Egg-cellent Natural Dyes for Your Easter Eggs

dyed eggs

Coloring some eggs for Easter this year? The fewer chemicals we consume, the fewer chemicals end up in our environment and bodies, so here’s some info on how to skip chemical dyes and make the switch to natural.

If you want to do natural dyes the easy way, look for plant-based dye at the grocery store, box store or online. It’s no longer hard to find!

Here’s how you know if the dyes you’re looking at are really natural:

  • They will contain ingredients that are the names of plants or plant extracts, such as beet juice, spirulina or turmeric.
  • They won’t contain any ingredients that are the names of primary colors, such as red, blue or yellow. These are called FD&C colors and they are synthetic, man-made dyes.

If you want to get even more into natural Easter egg dyes, make your own! Watch this video from Kitchn to learn how, or check out their written recipes.

And don’t forget: Whether you’re going with real eggs or plastic eggs this Easter, remember to look up proper disposal instructions in our Recycling Guide.

How to Repair a Tear in Leather or Faux Leather

leather bag

Oh no! You’ve got a tear in your favorite leather jacket — or maybe it’s your leather bag. Good news, you might be able to repair it. Watch this quick instructional video to find out how to repair small tears in leather or faux leather.

Lessons From ‘Secondhand: Travels in the New Global Garage Sale’

thrift store

In his new book ‘Secondhand: Travels in the New Global Garage Sale,’ author Adam Minter explores the strange (and big!) world of donated items. From thrift stores in Arizona to used good markets in Ghana, he uncovers the various places where everything we donate ends up.

By following these items across the globe, Minter is taken aback by the sheer volume of goods Americans are buying new, using briefly, and then donating to thrift stores. While donating unwanted goods is an eco-friendly move, buying new, inexpensive, non-durable products is not.

In the spirit of Minter’s book, here are a few ways you can reduce your impact by changing up your purchasing habits.

Want vs. Need

As with nearly everything eco-friendly, less is more. Before you purchase a product, consider if you actually need it or just want it. Often the instant gratification of a purchase wears off quickly, leaving you with less money and more unwanted stuff.

Buy Used

Used products do:

  • Save you money
  • Support the local economy

Used products don’t:

  • Require new resources
  • Generate additional pollution
  • Need energy to be created
  • Have additional packaging

Together, these factors make buying used substantially more eco-friendly than buying new. So the next time you need to buy something, consider checking your local thrift store or online marketplace to see if you can find what you need secondhand.

Buy Durable

Can’t find what you’re looking for secondhand? Consider purchasing a durable, well-made product that will last. Oftentimes, buying a slightly more expensive product that functions better and lasts longer is less expensive — and more eco-friendly — in the long run.

How to Treat Waste Related to COVID-19

cleaning wipes

As you are probably already aware there is a new infectious disease known as COVID-19 going around. This disease is caused by the Novel Coronavirus which was first identified in Wuhan, China and has now spread to over 100 countries including the United States. Here’s what you need to know about disposing of waste from suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Household Waste

Even if you suspect you or someone else in your household may have COVID-19, household waste can still be treated as normal. Remember to wash your hands thoroughly after dealing with any objects you suspect could be contaminated. Household garbage can be set out for collection as normal. There is no need to indicate that your garbage may be contaminated. The Center for Disease Control has advised garbage collectors that no special precautions are necessary when dealing with household waste related to COVID-19.

As a reminder, single-use/anti-bacterial wipes should be disposed of in your One Big Bin, and this includes the so-called “flushable” wipes which aren’t actually flushable.

Business Waste

Similarly to household waste, waste from commercial businesses and retail entities can be managed as usual unless directed otherwise by local health authorities. Remember to wash your hands after dealing with objects you suspect could be contaminated.

Sharps and Medical Waste

The Healthcare Waste Institute recommends using single-use sharps containers for suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients. With that exception, all medical waste suspected to be contaminated with COVID-19 should be handled like other regulated medical waste. COVID-19 is not a Category A infectious substance so it doesn’t require special handling beyond standard medical waste.

How to Remove PPE

In addition to washing your hands, using Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) can help reduce transmission. However, the effectiveness of PPE can be reduced if not removed properly. Here’s how the California Department of Public Health recommends you remove your PPE: “When removing personal protective equipment, first remove and dispose of gloves. Then immediately clean your hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Next, remove and dispose of facemask, and immediately clean your hands again with soap and water or alcohol based hand sanitizer. Place all used gloves, facemasks and other contaminated items in a lined container before disposing of them with other household waste. Clean your hands (with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer) immediately after handling these items.”

