How to Have a Low-Waste Holiday

box-2953722_1920Christmas, Hanukah and the other December holidays are a time for giving and generosity. But when we give physical gifts, they come with a price beyond what we pay for them. The amount Americans put in the trash goes up by about 25 million tons in November and December. That’s a 25 percent increase over the rest of the year.

This season, instead of giving everyone the gift of a brand new item, are there people on your list who would like something else? Maybe a special hand-made gift, an experience, or a donation to a cause they care about? Here are some ways you can lower the waste associated with gift giving this holiday season.

Make a gift using upcycled materials

You handy and crafty types have this one covered. Buy some building materials from us, or some second-hand fabric or yarn from MECCA or St. Vincent de Paul, and churn out creative projects your friends and family will love. Not crafty? There are lots of things anyone can make with a little time and some good instructions. Bake treats, make cookie or soup in a jar mixes, stir up a spice mix, or create homemade body scrubs or soaps.dscn2493-e1511981605855.jpg

Share an experience

Many of us have enough stuff. Instead of buying dad another tie or your child another stuffed animal, plan a family vacation, purchase a membership at a favorite museum, sign up for a class, or buy tickets for a concert or theater performance.

Donate in someone’s honor

If your loved ones are as concerned about charitable causes as you are, honor them by making donations to their favorite nonprofits. Bonus for you – contributions to many charities are tax deductible, so it’s a gift for you too.

Buy second-hand

Not all gifts have to be new. Many of the folks on your list may be just as happy to receive a high-quality second-hand sweater, bicycle or scooter, or elegant serving dish. One of the benefits of buying used is that you can afford to buy more. If your recipient finds a stack of books rather than one or two tomes under the tree, it’s doubtful you’ll get any complaints.

Look for items made with local products

Instead of ordering steak from the Midwest, pick up some fresh meat from a Lane County rancher. Instead of mail ordering fruit in a fancy box, buy local apples and pears at the farmers market and wrap them yourself. If you have a real foodie on your list, think about purchasing them a subscription to a local CSA.

Foods that are grown or raised locally don’t have to travel as far, and you support a community member instead of a company in another state. In addition, by wrapping these items and skipping the shipping box yourself you cut down on the amount of packaging material your gift generates.

Support businesses with low or zero waste

Buying from low or zero waste-certified companies takes your waste reduction to the next level. Find out which Lane County businesses are working to reduce their carbon footprint with our list of companies that are RE:think Business certified.

Rethink wrapping

Instead of purchasing wrapping paper this year, buy reusable gift or shopping bags. If it wouldn’t be Christmas without watching the kids tear into loads of paper, rethink your wrapping. Can you reuse wrapping paper or tissue paper you already have? Can you buy wrapping paper at a thrift store? Can you make your own wrapping paper with the Sunday funnies, newsprint roll ends, or brown paper grocery bags? Decorating your own wrapping paper can be a great activity for kids.

Other alternatives are to cut down on the amount of bows and ribbon you buy, and make your own gift tags using old holiday cards or unneeded office supplies.

dscn2488-e1511981889182.jpgGo electronic (or homemade) with your greeting cards

Americans purchase about 2.6 billion holiday cards every year. That’s enough to fill a 10-story football stadium. E-cards let you spread the spirit of every holiday without sending mountains of paper that may or may not be recyclable (cards with lots of foil, glitter or embellishments often shouldn’t be placed in the comingled recycling bin).

If you’re committed to sending paper cards, consider making them yourself using last year’s Christmas cards or other materials you already have around the house.



Support BRING This #GivingTuesday

skull craft workshop participantThe new year is bringing a new direction for BRING. For the past 12 months we’ve been asking our stakeholders what they appreciate about BRING and how we can expand our many programs. The answers we got – and if they came from you, thank you! – are helping us chart an exciting new course.

Over the coming year, BRING will continue to provide the services you love.

