Friday, November 6, 2015

Fall Sustainability: 6 Ways to Not Feed the Landfill

Feel like your trash is constantly overflowing? Try these tips to scale down your waste and limit your trips to the trash can in the pouring rain.

1. Retrain your Brain

Preventing waste from entering landfills starts with making conscious decisions as consumers. Thinking about what you purchase and how you deal with the leftover waste is the first step in identifying what changes you can make to embrace a more sustainable lifestyle. 

Step one, think before you buy. As you shop, ask yourself: Do I really need this item or do I just want it? Is this item disposable? Is there a reusable or more durable option I could choose? Can I borrow this item or find it at a second-hand store instead? Does this item have a lot of packaging waste? Can I instead buy it in bulk or find an alternative with less/recyclable packaging?

Step two, pause before you toss. As you head to the trash bin, ask yourself: Can I reuse or repurpose this item in some way? Is all or part of this item allowed in my curbside recycling? Is there an agency nearby that accepts this item to be recycled, repurposed, or donated?

2. Be Prudent with your Perishables

From farm to fork, almost 40% of the food produced in the U.S. goes uneaten. On average, the American family throws out a staggering 25% of food and beverages they’ve purchased. Instead of sending a quarter of your delicious food to a landfill, consider the following: 

Shop smart. Integrate meal planning into your weekly routine and only buy what you need. Don't forget to plan time to eat leftovers! Limit spoilage by designating one or two days a week for quick grocery trips to buy perishable items when you're ready to eat them. Measure out ingredients from the bulk section will allow you to get exactly the amount you need (bonus points for using your own reusable container!).

Store perishables correctly (with this easy A-Z guide) so they last the longest. Your meal planning should include having weekly leftover meals, to use up the bits and pieces you have left from the week. If you have time, learn how to can, pickle, or ferment to quickly and easily store fruits and veggies you can't use right away.

Compost, and turn your organic waste into nutrients for building healthy, productive soil. Vermicomposting (having your own worm bin) is a great option for your deck or porch, and it's a fun chore for the kids. Composting systems and passive compost piles are great if you have yard space and regularly toss more than a couple pounds of organic waste each week. If you aren’t interested in maintaining a compost system or don’t need the finished product, both Nooksack Valley Disposal and Recycling and Sanitary Services Company provide yard waste and food scrap collection services at your home. You may also haul your own yard waste and food scraps to our local composting company, Green Earth Technology, which is open year-round.

3. Ditch the Disposable Lifestyle

The 50s are over, and disposable is no longer the cool thing. Cutting disposable items from your life is one of the easiest pledges you can make to reduce landfill-bound waste. Just keep your reusable items in a ready-to-go shopping bag or in the trunk of your car. 

Swap out everyday items with their reusable counterparts. Start simple: switch to reusable water bottles and coffee cups (and help reduce the 38 billion water bottles in landfills each year), and keep reusable grocery bags with you (halting the 1,500 plastic bags your family brings home each year).

Start bringing your own to-go containers when you go out to eat so you don’t get stuck with the eternally wasteful Styrofoam box. 

Reusable coffee filters, straws and utensils can go a long way in reducing waste, especially when you consider that the United States uses an estimated 500 million disposable straws a day

Try to pack a waste-free lunch using reusable lunch boxes, local food, reusable utensils and beverage containers. 

Using cloth diapers and wipes for the little ones (who on average will use 8,000 diapers by the time they’re potty-trained), will drastically reduce your year's landfill contributions.

4. Know your Local Second-hand Services

Buy and donate your used items locally, and reduce packaging, transportation pollution, energy and water use. And, you get to support local businesses, farmers, and community members who rely on your patronage for a healthy local economy.

Focus on consuming seasonally and locally. Make it easy on yourself by shopping at your local farmers market. Picking your own food is always an option - spend a day with the family at on
e of the many u-pick farms around Whatcom and Skagit Counties. And don’t forget, if you’re looking for a night out, eat and shop where local goods are featured using the Whatcom Food & Farm Finder.

Shop and donate to second-hand stores. Check out 
Whatcom Recycles! list of where you can recycle or donate. Our own program, The RE Store, is the go-to place for reclaimed building materials and vintage d├ęcor (or we'll come to you for pick up), while large appliances can be put to use by the Appliance Depot (both organizations also run amazing job training programs to provide employable skills to residents). Donate unwanted books to our local public library or most local thrift stores

Bicycles can be donated via the Recycle your Cycle program at SSC, which are in turn donated to The Hub Community Bike Shop to be rebuilt and reused. Your regional drop of for household hazardous waste can be found through Disposal of Toxics. Fabric, Yarn, and Sewing Supplies will be creatively reused by Ragfinery.

Know it can’t be salvaged? Check in with your nearest disposal company - SSC, RDS, or NVD – for pickup and drop-off services.

5. Take Care with your Chemicals

Many cleaners, paints, automotive, lawn and garden products that you use around your house contain harmful chemicals that should not be thrown in your trash. These chemicals are considered household hazardous waste (HHW) and can have significant health risks for humans and the environment. When purchasing or disposing of these products, follow these simple steps to protect yourself and the environment:

  • Make sure any HHW you have in your home and garage is stored properly
  • Always handle HHW with care. Before you purchase HHW, read the labels thoroughly and understand what the cautionary labels mean, and follow the instructions for careful use.
  • Follow proper disposal procedures. Whatcom County Solid Waste Department has information regarding proper disposal of household hazardous waste or you can contact the Disposal of Toxics Facility at 360-380-4640 to learn about their HHW recycling locations.
  • The simplest way to deal with HHW is to avoid them altogether. Start by transitioning away from hazardous products as you finish them off and switching to all-natural and/or environmentally-friendly cleaners and paints. If you feel up to the challenge, start making your own using just a handful of common household ingredients – you’ll be amazed at what hot water, vinegar, and baking soda can do.

6. Share your Successes

Inspire others with things you've found helpful and successful in reducing your household waste and impact on our environment. Send your success stories to

RE Sources is committed to promoting sustainable communities and protecting the health of people and ecosystems in our glorious little slice of NW Washington. 

If you’re familiar with our organization, you know that we take waste prevention seriously – whether we’re salvaging construction waste, leading beach clean-ups, or educating students across Whatcom County – we’re devoted to reducing the waste that leaves our homes, overflows landfills, and contaminates the environment.

Students around Whatcom County have been taking our Green Classroom Pledge to change one habit in their daily classroom routine to reduce the waste they send to landfills. Join them and the Sustainable Schools team by committing to follow one (or more!) of the following tips. Have questions or want to share your favorite tip? Contact us at

The Sustainable Schools team at RE Sources applauds you for every step you take toward a more sustainable lifestyle. What will you start doing today? Stay tuned for the next blogs in our sustainability series – energy efficiency and water conservation

For more information, please contact us at