As the situation continues to evolve, waste handling measures may change. Be on the lookout for additional information from local health authorities.

Unwanted Sports Equipment? Sell or Donate It!

soccer ball

Do you have unwanted sports equipment taking up precious space in your closet or garage? Here are a few ways you can clear out some space and get your gear to someone who will get it back out on the field!

Don’t Recycle

While you may be tempted to try to recycle your used equipment, you shouldn’t. Sports equipment is almost always made out of mixed materials, making it impossible to recycle. In addition, putting these items in the recycling can be damaging to equipment and dangerous for workers at recycling facilities. Instead, try selling or donating used sports equipment that’s still in usable condition. Broken equipment that can’t be reused goes into the garbage. One notable exception is sports clothing, which can be recycled through textile recycling programs if it is in too poor of a condition to sell or donate.

Sell It

Sports equipment is often quite expensive, which creates a large, active secondhand market. Follow these steps to easily sell your gear:

  1. Determine a fair price. This can be done by researching online or checking out similar items in a used gear shop.
  2. Choose a marketplace. Options include websites such as Craigslist, eBay, Nextdoor and Facebook Marketplace, used gear shops such as Play It Again Sports, or local consignment shops and swap meets.

Donate It

Donating your used sports equipment can be a fulfilling (and super easy!) way to get rid of your old gear. There are many options for donating items, from our local thrift stores to national mail-in programs like Pitch In For Baseball & Softball and Level the Playing Field. Donating your equipment is an eco-friendly option that can empower others to get into sports that might otherwise be inaccessible to them.

Buy Used

Looking to go even further? The next time you need sporting equipment, use the resources mentioned above to find gear secondhand. Save a few dollars and help the environment at the same time. It’s a win-win!

The Ocean Cleanup Makes Progress Toward a Plastic-Free Ocean

Ocean Cleanup

Photo: The Ocean Cleanup

The Ocean Cleanup is a nonprofit organization started in 2013 by the young Dutch inventor Boyan Slat. Its mission is to develop technologies to remove plastic from the ocean — a massive undertaking that falls under no single country’s jurisdiction, and thus has largely been ignored until now.

There is no small amount of plastic in the ocean. Although we don’t know exactly how much, scientists have estimated that 8 million metric tons of new plastic enters the ocean each year. That’s the weight of nearly 170 fully loaded Titanics — except in lightweight plastic. In the Pacific Ocean, a lot of this plastic gets sucked into a giant vortex of trash called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The largest of five such ocean patches, it’s roughly twice the size of Texas.

To make matters worse, ocean plastics are an environmental hazard. Not only do they harm over 600 species of marine life, including whales, but they also break down into microplastics, which are difficult to collect and never truly go away. Instead, they work their way up the food chain — from plankton to fish to humans — accumulating in the body. Although we don’t yet know what the effects of microplastics are on humans, we do know that they are toxic to small organisms.

During their research, The Ocean Cleanup found that, by weight, the largest amount of plastic floating in the open seas was large debris. By removing the bulk of the plastic before it breaks down into microplastics, The Ocean Cleanup hopes to prevent a lot of microplastic pollution from happening.

The nonprofit’s ultimate goal is to reduce floating ocean plastic by 90 percent by the year 2040. In the meantime, they are trying to remove 50 percent of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch every five years through a fleet of uniquely designed systems. These systems are essentially massive U-shaped floating tubes with attached nylon screens. The ocean currents sweep plastic inside the funnels, where they are held temporarily between the net and floating tube. Every so often, a garbage ship will net the plastic debris and haul it back to shore.

Last year, The Ocean Cleanup launched its first prototype out into the Pacific Ocean. Now, only one year and one prototype later, they have returned home successful with a cache of ocean plastics.

To reduce the amount of energy, cost and manpower needed to run this operation, their design is self-operational, using natural ocean currents alone to collect the plastic.

Ocean Cleanup Diagram

Photo: The Ocean Cleanup

The Ocean Cleanup plans to build and launch an entire fleet of these systems into the ocean, where they can passively collect plastic trash. Once collected, they plan to recycle the trash into valuable items that can be purchased to fund the continuation of the cleanup.

