Ashton Biological Preserve

Waste Free Feb: Week 2

Just as a refresher: #WasteFreeFeb is about becoming aware of the waste you produce during the month of February. If it can’t be recycled or reused, you must keep it and put it in the container you have chosen for the month. Our Research Manager, Maggie, chose a jar (roughly a pint in size) and chose to do this for the entire month, although she encourages people to participate in any way they can, even if it’s just for a week or weekend. 

Maggie writes:

End of Week 2: Thursday 15 February 2018

This Week’s Waste:1

  • 2 produce stickers (the most delicious, perfect, amazing avocados I’ve ever eaten. Ever.)
  • The wrapping of a plaster/band-aid
  • The wrapping of some fruit Mentos at a weak moment
  • One straw from a restaurant–I didn’t stop them in time before they put it down (although, technically it’s not in my jar yet, because if I’m going to have to throw it away anyway, I might as well use it first. It’s in my silverware drawer.)

Things I Learned This Week:

  • I’m exhausted. You know why? Because, among other things, I didn’t even come close to eating a balanced diet this week. It was a crazy, insane, busy week, with some very long days and I just didn’t have the energy to cook proper meals. That meant I ended up eating things that were fast, easy, and waste-free…so I ate a lot of the same thing all week, and it wasn’t healthy vegetables. (Tortillas are delicious and you can easily prepare them in many ways but they aren’t particularly well-rounded in the nutrition department). This coming week should be much less hectic, and I’m looking forward to having the time to cook some delicious waste-free meals, and maybe even share some recipes!
  • Ahhhhh! It took me almost the full week to realize that at the end of my morning routine, I was throwing away the cotton buds from cleaning my ears. It was such a force of habit that it didn’t even occur to me that it was waste! I happen to use a brand that has a rolled paper stem, but I know that there are several brands that have a plastic stem. If you can’t imagine giving up your cotton buds, then perhaps look for a brand that only contains the cotton and the paper.2
  • In general, I was just very aware of waste being produced all around me. I may be participating in #WasteFreeFeb, but most of my friends are not. I had several lovely people provide me with meals this week, and it provided a great opportunity to get to chat with them about what I’m doing and why. That doesn’t mean the meals I ate with them were waste-free, but it means I did my best to make my part of that meal waste-free. If nothing else, it reinforced my enthusiasm for banning styrofoam/polystyrene! I will wash all your dishes for you at the end of the meal if it will stop you from using styrofoam!

Things I Was on the Lookout for from Last Week:

  • Where & What Can I Recycle All The Things I’ve Been Hoarding? Gainesville takes all the things! You may have to expend a little effort to find a place for it, but it’s there! (Neat thing—the waste collection centers here also have a reuse section where products still in the original containers and with directions for use–such as paint, cleaning, automotive fluids and more–are set aside. You can come and take them home for free! Need gently used clothing, furniture, etc? They have that too! For free!) If you participate in the Curbside Blue & Orange Bin service, they take almost everything—there is specific information on the Alachua County Waste Management Website. The things they don’t take can often still be recycled (like plastic bags at the grocery store).
  • Archer, which is a rural collection area and doesn’t offer curbside pickup way back in the middle of nowhere where we are, has a waste collection center that seems to accept as much as the urban centers (they just don’t accept as much hazardous waste and there is a lower per day limit). In theory, they should also have these reuse areas, but I can’t think where it would be housed—good to check out next time I’m there.
  • To Burn or Not to Burn? I’m still waiting to hear from more people on the pros and cons of burning recyclable paper and cardboard as part of our fires. I don’t feel like I turned up anything in my research that I didn’t already know and I’m still on the line between burning and recycling it. Convince me!
  • Dots of Color on My Wrappers?! Although there are one or two websites that claim they have to do with the food’s organic status and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and a million other things, an overwhelming majority of websites state that these are simply there to align the printer for the creation of the packaging. Perhaps a bit of a let down in the mystery solved, department, but…if you need a more exciting one, look into the numbers on produce stickers and the different colors of twist ties on bread.

My waste jar didn’t gain much but it wasn’t for a “good” reason. I had to remind myself several times this past week that the whole point of this is to make me aware and to learn what steps I can take. It isn’t about getting in trouble if you create waste, so don’t try to hide it. It’s just about knowing if there is an alternative (and I promise, there’s always an alternative–it’s up to you if it’s one that fits. I know that I am not at the point in my life where I can give up shampoo/conditioner and use those soap bar things, so I just accept that toiletries is an area where I’ll have to be happy with only using recyclable packaging, even if it is still plastic.)

I think my biggest eye-opener was a trip to one of those bulk warehouse club type stores. Although buying bigger portions can reduce the amount of packaging, at this type of store they seem to package within packaging! A 2-pack of orange juice cartons (both recyclable by themselves) comes attached by a big plastic sticker! It was a rough shopping trip and a good reminder of what to look for.

I won’t get discouraged, though! I may be struggling on some days, but on others I read the packaging of my favorite cup of tea and find out that the pouch it comes in is 100% biodegradable even though it looks like an odd foil. So I’m sitting here right now, sipping on my hot tea, and preparing for the week ahead.

