Reducing Waste on Earth Day One School at a Time

Schools love Earth Day because it’s a kid-friendly time of year to educate and celebrate Mother Earth while taking stock on how we’re measuring up with our waste footprint. A couple years ago, we took the opportunity to audit 2 schools’ waste on Earth Day week, and the impact of the exercise has huge potential. But it’s up to the schools themselves to learn from the experience and find easy ways to change their collective behavior.

This article walks you through an informal audit that can take as little as 1 hour to conduct, if you have a few hands to help. We’ve also cut a short video to inspire you to do your own waste audit in the classroom with the kids. It’s hilarious, because it involves our trash, and enlightening at the same time.

1) Weigh the trash that the school is planning to throw away. In this case, we had 2 weeks’ worth of one school’s trash. There are approximately 45 students and 6 staff in the school.

A Carload of Trash = 2 Weeks' Worth of One School's Waste.

Total Trash Headed to the Landfill = 23.31 lbs.

2) Start sorting! Can anything be diverted? Start with recyclables. This school recycles, but there’s always room for improvement. We found a lot of recyclable paper and plastic in the trash.

We sorted 2 bags'-worth of recyclables out of the landfill-bound trash.

Total Recyclables Diverted from the Landfill: 9.24 lbs.

3) Are there any organics, meaning compostable materials in the trash? Remove them from the trash, pile them up, and weigh them. This school has a Bokashi composter, but there’s always room for improvement.

Compostables Found in the Trash.

Compostable matter is a resource! Put it back in the earth by composting it or sending it to the worm farm.

Throwing away a dried-up plant and soil? We put the soil and plant in the compost and the 4" pot can be reused.

Total Compostables Diverted from the Landfill: 6.27 lbs.

4) Are there any reusable items in the trash? Separate them out and weigh them. A lot of pencils, some clothing, and bookmarks were recovered from the trash for donation to an organization that needs these items.

These pencils can be reused. Photo © Liesl Clark

Total reusable items: 5.76 lbs.

5) Are there any polyethylene plastic bags in the trash? Separate them out and weigh them. We found 45 totally clean trash bags in the waste.

Mount Polyethylene. Photo © Liesl Clark

Total plastic bags: 1.16 lbs.

6) Are there other specialty recycling items in the trash, like scrap metal, batteries, printer cartridges, and styrofoam peanuts? They don’t need to go in the trash.

Packing Peanuts Can Be Recycled at UPS or Freecycled.

Total speciality recycling items: 0.52 lbs.

7) Are any of the compostable items good for chickens to eat? Separate them from the trash and weigh them.

Chicken Vittles, Courtesy of School Lunch.

Total chicken bucket items: 0.36 lbs.

8) Now re-weigh your trash headed to the landfill.

Final Landfill Tally? 3.76 lbs.

Total Trash Headed to Landfill Post-Sort: 3.76 lbs.

That’s a diversion of 19.55 lbs. or 2 and 3/4 trash bins-full. We pay $4.00 per trash can of waste at our transfer station. This waste audit saved the school (or the school’s volunteer who takes the trash to the landfill) $11.00. In one year, that’s a savings of $286.00. For a small school, that’s a significant savings!

How can we keep our school waste down in the future? Here are some simple recommendations that any school can follow to reduce their landfill waste:

Recommendations

1) If your school doesn’t have a composting program in place, consider starting one or a worm bin. Failing that, a parent volunteer who has a farm or garden will happily take your organic waste away for their own compost. See your organics as a resource!

2) Place a small recycle and compost bin next to every landfill trash bin in your school. This way you give everyone a CHOICE.

3) Clean and wet paper towels can be recycled. Place a recycle bin in the bathrooms for this along with a sign reminding people that the bin is for their clean and wet paper towels. Or better yet, lose the paper towels and switch to cloth ones. This school did.

