May 07, 2019 - 03:44 pm CDT

 

By: Thomas Nguyen


Did you know?

In 2015, the EPA reported that Americans generated approximately 9.69 million tons of furniture waste. That’s the weight of 65,000 blue whales every year!


Welcome to our new series: Circular Innovators. In this series, we’ll be highlighting Austin businesses that are embracing the circular economy; reducing waste and creating value for their customers and the planet.
 

What is the Circular Economy?

Our society is ingrained in a culture of single-use and convenience. We don’t really think about where the waste goes after it lands in the trash can. This train of thought follows the linear economy model, where we take, make, and then dispose of materials.

On the other side of the spectrum, the circular economy is an ambitious vision of a zero waste, regenerative future: treating materials as finite, waste as a resource and redesigning business models.

One growing Austin business, Loot Rentals, is a prime example of how to incorporate circular business practices.
 

The Start of Loot Rentals

Founded nearly eight years ago, Loot Rentals provides a renting platform for Austinites using vintage and reclaimed furniture. The idea for the business was sparked when Anna Crelia wanted a jazzy, 1920s theme for her wedding but couldn’t find the necessary pieces from existing vendors in Austin. She enlisted her sister-in-law, Rhoda Brimberry, to help her source pieces at local garage sales, vintage shops and on Craigslist.

“Growing up, my friends and I would create obstacle courses with furniture that was being thrown away in our neighborhood. We had fun, but it made me realize the amount of perfectly good items being thrown away. It was a huge problem. Because no one was renting these things [furniture] out; it was just inefficient, curbside eyesores.” -Rhoda Brimberry, Co-Founder.

Going through this time-consuming process opened their eyes to the fact that there was a high demand in Austin to rent beautiful, unique and mismatched vintage pieces for events. Born from their experiences, Loot Rentals began as a start-up renting out for a few events every year.

The Loot Rentals duo were able to grow their at-home garage operations into a thriving business in Austin’s circular economy. With backgrounds in advertising and design, Anna and Rhoda turned the idea of “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” into an innovative, design-driven rental platform.
 

Loot Rentals’ Upcycling Inspiration

You may be wondering where Loot gets their incredible ideas using ordinary materials and how they find the perfect pieces. Well, the team at Loot try not to make any assumptions on what they’ll find on their shopping trips for vintage items. They’re not looking for specific items, but rather, they are searching for pieces with character and a story. Chicken cages, for example, were not items on the list, but with some on-the-spot creativity, Loot developed the Henny Dome Pendant on the spot when they first laid eyes on the cages. By using the geometric design of these cages to filter light—creating dim shadows, Anna and Rhoda are not just upcycling. They’re creating a secondary purpose for the item to their artistic advantage.

Loot Rentals is saving materials from landfills in multiple ways:

  • Buying vintage products.
  • Offering a rental option to replace buying new for one-time use.
  • Repairing damaged returns to restore them for the next customers’ use.
  • Upcycling waste into innovative, elegant décor.
     

Is Operating in the Circular Economy Profitable?

Yes! With the consumer and environment in mind, Loot Rentals services up to 600 events per year. Loot not only is a profitable rental platform but also birthed their second brand called Loot Finer Goods, allowing customers to buy into the beloved styles of the rented décor for a more permanent home! The demand greatly outweighed the supply in Austin and the opportunity was there for the picking.
 

Learning from Loot: Takeaways for Small Businesses

Consider rentals:

If you offer a product for sale, consider also offering it for rent? Rental options can bring in new customers who are looking for short-term use of items instead of a longer-term investment.

Look for second hand:

Are there any products your business buys new that you could buy used instead? Second-hand materials often come at a significantly reduced cost compared to new. The Austin Materials Marketplace is one way to find reused business materials, often offered for free by businesses who no longer need them.

Thanks for visiting Loot Rentals where Rhoda and Anna redesign the way people see waste!
 


 Want to learn about more circular innovators? Check out our new Austin’s Circular Economy Map or join us at Rewrite Your Story: How to Add Social Impact to Your Business Through Circularity, our free event featuring five circular small businesses for National Small Business Week.

Apr 08, 2015 - 02:51 pm CDT

South by Southwest is one the biggest events hosted in Austin. For over a week, our city is taken over by not only by one festival, but three — interactive, film and music. From actors to musicians and high tech companies to Internet influencers, SXSW features big players from all facets of media. However, even with the influx of celebrities, we think the real stars are our hard working crew at Austin Resource Recovery! With the thousands of people filling the city streets daily, also comes the inevitable increase of trash. However, our crews were working 24/7 to ensure the streets kept glistening and our city stayed beautiful. See the photos below, along with incredible TONS of recycling and trash accumulated during SXSW, collected by our crews. 

 

879,160 pounds of trash collected, 190,440 pounds of recycling collected, 5965 hours worked

 

 

Thank you to our incredible staff for their great service not only this week but also every day. 

Dec 12, 2014 - 02:11 pm CST

Did you know that fallen leaves are a valuable natural resource that can provide organic matter and nutrients for your yard and garden? In fact, leaves contain 50 to 80 percent of the nutrients a plant extracts from the soil and air during the growing season.