  • Our community education programs reach thousands of people through schools and community outreach. These fun, interactive presentations, workshops, and field trips emphasize the importance of waste reduction, creative reuse, and recycling. These programs are more important than ever, as the recent ban on plastic recycling in parts of Lane County demonstrates. Americans desperately need to rethink what they use and what they throw away.
  • Our retail store gives materials a chance at a second life rather than a slow death in the landfill. Our gently-loved building materials provide inspiration to artisans, resources to low-income people looking to make home repairs, raw materials for home construction projects big and small, and resources for student and adult makers.

Over this next year, we will build on our existing programs and add new ones.

  • Our goal of putting people with barriers to employment back to work was further met when we began hiring residents of Opportunity Village to be part of our waste assessment team. All of our team members are gaining transferable skills while providing for their families.
  • Our RE:think Business program now offers zero-waste assessment services and sustainability reporting. Both services were requested by local business leaders who want to do more to reduce waste and improve their environmental performance.
  • We have a new construction and demolition (C&D) waste recovery and reuse program that’s saving precious materials from construction sites and making them available to you.

emily2We live in a time when it’s hard to feel like you can make a difference. At BRING, we believe small actions taken at the local level make the biggest difference of all. When you reduce, reuse, recycle, and compost, you’re part of the solution to reducing the impacts of climate change. And when you make a contribution to BRING, you’re part of a larger network that keeps our educational and action-oriented programs going. Please make a tax-deductible donation today. You’ll find it’s surprisingly fulfilling to take even small steps toward positive change in our community.

Construction and Demolition Waste Recovery and Reuse Pilot Gets Positive Results for Businesses

By Ben Zublin, BRING Recycling

Nationwide, construction and demolition waste accounts for about one-third of materials destined for landfill disposal. In addition to costing owners and contractors needlessly and straining the capacity of municipal waste-disposal systems, this category of “C+D” waste often includes a lot of reusable and reclaimable materials.wood-877368_1280

BRING is tackling the problem of C+D waste disposal with a pilot program designed to recover waste at its point of origin and find ways to reuse it. In much the same way that recyclables are diverted from regular refuse at the home and individual business level, waste materials generated during the deconstruction and new construction of buildings can be diverted at their source. This approach avoids the cost, time and trouble of disposing of C+D waste through traditional means.

Benefits of this approach include:

  • Cost savings. Our staff divert materials from job sites at no expense to the contractor. This saves them money on the cost of disposal, and decreases the cost and energy required to sort the items at traditional material recovery facilities.
  • Contractors benefit from our knowledgeable staff, becoming more informed about opportunities for salvaging and diverting reusable building materials.
  • Tax credits. Salvaged materials may be tax-deductible when donated to a federally-recognized nonprofit organization.
  • Certification points. We inventory and report to our partners volumes and weights of materials diverted for reuse, as well as the resultant carbon-equivalents and energy-offsets, potentially assisting with green building certification.
  • We look for opportunities to highlight the diversion efforts of our partners, using electronic, print and social media platforms to showcase impressive waste reduction accomplishments.

drainage-pipes-2471293_1280Since BRING launched the C+D pilot earlier this year, we have worked with a number of construction projects in Eugene to divert reusable C+D materials from the waste stream. Here is a snapshot of the materials we have saved from the landfill:

  • Over 5,000 pounds of reusable dimensional lumber
  • Over 7,300 pounds of reusable plywood
  • 700 pounds of steel roofing and finish material
  • 150 cubic feet of polystyrene insulation
  • Over 30,000 pounds of concrete aggregate material

Is your business interested in getting involved? Arrange for a no-cost consultation, where we will provide more details about how the C+D waste recovery and reuse pilot program works and how your company stands to benefit. Our knowledgeable staff will visit your site to assess the potential for salvaging deconstruction wastes and remnants from your project. We will help guide and educate your contractors and subs to maximize the efficiency of your waste and recycling disposal system. After that, we will help to source reclaimed and “charismatic” materials for your build-out following the vision and details of your design.

