The Right to Repair

open computer and tools

What is the Right to Repair?

When your phone screen accidentally cracks or its battery performance starts to wane, what are your options?

Some companies may try to entice you to purchase a new phone, trading in your old one for an upgraded model. Or they may advise you to bring your phone in for an official repair. But what if you wanted to go a different route?

It can be cheaper and more convenient to take a device to a third-party repair shop or even fix it yourself, but unfortunately, some manufacturers have tried to create restrictions that limit these options. Some repairs are limited to the original manufacturer because of restrictions on available information, tools, software, or parts needed for repairs, or even through outright bans explicitly prohibiting repairs done elsewhere.

Right to Repair Movement

That is where the Right to Repair movement comes in. People are pushing back against these restrictions and advocating for the right to repair or modify their own devices.

Right to Repair states that you should be able to take your electronic device to a third-party repair shop, easily find manuals, information and instructions for repair online and source replacement parts.

In a culture where products are increasingly designed to be short-lived or used for only a limited time, the goal of Right to Repair is to make it easier for you to repair the devices you already own. This allows you to get as much use as possible from each device instead of tossing it out.

E-waste recycling – while the right thing to do with all electronic devices that can’t be repaired – isn’t perfect. Recycling e-waste is difficult work that involves the shipping and handling of toxic and dangerous materials. In fact, less than 18% of electronic waste was recycled in 2019. This makes it exceedingly important that we try to reduce and repair our devices and appliances before opting to recycle them as e-waste.

Ultimately, by allowing consumers to repair and get as much use as possible from their devices, the Right to Repair movement helps to fight against a disposable culture and its harmful impacts.

Grocery Shop with Reducing and Recycling in Mind

shelves of products at a grocery store

According to the EPA, plastic containers and packaging make up almost 30 percent of garbage nationally. To cut down on food packaging waste, keep these tips in mind while grocery shopping.

  1. Check the Recycling Guide
    You are more empowered to make conscious decisions at the grocery store when you know the recycling feasibility of different materials. Check out our Recycling Guide for information on how to dispose of food packaging and hundreds of other items. Our guide works great on smartphones so you can quickly pull it up while you are out shopping.
  2. Be Prepared
    Bring your own alternatives to replace single-use plastics. You can make a big impact by packing your own grocery and produce bags. The average American family currently takes home about 1,500 bags a year and uses each for only 12 minutes. To cut back, you can pack reusable totes and produce bags or simply reuse the plastic bags from the last time you went shopping.
  3. Buy in Bulk, When Possible
    Items such as grains, beans and nuts can typically be bought in bulk and occasionally, container-free. This allows you to avoid packaging waste, can save you money, and help you purchase the exact amount you need (consequently reducing food waste). Here are some items convenient to buy in bulk. Call ahead to make sure the store you are going to is doing bulk sales and allowing customers to bring containers in during the pandemic.
  4. Get Your Hands Dirty
    Think about packaged foods you could make yourself at home. Find ideas and recipes online to make staples such as bread and crackers, condiments and salad dressings, or nut butters and milks. Staples made at home give you the option of avoiding additives and preservatives and allow for greater flexibility in making and freezing large batches.
  5. Be Intentional with Your Plastic Purchases
    It is difficult — if not impossible — to ditch plastic and buy only items in sustainable packaging. Do not get discouraged. Instead be conscious and intentional about your purchases. Keep an eye out for the items you need packaged in more sustainable materials like glass, tin, and aluminum. And continue reducing, reusing, and recycling packaging when you can!

Packing a Zero-Waste Lunch for Human and Environmental Health

south west style lunch bowls packed in glass

In our ever-busy lives, we sometimes opt for convenience, and with food, that often means grabbing takeout or an already packaged snack.

And although easier, these convenient choices can lead to us eating not-so-healthy food, spending more money, and producing unnecessary waste. Not only that, but takeout packaging can leach chemicals into your food that are thought to have serious negative impacts on human and environmental health.

If we are able to spend just a little time preparing and packing a meal, we can save money, eat healthier and avoid excess packaging waste. We also get that added benefit of knowing the ingredients of what we are eating and maybe even where it came from!

There is no need to buy anything to get started; use what you already have. Empty pickle jars can be reused to house your leftovers from dinner. Grab any necessary utensils and you are all set. Just be careful with reusing plastic containers, as these can also potentially contain and release harmful chemicals into your food.

And whether you’re packing a lunch for the office or an outing to the park, you can take the zero-waste mindset wherever you go. Even when you want or need to get takeout you are still able to make choices that limit your waste — like requesting minimum packaging and no disposable utensils or straws.

Ultimately, your zero-waste meals and mindset are healthier for you, your wallet, and the planet — and that’s a win all around.

The Marine Debris Problem and What’s Being Done to Curb It

By some estimates, there could be as much plastic trash in the ocean as there are fish (by weight) by the year 2050. Unlike organic materials, plastic does not decompose. Instead it just breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces of plastic. However, just because the marine debris problem is large and complicated doesn’t mean you should give up hope. Scientists from around the world are focused on the ocean plastics problem. Watch the video below to see how one team is tackling the problem in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Do your part to keep plastic out the ocean by Reducing your plastic consumption, Reusing plastic items when possible, and Recycling all recyclable plastic.

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.


  • 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)


  • 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:


  • 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


  • 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.