won’t stay zipped, we’ve all had our share of zipper troubles. Thankfully, most zipper problems are a quick fix! Avoid replacing a faulty zipper using these easy zipper hacks.

Food Scraps Don’t Belong in the Recycling

dirty food containers

Is your jar half-full of salsa? Does your can still have food in it? Don’t toss them in the recycling! Food scraps contaminate the recycling process.

When food scraps get into your recycling, they make recyclables less clean and less valuable. Food can get stuck in sorting equipment, forcing workers to stop the sorting line to clean it up. Food can also seep into paper products, making the fibers too weak to be recycled — liquids, sticky residue and leftover grease, especially.

Long story short: A batch of food-contaminated recycling can quickly end up in the landfill.

What can you do? Scrape out and rinse any containers that once held food. If it’s something really sticky or oily, such as nut butter, honey or mayonnaise, go ahead and give the container a quick scrub.

Afterwards, if a container is really wet, try to let it dry before tossing it in with other recyclables. That way, any paper that’s being recycled will stay dry, too.

Your Classic Tailgating Cup Is Not Recyclable

solo cups

No one can deny that the red Solo cup is a cultural icon: it makes us think of tailgating, BBQs, college parties and more recently, Toby Keith’s hugely popular song. However, before you fill one up this season, keep in mind that the rigid plastic #6 cup is not recyclable curbside. And when thrown away, it doesn’t take a quick 14 years to decompose, as Keith’s lyrics suggest. Estimates range closer to 450 years.

That’s a long time, especially if you consider that, according to EarthDay.org, 500 billion disposable cups are consumed every year. They’re one of the contributors to the 8 million metric tons of plastic that pours into our oceans every year. Plastic is a problem that isn’t going away on its own.

So what can you use instead of disposable cups? Switch to reusable! If you’re not in charge of party planning, just BYO reusable cup! Reusable plastic or aluminum work well — you can use a spare thermos, water bottle or even a glass mason jar.

If you’re party planning and want traditional red cups, you can check out these reusable ones from Red Cup Living. Another option: the University of Colorado Boulder just released reusable aluminum cups for their new football season. The aluminum cups are difficult to break, keep your drink cold longer, and are dishwasher-friendly. They’re also the right size for beer pong.

If you’re stuck on disposable, look for a cup made from plastic #1, which is recyclable in most places. Avoid plastic cups labeled “compostable” or “biodegradable” — these plastics are not recyclable, and recyclable plastic is better for the environment.

That said, if your tailgating party just won’t be the same without the classic Solo cups, reuse them as much as you can, and then ship them — free of charge — to TerraCycle’s recycling program.

Liquids Are a Mess for Recycling

We’ve all seen people toss half-full bottles of soda into recycling bins, but is this really OK? No. Liquids are bad for the recycling process because most recyclables end up mixing together. When liquids come into contact with paper products, the paper fibers become damaged and impossible to recycle. Liquids also make recycling loads heavier and more expensive to haul, and they create big messes when they spill on the sorting line.

So what should you do? Dump out any liquids from your containers before you recycle them. If a container is really wet, try to let it dry before tossing it in with other recyclables. That way, any paper that’s being recycled will stay dry, too.

6 Ways to Cut Back on Food Waste for Climate Week

food in fridge

September 23-29 is Climate Week NYC, a series of events run in coordination with the UN and the City of New York that showcase actions people are taking around the world to reduce our impact on the climate and foster discussion on how we can do more.

Want to Take Action?

If you want to join the effort to take action on climate, food waste is a great place to start. In the U.S., 40% of food goes to waste, which accounts for 16% of our total methane emissions. Methane is a harmful greenhouse gas that has more than 25 times the environmental impact that carbon dioxide has.

We can lower our methane emissions and reduce our climate impact by cutting back on food waste.

How to Reduce Your Food Waste

Try out these 6 tips to put a dent in how much food you waste:

1. Shop smart. Only buy what you know you’ll use. Create a meal plan for the week and build a shopping list around that meal plan. Try using this meal planner from Eureka Recycling, or the EPA’s smart shopping list (PDF).

2. Store food strategically. Fasten a produce storage guide to your fridge door, such as this one from the EPA (PDF), so you know which foods keep best inside or outside the fridge.

Also, learn about where food should be stored within your fridge. Your shelves, drawers and doors are designed to hold different types of foods. Check out the NRDC’s Refrigerator Demystified infographic (PDF).

3. Eat food strategically. All produce has a varying shelf life. Try labeling your food to remind yourself which items need to be eaten first (these PDF signs from the EPA are handy), and freeze food that’s about to go bad so you can use it in the future.

Still having trouble eating food in time? Try the USDA’s FoodKeeper application for Apple and Android devices. The app provides expert-backed advice for storing and eating more than 400 foods and drinks, and can give you reminders to use items before they go bad.

4. Prepare food in advance. When you get home from the store, rinse and chop your produce so that snacking and meal prep is easier during the week. That way you’ll be more likely to follow through on making the meals you shopped for.

5. In California, best-by dates indicate freshness, not safety. Use-by dates indicate food safety. That means you can still eat food after its best-by date, but not after its use-by date. To learn more about how long you can keep food, visit StillTasty.com or EatByDate.com.

6. Have a fridge full of random items? Use an online tool to help you find recipes for them, such as Supercook or MyFridgeFood.