Smart Appliances to Save Energy and Conserve Water

Smart thermostat

Conserving energy does not mean you have to eat dinner with the lights off or turn the heat all the way down in the winter. Thanks to a few advances in technology, conserving energy is so easy you might even forget you are doing it.

Save on Your Heating and Cooling Bills

There is no need to stay too chilly in winter or too hot in summer anymore. Smart thermostats can easily control a heating and cooling system based on your preferences. The system adjusts the temperature automatically based on who is home and what temperature they prefer. These devices are considered “learning systems” which means they can program themselves over time. A learning thermostat costs about $250 dollars up front but can pay itself back in energy savings in just two to three years.

Curtail Power-Hungry Appliances

Many appliances use energy when turned off — and can even use as much energy as when turned on. However, with the use of smart outlets, you can automatically shut off power to connected devices and appliances not in use, such as at night or when nobody is home. Though a smart outlet will not generally save you a noticeable amount on your electric bill, the savings can add up when used to strategically turn off unused appliances that draw a significant amount of power.

Conserve Water

Water-saving devices such as smart sprinkler controllers can respond to local weather patterns and shut themselves off if an incoming storm is likely to provide the water your plants need. This can reduce your water bill and prevent lawns or garden beds from flooding.

Keep in mind that not all smart gadgets will save you money. It is important to do the math and consider other energy saving alternatives that may offer a better return on investment. For instance, using energy efficient light bulbs and being diligent about turning off the lights in unoccupied rooms will likely save more energy and money than installing smart light switches.

Fresh Start to 2021: Out with Plastic and In with Reuse

Veggies in a reusable bag

With the start of the New Year, chances are you may have some new resolutions in mind. Why not make a reusable centered, low-plastic lifestyle one of those goals? From takeout dining to buying in bulk, we have seven options to help you reduce your dependence on plastic. We suggest trying one or two of them at first to keep your resolution achievable. Once those are second nature you can try more!

  1. When shopping, always ask yourself: Do I really need this? And is there a more sustainable way I can get this item? This check-in is a great way to think about what is truly necessary and evaluate whether there are better alternatives without plastic and other packaging waste.
  2. With California’s plastic bag ban back in place, most stores are again allowing customers to bring reusable bags with them. Using a reusable bag is an easy way to curtail some unnecessary plastic waste. Call ahead to make sure the store you are planning to shop at is allowing reusable bags into the store.
  3. When shopping for groceries, buy bulk whenever you can. Stopping at the bulk food store, butcher shop or farmers market allows you to buy exactly how much food you need while also cutting back on plastic waste from packaging – a double win!
  4. Make home-cooked meals with real ingredients by shopping on the perimeter of a store and avoiding the middle aisles where food tends to be over packaged to preserve shelf-life.
  5. If you are ordering takeout to eat at home, let the restaurant or delivery service know that you do not want plastic cutlery or a plastic bag. Fed up with all the foam and plastic takeout waste? Try making more meals at home.
  6. Commit with an accountability-buddy. Although we might not be able to gather right now, we can set goals together! Share your commitment with friends and check in with each other regularly about new creative ways to slim down your plastic use.
  7. Assess your progress weekly to check for any improvements you can make. A quick glance into your trash bin can provide the feedback you need.

The National Institutes of Health estimates that impacts of COVID-19 will increase plastic demands by nearly 60%, so what better time to cut out unnecessary plastic in your life than now to do your part?

Options for Zero Waste Grocery Shopping

bulk nuts in cloth bags

One of the most visible sources of household trash is the packaging that our food comes in. These days it is hard to avoid plastic and other single-use packaging while shopping because it’s used to package nearly everything. However, there are certain services and grocery shopping techniques that can help cut way back on packaging.

Zero Waste Grocery Delivery Services

Some companies have jumped on the increasing popularity of grocery delivery services, but with a twist — everything that is delivered to your door comes in completely reusable packaging and there is no waste.

It’s been likened to the modern-day version of the milkman, as essentially, you order your food online, receive it at your doorstep in reusable containers, and then return those same containers to receive more upon your next order. This greatly cuts down on packaging waste because the same material can be used many times before being disposed of. In addition, grocery delivery is also — on average — more eco-friendly from a transportation perspective, than driving to the store.

Zero Grocery, Loop and The Wally Shop are a few examples of these emerging online grocery services. While these services are not yet available in all areas, they continue to serve more communities and offer more products all the time.

Community Supported Agriculture

Another option that has existed for decades is Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), which allows you to receive deliveries of fresh produce from a local farm. Some companies such as Imperfect Foods even reclaim millions of pounds of perfectly good “ugly” produce that would normally be tossed out and deliver it to consumers at a reduced cost.

