Shifting From Wasteful to Grateful

Shifting From Wasteful to Grateful

by Rhana Pytell

In the United States we produce 240 pounds of plastic per person per year.  This is not a sustainable state.  No one really knows how long it takes plastics to break down.  We do know that when they do they become microplastics that chemically bond with PCBs, DDT and endocrine disruptors that make their way into our food chain.  One innovation is “biodegradable” plastic. This type of plastic can be biodegraded at commercial composting facilities where microbes digest this product.  In 2007 only 42 commercial composting facilities existed nationwide and curbside recycling does not accept “biodegradable” plastic.   If these end up in a landfill it is unlikely that they will biodegrade in the oxygen free environment of a landfill, however, if they did they would emit methane, a greenhouse gas 23 times more potent than CO2.

 Reusable, durable alternatives to plastic is the smart choice.  On a train trip from Tokyo to Nikko Japan I observed in amazement how at the lunch hour lacquered bento boxes appeared everywhere, opened and the food enjoyed with cloth napkins and chopsticks.  When the meal was finished there was not a trace – no waste, no litter!   We can live differently.

On a path to Zero Waste in the spa environment these are the basic best  choices:

Eliminate all plastic water bottles.
Exchange paper and plastic containers for recyclable glass and a dishwasher.  Sturdy juice sized glasses are ideal for both water and gently warmed teas.
Empty individual service room trash receptacles into larger disposable Biobags and eliminate unnecessary bags to landfill.
Replace paper hand towels with light weight, durable micro-fiber towels in the guest areas.
Use  cleaning systems that are toxic and waste free: green products, CO3 technology, silver technology, and others that eliminate harmful bacteria and pathogens from the environment.
Select office paper that is generated from post consumer waste and FSC certified.
Replace disposable plastic body wraps with durable micro-fiber.
Install recycle bins in the staff and laundry rooms.
Post  recycling guidelines in the staff areas.

Give yourself sensory breathing room in nature – you might be able to hear Mother Nature’s whispers of gratitude and feel your appreciation for her beauty and generosity.

FALL 2007 Co-Op America

21 Things You Didn’t
Know You Can Recycle

CAQ73Garbage.  Americans produce more and more of it every year, when we need to be producing less.  Even the most waste-conscious among us can feel overwhelmed by the amount of household waste that goes beyond what municipal recyclers and compost bins can handle.  That’s why our editors spent the summer of 2007 investigating the state of waste management in our country, putting this list together for you, explaining how we can get serious about the three R’s – reducing, reusing, and recycling — and divert more waste away from landfills. (To download the entire recycling issue of the Quarterly, visit our archives page.)

1.  Appliances: Goodwill accepts working appliances,, or you can contact the Steel Recycling Institute to recycle them. 800/YES-1-CAN,

2.  Batteries: Rechargeables and single-use: Battery Solutions, 734/467-9110, Some libraries are providing bins for battery collection.Boxcan use them. Or, offer up used cardboard boxes at your local listserv or on for others who may need them for moving or storage. If your workplace collects at least 100 boxes or more each month, accepts them for resale.

3.  Cardboard boxes: Contact local nonprofits and women’s shelters to see if they

4. CDs/DVDs/Game Disks: Send scratched music or computer CDs, DVDs, and PlayStation or Nintendo video game disks to AuralTech for refinishing, and they’ll work like new: 888/454-3223,

5.  Clothes: Wearable clothes can go to your local Goodwill outlet or shelter. ShirtsDonate wearable women’s business clothing to Dress for Success, which gives them to low-income women as they search for jobs, 212/532-1922, Offer unwearable clothes and towels to local animal boarding and shelter facilities, which often use them as pet bedding. Consider holding a clothes swap at your office, school, faith congregation or community center. Swap clothes with friends and colleagues, and save money on a new fall wardrobe and back-to-school clothes.

6.  Compact fluorescent bulbs:   Take them to your local IKEA store for recycling:  

7.  Compostable bio-plastics: You probably won’t be able to compost these in your home compost bin or pile. Find a municipal composter to take them to at

8.  Computers and electronics: Find the most responsible recyclers, local and national, at

9.  Exercise videos: Swap them with others at

10.   Eyeglasses: Your local Lion’s Club or eye care chain may collect these. Lenses Glassesare reground and given to people in need.

11.  Foam packing: Your local pack-and-ship store will likely accept foam peanuts for reuse. Or, call the Plastic Loose Fill Producers Council to find a drop-off site: 800/828-2214. For places to drop off foam blocks for recycling, contact the Alliance of Foam Packaging Recyclers, 410/451-8340,

12. Ink/toner cartridges: pays $1/each. 

13. Miscellaneous: Get your unwanted items into the hands of people who can use them. Offer them up on your local or listserv, or try giving them away at or giving or selling them at will also help you find a recycler, if possible, when your items have reached the end of their useful lifecycle. 

14. Oil: Find Used Motor Oil Hotlines for each state: 202/682-8000,

15.  Phones: Donate cell phones: Collective Good will refurbish your phone and sell Cellphoneit to someone in a developing country: 770/856-9021, Call to Protect reprograms cell phones to dial 911 and gives them to domestic violence victims: Recycle single-line phones: Reclamere, 814/386-2927,

16. Sports equipment: Resell or trade it at your local Play It Again Sports outlet, 800/476-9249,

17. “Technotrash”: Project KOPEG offers an e-waste recycling program that can help you raise funds for your organization. Use Project KOPEG to recycle iPods, MP3 players, cell phones and chargers, digital cameras, PDAs, palm pilots, and more. Also, easily recycle all of your CDs, jewel cases, DVDs, audio and video tapes, pagers, rechargeable and single-use batteries, PDAs, and ink/toner cartridges with GreenDisk’s Technotrash program. For $30, GreenDisk will send you a cardboard box in which you can ship them up to 70 pounds of any of the above. Your fee covers the box as well as shipping and recycling fees. 800/305-GREENDISK,

18.  Tennis shoes: Nike’s Reuse-a-Shoe program turns old shoes into playground and athletic flooring. One World Running will send still-wearable shoes to athletes in need in Africa, Latin America, and Haiti.

19.  Toothbrushes and razors:  Buy a recycled plastic toothbrush or razor from ToothbrushRecycline, and the company will take it back to be recycled again into plastic lumber.  Recycline products are made from used Stonyfield Farms’ yogurt cups.  888/354-7296,

20. Tyvek envelopes: Quantities less than 25: Send to Shirley Cimburke, Tyvek Recycling Specialist, 5401 Jefferson Davis Hwy., Spot 197, Room 231, Richmond, VA 23234. Quantities larger than 25, call 866/33-TYVEK.

21.  Stuff you just can’t recycle:  When practical, send such items back to the manufacturer and tell them they need to manufacture products that close the waste loop responsibly.




One thought on “Shifting From Wasteful to Grateful

  1. The amount of waste in America and most countries around the world is absurd. Besides plastic, paper products also go to waste at a ridiculously high rate. To reduce this I know I found that using reusable towels cuts back about a roll of paper towels a week. I use the Sham Wow and it works really well. I would recommend it to everyone.

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