Unfortunately, at least 20 percent of Texans’ yearly solid waste comes from tree leaves, grass clippings, and other discarded organic materials. Throwing these raw materials in the trash eliminates nutrients from the environment, and costs more in taxes and service fees.

But there’s a better way around that! In fact, we’ve got four ways you can use your fallen leaves to save money and the environment!

1. Store raked leaves.

Put your leaves next to your compost pile so you can combine them with grass clippings next summer.This grass/leaf mix makes excellent compost. Leaves also make an effective soil conditioner when added directly to your compost along with fruit and vegetable scraps.

2. Add to a circle of wire fencing.

If you don't already have a compost pile, toss the leaves into a simple circle of wire fencing. Water well and leave them to decompose and next year you'll have a rich, organic soil amendment.

3. Shred the leaves with a mower.

Or put them into a garbage can and chop them up with a string trimmer. Use this mulch in your garden to enrich the soil and protect overwintering crops.

4. Use a mulching mower to chop leaves.

Allowing most of the flurry to fall back into the grass and decompose. Use any remaining mulch as shrub borders where it will protect plant roots from severe cold.

 

So next time, instead of raking and bagging leaves for the trash, the most beneficial thing you can to do is to let the rich-in-minerals and organic-matter leaves blanket your top soil. Even when we get a freeze, the bacteria in soil feeds on the decaying leaves delivering carbon and nutrients. It’s that easy to fertilize your spring plants for free!

Learn more about composting at austintexas.gov/department/composting.

 

Image Sources: foodlifejoy.com; dailyherald.com; garden-photos-com; afelawns.org

Dec 04, 2014 - 10:15 am CST

header image with blog title

Did you know that up to 25 percent more waste is generated during this season than at any other time of the year? Help reduce the waste and give back to the earth by aiming to have a Zero Waste Austin holiday. You’ll feel your heart grow a size bigger! To help you get started, we’ve compiled 12 tips for giving the perfect gifts without generating excess waste.
 

Give Gifts that Promote a Greener Austin

1. Shop Zero Waste.

image of locally austin

LocallyAustin.org offers a list of more than 100 local [re]Made, [re]Pair and [re]Share businesses. Buying locally made gifts from Austin merchants also cuts carbon emissions from shipping and keeps money in the Austin economy.

2. Win-Win!

Give your family a backyard composter and you can get up to a $75 rebate from the City of Austin. Learn more at: http://austintexas.gov/composting

3. Give reusable items.

Items such as food containers, lunch bags, rechargeable batteries and/or a battery charger, reusable coffee mugs or drinking water bottles.

4. Shop Zero Wise.

Look for environmentally friendly, recyclable or reusable products. Avoid trendy holiday trappings such as single-use items, gifts with a limited life, non-recyclable and non-reusable items. Stick with well-made items that will last.
 

Give Experiences Instead of Stuff

5. Give fun.

Everyone appreciates tickets to a play, movie or sporting event.

gift card image

6. Indulge them.

Give them items they might not buy for themselves such as gift certificates for a massage, dinner, a club membership or spa treatment.

7. A day off is always popular.

Offer a free service such as baby-sitting, breakfast in bed, a diaper service, or piano lesson.

8. Donate.

Get in the holiday spirit by making a charitable donation in the recipient's name or give your friends and family a membership to a museum, environmental or non-profit organization.
 

Shop Thrifty

9. Why buy when you can Rent or Repair?

Give visiting family members a certificate to rent a camera, restore their favorite boots or repair a laptop during the holidays. For more ideas visit: LocallyAustin.org

image of thrift shop sign

10. Think Thrift.

From vintage guitars, rustic antique furniture to the perfect formal for holiday parties, discover fantastic finds at the many retailers specializing in remade originals.

11. Even Better, Think FREE.

Help a loved one paint that old garden shed during the holiday break. You do the work and Austin Resource Recovery will provide the free paint. Check out the beautiful new green color available at Austin Reblend.

12. Treat yourself.

Now that the kiddos are busy with their newest rented toys, you’ll have some quiet time to read a good book. Get amazing deals and help the Austin Public Library when you shop at Recycled-Reads.

 

Images courtesy of: locallyaustin; highstreetaz; pzrservices

 

Nov 24, 2014 - 09:22 am CST

Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday, bringing families together for a hearty meal and good company. Whether your plans for are large or small, consider these four tips to make your day eco-friendly. 

1. Pass on the paper and plastic.

Instead of using disposable plates and silverware, bring out the reusable dishes and silverware. Also try cloth napkins and placemats. The table will look special for the occasion!

2. If you choose to bake a pie in disposable aluminum, don’t forget that it can be recycled.

Just be sure to clean it and place in the blue cart!

3. Take your own to-go containers to the party,

or ask guests to bring them. You will refrain from using multiple plastic bags.

4. Try decorating your home with your kids using recycled material!

The house will feel festive, and the kids will love the craft time.  Some items you can use include toilet paper rolls and paper scraps.

Nov 07, 2014 - 03:44 pm CST

Imagine walking into a toy store with hundreds of toys lining the bright, vibrant shelves. Even better, imagine that you can play with these toys or take them home with you for a while, and you don’t have to buy them. Sound like something that’s too good to be true? Well, it’s not, thanks to the imaginative mind of Liza Wilson, owner of Toybrary Austin.

