Waste: when “carry-out” food gets “carried away”!

condi pktAhh… Fridays.  The infamous Friday night “Carry-Out Food and Movie Nite” in the Mom Goes Green household.  The night when I don’t have to think about “what’s for dinner” and instead can rely on the simple question of where to get the food.

While this has become a tradition for us, it also brings the concern of all the waste that can be created when I don’t do the cookin’!  Who hasn’t experienced this with their order?: large, rustling bag; unneeded plastic utensils; mountains of paper napkins; a sea of condiment packets; towers of containers; single-use cups… the list could go on and on (and that list has a harsh consequence for landfill waste).

So, consider this when placing your next order:

  • Coffee – Americans use approximately 15 BILLION paper coffee cups per year.  If your order includes coffee, bring your own cup… they’ll fill it for you.
  • Condiments – really, if you’re taking it home, you probably have the same condiments waiting for you in your refrigerator.  Instead of thinking “Well, I PAID for them”, think “No thanks.  I have them already” and they aren’t in a dozen tiny packets, cups and containers.
  • Napkins – skip ‘em.  Tell them you don’t need any since you probably already use cloth napkins at home…. righplst frkst? 🙂 Right.
  • Utensils – goes without saying… we all DEFINITELY have those at home, so tell them you don’t need them either.
  • Containers – many restaurants provide you with some decent containers but, while it’s nearly impossible to refuse them, you can reuse them.  Clean them, reuse them and consider them the next time you reach for a Ziploc or other disposable storage container.
  • Cups – I certainly voiced my dislike of all the kids disposable cups during a dine-in meal, but many of those are also reusable, for beverages, storing craft supplies and lots of other projects.
  • Bags – walk in with your own.  Tell them you don’t need their oversized plastic version… after all, you ALWAYS keep your reusable bags in your car…. riiiight?  🙂

If you follow all of these suggestions, imagine this… you would have zero-waste…. AND you would have a nice relaxing evening, with a clear conscience and absolutely zero cooking too!

“Superbugs”, antibiotics and drugs… oh my!

sup bug virMy recent post about avoiding antibacterial products actually got me thinking more about the issues of antibiotics, medications and even “superbugs”, as well as the proper disposal of unused medications. While we certainly want to avoid the products containing Triclosan (that can accumulate in our bodies and decrease the effectiveness of antibiotics), there are other important points about using antibiotics and medications that I want to be sure to share, so here goes…

When antibiotics ARE needed, it is very important to complete the dosage prescribed by your physician because failing to do so can also help create “superbugs”.  New term to you?  Well, by stopping antibiotic use BEFORE you have completed the full course means that the “stronger” of the bacteria can remain present in your body and they have the potential to rapidly multiply and cause you the same symptoms again.  This “survival” means they are more likely to become resistant to the drug and these “superbugs” are created.  (Kinda gives you the chills, huh?… me too!)

Along with this discussion it seems logical for us to remember about the proper disposal of unused drugs and medications.  In a post quite some time ago I talked about all the dangers of the common “flush factor”… those of us who flush medications down the toilet.  Baaaad practice!  This means they end up in our water sources since most water treatment facilities don’t have the ability to remove them.

That original post offered suggestions including contacting your local pharmacy to see if they have a program to properly dispose of medications or checking Earth911 to locate a drop-off in your community.

But, if you MUST dispose of them yourself, consider the greener, safer way to do it… to keep drugs out of our water sources and prevent soil contamination from landfills too:druggz

  • Keep them in the original container so they can be identified if they are found (but remove your personal information and identification).
  • Add water to pills to start dissolving them.
  • Add coffee grounds, sand or kitty litter to liquids to help absorb them.
  • Put the original container in a secondary container and securely tape the lid closed.
  • Put them deep in your trash.

The absolute best option is to find a safe disposal option, and as much as I dislike the idea of adding this trash to a landfill, it is certainly the option safer than adding them to the drinking water of you, me and… our kids!

Upcycle with TerraCycle… joining the “Brigades”!

Mom Goes Green is now also “Upcycle Mom” to 400 kids… the kids at our daughter’s elementary school, that is!

We’ve finally joined TerraCycle in their “Drink Pouch Brigade”.  If you know TerraCycle you probably know all about their products, but if you don’t know about their brigades, let me give you the rundown…

terracy prodsFirst of all, keep in mind that each year literally BILLIONS of non-recyclable drink pouches get tossed in the trash and wind up in landfills… fortunately, along came TerraCycle.  They upcycle this otherwise worthless trash and convert the used drink pouches into fashion bags, tote bags, pencil cases, and a whole slew of other items for kids and adults.  All you have to do is save the drink pouches, send them to TerraCycle and earn a little cash for your school, organization or charity of your choice.