Contact us today for more details.





A Glimpse into a BRING Educational Tour

emily3Educating community members about where our waste goes and why it’s so important to generate less of it has always been an important part of BRING’s work. That’s why we offer a range of educational programs and tours to schools, community groups and civic organizations. Have you ever wondered if one is right for the kids in your life? Here’s a glimpse at what happens on one of our most “popular” tours.

Every year BRING takes hundreds of local students to Lane County’s Glenwood transfer station and Short Mountain Landfill. Although each trip generates plenty of complaints about bad smells and dirty surfaces, teachers and parents realize that it’s important for kids to know that when they throw something away, it doesn’t go away – it just goes somewhere else. Where it goes and how it’s handled can have a huge impact on the health of our community and our planet.

One a recent tour, education and events coordinator Emily Shelton led a group of Creswell Middle School students up the concrete walkway that leads to the transfer station’s trash and recycling areas. “This facility does exactly what the name implies – it transfers all the garbage we generate at various places in our community to its final resting place,” she told the group of youngsters wearing bright orange and yellow vests. “Where do you think it goes from here?” The landfill, students confirmed.emily2

“Does anyone know how long trash lives in the landfill?” Shelton asks. There are guesses of 20 years and 30 years before someone guesses hundreds of years. “Forever,” Shelton confirms. Once waste goes into a landfill, it’s compacted tightly against the layer below it. The bottom of the landfill is capped by a sophisticated composite liner system so nothing can escape, and at some point another system of liner layers will go over the top, locking in everything in perpetuity.

Although some methane escapes from the anaerobic environment that results, most materials don’t break down. If you dug up a copy of the Eugene Register-Guard from 50 years ago, you’d still be able to read every story.

Shelton points to the nearby guard stations and tells the students that people come to Lane County’s transfer stations to throw away their unwanted items, but they also come to recycle. The scales ensure they’re only charged for what they throw away and not what they recycle. “When you drop off all the recycling, that’s weight you’re taking off,” she explains. “That’s weight you’re not paying for. So by recycling materials you’re saving money, in addition to saving resources and reducing pollution.”

emily1Before she takes the group to the containers holding electronics, wood and other materials for recycling, Shelton leads them to the trash pit. It’s a warm day, which makes the smell worse, something the students don’t hesitate to point out. A few noses are quickly tucked inside of shirts, and there are lots of exclamations of “Ewww!” and “Gross!”

But once they’re on the catwalk that runs over the top of the cavernous space, the focus changes. The young people quickly begin pointing out familiar bits of detritus: a stuffed animal. A pizza box. A deflated and discolored basketball. A group of boys is particularly excited about a bulldozer flattening pieces of furniture.

When they’re standing back in the sunshine, Shelton asks, “Did you see anything that could be reused? Or did you see anything that could be recycled?” Shelton asked. There’s a chorus of suggestions: Furniture. Cardboard. Plastic soda bottles. Paper.

“We can’t control what goes in here because we don’t pull things out of the trash,” Shelton says. “It’s really up to us as community members to know what can and can’t go into our landfill.”

Shelton reviewed the things that legally aren’t allowed because they’re too dangerous or bulky. Items on the list include motor oil, car batteries, fluorescent bulbs containing mercury, car tires, electronics, mattresses and appliances. She points these items out as the tour goes on to emphasize that some things that can’t be recycled curbside can find a home at the transfer station.

emily4The tour provides a good opportunity to educate the students on how to be better curbside recyclers. Glass needs to be separated from other materials because broken shards can injure workers or get into other recycling streams. The only type of plastic containers that should go in are bottles, tubs and jugs.

Shelton also uses the tour as a chance to discuss the importance of the other “R.” Reducing the amount of waste we generate is the best thing for the planet because it extends the life of the landfill and cuts down on the amount of raw resources that must be harvested from the earth. Reusing materials does the same thing but to a lesser extent because goods still have to be transported to a reuse facility and find a new home with a buyer. If they can’t, they may end up in the trash as well.

