How to plan a zero waste event to remember
We all want to throw an awesome event that our guests will enjoy. Why not create a sustainable example for your event-goers as well? It’s easy to show off your commitment to the environment while sharing earth-friendly practices so even more zero waste events will follow! Here are a few ways you can make more memories, not waste, at any function.
Sometimes it’s okay to bother your guests a little bit. In order to cut down on food waste, make sure you know how exactly many people are planning on attending and what their dietary restrictions are.
In our digital world, it gets easier every day to plan and share events online. Plus, if you need to make any last minute updates to the time and venue, you can easily get the word out instead of hunting down paper flyers and invitations. Facebook events, EventBrite, and Evite are all easy (and free!) sites you can use to set up your event and invite friends and family, while scheduling manager sites like Doodle can help you and your guests find a time that works for everyone.
Even with the best kind of planning beforehand, chances are, you’ll still have some leftovers. Asking people to bring containers to bring food back home ensures it isn’t going to waste. Plus, who doesn’t love some free food?!
When possible, make homemade dips and cut up veggies, fruits, cheese, and other items yourself rather than buying plastic appetizer trays and foods packaged in plastic.
At the venue, try working with what you have during event set-up. Ditch plastic table covers for reusable cloth covers, and collaborate with others to see what kind of homemade decorations you can create. Chances are, a lot of your guests may have mason jars, string lights, and tea candles lying around that can create a cozy event atmosphere in just a few minutes!
If you are in need of more dishes, napkins, tablecloths, tables, chairs, or even dresses, don’t worry–all these items are easy to rent. In fact, you’ll find a lot of options in the ReUSE Minnesota directory, like Apres Party and Tent Rentals, Bride to Be Consignment, Brides of France, and Hejny Rental.
Instead of purchasing single-use cups, plates, and silverware, bring your own or rent reusable dining ware. Let's be honest, no one likes eating off of plastic utensils. In fact, it's been shown that people think food tastes better when eaten off stainless or other "real" utensils. Depending on the size of your event, you could also ask guests to bring their mugs, water bottles, and more.
Do you ever get little trinkets (like stress balls, mini flashlights, bottle openers) from events that inevitably end up in your junk drawer? Instead of passing out gift bags full of stuff people likely aren’t going to use, think of ways you can share the party experience. Having a few polaroid cameras onhand or setting up a photobooth can provide guests with a simple souvenir and a unique way to remember the night.
If you’re hosting a wedding or birthday celebration, make it clear to guests beforehand that you aren’t expecting physical gifts. You could ask guests to donate to your favorite charity or nonprofit, or ask for things like cooking classes, concert tickets, or membership passes.
Clearly mark the recycling bins and compost bins. Hint: making the trash bin smaller than the others can help people think twice about where items need to go!
Zero-waste events definitely aren’t zero-fun (sorry, we had to). Let us know if you have any other ideas we can add, or want to share how you created a successful zero waste event for a guest blog post!
Are you still looking for that perfect gift for someone but seem to be all out of ideas? Don’t worry–we’ve got you covered. Instead of buying something new this holiday season, consider repairing or buying refurbished electronics for your loved ones!
If you’re looking to buy refurbished electronics, be sure to check out Tech Discounts, Tech Dump’s retail store. You could also offer the gift of repair, through organizations like Duluth Tech, who specialize in fixing Mac products and computers. They also offer free fix-it clinics to the public, where you can learn to repair your electronics and household items yourself. PC Doodle would also be a great place to get your shattered phone or tablet screen replaced. They offer computer, laptop, phones, and tablet repairs, and if your tech is too big to take to one of their locations, they also offer on-site services (and same day appointments!). Device PitStop has a few different metro locations, and offers computer, laptop, tablet, and smartphone repairs. They also trade, sell, and buy refurbished and repaired devices.