Local Stores

The grocery store you already shop at can even be a place to find zero waste packaged foods. For instance, almost the entire produce area of the store can be zero waste if you bring a reusable produce bag instead of using the store provided plastic bags. Bulk bins are another zero waste option for daily staples without any packaging waste. Call ahead because not all stores are using bulk bins during the pandemic or allowing reusable bags.

Ultimately, zero waste grocery delivery services, CSAs and even your local store provide ways to get the food you need while reducing your waste footprint.

Christmas Tree Recycling

christmas tree

The Do’s and Don’ts of Christmas Tree Recycling.

Recycling your Christmas tree is a great way to reduce the amount of waste created over the holidays. Watch this short video to learn how Christmas tree recycling helps sustain our environment.

Ready to recycle your tree? Here are some simple do’s and don’ts to get your tree ready for recycling.

Do…

  • Remove all items from the tree so it looks the way it did when you purchased or cut it
  • Cut trees in half if they are too long (see details below)

Don’t…

  • Attempt to recycle artificial or flocked trees
  • Put it in your recycle bin
  • Leave it in the tree stand
  • Leave ornaments, tinsel or any other decoration on the tree

To Recycle Your Tree in The City of Stockton

Christmas trees should be set out for recycling on your regularly scheduled collection day. Make sure to remove all ornaments, tinsel, lights, and stands.

  • December 28, 2020 – January 15, 2021
  • Trees over 6’ must be cut in half
  • Flocked or fireproofed trees may be placed curbside, however, they will not be recycled.
  • If you still have a Christmas tree to dispose of after January 15, 2021, please cut it into smaller pieces and place it in your organics cart for recycling.
  • Any Christmas tree left at curbside after January 15, 2021 will be removed and the customer charged the authorized rate for its removal.

The Power of Rechargeable Batteries

a line of rechargeable batteries

From Walkie Talkies to RC cars, rechargeable batteries let you play just as hard as single-use batteries — but without creating as much waste. Let us break down how they can reduce waste and save you money.

Reducing Waste

A rechargeable battery can be recharged up to a thousand times before it no longer holds a charge and must be disposed of. Different rechargeable batteries vary in capacity and longevity, but even at the low end of performance, you can expect one to act as the equivalent of 100 single-use batteries. At the higher end of performance, one battery might do the work of 500 to 1000 traditional alkaline batteries.

A study by the State of California found that about 4 billion single-use batteries are shipped to the U.S. each year. If Americans switched to rechargeable batteries for most applications, we could keep billions of batteries from needing to be mined, manufactured, and recycled each year.

Saving Money

Considering batteries are in everything from clocks to your wireless computer mouse to the TV remote, it will not take long for your pocketbook to start reaping the benefits. A rechargeable battery can pay for itself in about six recharges — even factoring in the added cost of a wall charger.

According to the New York Times, the average U.S. household uses about 47 batteries a year. By switching to rechargeable batteries, as few as 4 batteries, charged once a month, and you wouldn’t need to buy any additional batteries for years.

Keep in mind that rechargeable batteries are generally not a good idea for emergency items, such as smoke detectors which generally relay on a single-use batteries discharge rate to alert you when it’s time to replace batteries. Consult your owner’s manual to find out what batteries you should use. In addition, rechargeable batteries do not always hold a charge as long as single-use, alkaline batteries when sitting around unused. So they are also to be avoided for emergency preparedness kits.

No matter what batteries you end up using, remember to dispose of them safely by checking our Recycling Guide for the latest instructions.

Never dispose of batteries in the garbage or recycling where they can start dangerous fires.

Low Waste Alternatives to Traditional Wrapping Paper

Present wrapped in plain brown paper

Giving and receiving gifts can be a joyful experience, but the wrapping paper waste it creates can be a bit off-putting. When it’s just one present, it is easy to simply toss the paper away and move along. But after a holiday, party or shower, the waste is difficult to ignore.

According to Earth911, 4.6 million pounds of wrapping paper is produced annually in the US alone. Approximately half of that – 2.3 million pounds – makes its way to landfills. That is the equivalent of tossing out 10 Boeing 757 airliners each year.

Wrapping paper can’t easily be recycled because it’s a combination of paper fiber and non-paper materials laminated together. This also means that traditional wrapping paper is not biodegradable. The good news is there are many inexpensive and sustainable alternatives to wrapping paper.

Here are a few sustainable wrapping paper alternatives:

Recyclable

  • Newspaper secured with twine* (pro tip: try using the comic section)
  • Paper bags with a piece of nature, such as, a pine sprig or leaf attached*
  • Cardboard boxes tied with decorative string*

*Remove any non-recyclable material before recycling

Reusable

  • Old fabric with a decorative print or interesting color (try tying it in a Japanese Furoshiki style)
  • DIY reusable fabric bags (Don’t sew? Find ready-made ones on online marketplaces such as Etsy!)

