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It’s a new year and the perfect time to commit to new habits.  Here are ten suggestions that will set you on the zero waste path.


1.  Cut back on food waste.


Food waste is a major contributor to the total waste generated by Humboldt County. Americans currently waste 40% of our annual food supply every year, and 39% of them feel guilty about it.

If being wasteful with food bothers you, there are lots of ways you can waste less in 2013. You could start with meal planning to make sure you’re not over-buying and then store food properly to ensure leftovers don’t go bad. Simple steps like these can make a big difference when it comes time to clean out your fridge.

Growing a backyard food garden and membership in a local community farm can also help if you ‘pick it when you need it.’   These activities will also help you to reduce the packaging of store-bought foods that is such a major source of single-use waste.  You could also learn how to start composting at home, which could significantly reduce the food scraps you throw away. Interested in traditional food preservation methods? Consider learning to preserve food so you can enjoy produce items well beyond their seasons.   For more tips, check out Earth911’s guide to Reduce Food Waste in Five Easy Steps.




2.  Don’t waste at work – or on the way there.


Most of us spend a lot of our time at work, so if Humboldt County’s workforce became more aware of the waste they generate on the job and committed to methods to prevent or reduce waste it would make a significant impact on the County’s total waste generation. There are many ways to do this, so choose tactics that fit your job and lifestyle to make this task easier.

One easy way to reduce waste at work is to pack a lunch with containers that can be reused, since a lot of waste comes from packaging, even at the office. You could also seek out supplies for your job that are easy to recycle or made from recycled materials. Print a lot of stuff?  Electronic communications –internally and with customers– has helped many companies and government agencies make serious reductions in  the waste they generate, as well as improve their bottom line.


For more ideas about how to reduce waste at work, browse Earth911’s 50+ Ways to Green Your Work Day.




3. Make a plan for those hard-to-recycle items.


For the typical bottles, cans, newspapers and plastic food packaging, you’ve probably got the habit down for recycling at your curb if you live in town, and a drop-off habit if you live in a less-populated, remote area of Humboldt County.


But not everything that’s recyclable can be collected and processed locally.


Electronics and certain recyclable materials need to either be delivered to a special drop off location or mailed in for recycling.  If you plan ahead, it won’t be too inconvenient to recycle these items too.
For example, do you have a lot of batteries around the house? Do you accumulate plastic bottle caps? Are multi-material or TetraPak juice and milk cartons not accepted with your other recyclables? There are plenty of materials like these that require more legwork on your part.   Your first step is prevention: assess how necessary they are, and find a reusable/recyclable replacement toavoid purchasing them whenever possible.  Review the Earth911’s assessmentof how you can determine where to recycle those things rejected by your curbside program and how to set up a recycling schedule that works for you.




4. Buy what you need, buy local.


One of the most effective ways to cut down on waste in the 2013 is to be more selective in purchasing only what you need.  Many of us have clothes, electronics and other gadgets around the house that are in perfectly good condition, but we buy new ones anyway. In 2013, make a commitment to consider your purchases before you make them. In the past, even companies like Patagonia have encouraged consumers to think twice about purchases with its “Don’t Buy this Jacket” campaign.  To prevent unnecessary buying, see if you can make what you have last longer. You could take extra care of your clothing or make sure to make necessary updates to any appliances.   When you do make purchases, make it a priority to buy from local businesses first. This supports Humboldt County’s local economy and also cutts down on the packaging waste associated with transporting goods.




5. Seek out products made from recycled materials.


These days, plenty of goods are made from recycled materials. Jeans are made from plastic bottles and outdoor gear is made from polyester scraps. Seeking out these alternatives is a great way to cut back on waste, conserve natural resources not  needed in the production, and keep discarded materials out of landfills.

This year, you could opt for recyclable alternatives for your home, the office or for many of your daily activities. If you’re already in the habit of reading the contents labels of food packaging, it will be easy for you to begin to check the labels of other products for recycled content.  At home and at work, replacing virgin paper products with recycled options is a convenient goal. Buying used or thrift store items is another way to extend the life of products that already exist. Scrap Humboldt educators and artists are showing local residents how often you can find fun or useful items in secondhand stores that you can transform into other things, too.




6.  Become creative about repurposing food packaging.


Even if you already use a lot of reusables to help reduce packaging waste, it’s challenging to cut out packaging waste entirely. A good goal for the new year might be to summon your creativity and commit to finding ways to reuse some of that packaging that would otherwise end up in a landfill.

To get started, check out  Scrap Humboldt and Earth911’s 10 Reuse Ideas for Food Packaging. You can also find inspiration in our Eco-Friendly DIY series, where our resident crafter has done clever things like turn K-cups into plantersand wine corks into a lampshade.

Committing to reuse in 2013 really means adjusting the way you see trash. If you assess your trash with reuse in mind, you can start to see the possibilities in your waste basket.




7.  Support public waste prevention, reuse and recycling initiatives.


If you’re ready to move beyond recycling and want to do more to prevent and reduce waste, join Zero Waste Humboldt and Californians Against Waste in educating elected officials and advocating for waste design solutions in products and packaging that will prevent waste.
You can also make sure to donate recyclable items like clothing or electronics to charities who seek those items. Earth911 put together a list of ways you canrecycle for charity, which can help get you thinking about what you might like to try.


8.  Reuse reusables.
A simple way to put a big dent in waste in 2013 is to cut back on your use of disposable items such as plastic sandwich bags, single-use silverware and other packaging that you put in the trash. To help you with this goal, offers a wide variety of reusable options to replace a lot of the stuff you typically throw away.

To make your resolution a little simpler, you could focus your efforts on one area of your life. For example, you could try out reusable replacements for lunches or eating on the go, your morning coffee, your weekend tailgate or yourkids. It’s even possible to try to eliminate foil and plastic wrap from your life entirely by choosing durable cookware for your grill and kitchen.   Even just picking one of those options can eliminate a good amount of waste each day, and by the end of a year, that reduction in waste will really add up!


One of the easiest ways to save money for start-up business ventures, new organizations, and first-time homeowners is to take advantage of the many opportunities in Humboldt County for perfectly-good office equipment, supplies, and furnishings.


9. Be resourceful and do-it-yourself.


Humboldt County do-it-yourselfers know that being creative — taking the time to  make something yourself — often goes hand-in-hand with reuse.  Attempting more DIY projects in 2013 can not only help you cut back on waste because you’re buying less, it can also help you save money. As we’ve learned from many crafters this past year, when you find something in a store that’s expensive, it is often possible to make it yourself for less money.    One simple example, is plastic yogurt containers.  Rather than buying lots of small, single use yogurt cups, learn to make your own yogurt and reuse your plastic containers.

For inspiration, take a look at Earth911’s list of DIY Small Space Solutions Made from Trash or our list of Eco-Friendly DIY Wedding Favors.

Other great things about DIY projects are you will always learn something from them and you’ll have the satisfaction of making something yourself.




10.  When in doubt, find out.


One last easy way to reduce waste in 2013, is to become better informed. When you find yourself standing next to your recycling bin wondering if whatever you’re holding could have been avoided, reused, or is recyclable, don’t guess. Make a pledge to always find out the answer.  Zero Waste Humboldt, the Humboldt Waste Management Authority and your nearest garbage hauler can help you find out what’s recyclable in your area and where you can take those items that can’t go in your curbside recycling.   Humboldt County has many secondhand shops too.
If you always look up the answers, by the end of 2013, you’ll be a zero waste expert for your household, workplace, and community!




Several of these New Year Resolutions were provided by Earth911.

For information to help you reduce waste in Humboldt County, .

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