“We say ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ in that order for a reason,” she says to emphasize the waste management hierarchy. “Reducing your consumption is the best way to lessen your personal impact on the planet.”

Teachers: If you’d like to schedule a transfer station and landfill tour for your students, or take advantage of any of BRING’s other educational programming, please contact us.

Parents: if you care about teaching children about waste prevention, resource conservation and where our waste goes, please check with your child’s school and encourage them to contact us. All of our programming is available year-round.

Driving Electric Is Now Easier than Ever

By Zach Henkin, Forth

If you missed the electric car test drive event at our recent Home and Garden Tour, here’s your chance to learn more about how fun and easy it is to drive an electric car. Read to the end to learn about local incentive programs that make owning an electric vehicle more affordable. 

car-1209912_1920Imagine never having to go to the gas station again, cutting your car maintenance bills in half, and enjoying the quietest ride on the road. Impossible? Nope, that’s what electric vehicle (EV) ownership is all about and it’s more accessible than ever! Oh, and did we mention zero carbon emissions?

When EVs first made their appearance on the car market, ownership was a bit complex. With only a few models to choose from, limited battery range and mystifying charging options, prospective EV owners faced numerous obstacles.

Fast-forward 20 years and the future is bright!  Buyers now have a choice of three different types of EVs:  100% battery-powered electric, Plug-in Hybrids, and Extended Range vehicles, which primarily run on electricity but have a small gas motor to charge the battery. All have the bells and whistles (and safety features) of a gas-powered vehicle and are fun to drive.

More than 20 different models of EVs are available, with mini vans, SUVs, compacts, sedans and more to meet the needs of a diverse market. Range has improved drastically, with some cars able to go 70-200 miles on a single charge. The West Coast also has one of the most extensive charging networks in the world. DC fast chargers can be found in many convenient locations and most can fully charge your car in about 30 minutes.  Websites and phone apps will show you where your closest available charging station is located.

Home-charging options have increased as well. The average price of a Level 2 unit starts at around $500 and manufacturer’s rebates are widespread.  EWEB offers a $200 incentive to help offset these costs. However, many EV owners find that a standard, dedicated 110 outlet, is sufficient for their charging needs.

With our ample and green power supply, transportation electrification is a smart solution to make real progress on our community’s carbon reduction goals. Increased EV usage means we optimize the investments made in our existing electric system, which helps all our customers economically. Visit EWEB to learn if an EV is right for you and to find current program offerings that support electric vehicles.

Green and Graceful Aging in Place

aging in place

When we think of green building, we tend to think of the built environment’s impact on the planet. But there’s a human component to crafting sustainable dwellings. An eco-friendly home should be one that maximizes a person’s health, well-being and productivity at every age.

As the U.S. population ages, and as more people choose to live in multigenerational households, there’s increased attention to creating homes that allow people to “age in place.” The idea is to build structures that can accommodate people’s changing mobility as they age so people can stay in their homes as long as possible.

The principles of “universal home” design are well aligned with many green building principles. People are more affected by toxins as they get older. As a result, it’s important that they age-in-place.jpglive in homes crafted with materials that will not leach chemicals. Older folks are less able to perform maintenance tasks on their homes. Homes built with quality, long-lasting materials will require less labor. Homes with universal design features don’t need few resource-consuming (and expensive) modifications such as wheelchair ramps or lifts.

There are numerous qualities to consider when building or remodeling a home so it’s appropriate for aging in place. They include:

  • Creating zero-step entrances from inside to outside, as well as within the house
  • Installing a curb-less shower and hand-held shower head in at least one bathroom
  • Making doorways and hallways wide enough to accommodate a walker or wheelchair
  • Designing rooms large enough to do the same
  • Installing blocks behind the walls of bathrooms and other rooms so it’s easier to install grab bars at a future date
  • Designing gardens and other outdoor spaces with adaptive gardening and mobility in mind

If some of these tasks seem impossible – for example, if your green ethos involves built up rather than out because of a desire to preserve land – include these components in the downstairs portion of the house only. That way, should a resident eventually become unable to use the entire house, they’ll still have a place they feel comfortable.