What is Toybrary? 

Toybrary is quite literally a toy library, filled with hundreds of toys waiting to be played with. Toys can be checked-out a few at a time or enjoyed in the store. In addition, Toybrary also offers many educational events for children, fun classes, birthday parties, and workshops for parents and small business owners.

A Zero Waste Business

Even better, Toybrary’s business model also contributes to Austin’s Zero Waste Goal! The unique concept of exchanging and borrowing toys gives parents an alternative to purchasing dozens of toys that their child will outgrow. This sharing model prevents wasted resources in many ways, from materials used in production, to the money you spend on toys, to the disposal of used toys. With a membership, customers receive full access to all the items and resources at the Toybrary.   It reduces waste, clutter and keeps your wallet happy!  

“There's no one else doing exactly what I'm doing in the country,” said Liza Wilson.

Just about every aspect of this business was built with reuse and conservation in mind. For example, Toybrary provides colorful reusable plastic cups and plates instead of disposable paper ones for birthday parties held at the store.  In fact, you won’t even be able to find paper towels at Toybrary; they’re using reusable washcloths instead!

Small Business Advocate

As a local business, Toybrary is an advocate for nurturing local businesses in the Austin community. Liza provides several community events at Toybrary, ranging from parent workshops to networking events for female business owners. The store even sells children’s books and accessories written and made by local Austinites!

 “I’m addicted to toys,” admits Liza. But adds that she is really in it for the joy she can bring to families and to serve as a business model for other businesses that can help Austin achieve its Zero Waste Goal.

 

To learn more about the Toybrary and to see a calendar of upcoming events, visit toybraryaustin.com or facebook.com/ToybraryAustin.

 

Toybrary is [re]Share businesses in the Shop Zero Waste directory on LocallyAustin.org.

 

 

Images courtesy of: ixi photography

Oct 29, 2014 - 03:14 pm CDT

Have you ever been startled by that loud (and annoying) beep coming from your smoke alarms?  Replacing old batteries in your smoke alarms twice a year will help you avoid this unwanted, low-battery beeping.  Coupling these checks with daylight savings is a great way to make sure you’re also checking your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms at least twice a year.  After all, properly functioning batteries could save a life!

Did you know that batteries contain materials that are reused and recycled when brought to a recycling facility? Let’s consider a single-use, alkaline battery. About 25 percent of a single-use battery is made of steel, which can be recycled forever. Another 60 percent of the battery is made of zinc, manganese and potassium.  All of these are earth elements, which can be reused!

Putting hazardous items like batteries into the trash can have negative effects on the environment, since toxic materials could leach into the soil and groundwater. Instead of throwing away your batteries, try these three simple suggestions to make the recycling process a little easier:

1. Always recycle batteries.

Batteries used to contain mercury, which is extremely toxic to our land, air and bodies! Thankfully, legislation was passed in 1996 that prohibited the use of mercury in alkaline batteries. However, some of these old batteries may still be present homes around the country. Avoid the risk and recycle! You will also be doing your part to help create new resources. 

2. If you only have a few, save them in a bag until you collect more.

We agree that making a trip to the Household Hazardous Waste Facility for just a few small batteries isn’t worth the gas. But instead of dumping them in the trash, collect them in a bag or box. When you are ready, bring them to the HHW Facility or a local battery drop off location. Click to find a list of additional battery drop off locations provided by Austin Resource Recovery.

3. Consider exchanging single-use batteries for rechargeable ones.

Don’ waste, reuse!  Replacing your alkaline batteries with rechargeable ones is friendlier to your wallet and our environment.  Rechargeable batteries can be used up to 1,000 times.  When you’ve used them to their last ounce, bring them over to the HHW facility.  Additionally, many stores provide Call2Recycle boxes for dead rechargeable batteries, which will also be taken to a recycling facility.

Learn more about the different hazardous waste material accepted at the Household Hazardous Waste facility by visiting: austintexas.gov/hhw.
 

---

Written by: Guest Blogger - Paige Kroll, Communications and Marketing Intern

Image source: https://www.batteryservicehub.com

Oct 22, 2014 - 03:46 pm CDT

Once a year, the sweet, spooky and silly that is Halloween allows you to become someone or something else. This year, resist the temptations lining store aisles and become a Zero Waste Halloween buff instead. These ten tips for a Zero Waste Halloween will help reduce the impact to your wallet and the environment!

1. Buy candy with recyclable packaging.

Most candy wrappers are not easily recyclable, but there are a number of treats that come in cardboard boxes and foil.


 

2. Give out treasures.

Go beyond and hand out treasures like toys, cool school supplies or fun games. Green Halloween offers some great tips on alternative giveaways.


3. Boo! Play a trick.

Provide a thrill to the kids (and adults) without having to worry about providing a treat or treasure.


4. Don’t walk too far.

Instead of going to every house in the neighborhood, stick to a couple streets and reduce the amount of candy collected. You probably won’t eat it all anyway. If you or your kids really like to travel the neighborhood, consider tip #5…

5. Sell the extra candy.

You still won’t be able to eat it all, but U.S.A soldiers and troops probably will. Halloween Candy Buyback is a national program operated by area dentists who buy unopened candy for $1/pound and send the candy to our troops.

