Practical Reducing, Reusing, Recycling Tips

PLEASE NOTE: This event has been postponed for now. Check back for updates.

Ditch Those Difficult to Recycle Plastics:  Mark Your Calendars for an Upcoming Event

Improperly disposed plastics are killing our sea life and ruining our beaches. We can do our part for our waste.

Improperly disposed plastics are killing our sea life and ruining our beaches. We can do our part for our waste.

Do you have an accumulation of plastics to ditch?  The kinds of plastics that curbside pick-up does not accept? Holiday gift and food packaging are likely to add to the piles.  No need to clutter your home with unwanted waste. And let’s make sure it doesn’t end up needlessly in the landfill or worse, our oceans.  Instead, mark your calendars for Fred Meyer & Trailblazers Green Day Event

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  • Sunday, January 6, 2019

  • 9:00 AM - 3:00 PM

  • Fred Meyer 19200 Southwest Martinazzi Avenue

    Tualatin, OR 97062

Once again, Fred Meyer Grocery Stores are partnering with the Portland Trailblazers as part of their Zero Hunger|Zero Waste initiative to collect difficult to recycle plastics including polystyrene which you may know by the tradename of styrofoam through an alliance with Tigard based Agilyx. Agilyx’s technologies transform the plastics into other products or back into crude oil feedstock.

At previous events, electronic waste was also collected.  Announcements should be forthcoming about the details for items to be accepted at this upcoming collection program.

Learn more about Fred Meyer’s Zero Waste program which includes donating food to those in need in the metro area at

Rechargeable batteries, CFL bulbs, and plastic bags recycling bins at Home Depot

Rechargeable batteries, CFL bulbs, and plastic bags recycling bins at Home Depot


How Do I Get Rid Of This Stuff?
Here Are Some Handy Options

Check out these bright new recycling bins at my local Home Depot.  Disposal options are available for compact indoor or outdoor non-tube fluorescent light bulbs, non-leaking rechargeable batteries (batteries used in tools, cellphones, and laptop computers), and plastic shopping bags.  As not all Home Depots offer the same recycling opportunities, please phone ahead to verify what they are collecting.  And yes, I am bummed that they are providing those rolls of plastic bags.  Baby steps I guess.

If you have other items for which you are not certain where or how to dispose, check out  This site provides scads of valuable information on how to prepare materials for recycling, ways to reduce waste accumulation, and locations near you for disposal if available.  Plug your zipcode into the recycling locator and it will search the database.  If exact matches are not found, it will suggest alternatives for related materials.  That is helpful in the event you did not word your search precisely.

And if you really want to geek out on this stuff, earth911 offers quizzes to test your knowledge about recycling and waste disposal.  Yikes, I have to admit I was stymied by some of the questions.

#HomeDepot, #Earth911, #CFL, #plasticbags, #batteries


Use your pre-heating shower/bath water for your gardens and flower pots

Use your pre-heating shower/bath water for your gardens and flower pots

When Beauty Comes with a Price

Wow, the weather this spring and early summer in Portland has been spectacular.  I can't complain about the dry, mild winter either.  Not to burst any bubbles, but the beauty and lack of rain come with a price.  We experienced the second warmest January and May on record.  As for "Junuary", we had some chilly, gray days last month, yet the lack of precipitation is concerning as we approach the height of fire season and witness the current wildfires in the state.  According to meteorologist Rod Hill, "Portland may go into summer with the least amount of April-June rainfall in more than 30 years!"  And we are on track for the driest April-June on record.

A Powerful Visual

Have you ever considered how much water runs when you are awaiting the shower or bath water to heat to a comfortable temperature?  This powerful visual was an eye opener for my husband and I.  Recently I began filling 1.5-2 watering cans before the water is tepid.  My watering cans are over 2 gallons which renders enough to water all my flower pots.   Emptying the dehumidifier soaks some of the smaller garden beds daily as well.

Save Money, Save Water, and Save Your Plants

Using this wasted bathwater and if you own a dehumidifier, using that water for your gardens is a great way to save on your excess water usage, reduce your water bill, and keep your plants and flowers alive.  One caveat, be ever so careful of the weight of the cans.  Support your back and knees as you lift it out of your shower or bath stall to avoid injury.  In fact, one trick is to only fill it halfway, turn off the water, hydrate your plants, then start again if you have time.  This may sound crazy, but when the first can gets about half full, I open the bathroom window and pour the water down onto the hydrangea bed below.  Then I turn the water back on and finish filling the bucket until the water heats.  After my shower I bring the can(s) downstairs for use when the plants start begging for TLC. 

Mesh bags tote groupings of fruits and vegetables

Mesh bags tote groupings of fruits and vegetables

Do you bring reusable sacks with you to the grocery store?  If so, that is awesome.  You are doing your part to save trees or prevent plastics from ending up in the waste stream and clogging our oceans and other water bodies.  Furthermore, you are likely saving money since many stores award cash-back for bringing along your own bags. 


