Declutter into the New Year

If one of your resolutions for the New Year is to have a clutter-free space, you are not alone! Use this guide to help you figure out what to do with the things you do not need — one room at a time!

Bathroom:

  • Toiletries (unused)

Shampoo, soap, and other personal care products that are unused can be given away or donated to a nonprofit. 

  • Toiletries (used)

Is a family member or friend able to finish the remaining amount? If not, empty contents into the trash and recycle the plastic (usually plastic #2 – HDPE, which is accepted in Stockton’s curbside recycling program). 

  • Dried up hair, skincare, or makeup products

Nail polish, makeup, gels and hairsprays can dry up and become unusable. Check to see if your products are considered household hazardous waste or qualify for any recycling programs before disposing of in your garbage.

Bedroom:

  • Damaged clothing
    • Is your clothing able to be repaired? If not, clothing beyond the point of repair can be repurposed as cleaning rags. Otherwise, place in garbage. 
  • Shoes
    • Donate what is still usable and in good condition; otherwise, check out the Recycling Guide for potential recycling programs that will accept your old footwear!
  • Bedding
    • Donate bedding that is still in good condition. Otherwise, use as drop cloths for house projects or cut up to use as cleaning rags.

Workspace:

  • Office supplies
  • Items such as binders and notebooks may be donated to thrift stores or schools. 
  • Ink-based supplies
  • Test your ink-based supplies such as pens and whiteout and throw out what no longer works. 
  • Magazines, newspapers and mail 
  • Not sure if you’ll need certain print materials again? Scan or take a picture of the item so you have a reference, then recycle it.

Kitchen:

  • Scraped or damaged cookware and dishware
    • Throw out what is no longer safe to use. Otherwise, donate what is still usable and in good condition.
  • Food Storage Containers
    • Before disposing what no longer has a matching lid or bottom, see if containers can be repurposed for other uses.
  • Pantry
    • Packaged food that has not expired may be donated to a food pantry or used as inspiration for a new recipe.

Tips to Make Food Last Longer

Nobody wants to open the fridge door to moldy groceries, and yet, it happens more often than we’d like. One study found that the average American household wasted around a third of food purchased — contributing to a loss of resources, unnecessary waste in landfills, and toxic methane emissions.

To prevent food from going to waste, you could always start by buying only what you need. Then, follow these tips to make your groceries last longer:

  • Make sure you properly store your food — here are some reusable storage options:
  • Glass containers Glass containers do not contain or release harmful chemicals like some plastic ones do. For freezing leftovers and other food, make sure to get a container with a tight seal that is also freezer-safe!
  • Silicone sandwich bags It’s time to move on from single-use plastic bags. Invest in a reusable silicone bag, like a Stasher bag, that you can use over and over again to not only take your food to-go, but also to store in the fridge and freezer!
  • Educate yourself on which foods fare better in the fridge vs. at room temperature.

Not every fruit and vegetable should be refrigerated. Did you know, for example, that tomatoes, onions, and potatoes fare better when stored at room temperature? Here is a handy chart with more information on proper food storage. 

Produce at room temperature should have adequate air circulation; it will spoil faster if kept in plastic packaging (even if perforated). On the contrary, most refrigerated produce should stay sealed to retain moisture and keep fresh longer.

  • Be mindful of produce that releases ethylene gas.

Some produce — such as apples and bananas — naturally releases ethylene gas, which causes it to ripen faster and affects other produce so that it also goes bad faster. Such produce should be kept away from other produce that is sensitive to ethylene, such as leafy greens, avocados, and onions. Here’s a handy chart with more information on storing produce based on ethylene.

  • Wash produce as you go.

Wash produce right before you use it to reduce bacterial growth and spoilage caused by dampness. Berries can be washed in advance in a vinegar-water solution to help keep away mold — just don’t forget to dry them well! 

  • Lastly, get friendly with your freezer.

Got leftover diced onions or sliced fruit? A stick of butter, bread, or meat that is approaching its expiration date? Freeze food you know you won’t be able to eat in time — even fresh herbs can be frozen too!