6. Instead of buying a new costume, check out the thrift store or the back of your closet.

Macklemore would be proud.

7. Make a costume.

Again, try the thrift store or the back of your closet. You’ll find a slew of items to mix together for the perfect outfit. Goodwill of Central Texas even has an entire Halloween website for your reference.

8. Eat the pumpkin.

When you carve the pumpkin, save the seeds to roast and use the pumpkin insides to make a pie. Then…

9. Compost it!

If you don’t have an at home compost system, you can bury the pumpkin—It’s great for the soil.  You can also participate in the City’s Home Composting Rebate Program or compost with Eastside Compost Pedallers at their November 2nd event. 

 

10. Plan ahead.

Making a last minute, frantic stop to the store for a bag of candy, costume or decorations for a Halloween party can really put a jam in Zero-Waste and your wallet. As with all things, plan ahead, and you’ll be pleased with the results.  

 

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Written by: Guest Bloggger - Sarah Puffer, Zero Waste Strategic Initiatives Intern
 

Image sources:
http://www.thatartistwoman.org/2008/10/how-to-make-robot-from-halloween-candy.html;
http://www.the36thavenue.com/halloween-monster-pencils;
http://www.halloweencandybuyback.com/;
http://www.quickmeme.com/;
http://www.goodwill.com/;
http://shewearsmanyhats.com/toasted-pumpkin-seeds/;
http://renovationadventure.com/2010/12/machete-compost-fun/;
http://freedayimages.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Cute-October-2014-Calendar-4.jpg
http://ecosalon.com/7-awesome-thrift-stores-in-austin/
https://compostpedallers.com/

Oct 20, 2014 - 11:03 am CDT

Meet Austinite, Tisha. 

Meet Tisha Monsey, a Program Coordinator & Academic Advisor for the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin. She has been a resident of the City of Austin for over 10 years now. She enjoys watching movies at home and spending her free time out on the lake. When she’s not out on the water she loves discovering new Austin restaurants, especially when there are cupcakes involved.  Tisha told us how she’s making sure her home recycles as much as possible.

How have you made recycling easier to do in your home, for your family?

When my husband and I moved in together, we had 2 trash cans in the kitchen and 2 trash cans for each bathroom. Instead of giving one away, we just made one thedesignated recycling bin in each room. Having a separate recycling bin in the bathroom was something I never thought of before, but it makes it easier to ensure everything that can be recycled is recycled. I didn't realize just how many bathroom items are recyclable and how tempting it can be to throw items in the bathroom trash instead of taking it across the house to a recycling bin.

What item do you most frequently recycle?

Food containers! Things like pasta boxes, cereal boxes, cheese and yogurt containers, and plastic milk jugs. Basically lots of plastics and thin cardboard.

What items do you forget to recycle?

Probably toilet paper rolls! The last square of unused toilet paper is usually glued onto the roll and it throws me off since it is soft tissue instead of paper or cardboard!

That can be tricky! No need to worry about that little bit of toilet paper. The roll is recyclable! What room do you recycle most in?

We keep one recycling bin in the pantry, so that's where all of our junk mail and kitchen items go. That's where we do most of our recycling.

How are you reaching your 5 extra lbs.?

 Sometimes it's easy to just throw old expired foods in the garbage, but by taking the extra 30 seconds to rinse out an old container instead of tossing it in the can, we're able to put more in the recycling bin instead. 

Why is recycling important to you?

Recycling is important to me for a lot of reasons. I grew up recycling, so that's part of it, but to me it's an easy thing to do make the world a better place for future generations. We don't have kids, but that shouldn't matter. There's only so much space on this planet, and I'd rather not fill that space with garbage. It's not just a space issue though - it's a contamination issue. I don't want that garbage ending up in rivers, streams, animals' homes, or polluting our air and water. It's about reducing waste.

Oct 03, 2014 - 01:39 pm CDT

7 Things to do at ReuseConex 2014

Whether you know it or not, you’ve participated in Austin’s reuse economy. Buying a used bike, donating old clothes to a thrift shop, having your boots re-soled, or taking your refillable mug to the coffee shop—all of these activities preserve the embodied energy of an item and keep waste out of the landfill. Even so, there’s a lot more reusing to be done: Austin residents are estimated to dispose of $11 million in reusable items annually!

From October 23-25, ReuseConex (an International Reuse Conference) will be in Austin to explore reuse methods and tried-and-true best practices. There is a full conference agenda and with several special events open to the general public, so it may be hard to decide to choose which one to go to. To help make the decision easier, we’ve narrowed down seven must-see-and-do events happening during the conference. Learn how you can help us keep that $11 million in reusable goods out of the landfill and circulating in the Austin economy. 

All events & workshops are FREE. Donations accepted and proceeds will benefit Reuse Alliance.

 

See an upcycled fashion show. Making dresses out of paper, seatbelts, and candy wrappers doesn’t just happen on Project Runway. The ReFashion Show at ReuseConex will showcase local designer’s reclaimed and upcycled fashion and stylish thrift store finds.

 

 

Bid on a gift certificate from your favorite local reuse shop. Shoppers on a budget (and who among isn’t?) shouldn’t miss this silent auction with items from Goodwill, Treasure City Thrift, Glass Dharma, Bag the Habit, Austin Creative Reuse, and more.