But when it comes to produce are you still grabbing plastic or paper bags from the dispensers?  Until recently I was doing the same although I reused them until they were at the point of shredding.  Then a friend gifted me some Norwex produce bags which I love.  You can also use mesh laundry bags.  These bags help to keep my homologous fruits and vegetables together so I can easily toss them in the refrigerator bin when I get home.  

Use a zippered cloth bag for loose items like beans and peas

Use a zippered cloth bag for loose items like beans and peas

Or another idea, I had old throw pillows which I no longer need and inside were zippered cloth bags which held the stuffing.  I have repurposed those for produce and laundry.  These bags are perfect for items like fresh beans and peas.

Finally, I have gotten to the point where I rarely bag my leafy produce anymore.  I used to be concerned about what it came in contact with in my cart.  However, as I reasoned it through, as long as I keep it in the top section of the cart, segregated from my meats it is likely no dirtier there than it was on the farm, handled by a multitude of shippers and store clerks and nestled among the other heads of lettuce, spinach, beets or whatnot. 

After each use, I toss them in the next load of laundry so they are fresh for the next trip to the store.  I keep all my grocery sacks nested inside the largest bag on the headrest of my car seat so that they are always with me if I stop on the fly.

Donate Your Sewing & Quilting Equipment & Supplies to Change a Life

A very special thanks to April K., a recent Simplify Your Green Lifestyle workshop attendee, for this super tip and these local resources for donating or purchasing sewing and quilting machines and supplies.



Two local sewing centers support the Coffee Creek Women’s Correctional Facility where incarcerated women are given the opportunity to learn a new life skill through the Coffee Creek Quilter's Program (CCQ).  The students' first two quilts are donated to charity.  The student may choose to keep the third quilt or gift it to a loved one. Graduates are given a quilting release kit in which to use to apply their skills when the return to life after incarceration.

Montavilla Sewing Centers

Montavilla Sewing Centers will service donated machines prior to sending to Coffee Creek Women's Correctional Facility's Quilting Program either for student use or for CCQ to sell to fund their programs.

Montavilla Sewing Centers will also accept full yardage fabrics, thread, batting, and sewing tools for donation in support of Quilts of Valor.  "The Quilts of Valor Foundation is a non-profit whose mission is to cover U.S. service members and veterans touched by war with comforting and healing Quilts of Valor. "


In the market for a machine?  Purchase a used sewing machine or get an estimate on a trade-in. 

8326 SE Stark St
Portland, OR 97216
Mon. - Sat. 9:30am - 6pm
Sun. 11am - 5pm

4955 SW Western Ave
Beaverton, OR 97005
Mon. - Sat. 10am - 6pm
Sun. 11am - 5pm

971 NE Kelly Ave
Gresham, OR 97030
Mon. - Sat. 10am - 6pm
Closed Sundays

Quilter's Corner Store

12580 SW Broadway Street
Beaverton, OR 97005
Tuesday– Saturday 10:00am – 5:00pm

The Quilter's Corner accepts donations of sewing tools (rotary cutters, seam rippers), sewing machines, cotton yardage (no scrap), quilting and sewing books.

These items support the quilting program at Coffee Creek Women’s Correctional Facility either for use by the program or to raise funds for ongoing support.

For many more donation, recycling, thrift, consignment, and green building resources, visit The Practical Sort's Resources page by clicking here.

Don't Flush

Were you able to partake in National Take Back Day on Saturday, April 28?  If not, options exist around the region for dropping your unused, partially used, expired, and unwanted medications safely and securely at any time.  For a list of permanent prescription disposal drop-off locations in Oregon, click here.  This is the perfect excuse to incorporate cleaning out your medicine chests in an environmentally responsible way as part of your spring cleaning.

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To avoid prescription and over the counter drugs getting into the wrong hands, for years the message was to flush them down the drain.  However, medicines in our water supply can adversely impact fish, aquatic plants, and even humans as we consume the water.  It is true that our bodies may not fully metabolize medicines ingested meaning it potentially passes through us into the wastestream.  Wastewater treatment plants may not catch 100% of the substances.  Therefore, it can reenter the environment.  Unfortunately, this is rather unavoidable, so we should be mindful about flushing the medicines in their entirety.

Not all locations collect medicinal creams, sharps (hypodermic needles), or mercury-containing thermometers, so verify before you go.  Sharps are extremely hazardous to haulers as well as other humans and animals therefore, they are not permitted in the trash.  Approved sharps containers are available at Metro hazardous waste facilities, pharmacies, and medical supply stores.   Washington, Multnomah, and Clackamas residents can participate in the Metro container exchange program.  For $5 you can purchase a container, then exchange it for free each time you return a full bin.  Note, there is an additional $5 hazardous waste disposal fee for up to 35 gallons.

Thermometers containing mercury should be disposed at Metro Hazardous Waste facilities or take them to Household Hazardous Waste Collection Events.  Click here for a spring 2018 schedule.

If you were unable to participate in National Take Back Day, here are some suggestions for proper disposal at your home according to the FDA along with additional information (click here).

