Ten New Year’s resolutions for zero waste

Cartoon by Regula and Michael Russelle

Cartoon by Regula and Michael Russelle

Do you want to lose 10—of accumulated plastic bags?

Are you serious about kicking the habit—of buying tools you’ll rarely use?

Are you ready for a committed relationship—with your new blue recycling cart?

If you answered yes to those questions, you can be a zero waste (ZW) hero in 2017. Your small, everyday choices are easier on the earth and your wallet, too. This year, resolve to reduce, reuse and recycle.


1. Join the St. Paul Tool Library, opening soon at 755 N. Prior Ave. (north of Menard’s off University Avenue). For $55 a year, you will get access to tools and workshop space. Why buy when you can share? To sign up, join the Northeast Minneapolis Tool Library (www.nemtl.org) and specify you’re with St. Paul. Memberships make great gifts; donations of tools and labor are also welcome.

2. Plan meals and food storage for reduced waste. Keep herbs fresh longer by storing them as a kitchen- counter bouquet. Learn how to use up sour milk (in pancakes) and zucchini overload (in brownies). Eat seasonally and make use of veggie skins. Eureka Recycling offers tips like these at makedirtnotwaste.org.

3. Just say no to Styrofoam. Egg cartons, for example. Even clear plastic ones are preferable, since they’re recyclable. A better choice is the classic gray “formed paper” cartons, ripped up and composted after your 12-egg omelet. Best of all, refill those cartons with bulk eggs from Hampden Park Co-op, or share them with chicken-owning friends.


4. Bring your own containers. You’ll recognize ZW heroes by the water bottle they tote to the office, the mug they bring to Bruegger’s, the to-go container they whip out after a meal at Foxy Falafel. (Did you know the Minnesota Department of Health endorses bring-your-own takeout containers?) And, of course, ZW heroes bring bags, tubs and bottles to the food co-op for everything from pasta to peanut butter to laundry detergent.

5. Shop at thrift, consignment, vintage and reuse stores. Some great options include TurnStyle in Roseville, Goodwill in St. Paul and Roseville, Practical Goods (on Selby Avenue near Fairview Avenue), Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore in New Brighton near 35W and in Minneapolis at 2700 Minnehaha Ave.), the Repair Lair on East Lake Street in Minneapolis, Succotash on Raymond Avenue and MidModMen and Classic Retro at Pete’s on University Avenue. There are so many, so close, with more here: www.reusemn.org.

6. Take broken items to a Fix-it Clinic. Learn from skilled volunteer fixers. These monthly sessions aren’t just for electronics and small appliances—you can bring clothing, gardening tools, toys and more. Locations rotate between Ramsey and Hennepin Counties.

Links to both are at www.TransitionASAP.org/zero- waste.


7. Commit to your new, blue recycling cart. Go ahead: say, “I do.” Yes, that cart may seem awfully big, but how much of the stuff you now toss could be recycled or replaced by a recyclable option? Plus, more items will now be accepted, such as brown- cardboard tubes and paperboard boxes from refrigerated (not frozen) foods. Starting the week of Jan. 16, show your cart you care.

8. Keep plastic bags out of the waste stream. Please don’t put them into your blue cart; they’ll gum up the works at Eureka Recycling. But do save them separately and take them to Hampden Park Co-op’s bin, near the entrance at 928 Raymond Ave. Any kind of plastic film is OK, including grocery sacks, cling wrap and flexible packaging. Make sure they’re clean.

9. Use due diligence when discarding electronics. If your computer or other device has some life in it, Free Geek may be interested (located in the Seward neighborhood of Minneapolis). If it’s really dead, make sure it gets recycled responsibly at Tech Dump, 698 N. Prior Ave.

10. Compost your food waste. If you have a yard, consider starting your own bin. Or take a weekly bag of food waste to the county’s Midway Yard Waste site on Pierce Butler— with the added advantage that there, you can include bones, fat, compostable tableware and other slow-to-decompose items. Free bags (in two sizes) make it even easier. It is open weekends December to March and five days a week April to November.

Best of all: share your ZW discoveries with neighbors. How can we scale up these practices for greater impact? Visit the ZW action group page at TransitionASAP.org/zero-waste for more links or ideas. To get in touch with other heroes in the making, email ZeroWaste@TransitionASAP.org.

Pat Thompson leads Transition Town ASAP’s Transportation action group and is active in Zero Waste.

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