4) Set up specialty recycling containers where appropriate. For example, a plastic bag recycling spot should go in every classroom and in the lunchroom and kitchen. A school volunteer can come and pick up the plastic bags once a week and take them to the grocery store for recycling. I’ve happily done it for our children’s schools for years.

Do the same for other items such as batteries and printer cartridges. These items should never be put into the landfill. Your community will have a recycling location for them, or look “batteries” or “printer cartridges” up in our Trash Backwards app. Staples takes printer cartridges worldwide and most municipal recycling programs have a safe disposal location for batteries.

5) If your school has a pencil sharpening area, place a can near the sharpener for collecting shredded pencil bits for the compost. Also place a donation can for the small pencils that your teacher might want you to throw away. Children at our libraries in Nepal would love those pencils, or let the students take them home for their homework. The image below, shows a yellow pencil stub my son found in a schoolyard outside one of our Magic Yeti Children’s Libraries in Nepal, lined up with the pencils we sorted out of a school’s waste yesterday:

Yellow pencil found in a schoolyard in Nepal vs. the pencils (and shapeners) discarded in a 2-week period by one US school.

The pencils can go to good use in the hands of kids who have no pencils in Nepal.

These discarded colored pencils will bring joy to children living at 14,000 feet in the rainshadow of the Himalaya. Trash. Backwards.

6) Each classroom could have a reuse bin for students to throw items (like the discarded pencils) that others could take for reuse or donation. Some students might be able to use a plastic container that might otherwise be thrown away, for example.

7) Set up a chicken bucket in the food-eating areas. You’ll likely have a family or 2 that have chickens. Getting the students involved in seeing their food waste as a resource for another animal is a good thing. The families can switch off chicken bucket pickup each week. We use a galvanized bucket decorated by our children for our chickens.

6) Be aware of what’s headed to the landfill monthly and set community goals to reduce even further. If your cleaning service doesn’t empty the trash bags but simply removes a bag no matter how much waste is in it and replaces it with another, you might recommend they pour the trash from all your waste bins into a single bag, to conserve plastic trash bags.

This trash bag only had a single dry paper towel in it.

If they use single-use swiffer dusters, perhaps invest in a reusable micro-fiber swiffer duster.

If your school laminates a lot. Consider going lamination-free. Laminate is a non-recyclable plastic, is costly, and isn’t the most healthy material for children to be handling on a daily basis. Using reusable plastic sleeves might be a more sustainable option.

8) Educate parents and students about food packaging used in school lunches. Plastic snack packaging was the single-most thrown-out item in this school’s landfill waste. Encouraging students and staff to find plastic-free options will make a large dent in your overall waste bill. Students, when made aware that plastic is forever, often prefer plastic-free lunches. A popular option to suggest is a “pack it in, pack it out” policy for school lunches, putting the waste onus on parents and students, not the school. Parents can then see what their kids are truly eating, or not, and modify their portions and lunch choices accordingly, saving money and waste.

Single Most Common Item in Landfill Trash = Snack Wrappers.

Have you found this information useful? Share it with others, especially your school!

Dust to Dust: Closing The Loop With Ceramics

Antique Ceramic Collected at the Beginning of My Ceramics Phase. Photo © Liesl Clark

I have a thing about earthen hand-made ceramics. They’re beguiling. Especially the ones made before the (pottery) wheel, with their human thumb-prints inside a perfect sphere. I’ve been collecting them, along with wheel-thrown pots from exotic locales, for years.

This one's from Kitale, Kenya, on the border with Uganda. I acquired it when I made a film about the mountain elephants there. Photo © Liesl Clark

But more recently, we’ve had some losses with this highly impermanent material. I fully understand why ancient people found ceramics of such use. They were sustainable, made from a renewable resource — the clays of our Earth. So, when one broke or became worn, it wasn’t a big deal. You could always get another.