Many major companies also offer refurbished computers. If you want to go this route, you can shop directly at:
If you’re looking for other unique and green gift ideas, the MPCA highlights ways you can give “experiences”–cooking classes, shows, memberships, passes, and more will help you “make memories, not trash”. You can also make other holiday traditions greener, like baking cookies and looking at light neighborhood displays, with this list from the Recyclebank.
Happy holidays from ReUSE!
We’re excited to welcome three new board members to the ReUSE Minnesota team! We asked them, along with our two reelected board members, a few questions about reuse, including the daily challenges they face. What makes YOU passionate about reducing waste?
Steve Jameson, Bridging
Steve joined bridging in 2006, and after a brief hiatus, rejoined in 2014. He has more than 25 years of experience in retail management and financial services, and specializes in team building and employee training. He’s been involved in many aspects of the operational side of reuse, including client deliveries. At Bridging, Steve is responsible for the overall efficiency and effectiveness of internal operations, and for building relationships with partners to procure product donations.
ReUSE MN: What’s challenging about creating a reuse economy/community? How do you confront those challenges?
Jameson: “From the perspective of a furniture bank that is trying to get people to donate things that are still in good condition and appropriate for our clients, the biggest question we get is “what are we supposed to do with the items that Bridging is unable to take?” Whether it is donating items or recycling/reusing, we are a society that has convenience ingrained into our DNA. If someone can’t find a home for unwanted items easily, they will more than likely throw them away.
At Bridging, we have developed a piece of literature that helps people find a home for their unwanted items. If an item is in good condition but is just inappropriate for our clients, we provide a “Donor Resource List” to anyone that is interested. This is a piece that we put together that lists other non-profit organizations that accept all sorts of different items. We provide phone numbers and websites and what each organization takes, by category. We also provide information on a couple of recyclers for common items such as mattresses or electronics. We update this once to twice per year and make sure people know to contact the organization directly since accepted items will change periodically.”
Chris Bollman, Duluth Technology Company
Chris is the found of Duluth Technology Company, a repair business specializing in Apple products, and salvaging and rental services. They also offer classes and individual lessons in Mac computers, iPads, and iPhones, at their office and through Duluth Community Education. He’s passionate about keeping tech waste, in particular, out of the waste stream.
Allison Sawyer, Minnesota Waste Wise Foundation
For the last two years, Allison has worked as a sustainability specialist with the Minnesota Waste Wise Foundation, a nonprofit affiliate of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce. They provide energy and waste related consulting services to Minnesota businesses. Allison has also served as a Minnesota GreenCorps member, where she spent two years at St. Louis County Environmental Services. She holds a bachelor of Environment Studies in Geography & Environmental Management with a focus on International Development.
ReUSE MN: What does reuse mean to you?
Sawyer: “To me, reuse is all about encouraging consumption habits that go beyond just recycling. Recycling is great, but still relies on the disposal of items to be re-processed. When that step is eliminated altogether, not only do we use fewer natural resources, but we create an economic cycle in which consumers are more mindful and intentional about the things they own or use.”
Our terrific returning board members also weighed in.
Todd Tanner, University of Minnesota ReUse Program
Todd is the ReUse program coordinator at the University of Minnesota, which salvages discarded materials from across campus to be repurposed, preventing them from ending up in landfills and incinerators. He has also worked as a US Army Reserve Noncommissioned Officer in charge of communications for the 13th PSYOPS battalion, as well as for the Met Council. Todd is the current president of ReUSE Minnesota!
Tanner: “ReUse means being conscientious about how I practice consumption. Before I purchase something I ask myself, do I really need this? If the answer is yes, then I ask if I can borrow or rent the item next. If that isn't an option, or it's something I will use regularly, so renting or borrowing isn't appropriate, I consider where I could get the item used instead of new. Reuse means not submitting to the consumption model we are accustomed to and have been trained to practice. It means considering how to live life with less and only having what is really needed.”