Simultaneously, the nonprofit is attempting to stop plastic pollution where it starts. According to their research, approximately 80 percent of ocean plastic washes out of 1,000 rivers across the globe. They have designed and begun deploying river boats dubbed “Interceptors” that can funnel and collect trash from these rivers before it ever has the chance to enter the ocean. Two Interceptors are already operating in Indonesia and Malaysia. Over the next five years, The Ocean Cleanup plans to build and deploy a full 1,000 Interceptors — one in each of the top polluting rivers. Watch an Interceptor in action below. Still curious? Learn more about The Ocean Cleanup.

Old Valentine’s Flowers Go in the Green Waste

flowers

Ready to toss your Valentine’s Day flowers? Don’t throw them away! Toss them in with your Green Waste instead.

When you put flowers and other yard waste in your Green Waste, they’re composted to create healthy new soil. Healthy soil plays a lot of important roles in our environment, including absorbing and filtering water, as well as transferring nutrients to new plant life.

Want to Keep Your Flowers Longer?

Take good care of the stems. First, give your flowers some type of sugar for nutrition. Put a little bit of sugar in the vase water, whether it’s the plant food packet that came with your flowers, a little granulated sugar from your cupboard, or some honey or maple syrup. Any amount between one teaspoon and two tablespoons will do. Second, change the water every other day, or anytime it begins to look cloudy, and trim the ends of the stems at the same time so they can continue to absorb the water and nutrients.

Dry or press your blooms. Keep the memory of a special day alive by preserving your bouquet. To dry flowers naturally, hang them upside down in a dark, dry spot, such as an attic or closet. You can also dry flowers by pressing them. Place the blooms between heavy books, such as dictionaries or encyclopedias, with a paper or cardboard lining to absorb moisture. Check the flowers’ progress once a week, and change the liner each time. Both drying and pressing flowers takes roughly 2-4 weeks. Find more tips for creating beautiful dried flowers — without using chemicals or creating extra waste — from Wellness Mama.

Buy potted flowers instead. Keep the Valentine’s Day vibe strong all year with a live plant. With proper care, not only can it brighten your home — and mood — for years, it can even clean the air for you. After all, what’s more romantic than watching your love grow?

National Battery Day: Did You Know It’s Dangerous to Throw Batteries Away?

batteries

Batteries: A standardized and portable source of power that can bring electricity anywhere you want to go. From starting your car in the morning to powering a flashlight during an unexpected power outage, their convenience is undeniable. However, batteries can also be very dangerous if not disposed of properly. Here is what you need to know.

Batteries, especially the lithium-ion rechargeable type that come in most portable electronics, pose a very serious fire risk when disposed of improperly. When batteries end up at a trash or recycling facility they often get punctured or crushed, which can damage the separation between the cathode and anode, causing them to catch fire or explode. These fires can have devastating consequences, such as the fire at San Mateo’s Materials Recovery Facility in 2016, which burned the entire plant to the ground. Batteries — and devices that contain them — need to be disposed of as e-waste or hazardous waste so they can be carefully handled to prevent these fires.

In addition to the fire danger, batteries can also contain toxic chemicals, including lithium, cadmium, sulfuric acid and lead. If disposed of improperly, these toxic chemicals can leach into the soil and contaminate the groundwater.

For these reasons, it is illegal to put batteries in the garbage or mix them in with the rest of your recycling. Luckily, recycling batteries is easy. We offer a Free Universal Waste Collection Program which allows residents to schedule a pickup for batteries, universal waste and e-waste. The program doesn’t take hazardous waste or large appliances such as refrigerators. Call the Public Services Division at (916) 434-2450 to set a date for pick-up.

Follow these links to our Recycling Guide to find additional ways to dispose of each type of battery.

When storing used batteries prior to recycling, please use caution to keep batteries from short-circuiting, overheating or sparking.

You can either:

  • Place each battery in a separate clear plastic bag, or;
  • Use clear packing tape, electrical tape or duct tape to tape the ends of the batteries to prevent battery ends from touching one another or striking against metal surfaces, then place the batteries in a clear plastic bag.

Avoid storing batteries in a metal container.

Looking to save some money? Try using rechargeable batteries in place of single-use alkaline batteries. Rechargeable batteries will work in almost all the same applications, provide similar battery life, and can be recharged hundreds of times — making them far more cost-effective and eco-friendly than single-use batteries. Just make sure to use single-use batteries for emergency devices such as smoke detectors.