IMG_2431 Photo © Liesl Clark

But the really old pots, today, are either well-loved or have value. Here’s our story:

It was a dark and stormy night. The wind moaned through the windows, but then a bang happend inside the house that caused us to shudder in our beds. It wasn’t from the tree-branch-driven tumult outside, but from some lurking creature on the inside.

Within seconds the gig was up when we heard a “meow” and I knew our furball had done some terrible deed.

True to her mischievous ways, Willa had knocked a very old pot from one of our ceiling beams. It was a pot that I had brought back from Thailand when I was in my twenties. It was made in Burma and the patterns on it were stunning. Its twin still sits up on a beam, surely tempting our vixen.

Ancient Pots on Wooden Beams. Only Safe Place in the House. Until Willa. Photo © Liesl Clark

Why do I have old clay pots on our beams? Their earthy colors and feminine curves feel like a good combination with the hand-hewn beams from first-growth douglas fir recycled from Seattle’s oldest piers. With children and pets in this house, the 35-foot-high beams were the only place I could think to store the fragile pots out of the way of balls, feet, tails, claws, spills. Who knew that the cat could get up so high and push a pot from its perch?

The Burmese Pot Turned Potshards. Photo © Liesl Clark

Then, a week later, Willa the cat jumped onto a terra cotta elephant we had brought back from Nepal. This lovely strawberry planter was outside on our deck and somehow she managed to smash it to pieces.

Broken Terra Cotta Elephant. Photo © Liesl Clark

Here is it's twin. Photo © Liesl Clark

I’m losing patience with our whiskered she-devil.

She's Not Very Buddha-like. See The Beams Way Up High? Photo @ Liesl Clark

And now I have a new waste stream to deal with: Broken terra cotta pots.

What to do? A couple days of research yielded some decent options:

Drainage: Break up your pots and use as drainage under eaves of your house to encourage draining the rainwater away from the house. You can also break up the pieces to use as drainage in the bottom of large pots. The terra cotta actually absorbs a good amount of water, aiding in the drainage process wicking water away from the source but also absorbing some for plants above if they’re deep inside a pot.

Garden Bed Edging: Partially buried pieces of terra cotta pots can make a nice garden border or edging, or a feature unto itself in your flower bed.

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This dragon, on the edge of a broken pot likes to eat dirt.

Plug Up Holes in Your Chicken Yard: Our chicken yard needs some repair, especially in the places where the chickens have dug holes along the fence. We use broken terra cotta pieces to repair these holes to ensure digging raccoons, mink, and rats don’t get in. Yes, I said rats. They crawl through holes they make and then snuggle up in the shredded paper bedding underneath their nest boxes.

Broken terra cotta pots plug up holes in our chicken yard to keep the vermin away. Photo © Liesl Clark

Buried Pot Whimsy: Half bury a broken pot and add a plant inside to give off the effect of an overturned pot buried over time with your pretty perennial taking over. It’s a cool effect, especially with succulents. I think I’ll half-bury our elephant so it looks like it’s clawing its way out from the depths of the Earth.

Make a Fairy Garden: Broken pots can be reassembled into a little world for miniatures.

Make Ceramic Mosaic Pieces: Potshards and any broken ceramics, like dishes and mugs, can be the ingredients for lovely mosaics used in garden stepping stones, large pots, or even furniture.

Our local mosaic artist, Gillian Allard, collects her ceramics from yard sales, and large rummage sales like our Rotary Auction. She teaches classes on mosaics, so she’s always looking. In addition to ceramics and tiles, Gillian incorporates broken glass, buttons, jewelry and beads into her mosaics. I plan on giving her a broken mirror (cat did that one, too) that she’ll surely use. So, if you have broken ceramics, do find a local mosaic artist to pass them on to. Or, offer them up on your local Buy Nothing group.