 

 

Take a self-guided tour of reuse in Austin. Reusing can fit into your busy schedule— whenever you have a free minute, do your own tour of local reuse companies and organizations with ReuseConex’s Austin Reuse Tour Map, which you can pick up at the Reuse Expo.

 

 

Learn how to start a Fixer Clinic. Once something breaks, it’s tempting to throw it out and get a new one. But at a fixer clinic, you can learn valuable repair skills and have a skilled volunteer help you tinker with your broken bread machine or remote control until it works again! One of the training workshops at ReuseConex will teach attendees about how to start and manage a repair or fixer clinic.

 

 

Cheer on your favorite upcycle team in a crafting battle. Four teams of artists, makers, and DIYers will have just 8 minutes to upcycle their materials. Cheer on your favorite through two side-by-side face-offs and a final round until they emerge as the Ultimate Upcycle Challenge Champion.

 

 

 

Watch a new documentary. Filmmaker Alex Eaves took to Kickstarter to fund his new documentary, REUSE! Because You Can’t Recycle The Planet, which chronicles individuals and organizations throughout the U.S. who are reusing in unique ways. After the screening, Alex will stick around for a Q&A session with the audience.

 

 

 

Get inspired by reuse initiatives around the world. The main conference agenda features speakers from the Freegle UK and Brighton Waste House (England), iWasteNot Systems (Canada), iFixit.com, Materials for the Arts, Sustainable America and Reuse Alliance (USA). These global experts on reuse will be speaking right here in our backyard. Open to conference attendees only.

 

 

Unless otherwise noted, the special events listed above are FREE and open to the public. See the schedule of events and register at reuseconex.org. Don’t miss this chance to learn all you can about that crucial second “R” of “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”!

Written by: Guest blogger - Natalie Betts, Austin Resource Recovery - Economic & Business Development Liaison 

Apr 08, 2015 - 02:51 pm CDT

South by Southwest is one the biggest events hosted in Austin. For over a week, our city is taken over by not only by one festival, but three — interactive, film and music. From actors to musicians and high tech companies to Internet influencers, SXSW features big players from all facets of media. However, even with the influx of celebrities, we think the real stars are our hard working crew at Austin Resource Recovery! With the thousands of people filling the city streets daily, also comes the inevitable increase of trash. However, our crews were working 24/7 to ensure the streets kept glistening and our city stayed beautiful. See the photos below, along with incredible TONS of recycling and trash accumulated during SXSW, collected by our crews. 

 

879,160 pounds of trash collected, 190,440 pounds of recycling collected, 5965 hours worked

 

 

Thank you to our incredible staff for their great service not only this week but also every day. 

Road to Zero Waste
Dec 12, 2014 - 02:11 pm CST

Did you know that fallen leaves are a valuable natural resource that can provide organic matter and nutrients for your yard and garden? In fact, leaves contain 50 to 80 percent of the nutrients a plant extracts from the soil and air during the growing season.

Unfortunately, at least 20 percent of Texans’ yearly solid waste comes from tree leaves, grass clippings, and other discarded organic materials. Throwing these raw materials in the trash eliminates nutrients from the environment, and costs more in taxes and service fees.

But there’s a better way around that! In fact, we’ve got four ways you can use your fallen leaves to save money and the environment!

1. Store raked leaves.

Put your leaves next to your compost pile so you can combine them with grass clippings next summer.This grass/leaf mix makes excellent compost. Leaves also make an effective soil conditioner when added directly to your compost along with fruit and vegetable scraps.

2. Add to a circle of wire fencing.

If you don't already have a compost pile, toss the leaves into a simple circle of wire fencing. Water well and leave them to decompose and next year you'll have a rich, organic soil amendment.

3. Shred the leaves with a mower.

Or put them into a garbage can and chop them up with a string trimmer. Use this mulch in your garden to enrich the soil and protect overwintering crops.

4. Use a mulching mower to chop leaves.

Allowing most of the flurry to fall back into the grass and decompose. Use any remaining mulch as shrub borders where it will protect plant roots from severe cold.

 

So next time, instead of raking and bagging leaves for the trash, the most beneficial thing you can to do is to let the rich-in-minerals and organic-matter leaves blanket your top soil. Even when we get a freeze, the bacteria in soil feeds on the decaying leaves delivering carbon and nutrients. It’s that easy to fertilize your spring plants for free!

Learn more about composting at austintexas.gov/department/composting.

 

Image Sources: foodlifejoy.com; dailyherald.com; garden-photos-com; afelawns.org

Road to Zero Waste
Dec 04, 2014 - 10:15 am CST

header image with blog title

Did you know that up to 25 percent more waste is generated during this season than at any other time of the year? Help reduce the waste and give back to the earth by aiming to have a Zero Waste Austin holiday. You’ll feel your heart grow a size bigger! To help you get started, we’ve compiled 12 tips for giving the perfect gifts without generating excess waste.
 

Give Gifts that Promote a Greener Austin

1. Shop Zero Waste.

image of locally austin

LocallyAustin.org offers a list of more than 100 local [re]Made, [re]Pair and [re]Share businesses. Buying locally made gifts from Austin merchants also cuts carbon emissions from shipping and keeps money in the Austin economy.