Disposing Medicines at Your Home

“Disposing medicines in household trash: Almost all medicines can be thrown into your household trash. These include prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs in pills, liquids, drops, patches, creams, and inhalers.

Follow these steps:

Remove the drugs from their original containers and mix them with something undesirable, such as used coffee grounds, dirt, or cat litter. This makes the medicine less appealing to children and pets and unrecognizable to someone who might intentionally go through the trash looking for drugs.

Put the mixture in something you can close (a re-sealable zipper storage bag, empty can, or other container) to prevent the drug from leaking or spilling out.
Throw the container in the garbage.

Scratch out all your personal information on the empty medicine packaging to protect your identity and privacy. Throw the packaging away.

If you have a question about your medicine, ask your health care provider or pharmacist.

Disposing of Fentanyl Patches

Some prescription drugs — such as powerful narcotic pain medicines and other controlled substances — have instructions for flushing to reduce the danger of overdose from unintentional or illegal use.

One example is the fentanyl patch. This adhesive patch delivers a strong pain medicine through the skin. Even after a patch is used, a lot of the medicine remains. That’s why the drug comes with instructions to flush used or leftover patches.

Disposing of Inhaler Products

One environmental concern involves inhalers used by people who have asthma or other breathing problems, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Read handling instructions on the labeling of inhalers and aerosol products. These products could be dangerous if punctured or thrown into a fire or incinerator. To properly dispose of these products and follow local regulations and laws, contact your trash and recycling facility.”


As mentioned above, it is wise to remove all personal information from labels before disposing medical waste in your trash or at any of the collection facilities.  You can soak the labels in water to aid in removal.

Watch for details about next year's National Take Back Day.

What to Do With Foam Packaging?

Did you receive holiday gifts embedded in polystyrene (aka Styrofoam) packaging?  Your trash can is likely overflowing after the celebrations, and you might be loathed to toss the foam into the landfill.  Polystyrene generally does not biodegrade which makes it a useful packaging material and insulator for our hot beverages.


Labeled as PS #6 for the recycling symbol, it is rarely accepted in curbside or other recycling programs.  But we need to be mindful that polystyrene is hazardous to animals and marine life who could mistake it as food and it is highly flammable.  As of 2006, Portland was one of roughly 100 localities* to ban polystyrene foam use in restaurants, yet there are a multitude of other uses.  Chances are you received at least one gift package that contained the foam. 

So what do you do with it?  Far West Fibers is no longer collecting it, but Agilyx in Tigard has a no-fee 24/7 collection receptacle at their facilities (business or large quantities require special arrangements).

Their patented process can transform the foam into crude oil.  They also produce a liquid used in food packaging, pharmaceuticals, construction, durable goods. etc.

According to their website "Agilyx is committed to demonstrating not only the economic viability of our technology, but also the environmental value. We have completed an extensive Life Cycle Analysis on our process to measure carbon impact against traditional forms of crude oil extraction, with the results indicating a significantly favorable environmental impact."

Drop off your polystyrene at:

7904 SW Hunziker Street
Tigard, OR 97223

If you need more information contact them at:  503-271-3160 or visit their website for additional facts.


Last Bits

Some may say I am cheap.  I prefer to think of myself as eco-minded, thrifty, and resourceful. 


Before tossing a used up bottle of shampoo into the recycling bin, I opted to turn it upside down to ensure that it was fully depleted.  I could tell there was about 1/4" of shampoo left inside, but the container's design made squeezing out every last drop difficult. 

Ten days later I was still using that same bottle of shampoo.  I often use this technique with jars of ketchup, mustard, honey or any other liquid that is too viscous to pour out easily as it nears the end. 

You might wish to place the bottle inside a sturdy, water-proof container in the event the product leaks out.  To keep the bottle propped, I situated it between the wall and a larger bottle out of the reach of the sprayer so that the lid does not fill with excess water.

By year's end, I will save nearly $40 and recycle 5 less bottles!

Recycling School Supplies


The end of the school year is approaching. You will be clearing out backpacks, old papers will be recycled, and used crayons added to craft boxes, but what do you do with those old binders that may have seen better days?

Office Depot/Office Max has teamed up with Terracycle to offer a binder recycling program. Empty binders in any condition/any brand are accepted.

How it Works...

Participating is completely free and very easy. Simply bring your old empty binders to any Office Depot® OfficeMax® store and a store representative will provide you with a $2 Instant Savings off a same day binder purchase (see rules and restrictions).

Binder Recycling: Get $2 off the purchase of any new binder when you recycle any binder in the same transaction. Discount applies only to binders purchased and will not be applied to any free binders with a purchase. Multipacks count as 1. Discount excludes tax. Binder to be recycled must be empty. No cash/credit back. Not valid on prior purchases or purchases made with Store Purchasing, Procurement or Retail Connect Cards. Limit 6 discounts per household/business.

For more information and to locate participating Office Depot/Office Max stores, click on the link to visit the Terracycle/Office Depot/Office Max Binder Recycling Program website.

Need a hand getting things in order before school lets out for summer break and your schedules goes topsy turvy?  Contact and we will get you sorted.