Living Zero Waste: AT HOME

Posted by: Stacy Albin on April 9, 2020

My first introduction to COVID-19 was at 6:30am on a Thursday morning in early March. I went to a Starbucks in the suburban neighborhood where my parents live to grab a cup of coffee before sitting down to work. I set my reusable mug that I always have on hand on the counter and ordered a cup of coffee requesting that she use my mug. For the first time ever, she politely declined. I would still receive the ten-cent discount for bringing my own reusable mug, but the single-use, non-recyclable, straight-to-the-landfill cup was mine.

Now, several weeks later, fears of a virus, that caused a global pandemic, being on any and every surface is now starkly clear in grocery stores, at playgrounds, and on the hand railings at the parks. With these growing fears, comes a lot more waste. In this blog series, PRC will introduce some tips for continuing to uphold zero waste strategies during this stressful time. With most of us currently staying at home, we thought “at home” was a good place to start.

At Home

  • Recycle Right! Now that manufacturers have shifted to primarily relying on residential recycling to provide materials to make toilet paper, paper towels, and other essentials, it’s important to understand how to recycle properly. Check out this “recycle right” interview from 2019 with Pittsburgh’s Action News 4 Anchor Shannon Perrine and our Managing Director, Justin Stockdale. Watch Justin help Shannon properly divert waste in her trash and recycling bin. Evaluate your own recycling bin and correct any errors! Finally, stay tuned for online “Recycling 101” educational resources from PRC.
  • Repurpose old fabrics in place of paper towels. Even the CDC says the best way to fight this virus is with soap and water! Consider using cleaner and a reusable, and washable rag to clean surfaces at home. Avoid single-use disinfecting wipes, which must be places in the trash, at home. Are there other ways you can repurpose items in your home to prevent waste?
  • Cook meals from scratch. Get creative with your cooking by creating weekly meal plans and buying only what you need for those recipes. Maximize the food you buy and what you already have in your pantry and freezer to make sure nothing goes to waste.
  • Build a compost bin and start composting food scraps. Since PRC can’t bring you our Backyard Composting Workshop, we encourage you to find plans online and build your own compost bin! Use materials that you have on-hand when you can. Don’t know how to compost at home? Learn here!
  • Plant a garden. Consider planting edible foods and/or native plants in your garden. Check out Grow Pittsburgh’s info hub for gardening tips, techniques and tricks, and even take advantage of their digital consultation service. You can also make use of Penn State Extension’s Garden Hotline, which allows you to share photos of garden plants and problems for identification by Master Gardeners.

There are many other ways to prevent and minimize your waste, reuse or repurpose what you have, and recycle properly. Not all of these strategies will be applicable to your lifestyle, so we encourage you to focus on what’s within your control and identify opportunities to prevent and minimize waste throughout your home. Every effort makes a positive difference and can help us build on our zero waste goals over time.

Stay tuned for next week’s Living Zero Waste blog series when we focus on zero waste strategies you can take at the grocery store.