2. Win-Win!

Give your family a backyard composter and you can get up to a $75 rebate from the City of Austin. Learn more at: http://austintexas.gov/composting

3. Give reusable items.

Items such as food containers, lunch bags, rechargeable batteries and/or a battery charger, reusable coffee mugs or drinking water bottles.

4. Shop Zero Wise.

Look for environmentally friendly, recyclable or reusable products. Avoid trendy holiday trappings such as single-use items, gifts with a limited life, non-recyclable and non-reusable items. Stick with well-made items that will last.
 

Give Experiences Instead of Stuff

5. Give fun.

Everyone appreciates tickets to a play, movie or sporting event.

gift card image

6. Indulge them.

Give them items they might not buy for themselves such as gift certificates for a massage, dinner, a club membership or spa treatment.

7. A day off is always popular.

Offer a free service such as baby-sitting, breakfast in bed, a diaper service, or piano lesson.

8. Donate.

Get in the holiday spirit by making a charitable donation in the recipient's name or give your friends and family a membership to a museum, environmental or non-profit organization.
 

Shop Thrifty

9. Why buy when you can Rent or Repair?

Give visiting family members a certificate to rent a camera, restore their favorite boots or repair a laptop during the holidays. For more ideas visit: LocallyAustin.org

image of thrift shop sign

10. Think Thrift.

From vintage guitars, rustic antique furniture to the perfect formal for holiday parties, discover fantastic finds at the many retailers specializing in remade originals.

11. Even Better, Think FREE.

Help a loved one paint that old garden shed during the holiday break. You do the work and Austin Resource Recovery will provide the free paint. Check out the beautiful new green color available at Austin Reblend.

12. Treat yourself.

Now that the kiddos are busy with their newest rented toys, you’ll have some quiet time to read a good book. Get amazing deals and help the Austin Public Library when you shop at Recycled-Reads.

 

Images courtesy of: locallyaustin; highstreetaz; pzrservices

 

Road to Zero Waste
Nov 24, 2014 - 09:22 am CST

Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday, bringing families together for a hearty meal and good company. Whether your plans for are large or small, consider these four tips to make your day eco-friendly. 

1. Pass on the paper and plastic.

Instead of using disposable plates and silverware, bring out the reusable dishes and silverware. Also try cloth napkins and placemats. The table will look special for the occasion!

2. If you choose to bake a pie in disposable aluminum, don’t forget that it can be recycled.

Just be sure to clean it and place in the blue cart!

3. Take your own to-go containers to the party,

or ask guests to bring them. You will refrain from using multiple plastic bags.

4. Try decorating your home with your kids using recycled material!

The house will feel festive, and the kids will love the craft time.  Some items you can use include toilet paper rolls and paper scraps.

Road to Zero Waste
Nov 07, 2014 - 03:44 pm CST

Imagine walking into a toy store with hundreds of toys lining the bright, vibrant shelves. Even better, imagine that you can play with these toys or take them home with you for a while, and you don’t have to buy them. Sound like something that’s too good to be true? Well, it’s not, thanks to the imaginative mind of Liza Wilson, owner of Toybrary Austin.

What is Toybrary? 

Toybrary is quite literally a toy library, filled with hundreds of toys waiting to be played with. Toys can be checked-out a few at a time or enjoyed in the store. In addition, Toybrary also offers many educational events for children, fun classes, birthday parties, and workshops for parents and small business owners.

A Zero Waste Business

Even better, Toybrary’s business model also contributes to Austin’s Zero Waste Goal! The unique concept of exchanging and borrowing toys gives parents an alternative to purchasing dozens of toys that their child will outgrow. This sharing model prevents wasted resources in many ways, from materials used in production, to the money you spend on toys, to the disposal of used toys. With a membership, customers receive full access to all the items and resources at the Toybrary.   It reduces waste, clutter and keeps your wallet happy!  

“There's no one else doing exactly what I'm doing in the country,” said Liza Wilson.

Just about every aspect of this business was built with reuse and conservation in mind. For example, Toybrary provides colorful reusable plastic cups and plates instead of disposable paper ones for birthday parties held at the store.  In fact, you won’t even be able to find paper towels at Toybrary; they’re using reusable washcloths instead!

Small Business Advocate

As a local business, Toybrary is an advocate for nurturing local businesses in the Austin community. Liza provides several community events at Toybrary, ranging from parent workshops to networking events for female business owners. The store even sells children’s books and accessories written and made by local Austinites!

 “I’m addicted to toys,” admits Liza. But adds that she is really in it for the joy she can bring to families and to serve as a business model for other businesses that can help Austin achieve its Zero Waste Goal.

 

To learn more about the Toybrary and to see a calendar of upcoming events, visit toybraryaustin.com or facebook.com/ToybraryAustin.

 

Toybrary is [re]Share businesses in the Shop Zero Waste directory on LocallyAustin.org.

 

 

Images courtesy of: ixi photography

Road to Zero Waste
Oct 29, 2014 - 03:14 pm CDT

Have you ever been startled by that loud (and annoying) beep coming from your smoke alarms?  Replacing old batteries in your smoke alarms twice a year will help you avoid this unwanted, low-battery beeping.  Coupling these checks with daylight savings is a great way to make sure you’re also checking your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms at least twice a year.  After all, properly functioning batteries could save a life!