Neal Lewis, Minnesota Computers for Schools
Neal has served as the Director of Operations for Minnesota Computers for Schools since January of 2012. During his time there he has been responsible for regulating environmental certifications to protect employees, the community, and our environment. As an R2 (a safety standard for the electronics refurbishing and recycling industry) recycler, his first goal is to reuse products whenever possible. He also volunteers on the Seri R2 Technical Advisory Committee (TAC), helping make routine revisions to the R2 standard.
ReUSE MN: What diverse reuse experience do you bring to the board?
Lewis: “Throughout my life I have helped people keep the products they have running and functional. I have worked in the automotive repair and auto-body field, repaired appliances and furnaces, and have been in the computer service industry for over 30 years. Both professionally and personally I have had a reuse focus all my life.”
Most people think of the “reduce, reuse, recycle” model when it comes to waste that we view as trash, like plastic bottles, food waste, or broken items. However, this mantra can be applied to EVERYTHING – including music! The music industry is a huge part of the economy and popular culture. Here is a guide to how you can be more environmentally conscious when it comes to music!
First – reduce.
This means thinking about how you BUY your music and not buying physical music in the first place, if you can avoid it. This is incredibly easy with the advent of digital music! Instead of collecting crates and crates of vinyl albums or CDs and needing specialized players, simply download the music you want and play it through your smartphone. This results in a much lower environmental footprint.
Second – reuse.
Then we get to recycling. Hopefully you’ve gotten the message that this is the last thing you should do with your music.
Trash. Last, and definitely least, is throwing music in the trash. Cassettes, tapes, and records are allowed in the trash and can be thrown away, but we hope you wouldn’t think of doing this.
Check out The Growler for more on this subject.
New Re-Users, Hobbyists, and experienced DIYers of all ages can all enjoy ReUSE Minnesota’s section of the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle area at the Eco Experience building. Learn about reuse, rental, and repair from demonstrations of repair techniques and reuse projects set in a Craft/Hobby Room illustrating clever ways to reuse and re-purpose a wide range of items.
Demonstration times are 10am-noon, 12:30-2:30 p.m., 3:00-5 p.m., and 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. every day of the fair. Activities change daily and include the opportunity to put together your own basic sewing kit, learning basic hand sewing, identifying tools and learning their uses, learning about outdoor gear repair, basics of bike repair, and a walk-through of what happens when technology is thrown away. Each Saturday, Fairgoers can upcycle t-shirts into reusable grocery bags, while Sundays offer sample Fix-It clinics with info on common repairs.
Join us and become part of the circular economy of reuse!
Guest post by Amanda LaGrange, CEO of Tech Dump and Tech Discounts
Businesses in the reuse sector face a variety of barriers to success. Some of these challenges, such as managing cash flow and employee retention are shared by businesses of all types. However, other challenges are inherent in our shared mission to extend the material life of goods. For example, Tech Discounts must absorb the ridiculous cost of a specialized fastening screw for a certain fruit-branded phone. Another unique obstacle our sector faces is raising awareness about the whole idea of reuse.
Most consumers here in the U.S. don’t think of reuse as an option, probably due in part to something called default bias, which is the human tendency to do whatever is easiest and do what’s always been done. In the case of consumer goods, this means throwing items away and buying new things. Overcoming existing behaviors is hard, but it can be done. Look at all the progress that’s been made in promoting recycling in the City of Saint Paul, which introduced alley carts in January 2017 and is now on track to increase the materials collected by 35 percent in the next five years.
Success is within reach, but the first step is raising awareness about our work!
In my own field of used electronics, we’re getting better about letting people know about their options, but we need to provide more education. For example, a recent report from the Wisconsin DNR indicated that the percentage of residents who knew where to take old electronics rose from 28 percent in 2013 to 45 percent in 2016, but that still leaves a majority of our neighbors to the east in the dark with a “pile of denial.” In fact, the Wisconsin DNR reported that 48 percent of cell phones in homes around the state were unused in 2016. Those numbers are not unusual. In fact, many consumers hold on to their electronics, especially cellphones; the EPA estimates that only 11% of mobile devices are properly recycled. When I hear those statistics, as an e-waste repair shop and retailer with a commitment to the environment, I think about the number of cellphones and PDAs that could be put back into circulation! On the recycling side, the amount of untapped gold, silver, palladium and copper that could be recovered is mind blowing.