By incorporating some of these principles, homeowners stand a better chance of being able to stay in their homes and communities longer. They’re less likely to become isolated (a real concern for older folks) or suffer injuries, and they’re more likely to carry on with planet-friendly tasks such as gardening, cooking from scratch and walking to places they enjoy. Healthy, happy people make for a healthy, happy planet. And that’s a good thing for everyone.

Wabi-Sabi: What It’s All About

bring tourThe annual BRING Home and Garden Tour provides inspiration and ideas for simple living. We want to demonstrate that simple is beautiful, that imperfection can be something to find peace with rather than fighting. The concept of wabi-sabi is a perfect fit with that.

We hope you’ll learn more about the Japanese philosophy by reading this article, and we look forward to seeing you at this year’s BRING Home and Garden Tour on Sunday, September 10 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets are $10 in advance and $14 at the door. The tour will feature seven green homes, two organic gardens and one new business that emphasized reuse when designing its new facility. Get a preview of each property here. Buy your tickets on our website or at Down To Earth, Lane Forest Products or the Planet Improvement Center. We also hope to see you at Hot Mama’s Kitchen + Bar, 23 Oakway Center, for the tour afterparty.

What is wabi-sabi and how does one go about living in this way?

Wabi-sabi, the art of finding beauty in imperfection, emerged in the 15th century as a reaction to the lavishness, ornamentation, and use of rich materials that was popular during the time. In Japan, the concept is deeply ingrained and it is difficult to translate to Westerners.

In broad terms wabi-sabi is flea markets, not high-end boutiques; aged wood, not glossy finishes; a chipped cup instead of a new one. Understated, natural materials, and items that are cracked and used, are all wabi-sabi. Wabi-sabi values simplicity, uncluttered, understated, and modest surroundings. Authenticity is key to the philosophy and the aesthetic: the presence of cracks and frayed edges are considered to be symbolic of the passing of time, and should be embraced.

For example; In Japan, broken pottery is mended instead of thrown away. Kintsugi or kintsukuroi, is a centuries old Japanese art of fixing broken pottery with gold, silver, or platinum colored lacquer. Beautiful seams of gold fill in the cracks, giving a unique appearance to the piece, one that celebrates and emphasizes the fractures and breaks instead of hiding them. Kintsugi often enhances the repaired item making it more beautiful for having been broken.

When it comes to creating a wabi-sabi home it doesn’t require money or a set of special skills. Wabi-sabi living inspires minimalism that focuses more on the people who live in the space than anything else. Possessions and other items are pared down to the essentials based on utility, beauty, and emotional connection. The idea is to live modestly, and learn to be satisfied with life once the unnecessary is stripped away.

Collections of wabi-sabi possessions are well curated. They are continually pared down to those that earn their place. What makes the cut?

1) Useful things: Tools, essential kitchen utensils, and even a personal computer. The idea here isn’t to live without, rather to live with less and with things that are used regularly.

2) Loved things; Your grandmother’s quilt, a rickety chair from your childhood home or a piece of art from a recent vacation are all things that offer memories or nostalgia. If you love it, keep it.

3) Quality things, built to last:  Quality over quantity is the key to wabi-sabi. Choose high quality goods that are made to stand the test of time. Items that grow in their character when lovingly used.

Wabi-sabi is both an aesthetic and a state of mind.  It encourages us to find the beauty in what exists and, to be at peace with the natural processes of life and with the eventual decay and deterioration that comes from use. Wabi-sabi also teaches us the impermanence of all things and requires us to shift our thinking to appreciating rather than perfecting.