Did you know that batteries contain materials that are reused and recycled when brought to a recycling facility? Let’s consider a single-use, alkaline battery. About 25 percent of a single-use battery is made of steel, which can be recycled forever. Another 60 percent of the battery is made of zinc, manganese and potassium.  All of these are earth elements, which can be reused!

Putting hazardous items like batteries into the trash can have negative effects on the environment, since toxic materials could leach into the soil and groundwater. Instead of throwing away your batteries, try these three simple suggestions to make the recycling process a little easier:

1. Always recycle batteries.

Batteries used to contain mercury, which is extremely toxic to our land, air and bodies! Thankfully, legislation was passed in 1996 that prohibited the use of mercury in alkaline batteries. However, some of these old batteries may still be present homes around the country. Avoid the risk and recycle! You will also be doing your part to help create new resources. 

2. If you only have a few, save them in a bag until you collect more.

We agree that making a trip to the Household Hazardous Waste Facility for just a few small batteries isn’t worth the gas. But instead of dumping them in the trash, collect them in a bag or box. When you are ready, bring them to the HHW Facility or a local battery drop off location. Click to find a list of additional battery drop off locations provided by Austin Resource Recovery.

3. Consider exchanging single-use batteries for rechargeable ones.

Don’ waste, reuse!  Replacing your alkaline batteries with rechargeable ones is friendlier to your wallet and our environment.  Rechargeable batteries can be used up to 1,000 times.  When you’ve used them to their last ounce, bring them over to the HHW facility.  Additionally, many stores provide Call2Recycle boxes for dead rechargeable batteries, which will also be taken to a recycling facility.

Learn more about the different hazardous waste material accepted at the Household Hazardous Waste facility by visiting: austintexas.gov/hhw.
 

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Written by: Guest Blogger - Paige Kroll, Communications and Marketing Intern

Image source: https://www.batteryservicehub.com

Road to Zero Waste
Oct 22, 2014 - 03:46 pm CDT

Once a year, the sweet, spooky and silly that is Halloween allows you to become someone or something else. This year, resist the temptations lining store aisles and become a Zero Waste Halloween buff instead. These ten tips for a Zero Waste Halloween will help reduce the impact to your wallet and the environment!

1. Buy candy with recyclable packaging.

Most candy wrappers are not easily recyclable, but there are a number of treats that come in cardboard boxes and foil.


 

2. Give out treasures.

Go beyond and hand out treasures like toys, cool school supplies or fun games. Green Halloween offers some great tips on alternative giveaways.


3. Boo! Play a trick.

Provide a thrill to the kids (and adults) without having to worry about providing a treat or treasure.


4. Don’t walk too far.

Instead of going to every house in the neighborhood, stick to a couple streets and reduce the amount of candy collected. You probably won’t eat it all anyway. If you or your kids really like to travel the neighborhood, consider tip #5…

5. Sell the extra candy.

You still won’t be able to eat it all, but U.S.A soldiers and troops probably will. Halloween Candy Buyback is a national program operated by area dentists who buy unopened candy for $1/pound and send the candy to our troops.

6. Instead of buying a new costume, check out the thrift store or the back of your closet.

Macklemore would be proud.

7. Make a costume.

Again, try the thrift store or the back of your closet. You’ll find a slew of items to mix together for the perfect outfit. Goodwill of Central Texas even has an entire Halloween website for your reference.

8. Eat the pumpkin.

When you carve the pumpkin, save the seeds to roast and use the pumpkin insides to make a pie. Then…

9. Compost it!

If you don’t have an at home compost system, you can bury the pumpkin—It’s great for the soil.  You can also participate in the City’s Home Composting Rebate Program or compost with Eastside Compost Pedallers at their November 2nd event. 

 

10. Plan ahead.

Making a last minute, frantic stop to the store for a bag of candy, costume or decorations for a Halloween party can really put a jam in Zero-Waste and your wallet. As with all things, plan ahead, and you’ll be pleased with the results.  

 

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Written by: Guest Bloggger - Sarah Puffer, Zero Waste Strategic Initiatives Intern
 

Image sources:
http://www.thatartistwoman.org/2008/10/how-to-make-robot-from-halloween-candy.html;
http://www.the36thavenue.com/halloween-monster-pencils;
http://www.halloweencandybuyback.com/;
http://www.quickmeme.com/;
http://www.goodwill.com/;
http://shewearsmanyhats.com/toasted-pumpkin-seeds/;
http://renovationadventure.com/2010/12/machete-compost-fun/;
http://freedayimages.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Cute-October-2014-Calendar-4.jpg
http://ecosalon.com/7-awesome-thrift-stores-in-austin/
https://compostpedallers.com/

Road to Zero Waste
Oct 20, 2014 - 11:03 am CDT

Meet Austinite, Tisha. 

Meet Tisha Monsey, a Program Coordinator & Academic Advisor for the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin. She has been a resident of the City of Austin for over 10 years now. She enjoys watching movies at home and spending her free time out on the lake. When she’s not out on the water she loves discovering new Austin restaurants, especially when there are cupcakes involved.  Tisha told us how she’s making sure her home recycles as much as possible.