Sure the financial part is a little incentive, but more than that (to me!) is the idea of all the trash that is being salvaged, upcycled and put to use.  Anytime something DOESN’T go in the trash can (thus the landfill), I’m one happy green momma!

These programs are perfect for schools, community groups, Boy Scout or Girl Scout troops, youth groups, churches… you name it… any group can do it and make quite a contribution to the planet.  terracy logo

And it’s not just drink pouches… they also collect yogurt cups, candy and cookie wrappers, chip bags, glue sticks and glue bottles… there is a list of 25 brigades, so something is sure to fit.

I’m ready to go and lead my little troops in the Drink Pouch Brigade.   Now, if I suddenly stop blogging, could someone please come over and rescue me from under the mountain of drink pouches where I’m likely to be buried?!?

More recycling do’s and don’ts… answered.

I received a great response to my recent post about recycling paper.  Recycling always seems to be a great mystery, as so many cities and municipalities have varying rules.  When you consider that the average American produces 4.5 pounds of trash DAILY (75% of that IS alum cansrecyclable), we certainly want to make the right decisions.

It’s often hard to compile a “grand list” of everything you can and cannot do, but the best resource I can provide is earth911.  Simply enter your area code on the homepage and you will (hopefully) find your city or recycling resource to answer specific questions.

But, in the broad sense, I hope to help dispel some myths about the “real” answers for recycling… some may be a big surprise…

  • Paper – refer to my prior post… I think I covered it all!
  • Glass – rinse out the original contents as best you can.  Don’t worry about labels since they’ll be removed in processing. You CAN recycle the metal caps(!)… most recyclers will accept them.  Do NOT attempt to recycle treated glass, like plates, drinking glasses, windows, etc.  This glass is, unfortunately, contaminated due to the special “treatment” they have received.plstic bottles
  • Metals – every can should be hitting the recycling can!  Soup, soda, veggie cans (even the top you’ve removed)… they’re all recyclable.  Even wire coat hangers, aluminum foil, pie tins… include them all!  And a new revelation to me… aerosol cans, as long as they have not contained a hazardous waste.  I sincerely never knew they could be recycled, but just be sure they are EMPTY.  That is the key.  If your recycler does not accept them, they will be quickly weeded-out, but it’s worth a try!
  • Plastic – most plastic bottles and jugs (with necks narrower than the body) can be recycled, just be sure to remove the plastic caps.  They are a different type of plastic and can cause contamination in the recycling process.  Number 5 plastics are often questionable.  This is one where you should definitely refer to your local recycler, but remember that there is a use for Number 5’s!… don’t count them out and send them to the trash can too quickly!  They are also good candidates for the reuse category, although maybe not for food items, due to the plastic-leaching issues.

Take these tips, memorize them and soon your 75% of daily trash will find its way to the proper destination… the cherished land of “Recycleville!”

Are your kids being forced to be wasteful at school?

Yesterday was only the second day for our daughter being back at school after what felt like an all-too-short summer and, after once again taking the position of Recycling & Environmental Programs Chairperson at her school, I’ve already found myself with Mission #1 for the year… yea, in all of TWO DAYS!cafe-tray

It seems that our children are actually being forced to be wasteful in the lunchroom and my head is just spinning.  The situation was brought to light by a close friend who volunteered to help new students become accustom to the cafeteria line process and when her story began with an “oh, let me tell you about THIS!” I knew it wasn’t going to be good.

The problem?  All students purchasing a lunch are forced to take all items on the lunch menu, even if they don’t want them!  My friend told me I probably would have choked at how many unopened single-serve applesauce containers met the trash can.  My heart just sank.  Not only is this horribly wasteful, but can you imagine how many food pantries could benefit from all of the unused foods that are thrown away daily?!?

I can’t imagine what policy is in place that literally makes this waste a “rule”, but I certainly intend to find out!  Maybe it’s so the school can say that, while they can’t control what the children eat, it was at least given to them… but if this is the case, it’s a lousy standard.

cafet-lineMy hope is to find a place that would accept these unopened foods and allow them to benefit.  With so many regulations, it may be hard to do.  And then I will need to get the school on board, so that will likely be another huge administrative hurdle, but this one ladies and gents, Mom Goes Green is taking on!!! I never knew about this before, since our daughter is a daily waste-free lunch girl(!), but now I NEED to try to make something happen.  It WILL be my first mission.

If you have a similar story to share and ideas of how to resolve this dilemma, please let me know… I would love to hear it!  And if this story sounds similar to a situation in your own child’s school, consider joining me and see what you can do to make a positive change!

Less waste means less trash, and food for those who need it… in that situation everyone wins!