Blue Daisy Stepping Stone:  From a broken serving platter and gems purchased at the Rotary Auction. Photo © Gillian Allard

The Zero Waste Institute has in interesting take on ceramics I tend to agree with: They came from the Earth so why not simply return them to earth? They suggest grinding them down to a powder and then reusing that powder to make more ceramics. Makes good sense. We should have community ceramics-grinding mills so we could fully close the loop and make new ceramics from old ones.

IMG_2275 Photo © Liesl Clark

These little ceramic deities sit under one of our apple trees.

I think I’ll do that with my old Burmese pot, unless anyone can give me a better reuse. Dust to dust, right? Send it back to the Earth. And perhaps the kids and I can have a little ceremony when we do it, celebrate the passing of a beautiful hand-made pot made from the earth half way around the Earth as we distribute its dust throughout the forest whose rich green could certainly absorb the minerals and clays used in the old pot.

Chickens and ceramics go well together on our property. Photo © Liesl Clark

A landscaper friend of ours says we should save some of the ground-up clay for our compost bin and gardens. It’s fine, he says, to add it to our soil, especially the sandy and loamy areas.

If you add a little chicken poop to your clay soil, all's well. That's why I like ceramics around my chicken compound. Photo © Liesl Clark

But more importantly, we’ll save a few select pieces of our Burmese pot for our sacred tree, as mementos. Sacred tree? Yes, everyone should have a sacred tree on their land.

Meet our sacred tree, where ceramic offerings are made.  Photo © Liesl Clark

It’s a tree of your choosing that’s important or sacred to you for any reason. Maybe it’s in a central part of your property, at the heart of your land. Or maybe it’s just a cool-looking tree, with all sorts of nooks and crannies for you and your children to place lovely offerings. Our tree is both central (2 trees, a madrona and a douglas fir, growing from one spot) and cool-looking. Sometimes we light butter lamps at its base at night, but mostly we place ancient salegrams and special broken and found ceramics at the base.

The kids love searching for the ceramics throughout the seasons to see how the tree is enveloping into its mass the special deities we’ve planted there.

Ganesh, now enveloped in a douglas fir. Photo © Liesl Clark

IMG_2288 Photo © Liesl Clark

Not too long ago, ceramics were one of the only forms of waste left behind by a community or indeed an entire civilization. My husband, 2 children and I spend a month each year in Nepal filming, exploring remote cliff caves, and searching for the ceramics of an ancient people that were among the first to settle permanently in the Himalaya. Their broken ceramics, tiny shards we find in open fields that would’ve once been their settlements, are the first clue we search for: their trash, among the only remaining evidence of a people long gone. These are undiscovered cultures that thrived in the Himalaya 3,000 years ago, and all that remains are their ceramics, their metal implements, gold and silver funerary masks, their glass and stone beads, wooden coffins, silk, and their bones. That’s it! And their funerary pots, made of a dark clay, are stunning.

3000 year old funerary pots recovered from caves in Mustang, Nepal. Photo © Pete Athans

3000 year old ceramic pots found in the caves of Mustang. Photo © Liesl Clark

 

When you gain an appreciation for mini masks made of earth, you put them everywhere. They connect you with the past and maybe even the future when your clay object will be a part of the earth again.

In Kathmandu, you can still buy yogurt in clay pots. It’s beautiful and delicious yogurt, made and sold in disposable ceramic pots. The idea is that the clays are from the valley, so you can simply dispose of the pots outside your door (which many people do) or with your organics in the compost. I think at one time the pots were reused. These beautiful ceramic pots sure beat plastic. We save them and bring many home along with the little terra cotta wax tea lights that cost pennies each. The little pots replace plastic pots in our children’s playhouses.

Now, after dreaming with me in ceramics, imagine our material culture today and what people will find left behind by us earthlings some 3,000 years from now? I’d like to believe that we’ll clean up all the plastics and return one day to a world where we’d simply find sustainably packaged goods, just like we used to do long before plastics ever existed.

Do you have a ceramics reuse? Please share it with us.