How have you made recycling easier to do in your home, for your family?

When my husband and I moved in together, we had 2 trash cans in the kitchen and 2 trash cans for each bathroom. Instead of giving one away, we just made one thedesignated recycling bin in each room. Having a separate recycling bin in the bathroom was something I never thought of before, but it makes it easier to ensure everything that can be recycled is recycled. I didn't realize just how many bathroom items are recyclable and how tempting it can be to throw items in the bathroom trash instead of taking it across the house to a recycling bin.

What item do you most frequently recycle?

Food containers! Things like pasta boxes, cereal boxes, cheese and yogurt containers, and plastic milk jugs. Basically lots of plastics and thin cardboard.

What items do you forget to recycle?

Probably toilet paper rolls! The last square of unused toilet paper is usually glued onto the roll and it throws me off since it is soft tissue instead of paper or cardboard!

That can be tricky! No need to worry about that little bit of toilet paper. The roll is recyclable! What room do you recycle most in?

We keep one recycling bin in the pantry, so that's where all of our junk mail and kitchen items go. That's where we do most of our recycling.

How are you reaching your 5 extra lbs.?

 Sometimes it's easy to just throw old expired foods in the garbage, but by taking the extra 30 seconds to rinse out an old container instead of tossing it in the can, we're able to put more in the recycling bin instead. 

Why is recycling important to you?

Recycling is important to me for a lot of reasons. I grew up recycling, so that's part of it, but to me it's an easy thing to do make the world a better place for future generations. We don't have kids, but that shouldn't matter. There's only so much space on this planet, and I'd rather not fill that space with garbage. It's not just a space issue though - it's a contamination issue. I don't want that garbage ending up in rivers, streams, animals' homes, or polluting our air and water. It's about reducing waste.

Road to Zero Waste
Oct 03, 2014 - 01:39 pm CDT

7 Things to do at ReuseConex 2014

Whether you know it or not, you’ve participated in Austin’s reuse economy. Buying a used bike, donating old clothes to a thrift shop, having your boots re-soled, or taking your refillable mug to the coffee shop—all of these activities preserve the embodied energy of an item and keep waste out of the landfill. Even so, there’s a lot more reusing to be done: Austin residents are estimated to dispose of $11 million in reusable items annually!

From October 23-25, ReuseConex (an International Reuse Conference) will be in Austin to explore reuse methods and tried-and-true best practices. There is a full conference agenda and with several special events open to the general public, so it may be hard to decide to choose which one to go to. To help make the decision easier, we’ve narrowed down seven must-see-and-do events happening during the conference. Learn how you can help us keep that $11 million in reusable goods out of the landfill and circulating in the Austin economy. 

All events & workshops are FREE. Donations accepted and proceeds will benefit Reuse Alliance.

 

See an upcycled fashion show. Making dresses out of paper, seatbelts, and candy wrappers doesn’t just happen on Project Runway. The ReFashion Show at ReuseConex will showcase local designer’s reclaimed and upcycled fashion and stylish thrift store finds.

 

 

Bid on a gift certificate from your favorite local reuse shop. Shoppers on a budget (and who among isn’t?) shouldn’t miss this silent auction with items from Goodwill, Treasure City Thrift, Glass Dharma, Bag the Habit, Austin Creative Reuse, and more.

 

 

Take a self-guided tour of reuse in Austin. Reusing can fit into your busy schedule— whenever you have a free minute, do your own tour of local reuse companies and organizations with ReuseConex’s Austin Reuse Tour Map, which you can pick up at the Reuse Expo.

 

 

Learn how to start a Fixer Clinic. Once something breaks, it’s tempting to throw it out and get a new one. But at a fixer clinic, you can learn valuable repair skills and have a skilled volunteer help you tinker with your broken bread machine or remote control until it works again! One of the training workshops at ReuseConex will teach attendees about how to start and manage a repair or fixer clinic.

 

 

Cheer on your favorite upcycle team in a crafting battle. Four teams of artists, makers, and DIYers will have just 8 minutes to upcycle their materials. Cheer on your favorite through two side-by-side face-offs and a final round until they emerge as the Ultimate Upcycle Challenge Champion.

 

 

 

Watch a new documentary. Filmmaker Alex Eaves took to Kickstarter to fund his new documentary, REUSE! Because You Can’t Recycle The Planet, which chronicles individuals and organizations throughout the U.S. who are reusing in unique ways. After the screening, Alex will stick around for a Q&A session with the audience.

 

 

 

Get inspired by reuse initiatives around the world. The main conference agenda features speakers from the Freegle UK and Brighton Waste House (England), iWasteNot Systems (Canada), iFixit.com, Materials for the Arts, Sustainable America and Reuse Alliance (USA). These global experts on reuse will be speaking right here in our backyard. Open to conference attendees only.

 

 

Unless otherwise noted, the special events listed above are FREE and open to the public. See the schedule of events and register at reuseconex.org. Don’t miss this chance to learn all you can about that crucial second “R” of “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”!

Written by: Guest blogger - Natalie Betts, Austin Resource Recovery - Economic & Business Development Liaison 

Road to Zero Waste