Why did you decide to become a Zero Waste Block Leader?
I have always been passionate about recycling and sustainable waste management. I love donating things to groups that can get the most benefit out of them. When I heard about the Zero Waste Block Leader program in 2014 I was so excited to participate. I have learned a ton about ARR and their services, and I really geek out on how these things work. I also wanted to be involved in my neighborhood, especially after seeing what was turning up in trash and recycling carts. The decision to volunteer my time as a Zero Waste Block Leader was an easy one for me to make.
What are some fun ways you introduce zero waste to your neighbors?
I use multiple communication methods to reach as many of my neighbors as I can. I regularly post on our neighborhood’s social media sites and write quarterly articles for our neighborhood newsletter. I’ve also started a blog, alittlemore.green, to discuss topics in depth with those who are interested. I also do bulk runs for the neighborhood to the Recycle & Reuse Drop-off Center.
Which do you prefer more; recycling, composting or reuse?
This is such a tough question! I'll pick reuse. I’ve always been fascinated by the WWII posters that promoted the collection of basically everything to be reused for the war effort. I like the mental challenge of deciding how best to reuse something, where to donate materials, or if a repair service is available for an item.
What are some challenges you face trying to be more Zero Waste and how do you overcome them?
When I had my son we backed off a bit from being Zero Waste just to make our lives less stressful (fewer things to think about). As he gets older and more involved and responsible I’m looking forward to reintroducing Zero Waste practices again, like bulk product shopping with our own containers. I’ve learned that you can make small gradual changes that do make a difference when we all participate.
How have you made the Zero Waste lifestyle easier to follow in your home, for your family, or with your neighbors?
We have all our kitchen bins in one pull-out drawer and they’re all separated for trash, recycling, compost and plastic bags/film collection. Having everything in one spot makes it fast and easy. My husband leaves out what he’s not sure about and we talk about it. My family, friends and neighbors will send me questions. I love getting random 9:00 p.m. questions about if ice cream cartons can be recycled, or the after-breakfast question if bacon grease can be composted! I make sure I am talking about what my family is doing, questions I get and what ARR and Austin are trying to accomplish. My neighbors seem to really connect with our story as a real local family dealing with Austin living.
What do you think is the best way to reduce the materials we use every day?
I think the best way to reduce waste is by bringing your own reusable containers, especially at the grocery store and on-the-go for drinks. I love when I discover a store or business that rewards people who bring their own containers to take away groceries or gives a discount for using your own cup. If we could encourage that activity in other businesses in Austin it would cut out unneeded packaging in a big way. It can be another “weird” thing we do!
What do you do with non-recyclable material?
I'm glad to say we don't have much. I take what we do have to the Recycle & Reuse Drop-off Center or donate to local groups, and when I've completely run out of options it does end up in our trash. I do not have any of the all-in-one type TerraCycle boxes for the extremely small amount of legitimate trash we have. Perhaps I’ll ask for one for Christmas though!
What do you look forward to the most this coming year?
I started the Mueller Recycling Group for neighbors and businesses to discuss, collect and recycle more difficult items like mascara wands and contact lenses.
I am excited to grow the group and help our neighborhood businesses become more educated about recycling and composting opportunities for their business-specific products and by-products.
Are there any uncommon ways you’ve incorporated zero waste into your lifestyle?
One thing we do that may be uncommon is trying to buy reuse or post-comsumer recycled products for pet care for our three dogs. We shop for pet supplies on reuse websites and donate any equipment or prescriptions we can back to vet clinics in need. We groom them ourselves, and all their pet hair goes in the compost. We buy most of our food and treats in bulk and use post-consumer recycled dog waste bags.
What are some fun ways you get your child involved?
My son is very enthusiastic about putting recyclables and compostables in the right bins. He even likes to pick up litter when we are out at parks. We talk about the different materials things are made of and which items go in which bins. He has also attended a few neighborhood events with me and likes to help handing out brochures.