Worm Ball Composting

Did you know that earthworms communicate through touch? According to a study in Belgium, worms are communal, they don’t act singularly. So, when they are presented with a problem, like cold temperatures, predators nearby, or a dramatic change in their environment, they gravitate towards each other finding solace in a unique herd mentality. Once a decision is made, they will move en mass to their agreed upon destination.

Worm ball composting is a technique I learned from my friend, Dawa Sherpa, who, for years, farmed worms in his compost in Nepal. I used to have a worm compost bin that was separate from my regular compost, until Dawa showed me how to simply combine the two, creating a fast-and-furious compost system aided by the thousands of worms we added to our three compost bins.

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The key is to have a closed system, so the worms don’t get out. Our red worms are now stuck inside our black bins, because the “floor” of the bins is gravel and they have plenty of organic matter to digest in the bins. We used to have “native” worms in our bins, but interestingly enough, I don’t see many of the native worms in there anymore. The red worms process much more matter in a day, so we’re happy to see their population growing.

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So, what’s a worm ball? It’s what worms do when they’re scared and want to run away from predators. Worm balls are the key to separating out the beautiful composted/worm tailings from the worms themselves. Here are the steps to harvesting your beautiful compost and saving the worms therein:

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A little hill of compost is the trick to getting worms to head for the center.

  1. First, grab a tarp and put it out in the sun.
  2. Dump a bucket of your worm-laden compost in on the tarp and make a dome shaped pile.
  3. Place another empty bucket next to you with a handful of compost in it. This will be your worm bucket.
  4. Take the compost from the sides of your hill and pile it on top, continuing to make it a hill shape. The worms will flee away from the sun to the inner part of your hill. They naturally feel the vibration of your hands moving the dirt on the outside of the hill and they crawl hellbent for the center.
  5. As you collect compost from the outside of the hill and sift through it, place all worms that you find into your worm bucket. Place all compost into your other empty bucket. This is the gold you can save to fertilize your gardens.
  6. As you work through all of the compost on the sides of the hill, you’ll end up with a big worm ball in the center. Take the ball and place it in your worm bucket which you can then return to your worm composter so they continue to eat through your organics. Be sure to have some of their favorite fodder left there for them and enough moisture in your compost bin to help them work their way back inside your compost pile.

    Here’s a video of a handful of worms found in the center of my compost hill:

    If you run across any eggs, be sure to put them back into your compost bin. Here’s what the eggs look like:

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    And this is what they look like in the compost:

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Do you have any worm stories to share?

Stone Garlic “Press”

If you’re a lover of kitchen gizmos like garlic presses but just haven’t enjoyed the clean-up factor, get yourself a big stone to use in your kitchen. Skip that gizmo that’s a pain to clean up, is going to eventually break, doesn’t give you all the garlic from that clove since it gets stuck in weird places, and simply use a pestle-shaped stone instead.  I’ve used one in my kitchen for 10 years now and I couldn’t live without it. In Nepal, my friends use stones in their kitchens: One flat one and one cylindrical one for crushing, mashing, and grinding either garlic, chili peppers, whole grains or whole spices. I brought a stone home with me and would recommend you look for one, too. Maybe there’s a pestle-shaped on out in the woods, in your garden, or on the bank of the nearest river or stream. Think cave man, not Pottery Barn. One hit on the garlic and it’s peeled. Another smash and it’s crushed. Easy.

5 Planters Made From Everyday Objects

Large plastic containers make great container gardens. Think twice before you throw plastic receptacles away as someone might like to reuse it.

Planters are easy to come by. Whether you have little growing space outdoors, or want to beautify a patio or rooftop, pull your nearest receptacle or container from your trash and turn it into a planter. The more innovative, the more interesting and discussion-worthy for your friends and neighbors. Here are a few unusual planters we’ve come across in our travels in the Himalaya:

1)    Thermos Planter

The planter on the right is an old broken thermos. They also make great modified bird feeders.