Coming Soon to US Stores — Loop’s Reuse Ecosystem

Zero waste shopping is about to get a whole lot easier now that Loop is about to be launched in Kroger and Walgreens stores throughout the United States!

What is Loop? 

Loop was originally a pilot online shopping service that aimed to reduce packaging waste by selling items in reusable containers. They sold popular name brand items — from groceries to cleaning supplies,beauty and personal care items — and would deliver them straight to your door in durable packaging that can be cleaned, refilled and reused. When you would use up a product, you send the empty container back. Empty containers could be cleaned and refilled up to 100 times.

The pilot phase (Loop’s online store) is now being phased out to now being launched in Kroger and Walgreens stores throughout the United States. To stay in the loop — pun intended! — sign up for their newsletter to learn about any of their upcoming launches, or when Loop will arrive in a store near you.

Fun and Eco-Friendly Winter Activities for Kids

When it’s cold out, there’s a tendency to bundle up and stay inside. In addition to movie marathons and reading books, here are a few fun ideas to stay entertained indoors with your kids.

  • Reuse Paper to Make Snowflakes

Have any old handouts from school? Reuse paper to make snowflakes to hang around the home and get into the winter spirit. 

  • Reuse Cardboard and Make a Dome

Does your local furniture store have any big cardboard boxes they are happy to give away? If so, grab a box and turn it into a comfy dome to play in and “protect yourself from the elements.”

Another fun option for indoor play is to create a blanket fort. Stack storage boxes, laundry baskets, a step ladder, or chairs to create a frame for the fort, then drape blankets over the items to create a warm and cozy cave. 

  • Make Your Own Playdough

There’s no need to run off to the store when you can make your very own playdough at home. Check out this recipe to start having fun it will last for a couple of weeks, and because it is made out of natural ingredients, it is also 100% compostable! 

  • Time to Layer Up

Turning down the heater by just a few degrees can significantly decrease your bill and electricity usage. Teach kids to layer up by playing a silly game of “who can wear the most clothes?” Start with socks and long underwear, layering summer shorts, pants, and then coats. You can even create a little runway where kids can show off their new outfits. 

  • Active Winter Play

Stay warm by taking a winter hike. A simple park or nearby nature trail can transform into a different experience with the season change, making it a new place to explore. Help decrease waste by looking for recycled hiking gear at the local thrift store. If you decide to go hiking in a colder area with snow, a pair of all-season hiking boots can easily become winter boots with a thick pair of socks and boot chains purchased at your local hardware store, taking away the need to buy new shoes. 

How to Create a ‘Planet-based’ Holiday Meal

No holiday season is complete without our favorite foods. Whether you cherish the memories of gathering around the table with family and friends, bringing annual recipes to life in the kitchen, or visiting specialty vendors, we likely can all relate to the joy evoked by satisfying holiday fare. 

This sensational time of year is an excellent chance to practice shifting your consumption habits to be more environmentally friendly. A planet-based diet, or a diet low on environmental impacts, but not necessarily exclusive to plants, can be a great way to do so. According to the World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) science-based report, adopting a planet-based diet can reduce: 

  • Food-based greenhouse gas emissions by at least 30%
  • Wildlife loss by up to 46%
  • Agricultural land-use by at least 41%

Delight your friends, family, and community by creating “planet-friendly” dishes that mimic and can perhaps rival the originals. 

Holiday favorites reimagined:

Appetizers: 

Main dishes:

Desserts:

‘Tis the Season For a Sustainable Christmas Tree

Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a Christmas tree — or would it?

Every year, Americans buy tens of millions of Christmas trees, but there could be a more sustainable alternative.

The Truth About Christmas Trees 

It can take over a decade to grow a natural Christmas tree — yet, unfortunately, the majority of Christmas trees are used for a matter of weeks until they are tossed out. Christmas trees require resources like water to grow, maintain, and transport. Some are grown with pesticides that harm soil, water, and environmental and human health.  Moreover, at the end of the season, many trees are improperly disposed of and sent to the landfill, contributing to harmful greenhouse gas emissions. 