All those unused devices are why Tech Dump launched Cell Phone Summer, our campaign to collect ONE TON of cell phones between June 10th and Labor Day. The funds raised through recycling and reselling a ton of phones will provide1,000 hours of work for our social enterprise’s employees, which is great, but it’s not the only reason we’re doing the campaign.
We also created Cell Phone Summer to raise awareness about recycling and reusing mobile devices. Despite all our traditional marketing and communications efforts – advertising, social media, google SEO, media relations, etc. – there were still plenty of people with old electronics that didn’t know about us. We needed to try something new to get them to bring in their stuff, so we launched the campaign. We’re placing Paul Bunyan and Babe collection bins around the metro, our staff is appearing at key summer events, and we’re hosting our own shindigs. We’re also engaging our networks in sharing information about Cell Phone Summer. (Hint: You can help us by Tweeting, Instagramming and on Facebook using the hashtag #CellPhoneSummer.) We’ll finish up in the Eco Experience at the Minnesota State Fair. I look forward to seeing all of you there and discussing your plans for raising awareness about the work your organization does and the great potential of the reuse sector!
Guest post by Heidi Andermack, Owner, Chowgirls Killer Catering
Wedding season is high upon us. With all the festivities comes a lot of stuff…. stuff for decorating, stuff for eating, stuff for drinking, stuff for gifts, stuff for everything imaginable. As owner of Chowgirls, a sustainably minded catering company, we love working with couples who are thoughtful about their environmental footprint when planning their weddings.
One such couple gave LED lightbulbs as their favors. Another offered fire-starter pinecones — lovingly scavenged on their parents’ property and wax dipped by the family — that served as decorations as well as favors. A few brides and grooms have provided home-canned pickles or jams packed in ball jars that were found at rummage sales.
The wedding tabletop lends itself to reused or rented items. For shabby-chic farm weddings, jam jars make great drinking glasses and votive candle holders. Mismatched assortments of vintage china and flatware from thrift stores are trending in restaurants now, and they also make for a sweet table setting at a wedding reception. For the bride and groom favoring more contemporary flair, we highly recommend working with a rental company for the latest glassware, dishes, flatware, and linens. Either way — sourcing used or renting — choosing the real deal is the more sustainable than using disposables, even if they are recyclable or compostable.
There are many options for clothing that are sustainable too. A sentimental favorite is seeing a bride walk down the aisle in her mother’s wedding gown. While that’s not always an option, there are second-hand stores that can outfit a bride and her maids as well. For guys, it’s even easier, they can just go to the same place where they rented their prom tuxedo.
For décor, more and more boutique rental companies are popping up in the Twin Cities, offering unique furniture and accessories. Perhaps you’d like to host your cocktail hour in a Mid-Century Modern lounge with a sleek leather couch and Danish side tables. Or maybe you’re more into an antique look with a Victorian velvet fainting couch and elaborate candelabras. Whatever your tastes, there are niche stylists salvaging and restoring fabulous furnishings, sharing them so they can be appreciated again and again.
Gift ideas for the eco-minded bride and groom are trending toward crowd-sourced financial gifts for travel or charity. But a similarly funded down-payment on a reused house or even a vintage furniture piece in the couple’s style would also be appreciated sustainable gifts.
With thoughtful planning and good intentions, re-using can be a great way to make your event unique and memorable. Consider it a smart and sexy alternative to the wasteful whimsy that’s so easy to find most anywhere.