Still have some old wrapping paper?

If you still have traditional wrapping paper or gift bags hanging around, use and reuse it as many times as possible before tossing it in the garbage.

Clean Out Your Junk Drawer

messy drawer full of items

Everyone has that one drawer or shelf where they put small and hard to dispose of items. It’s like purgatory for items such as batteries, dead electronics, empty lighters and a whole host of other oddball objects. We get it. Who has the time to figure out what to do with these things? To save you time, we’ve assembled a list of common junk drawer items so you can clean out your drawer before it gets too full to open.

Common Junk Drawer Items
Click on items to see the correct way to dispose

Find something else in your junk drawer? Search the recycling guide to find it.

5 Easy Ways to Cut Back on Food Waste

dehydrated fruit

Food requires a lot of resources, including land, water, and energy. It should come as no surprise then, that the food we waste accounts for a whopping six percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Fortunately, it is not hard to cut back on food waste. It can even be fun! Check out these five ideas for waste-preventing, emission-reducing inspiration.

1. Store food properly

How you store food makes a big difference in how long it lasts. First, check out this food storage guide from the EPA to learn which foods last longer when kept inside your fridge and which ones don’t. Next, find out what parts of your fridge are best for which foods.

2. Freeze, dehydrate or pickle food that is about to go bad

If you have too much food sitting in your fridge, do not let it go to waste! Extra bananas can be peeled and frozen for future use in breads and smoothies, while other fruit like peaches and berries can be frozen and stored for smoothies, pies, and other baked goods. Uncooked meat can be frozen for future meals, and cooked meals like soup can be frozen for an easy meal on a lazy day.

Have an abundance of fruit or veggies from your garden harvest or a deal at the supermarket? Try dehydrating and storing them for use later. This guide will help you reach the perfect level of dehydration for storage.

If you have extra veggies like cabbage, carrots, cucumber, or green beans, try pickling them to make them last. You don’t have to learn canning, either — quick pickling works just as well.

3. Eat veggies without peeling

Not only will it save you a lot of work, it will cut down on food waste, increase your dish’s flavor and give you more nutrients. The veggies you can stop peeling include beets, carrots, cucumbers, eggplant, ginger, parsnips, potatoes, and sweet potatoes. Worried about dirt? Soak your veggies in water for a few minutes to get most of it off, then use a vegetable brush to finish the job.

4. Find ways to eat the parts of your food you would normally toss

If there is a part of some kind of food that you always toss, see if there’s a way you could make it edible. Here are some of our ideas:

5. Put your food scraps to work

Not all food scraps are destined for the bin. Try out some of these fun ideas to give your scraps a second life:

    • Make a broth out of carrot, celery and onion scraps.
    • Make an exfoliating coffee scrub out of used coffee grounds. Simply add a little oil of your choice (like coconut or jojoba) to freshly brewed grounds and exfoliate away! Use a drain catcher to keep the grounds from clogging up your plumbing.
    • Make potpourri from dried orange and other citrus peels.
    • Grow new plants out of food scraps.

Notes from the Field: Street Sweeping Schedule

From January through September annually, residential streets are swept bi-weekly (every other week). Weekly street sweeping is provided during Leaf Season (October through December annually).

To ensure a clean street:

• Do not pile leaves or other debris in the street or gutter. Street sweepers cannot pick up large pieces or piles.

• Keep palm fronds, long twigs, and branches out of the street or gutter.

• Pick up litter in front of your home or business.

• Remove portable basketball hoops from the street or gutter.

• Do not leave garbage, recycling or organics containers or bins on the street.

• Avoid parking vehicles, boats or trailers on the street on service day.

• Prune trees and shrubs so they do not block the street sweepers from reaching the curb line.

Notes from the Field: Free Bagged Leaves Pick up During Leaf Season

If you have (3) wheeled carts for trash, recycling, and organics (green waste), this means you reside within City limits and cannot pile leaves into the street. During Leaf season only, your service provider will collect up to 5 additional bags of leaves every week at no additonal charge. Just place bagged leaves next to your organics cart on your regular service day. These leaves are then sent to local compost facilities.

Leaf bags must contain only leaves. If bags contains leaves mixed with grass trimmings, branches, brush, or other non-leaf content, the bag will require an “Extra Sevice” sticker. “Extra Service” stickers are not required for bagged leaves during Leaf Season (October 1 thru December 31). After December 31, only bags with “Extra Service” stickers will be picked up.

*Street sweeping only picks up what falls naturally on the street. * 

**The City of Stockton has some San Joaquin County pockets within City limits. County residents are allowed to pile leaves in the street for removal, but city residents are prohibited from this practice.**

Please do not put leaves in the street.