It’s this season again! The days are longer, temperatures are rising, birds are singing, flowers are blooming, and Earth Month is just around the corner ... We absolutely loooove spring!
It's also Spring Cleaning season, so if you're planning to start this process, we have some zero waste tips for you!
1 - Decluttering like Marie Kondo?
Here's a list of our favorite local places to donate what you don't use anymore:
- Your local Buy Nothing Group, on Facebook or via the Buy Nothing app: a free worldwide gift economy.
- Berkeley Humane Thrift Shop — 1120 Solano ave, Albany: 100% of the profits benefit shelter animals through the Hope Medical Fund.
- Your local Goodwill: you can find locations here.
- The El Cerrito Recycling Center: check out the Exchange Zone where you can donate items and find unexpected treasures.
- Nextdoor and Craigslist are great options too!
If you prefer selling your gently used clothing for all ages, accessories, and toys, go visit our neighbor Chloe's Closet. They are located at 1545 Solano avenue, just one block away from our Berkeley store. There’s also a Chloe’s Closet store in San Francisco.
The East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse, located in Oakland, wants your toilet paper tubes, egg cartons, and much more! This is an extraordinary shop that collects and redistributes discarded goods as low-cost supplies for art, education, and social services. On the other side of the bridge, Scrap has a similar mission. Beware, these are both zero waste heavens, you might find yourself staying for hours!
Our last suggestion: host an outdoor swap with your friends and neighbors! People can contribute clothes, toys, home decor, plants, practically anything!
2 - What to do with Hazardous Waste?
Electronics, small appliances, batteries, paints, and gardening products, ... please don't put them in the trash. They can be dangerous for waste management workers and leach toxic chemicals into the surrounding environment.
Hazardous waste can be brought to one of the four free drop-off facilities managed by Stop Waste in Alameda county. They also have one day events, and you can find more information on their website
The El Cerrito Recycling Center also collects items like batteries, expired medicines, cooking oil, bikes, books, appliances, corks, eyeglasses and more! Everything is listed on their website.
If you have electronic waste (e-waste) to get rid of, we highly recommend the non-profit E-Waste Collective, based in Berkeley. The items that can be repaired are donated to schools, non-profits and individuals. The rest is recycled. Their website includes a full list of items that they can take.
3 - Laundry without microplastic pollution!
Spring cleaning usually means washing a lot of laundry! But, did you know that synthetic fibers like polyester, nylon, and acrylic are actually plastics made from fossil fuels?
Clothes made with synthetic fibers shed microplastics into the water and the air every time they are washed or dried in a machine. When you open your dryer door, you are actually inhaling microplastic fibers! :-(
Here's why this is so important: once microplastics are in the water, the soil, the air, it's impossible to collect them. They are actually one of the top sources of plastic pollution in water, and they stay in the environment forever. This is why we need to drastically reduce sources of microplastic fibers.
How do you do this? Here are some suggestions:
- Whenever you are buying new clothes, opt for natural materials — cotton, linen, hemp, wool — and avoid blends with synthetic fibers.
- Beware of eco-friendly claims about "recycled polyester;" these fabrics shed microplastic fibers, just like regular polyester.
- Wash your clothes less often, and hang them out to dry whenever you can. They will last longer.
- Install a washing machine filter: we highly recommend the Filtrol filter, we've been using it for six months now. It's easy to install and just needs to be cleaned once a week. Feel free to contact us if you want more information on our experience!
- Fluffy synthetic fibers like fleece shed way more microfibers than tightly weaved fibers in things like yoga pants.
Finally, here's another source of microplastics that can easily be avoided: laundry sheets and detergent pods. These products are made with a material called PVA. It's a water-soluble plastic that dissolves in water but does not biodegrade during wastewater treatment. Our partner Meliora has done some research on this material, they shared what they found in a blog post. And you can learn more in another blog post by the environmental organization Plastic Oceans, which details the results of a study conducted through Arizona State University.
Buying laundry liquid and laundry powder in bulk is still the most eco-friendly option! Did you know that we work in a closed loop with all of our laundry detergent suppliers? This means that our bulk containers are returned to be cleaned and refilled. It's 100% reuse!
Detergent pods for washing machines and dishwashers leak up to 75% of their PVA into the environment. Graphic: Dr. Charlie Rolsky and Plastic Oceans International.