Guest post by Tim Roman, Ecotone Analytics GBC
Earth Day was established on April 22, 1970 in the United States and since then, the celebration and acknowledgement of our fragile planet has grown and evolved to include the entire month and people around the world. It’s estimated that one billion people participate in Earth Day activities.
ReUSE Minnesota welcomes the attention to the environment that Earth Day generates. My fellow members work hard to create reuse, repair and rental opportunities for people so that we can extend the useful life of raw materials, reduce the waste stream, and mitigate the effects of manufacturing and transportation on Minnesota’s environment.
Their efforts pay off. Firstly, the reuse economy generated an estimated 77,800 job for the state of Minnesota in 2015 and a little over $10 billion in economic activity. Equally important is the fact that the reuse economy helps the environment in measurable ways.
For example, in 2016 Junket Tossed and Found sold 6.2 tons of goods that might well have ended up in Minnesota landfills. Furthermore, the sale of those goods avoided the generation of 31 metric tons of carbon dioxide, a definite win for the planet!
These measures matter, because they go beyond the activities of April 22nd and can have a lasting impact.
In 2015, our client Better Futures Minnesota, in partnership with the Northwest Indian Opportunity Industrialization Center (NWIOIC) in Bemidji, and the Natural Resources Research Institute (NRRI) at the University of Minnesota - Duluth, was given a pilot study grant to model and measure the effects of “deconstruction” of residential buildings (taking them apart and saving the materials for reuse, then recycling the remainder) versus traditional “smash and landfill” demolition. The goal was to observe and measure the effects on greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction from diversion from landfill.
The data revealed that there was a “pareto” effect between recycling and reuse in relation to GHG avoidance. That about 80% of the GHG reduction effects were from material reclamation for reuse, versus about 20% from recycling. These finding support policies that incentivize reuse over recycling, an important piece of information for municipalities. In fact, based on this project, Better Futures has been recognized as the 2017 recipient of the award for sustainable business by the Environmental Initiative.
So, the numbers matter, on Earth Day and every day. Please keep counting.
Tim Roman is a co-founder of Ecotone Analytics, GBC, which specializes in helping organizations measure, manage, and communicate their social, environmental, and business impacts.
Reposted from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
What's the big idea?
In resolutions and sustainable consumption, keep the big idea in mind but go after it one step at a time.
Did you make a resolution for the New Year? Was it to buy lots of new stuff, online or otherwise? (Didn’t think so.)
We’ve got a hunch, dear Living Green 365 reader, that your hopes for 2017 include keeping our air and water clean, and not using up finite natural resources. Those are big goals. Psychologists suggest that people keep the big ideas of their resolutions in mind, but break them down into manageable steps they can tackle through the year.
Let’s start with reusing a little more. According to one poll, 91% of Americans think the way we live produces too much waste. Even the greenest among us have room to improve when it comes to our consumption patterns.
The idea here is easy – keep what we have longer, get what we need by borrowing or buying secondhand, and not end up burdened with the kind of stuff that makes us feel both cluttered and empty.
Reuse does all sorts of good things. It:
Reuse is easy to love, but it can be hard to do when one-click-shopping is so tempting. So try committing to just one or two of these tips to help you reuse more:
Keep things longer
Tip 1. Practice gratitude for what you have. The first step to keeping things longer is to value them. Be mindful and grateful for an item, and you will find it easier to treasure. (The science of happiness says that happy people are grateful for what they have, and don’t compare themselves to others.)
Tip 2. Buy it right the first time. We talk about buying durable all the time. But how do you know if something will last? Let your experience and intuition guide you. That $5 t-shirt that you can see through when it’s new? Won’t last. That cheap freebie water bottle offered at the community event? Don’t take it. You know it’ll leak the first time you use it.
Tip 3. Show it some love. There’s a reason you’re supposed to vacuum out the dust from the back of your fridge once in a while. I know. I didn’t do it. And my fridge died. Once you’ve invested in something of quality, or have something you value – treat it well. And if it needs a little repair – great! There are so many options for fixing these days. We wrote about it here: Fixing. I recently had my old leather purse redyed; it’s as good as new.