2)    Styrofoam Cooler Planter

Herb planters in styrofoam. The village of Kalopani doesn't have styrofoam recycling. But this family found a way to reuse theirs to plant herbs for their restaurant.

3)    Paint Can and Bucket Planters

Paint Cans and Buckets Make Perfect Succulent Planters, Photo: Liesl Clark

4)    Gerry Can Planter

When this plastic water or fuel container broke, it was turned into a large planter.

5)    Barrel Planter

These barrels make great containers for donkey or yak loads when we go on expedition. When they break, they can make a great container garden.

These are all utilitarian planters, used in a place where there are no garden stores to simply go and buy yourself a clay pot. They’re also used in high Himalayan villages that have short growing seasons. Placed along a south-facing wall, these planters extend the growing season by a couple months.

What innovative planters have you grown your food in?

The Adventures of Blue Bear

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Photo © Liesl Clark

There once was a time, not too long ago, when our children were very small but what some might call brave. They ventured (as they still do) each year to the other side of the planet, to the Himalayas, and those first years were precious because they didn’t know they were doing something special.

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Photo © Liesl Clark

They thought everyone travelled to the base of Mount Everest to live the good life.

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Their years spent over the winter months with our Sherpa family, Ang Temba and Yangin, in the village of Khunde at 12,600 feet, are among the happiest months of our lives. We had no distractions, committing our time to the children’s well-being up there, enjoying the simple pleasures of family company and the rhythms of Himalayan winter life. The life lessons the village taught us over the years are the reason why we’ve created this blog.

Finn Yakboy

Photo © Liesl Clark

One of those winters, we met Peter Olander, who volunteered to join us in Phortse, a village just a few hours beyond Khunde, where we established our second Magic Yeti Children’s Library in the Solu-Khumbu district of Nepal. Peter’s patience with the quixotic movements of our children on the trail, sometimes like herding cats, and his selfless dedication to the families of Phortse, humbled us deeply. He came to know how important a little bear named “Blue” was to our children’s movement up the trail. Blue Bear strapped himself in with 3-year-old Finn on every journey, whether it be by horse or the back of his Mom, Dad, or a dzopkyo (a cross between a cow and a yak.)

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Photo © Liesl Clark

We later learned of Peter’s talents as an artist and storyteller. Please join us in reading his book about Finn and Blue Bear. This tiny blue denim bear was a little boy’s purpose on the world’s highest mountain trails just a few years ago:

Peter caught the essence of the magic of the Khumbu, the mysticism, and a child’s imagination that can be sparked by books and stories about children like Finn and his intrepid bear. Peter is uploading the story page-by-page (it takes time) to his website, and his paintings are original works of beauty that we cherish deeply. Thank you, Peter, for this gift, and for capturing these moments that transcend time to a place and a people graced by the compassion of mountain deities.

Click this image to get to the story:

(Readers, please check back, on Peter’s website, to follow Blue Bear’s story!)

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Photo © Peter Athans

Clothes The Loop With The North Face

I’m excited to make a huge discovery, for those of us who ache when we throw into the landfill big chunks of plastic that could likely be repurposed into something else. The North Face stores will take not only your old clothes, shoes, and outdoor gear like backpacks and tents, but they’ll also take your old ski boots! Please read this article by my husband that tells you all about this great initiative.

By Pete Athans

Living on an island means we don’t have access to a lot of services and conveniences. We like that.

My 7-year-old daughter on a ferry boat ride to our Puget Sound island. Photo © Liesl Clark

A 35-minute ferry ride delivers us into what feels like the bowels of Seattle, ejecting ferry-riders beneath a highway underpass, a continuous stream of cars, buses and trucks humming above. Just around the corner from the hum of the waterfront is one of The North Face’s first stores to open in the U.S.

