A week ago, I returned from a visit to NYC where I attended the BlogHer 2012 conference. As I do before any trip, I printed out my handy packing list and meticulously crossed things off as they entered the suitcase staging zone (a.k.a. the floor of my office). I was prepared for almost everything, including layers to ward off the chill of air conditioning, a thermal mug to keep my morning tea warm and my afternoon thirst trash-free, and a pen with an extra refill for all the notes I anticipated taking in the breakout sessions. I say almost everything because the one thing I was unprepared for was unpackable. It looked like this:

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This is a post about changing a habit. Habits take time. They require practice. Practice makes almost perfect. Why almost perfect? I believe that perfection is a perceived destination and that the journey is the actual destination.

If you’re like me, I’m on several journeys at any given time. This is about my journey to deepen a habit: to reduce my consumption of unnecessary waste and single use items. While this is something I’ve been working on for years and have gotten very good at, I was inspired to up my game after meeting Beth Terry, blogger extraordinaire and tireless crusader of My Plastic-free Life, in 2010. At the time, Beth interviewed me for an awesome piece she wrote about bringing our own reusable containers out into the world.

When I saw her April 17 post on Facebook announcing she would be attending the Lunchbox Project SF, a pre-Earth Day “large-scale Day of Action in which San Franciscans will order lunch in our own, reusable containers,” I kept my schedule clear so I could meet her for lunch with the very thing that brought us together in the first place! (more…)

As my home inches closer towards zero waste and we attempt to reach the goals set forth by the City and County of San Francisco, there’s been one baffling piece of the puzzle: what to do with the caps and lids from recyclable containers? I realize that in the grand scheme of things, these are small details, but you know how it is: the devil is in the details, I love the details, AND I got stuck.

Think about it. What do you do with the lids from milk, juice, kombucha, vinegar, olive oil, wine, and beer bottles? And how about the wee tops from tubes of toothpaste, mustard, and tomato paste? Ooh, and the larger lids of the variety that “pop” when you open the jars from store-bought sauces, pickles, and sauerkraut? Do these go in the trash or the recycling bin?

My inquiring mind needed some answers, so I approached the source – San Francisco’s Department of the Environment – with my dilemma and a group portrait of lids and caps I collected just for this purpose.

bottle tops and jar lids

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water pours from bamboo spoutThe coolness of water dripping from a spout soothes our psyches and our souls. Water. It’s the life source. Without it, we would perish.

In addition to this being a
Blog Action Day 2010 post about water, it is also a confessional: I buy bottled water…occasionally. That is VERY occasionally.

No, no, no, it’s not what you think! (more…)

plastic bags knitted or crocheted into a reusable bag“Paper or plastic?” may soon be obsolete…at least in California. On June 2, the California State Assembly passed a bill (AB 1998) to ban single-use plastic shopping bags. The bill goes to the Senate later this month, and if it passes, the golden state will become the first in the union to ban the option.

In San Francisco, there is already a ban on single-use plastic shopping bags at chain grocery stores and pharmacies, and today, an expansion of the existing legislation is being introduced that could lead to more extensive city-wide elimination of plastic bags. This prospect makes someone like me very very happy.

The SF Department of the Environment provided a startling figure at their booth at a local farmer’s market last week: 380 billion single-use plastic bags consumed in the U.S. each year, and that translates to 1,500 per person. California consumes 19 billion of those bags each year – more than any other state. These numbers are astounding. Things have to change, and thankfully they are…slowly but surely. (more…)

Goodwill book donation signThe lure of the current occupant of the former Coca-Cola bottling plant in San Francisco brought me back for my third visit in a year-and-a-half. Here I was, again, at the processing facility for Goodwill of San Francisco, San Mateo and Marin Counties. The more I learn about the incredible ways this organization is serving the community at large, the more I want to help them shout it from the rooftop.

This time the majority of my visit was as far from the roof as you could get. There in the basement – once the restroom, locker room, and shower for the plant workers – lives the department of e-commerce. What brought me here was books, and a desire to explore another piece of the recycling puzzle. (Read about my previous visit when I explored and documented textile recycling at this facility.) For here is a place where you can recycle encyclopedias, textbooks, novels, dictionaries, how-to books…you name it! (more…)

a free chair left on the sidewalkI heard about Give Your Stuff Away Day (today, May 15th) while on the phone with a colleague many weeks ago. She was checking her e-mail when she commented about an interesting link that had been forwarded by another professional organizer.

For those of us in the business, seeing people let go of things in order to pass them on to others is a regular occurrence, though for many, such an act can be an emotional and moral struggle. I have found that it is easiest for folks to say good-bye to anything when they realize their once treasure will become someone else’s new treasure. (more…)

Do you ever wonder what happens to your trash?

A year ago, my curiosity led me to sign up for one of the monthly tours of San Francisco Recycling & Disposal Solid Waste Transfer and Recycle Central.

Despite the threat of rain canceling the tour, me and my equally inquisitive partner, Sven, drove to the southern end of the city to take in the sights, sounds, smells, and surprises that awaited us.

a flock of seagulls fly above the dump (the transfer station in San Francisco)

Swarms of seagulls filled the air above the transfer facility property and provided a directional indicator that let us know we were almost there. (more…)

Nearly a year and a half ago, my research about clothing recycling options led to an invitation for a personal tour of the San Francisco-based processing facility of Goodwill Industries of San Francisco, San Mateo, and Marin counties.

Each regional Goodwill chapter is at liberty to establish its own programs and initiatives, and locally, these focus on the following triple bottom line: job training and skills development, revenue generation, and recycling.

Goodwill Industries San Francisco’s commitment to a sustainable environment has led to the creation of an environmental business which includes creative reuse, retail sales, and bulk materials sales that combined, keep tons of material out of the landfill. Among this is an annual 260 tons of salvage textiles.

Here’s a photo essay (of course my camera was in tow!) that reveals what can happen to clothing and textiles: (more…)

Curbside holiday tree recycling in San Francisco ends in just a few days (January 15th), and here is a frightful find from the past week.

This tree will not be mulched or made into fuel like the rest of its brethren. I believe the fate of being so thoroughly “pinked” is landfill.

pink christmas tree

pink christmas tree

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