Tame the “buy it new, buy it now” impulses
Tip 1. Take a photo instead of buying. We are hard-wired to respond to novelty. But that buzz of having a new thing wears off after just a few days and we often regret we spent the money. Next time you’re tempted, try taking a photo of the thing that caught your eye. Look at the photo enough times and the novelty might wear off. You may find you no longer “have to have” it.
Check out this fun video to remind you of all the great reasons to get less!
Tip 2. Commit to trying at least one second-hand option before you jump to online shopping sites. Check ReUSE Minnesota’s new directory to see if they have a store listed near you. Or ask if a neighbor has one they are getting rid of – NextDoor is great for this.
Seek access over ownership
The average electric drill spends only 15 minutes of its life actually drilling holes. The rest of its sad life is on your garage wall, taking up space. Many toys are the same – a child may love it for a year and grow out of it. For things like this, we only need access to them when we need them, we don’t need to own them. It’s already happened for music (Pandora, iTunes), and movies (Netflix).
Tip 1. “I’ve got one you can use.” Help someone else reuse. Offer to lend something you have. The offer will probably come back to you. Acts of kindness and creating community relationships will increase your happiness while you increase reuse.
Tip 2. Use or start a toy library, or a tool library. The Northeast Minneapolis Tool Library and the Minneapolis Toy Library lend tools and toys the way traditional libraries lend books. So simple and powerful. These can be small and simple – with just a few members in your neighborhood, or larger and more ambitious.
My first step in 2017? I hate remodeling, but my bathroom needs fixing. I’m resolving to explore the great building and architectural salvage businesses around the Twin Cities to find the fixtures, cabinets, and hardware I need.
Which tip will you start with?
Community events and resources
Where Do We Go From Here? The science, policy and politics of addressing and adapting to global-scale environmental change.
Wednesday, February 1, 2017, 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Camp Bar, St. Paul, MN.
Everything has an impact on the environment. Climate change is top of mind for many, but our carbon dioxide emissions are only the beginning of the story. The ecological outcomes of our activities take myriad forms and have far reaching implications. Join us for a wide-ranging discussion about the science, politics and policy driving our complex relationship with our planet’s systems. Sponsored by U of M College of Biological Sciences. Part of the Petri Dish series, which explores how biology affects our lives and what it means for our future.
Wild Ones 2017 Design With Nature Conference—Planting Matters.
February 18, 2017. Anderson Student Center, University of St. Thomas, St. Paul Campus. Sixteenth annual Native Plant conference hosted by Wild Ones chapters in greater Twin Cities Metro, featuring keynote speaker Douglas Tallamy, author of Bringing Nature Home.
This film isn't about our waste problem. It's about solutions. And they are everywhere!
Support ReUSE Minnesota by purchasing a copy of the movie. A portion of the proceeds of you movie purchase go to support ReUSE Minnesota when you use this link.
We live in a challenging time. Climate change and mass consumption is threatening our planet's existence. Excessive extraction of natural resources has created immeasurable waste and pollution. This issue is complicated and imminent. While recognition and awareness is important, direct action is by far the most effective. But traditional recycling is not enough. The reuse mission offers a more sustainable solution that everyone can be a part of. REUSE! Because You Can't Recycle The Planet follows reuse pro Alex Eaves' cross-country adventure to the 48 contiguous U.S. states. On his journey, he finds endless reuse solutions for our waste problem that are not only sustainable, but many of which are easy and fun! And he learns just how reuse truly benefits "people, planet, and wallet."
Reuse Minnesota was founded in 2012 and is a member-based nonprofit that supports repair, resale, and rental businesses, bringing visibility to the reuse sector as a means to lower our state's impact on the environment.
Contact usEmail Reuse Minnesota612-314-6283reusemn.org
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