Happy National Battery Day!

Ask the Experts: How to Recycle Peanut Butter Jars — A Sticky Subject

recycle questions

Have a tough recycling question?
We’re here to help! Ask the Experts »

Q: How do I recycle my peanut butter jars?
—Rita

A: We’ve all been there. You’ve just spread the last scoop of peanut butter on your PB&J sandwich only to be confronted with a challenge: a recyclable container that is too dirty to recycle. Don’t stress — we’ve got you covered. Read over these three simple steps to get that sticky jar ready to go in your One Big Bin.

1. Scrape

Using a spatula or other utensil, remove as much peanut butter from the jar as possible. Alternatively, if you have a dog, consider letting them lick the leftover peanut butter out of the jar in lieu of scraping it out.

2. Soak & Shake

Fill the jar one-third of the way full with warm water and a drop of soap, then replace the cap and let it soak for five minutes. Shake vigorously for twenty seconds, drain and rinse. At this point, only a small amount of oily residue will be left in the jar.

3. Dry

Set the jar upside down in a drying rack or on the edge of the sink to drip dry. Once the jar is dry, replace the cap and it is ready to go into your One Big Bin. If your peanut butter jar is made of glass, keep the lid separate from the jar.

Not a peanut butter person? These steps will also work for other nut and seed butter jars, as well as most other hard-to-clean jars.

What to Do With All That Meal Kit Packaging

So it’s 2020 and you’ve resolved to make this the year you start cooking more and eating better. You’ve signed up for your first meal kit and made some tasty dishes, but now you’re wondering what to do with all that packaging. Don’t worry — we’ve got you covered with this quick guide on how to properly dispose of all your meal kit packaging.


Cardboard Box

Paper and Cardboard

The cardboard box your meals are shipped in, cardboard dividers, paper trays and recipe cards are all made of paper. These pieces of your meal kit can be placed in the garbage to be recycled through our One Big Bin program. Cardboard can also be dropped off for recycling at Twelve Bridges Library or Joiner Park. Remember to break down cardboard to reduce wasted space in the recycling containers. If the container is full, please do not leave cardboard on the ground. If cardboard containers are full, you can bring your cardboard to the Western Placer Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) to recycle it at no cost.


Ice Pack

Ice Packs

These guys do a great job of keeping your food from spoiling while it’s shipped to your home, but they also require some attention to be disposed of properly. To dispose of an ice pack, start by checking whether the ice pack is just frozen water or something else. If the ice pack contains anything other than water, thaw it, cut it open and then squeeze the gel into the garbage. Afterward, rinse out the plastic film, dry it and bring it to a plastic bag drop-off. Gel from ice packs will cause bad clogs in your drains, so make sure this gel doesn’t get washed down a sink or flushed down a toilet. If your ice pack is just filled with water, cut a corner of the pack and place it in a sink to thaw. After the water has melted and drained, dry the empty pack and drop it off with other plastic bags.

If you aren’t going to take the plastic film to a drop-off, you can toss your ice pack in the garbage.

Or, better yet, reuse your ice pack! Stick the ice pack back in your freezer, and then toss it in a cooler to chill drinks or food whenever you’re camping, tailgating or hosting. That way you won’t have to buy as many bags of ice at the store.


Plastic Bag

Plastic Bags

Often containing vegetables, spices and sauces, these bags should be dropped off with other plastic bags once they are clean and dry or tossed in the garbage.


Plastic Ramekin

Plastic Clamshells, Jars and Bottles

All plastic containers can go in the garbage to be recycled through our One Big Bin program. Want to reuse your containers? Upcycle them! Check out this video by Purple Carrot for some fun ideas.


Compost Bowl

Food Scraps

Cooking at home creates food scraps. If you have a compost at home, toss in your potato peels, scallion ends and other food scraps. If not, these items can go in the garbage. When composting in your backyard, remember to avoid putting dairy products, meat, or fats and oils into the compost.

Find something in your meal kit that isn’t mentioned here? Look it up in our handy Recycling Guide.


Food for Thought

Feel like you’re finally getting the hang of cooking at home? Save those recipe cards, or find some new recipes on the web, and try cooking without the meal kit. Plan out your meals ahead of time to minimize food waste and remember to bring your reusable bags and produce bags to the store. Bon appétit!