Although artificial Christmas trees can be reused year after year, because they are made of PVC, a plastic that can have harmful health consequences and take over hundreds of years to break down in a landfill, these artificial trees would not be considered sustainable either. For proper disposal instructions for your real or artificial Christmas tree, follow the IWMA’s instructions here.

So, what’s a Christmas tree lover to do? 

Sustainable Christmas Tree Alternatives

  • Buy a Live Christmas Tree

Buy a potted Christmas tree and use it year after year. Once a tree gets too big, it can be planted and continue to spread the Christmas spirit year round! Another innovative idea is renting a live Christmas tree — hopefully, this option will become available for more parts of California in the near future.

  • Make Any Tree a Christmas Tree

Who knew that any potted tree and even plant can be made into a Christmas tree? Get creative with a plant you already own, like adding ribbons and decor to a fragrant rosemary bush, and presto, you’ve got yourself your own Christmas tree.

  • Make Your Own Tree

Christmas is for spending time with family and what better way to spend Christmas than making memories creating your own Christmas tree? See here for inspiration

This year, make your Christmas the most sustainable, unforgettable one yet!

Eco-Friendly Gift-Giving for the Holiday Season

Did you know that between Thanksgiving and Christmas alone, Americans throw away 25% more trash to the tune of 25 million tons of waste? The good news is that you can help say goodbye to this negative holiday trend through the gifts you give. Here are some easy ways to reduce waste while still giving a meaningful gift.

Gift Ideas for Adults

Gift your loved ones a local service such as a massage, dinner at a restaurant, or a spa day. Besides reducing waste, this can feel even more meaningful than a disposable item, while also supporting a local business. Similarly, you can create your own personalized gift certificates for activities like lawn care, help around the house, or going on a favorite outing.

Gift Ideas for Children

Educational gifts are a nice way to engage a child’s curiosity and are typically made to be reused. Gifts like an eco-friendly science experiment kit or beginner gardening kit can cultivate interest for future career paths or teach them valuable skills for life. Also consider toys that are not age-specific and can be reused as kids grow, such as a set of wooden building blocks. Kids may also enjoy an interactive experience, such as a dress-up box with old Halloween costumes, shoes, and accessories found at the local thrift store.

Eco-friendly Gift Wrapping Ideas

Did you know that many types of wrapping paper cannot be recycled? However, plain brown paper is recyclable, and like the saying goes, simplicity is the ultimate sophistication! See if you can reuse brown paper bags from the grocery store, and use twine, dried flowers, or other personal touches in place of purchasing new bows and ribbons.

A container or wrapper that can be reused in a purposeful way can also be as meaningful as the gift itself. For example, a hand-dyed handkerchief or fabric scrap tied around an item makes a beautiful wrapper. Baked goods or perishables can be gifted in a thrifted decorative glass jar, or placed in a canvas tote or reusable shopping bag. 

Eco-friendly Holiday Card Tips

Reinventing your holiday card routine to be eco-friendly can be easy and affordable. Try sending cards made of recycled content paper, cards that aren’t glossy or glittery (which make them non-recyclable), e-cards, or make your own cards from magazine clippings.

Reduce Your Packaging Waste with these 6 Tips

It’s hard to avoid packaging waste entirely, but here are some tips that can help cut back on the packaging that ends up in your garbage or recycling.