Delivered by ferry to the Seattle waterfront. Photo © Liesl Clark

I’ve worked for the company for nearly 30 years, and I still love walking into this special Seattle space. Behind the modern store facade, you still have a sense of the original post and beam construction, probably used for shipping or as a warehouse years ago. Today, I’m even more proud to step into the store with my family, carrying our used clothing, textiles, and gear that we aren’t able to sustainably throw away on our small island. In fact, most people have a tough time finding places to discard used clothing and specialized outdoor gear in this country. But every store in the US that The North Face operates now has a “Clothes The Loop” box where you can drop off your used and worn-up clothes, gear, and shoes. You’ll get a discount on your next purchase at The North Face store as a reward for your efforts.

Here’s how you can find a store near you that is participating in this program. Click on their Find A Store link. Then, at the bottom of the map, click on the boxes that say “The North Face Stores” and “The North Face Outlets.” Those are the stores owned and operated by The North Face that have this program.

Denim has value. Don't throw it away! It can be used as insulation. Photo © Liesl Clark

The North Face has initiated this much-needed clothing, gear, and shoe recycling program, they call “Clothes the Loop,” in a partnership with I:CO an international textile and shoe recycler that breaks materials down into 400 categories for carpet padding, stuffing for new toys, and fibers for new clothing. I:CO currently processes about 500 tons of used items every day in 74 countries. They have collection points all over Europe and in the USA.

Drop your old apparel, any brand, into a "Clothes the Loop" bin at The North Face store.

Here’s a list of the kinds of items you can take to your nearest store and put in their box:

Old Clothing

Shoes

Hiking Boots

Rope

Bed Spreads

Sheets

Table Cloths

Fabric Scraps

Ski Boots

Backpacks

Tents

Climbing Harnesses

Pillows

Stuffed Animals

We’ve taken samplings of just about everything on the list above to their store. It’s reduced our family’s solid waste significantly each year. According to the EPA Office of Solid Waste, Americans throw away more than 68 pounds of clothing and textiles per person per year, and this figure is rapidly growing. Add your outdoor gear to that figure and surely it’s over 100 pounds. We’re very excited to hear that they’ll take ski boots. Before this, there were no options in the Seattle area and most cities for ski boot recycling.

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Our family has a lot of boots, for every kind of snow sport. We’re probably not unlike many families. © Liesl Clark

Before you take your items in to The North Face, if any of them are usable, please try to give them away to someone who might be able to use them, through a project like your local Buy Nothing group. When my family travels to the Himalaya, we always bring a few extra duffels of clothing and shoes. We work with communities in Upper Mustang who are in dire need of good shoes.

Since children grow so fast, it isn’t hard to pass on our own children’s lightly worn fleece, outerwear, hiking boots, hats and gloves to kids in remote mountain communities. It’s the least we can do in a high mountain environment where people only have access to poorly made Chinese apparel.

A child in Samdzong getting medical care from our expedition doctor. Photo © Liesl Clark

My children on their way to Upper Mustang, Nepal. Photo © Liesl Clark

My children on their way to Upper Mustang, Nepal. Photo © Liesl Clark

If we’re more mindful of our textile and outdoor gear waste, we can each make a difference. We know the textile industry adds tremendous environmental stress on our planet, but by giving away our usable our clothing and gear and then recycling what’s un-wearable, we can reduce the demand for virgin materials in new clothing and conserve the energy that goes into making fibers for fabrics.

Recycling your worn out textiles and shoes at The North Face is fun. Photo © Liesl Clark

For us islanders, this new drop box at The North Face will be a welcome destination for fabrics and apparel we’ve been stockpiling in our homes in hopes that a recycler would appear in our midst. Your jeans that have holes in the knees and gloves that are nearly shredded from outdoor use are welcome at the Clothes the Loop bin.

My favorite TNF gloves, now safely in the bin. Photo © Liesl Clark

Hope to see you there, recycling your hole-y socks and dented hats.

IMG_3361 Photo © Liesl Clark