What about you? Is there anything you did this week in terms of being waste-free that you’re particularly proud of? I’d love to hear about it!

*Any products, services, or businesses mentioned within are not considered to be endorsed by Ashton Biodiversity Research & Preservation Institute Inc. or its affiliates.

Waste Free Feb: Week 1

Just as a refresher: #WasteFreeFeb is about becoming aware of the waste you produce during the month of February. If it can’t be recycled or reused, you must keep it and put it in the container you have chosen for the month. Our Research Manager, Maggie, chose a jar (roughly a pint in size) and chose to do this for the entire month, although she encourages people to participate in any way they can, even if it’s just for a week or weekend. 

Maggie writes:

End of Week 1: Thursday 8 February 2018

I’m rather low on the income scale and rather high on the work hours scale, and I was worried I wouldn’t have the time or money to do this properly. What I’ve found is that a lot more of what I normally buy is recyclable than I realized and I can find ways to prepare ahead without spending an entire afternoon cooking for the week to come (always make extra at dinner for the next day’s leftovers, store my food in a way that keeps it fresher longer, take a few extra minutes when putting away groceries to divvy up some of the food into snack or meal sized portions to grab on the go).

Despite some uncomfortable realizations about how much waste I produce, how many recyclable things I’ve been throwing away unaware, and some heart-rending emotions about the waste our society produces as a whole, I’m hopeful this month will be a bit more manageable than I had originally anticipated. I guess we’ll find out when I update next week!

This week’s waste:


Maggie’s jar after Week 1

  • 2 produce stickers (from avocados, mmmm)
  • The label from the recyclable hummus container
  • 2 granola bar wrappers (I wonder if there are any granola bar wrappers that are recyclable?)
  • The plastic seal from a salad dressing bottle
  • The backing to a sticker (because people deserve stickers for a job well done)
  • The outer wrapping of a frozen pizza that was inside a recyclable cardboard box
  •  The weird absorbent pad at the bottom of my recyclable carton of fresh raspberries

Things I Learned This Week:

  • It’s all about being prepared! (Apparently this month is also going to give me an awareness of how scattered my brain is.)
  • Most packaging, although it’s less common on off-brand bargain versions, will tell you what’s recyclable about it. Many will even tell you what to do with the various components of the packaging.


    Recycling labels on the bottom of a cardboard box

  • The plastic bag return at your local grocery store can also accept many other items such as toilet paper wrapping, bread bags, many bags that enclose crackers or cereal or vegetables. For example:


    Plastic bags that can be recycled

  • There are many different places you can bring your own container, and dealing with the possible responses builds character, right? This week I asked the people at the deli counter to put the meat and cheese they were slicing into the reusable containers I had brought with me. This actually didn’t cause as much of a kerfuffle as I thought it might…however, asking them to also include the little plastic sheeting they slice it onto (and would be throwing away) did get me a look or two.
  • Bringing your own plastic straw in your purse or bag or car is easy…remembering to actually use it will require some practice.

Things I Want to Be on the Lookout for Next Week:

  • I have a designated spot for all my different types of recyclables in the house.
  • Can I actually recycle them here at the waste station in tiny little Archer, FL? What about Gainesville? Normally, in small towns, what is accepted and what isn’t?
  • What are the pros and cons of burning my paper recyclables vs finding a place that takes all the various kinds? We have a fire pit out back that we use on a regular basis to host small bonfires, and I just use my various paper/cardboard as kindling. What are people’s thoughts on this?
  • What do all those colored dots and squares mean on packaging? Does this have anything to do with recycling? Or is it more like the number codes on produce stickers?


    What are these dots?

Tips, Tricks, and Thoughts

  • Did you know that if a server puts a straw on your table, even if you don’t open it, they still throw them away? You have to stop them early on from reaching for that straw & tell them you have your own, or you just don’t need one. If you’re lucky, the reusable straw you have is one of those brightly colored, twisty shaped straws.



  • Many people don’t want to have a small compost unit on their kitchen counter because they’re afraid it will smell bad. My compost container is one of those mini ice buckets with a lid (actually, quite a fancy one, but I never host any fancy parties, so…). There’s no actual seal to this lid, I open it multiple times a day to add more food scraps, and nobody has noticed any sort of smell, including my own hyper-sensitive nosed self. We do have a larger compost outside that I can dump it in when it gets full—our outside compost is just open to the air because we have a sizable property, but there are loads of different compost options that can be adapted to urban living.
  • More and more grocery stores are providing bulk options. Not only does buying in bulk save you money, but for all these stores you can bring in your own container, have them weigh it, then subtract that weight from your total after you’ve filled your container with the product of your choice!
  • Reusable produce bags are cheap, super easy, and the cashiers can see the stickers through them well enough to scan and have never commented on them being inconvenient this past year of me using them. I happened to get mine for free from a lovely friend who had ordered a set and didn’t need the full thing.

I can’t wait to share with you how next week goes in Waste Free Feb!