  1. Bring reusable bags with you to the store. This may be hard to remember, so here’s a pro tip: Stash a couple by your door so you always see them when you’re leaving the house, and leave some in your car so you never end up at the store without them.
  2. Making a grocery run? Bring reusable produce bags and use jars or other reusable containers to fill up on bulk foods.
  3. Pick items that come in as little packaging as possible. For instance, if you’re choosing between a product that comes wrapped in plastic and cardboard vs. a product that comes wrapped only in cardboard, choose the item packaged in cardboard only. Or, if you’re choosing between an item that comes loose vs. packaged, such as produce that you can pick one-by-one or buy in a bag, choose loose so you don’t bring any packaging home with you.
  4. Choose glass, metal, and paper packaging over plastic packaging. Cans, paper, and cardboard are more recyclable than plastic.
  5. Need to buy something that comes in plastic? Choose a plastic type you know you can recycle. Check our Recycling Guide to find out which plastic items we recycle in Stockton.
  6. Buying online? Make sure you’re disposing of boxes, bubble wrap, padded envelopes, and plastic mailers correctly.

Reinventing Leftovers Reduces Food Waste

Cooking multiple meals a day, seven days a week can leave a person tired and out of ideas for a tasty homemade meal. One fun way to reignite your enthusiasm is to challenge yourself to create a new dish with what you’ve got on hand without heading to the store for groceries. Cooking with leftovers not only reduces the cost of trips to the grocery store, but just as importantly, helps to eliminate food waste. Here are three ideas for reinventing with leftovers:

  • The one-pan stir fry.

A great way to repurpose leftover vegetables is to stir fry them with whatever protein or grain you’ve got on hand. A stir fry is quick and easy to make because it requires simply one pan, a mix of ingredients, and whatever flavoring you like. Try an Asian stir fry with leftover vegetables, meat, ginger, and soy sauce, or an Indian-style approach with leftover vegetables, rice, and potatoes seasoned with curry powder. Let the ingredients you’ve got on hand guide you and don’t be afraid to try a fun substitution.

  • The repurposed breakfast.

Breakfast is the perfect time to throw leftover veggies and meat from last night’s dinner into an omelet or fried with some potatoes. Go for a veggie omelet including leftover spinach, tomatoes, and mushrooms, or a classic ham and swiss using leftover meat and cheese. Leftover potatoes, roasted peppers, sauteed onions topped with a little cheese also makes for a satisfying dish to start your day. 

  • Get creative.

Depending on the selection of leftovers available in your fridge, the possibilities are endless. There are even websites, such as BigOven, where you can enter the leftovers or ingredients you already have, and it will recommend a new recipe for you to try. Add new seasonings, toppings, or sides, and watch your leftovers become a new, delicious meal.

A Consumption-Free Holiday May Be the Greatest Gift

Holidays are often associated with consumption – of food, drinks, and retail. And when December rolls around, we are often expected to give gifts to those we love and appreciate.

But, instead of the usual holiday mall or online shopping, what if we could give more meaningful gifts, reduce our environmental impact, and as a positive side effect, receive mental health benefits as well?

The Benefits of DIY Gifts

It feels special to receive a homemade gift, but did you know that there are also many benefits to making gifts?

Instead of engaging in stressful holiday shopping, enjoy a calming experience by crafting and making your own gifts. Studies have shown that crafting and creative activities can decrease stress, anxiety, mental distress, and even improve well-being and quality of life. It can be a meditative activity that provides a chance to slow down and get back to the non-material, heartwarming side of the holidays.

With a DIY gift, you are able to better personalize it to the other person and their interests, or tailor it to your own skills and strengths, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. You can gift a homemade treat, candle, or many more ideas here. It can even be as simple as a thoughtful, handwritten letter letting a friend know what you appreciate about them or thanking them for their presence in your life. 

DIY gifts offer a personal touch. It may take a bit of time and effort, but what better way to show somebody you care than making something with your very own hands?

And even if you’re not able to make a gift this year, instead of going out to buy one, how about planning an experience instead? While experiences may involve spending some money (such as concert tickets, spa day passes, or national park entry passes) it’s more of the thought, planning, and time set aside that counts  — especially if it’s an experience you can do together. Even a low-cost picnic in the park or a food/drink tour of their favorite treats will be appreciated and provide a memory that can be cherished for years to come. 

In addition to reducing our consumption, we can find ways to truly enjoy the holidays and spread good cheer!