Zero Waste New Year’s Resolutions

Emily teaching about plastic pollution 

Today’s blog post was written by Education Manager, Emily!

The new year gives us a chance to set intentions for our lives. At the close of every December, I set goals for the coming year, write them on an index card (or recycled piece of paper!), and post them somewhere visible. Unlike more general New Year’s resolutions, I typically have success meeting my goals because I make sure to be specific and review them regularly to keep focus.

As you’re looking ahead to 2017, consider setting goals to adopt a zero waste lifestyle. By doing so, you will reduce the amount of trash sent to the landfill, become more sustainable, and minimize your carbon footprint. We’ve gathered a few ideas to help you get started.

  • Buy local. Find your local farmer’s market and shop there once a month. Shopping locally reduces fossil fuel-based transportation costs.
  • Conduct a waste audit to see what you’re currently throwing away. Spend a week collecting your trash to understand what you’re throwing away. Then, select one disposable item you can replace with a reusable alternative. Some ideas: reusable produce bags, safety razors, handkerchiefs, chopsticks, stainless steel straws, beeswax wraps, and sandwich bags.
  • Be mindful of energy use. Start by selecting one appliance to unplug when not in use. Toasters, cell phone chargers, and fans are a great place to start. Or look into more sustainable options, like the SDG&E EcoChoice Program.
  • Reduce food waste. Learn how to properly store fresh produce to slow rotting.
  • Buy secondhand. Shop at a thrift store 3 times throughout the year.
  • Learn a new skill. Canning, gardening, and sewing are great skills for your zero waste journey. Or learn to do your own car maintenance or bicycle repair.
  • Shave two minutes off your shower time. Most shower heads have a flow of 2 gallons per minute. This minor adjustment will save four gallons per shower. If we make a very modest assumption that you shower once a week, that equates to 208 gallons saved over the course of the year. If you shower daily, that’s 1,460 gallons saved. For more ideas, check out The Hidden Water We Use by National Geographic.
  • Try one recipe a week using bulk items. Soups, grains, granola bars, and baked goods are great dishes for bulk success!
  • Plant an herb garden. You’ll only need to pick the amount you need per recipe instead of letting half a bunch of mint wilt in the back of the fridge. If you’re short on space, try a vertical garden.
  • Learn! Read an article a week about zero waste and sustainability, listen to podcasts, watch videos, find books, and get inspired by others.
  • Rethink your main mode of transportation. Research electric vehicles on the market. Even if you’re not currently in the market for a new vehicle, it’s useful to stay abreast of the current offerings so you can be a more informed consumer when the time comes.
  • Carpool. Carpool to one event or outing per month.
  • Plant native. Native plants require less water and maintenance. They also provide habitat for birds, butterflies and other native wildlife.
  • Go vegetarian 3 days a week. Learn more about why with this YouTube video.
Composting helps nourish the soil and reduce food waste
  • Start composting. Check out our Classroom Composting lesson plan for basics about starting a vermicompost.
  • Reduce paper use. Assess any print publication subscriptions (or junk mail), and find one to eliminate. Once you’ve read past copies of the periodical, contact your local library, elementary school, or scouting group to see if they’re interested in using your old copies.
  • Attend a community cleanup. Not only will you be removing debris from our environment, but dedicating time to collect litter from the street will spur your motivation to reduce your reliance on single-use items. Subscribe to our Facebook events to stay up-to-date on our public cleanups!
  • Get outside. Hike, stargaze, bike, swim, camp and explore. The more you connect with the natural world, the more dedicated you will be to preserving it for generations to come.


Make a resolution to recycle more in 2014!

It’s that time of year again, what will be your resolution for this New Year? Might we make a suggestion? Resolve to recycle more! Your friends at I Love A Clean San Diego are here to help you keep your resolution with a refresher on what can be recycled in your blue recycling bin here in San Diego.

Can recycle: milk cartons, juice boxes, and broth boxes
Can recycle: milk cartons, juice boxes, and broth boxes

Cartons are now recyclable through every waste hauler in San Diego County. That means you can put milk cartons, juice boxes, broth boxes, and any other aseptic type of container in your blue bin.

Any type of hard plastic container, regardless of the number on the bottom, can be put in your recycling bin. Here’s a good rule of thumb: if it’s a plastic that you cannot easily crush with your hand and it fits in your bin, throw it in for recycling. Containers should be empty of most food scraps, but don’t need to be perfectly clean.

Any type of hard plastic container, regardless of the  number on the bottom, can be put in your recycling bin
Any type of hard plastic container, regardless of the
number on the bottom, can be put in your recycling bin

Another item that might you might not be dropping into your blue bin is empty aerosol cans. Empty hair spray, empty aerosol cleaning supplies and empty spray paint containers can all be recycled. (If you have aerosol containers that aren’t completely empty, those should be treated as household hazardous waste.  Log on to our recycling database, to find a location for disposal).

pizza box
Recycle the clean cardboard lids on pizza boxes

Pizza boxes are one of the greatest mysteries in recycling and we have the answer for you! To recycle pizza boxes, all you need to do is rip off any part of the box that is greasy or covered with food and throw it in the trash. The rest of the clean cardboard can go in the recycling. (If we were to recycle the pizza box in the image to the left, we would rip  off the bottom section and throw it in the trash. Then put the top part in the recycling).

Not be to forgotten are the old standbys for recycling. Paper, metal cans, clean aluminum foil, glass jars, soda bottles, and aluminum cans are some of the common items you have around the house that can go in the recycling. If you have paper, especially shredded paper, to recycle, throw it in a paper grocery bag and roll the top down on the bag to ensure it’s not contaminated by other items in the recycling bin. (If it’s contaminated, it won’t be recycled and it will have to be thrown away as regular trash).

Check out to learn where to recycle ewaste!
Check out to learn where to recycle ewaste!

Did you get a snazzy new TV for the holidays? Don’t forget that your old TV should be recycled: electronic waste is known to contain heavy metals such as mercury and lead, which if placed in the landfill can harm people and the environment.   Keep an eye out in your neighborhood for signs advertising e-waste collection events. You can also log on to to search for an event or recycling center for electronics near you.