Turning Your Food Waste into Compost

Turning Your Food Waste into Compost

Anything that grows, will also decompose! That means that much of the food waste that we produce is actually compostable. Up to 21% of US landfill content is food waste –it’s the #1 landfill contributor by weight.1 When food rots in landfills, it releases methane. That means that rotting food contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, and is one of the many things adding to climate change.1 Instead of sending your food waste to landfills, you can try composting. Composting is an easy way to reduce our landfill contributions, address climate change, and transform our waste into healthy soil!

There are lots of businesses, universities, and even entire cities that are becoming more passionate about composting. For example, San Francisco created a large-scale composting program in 1996, and diverts over 250,000 tons of organic waste to landfills annually (about 650 tons per day)–this waste is then converted into around 350 tons of compost per day!2 Los Angeles does not currently have a city-wide composting program as expansive as San Francisco, but they are expanding their curbside organics recycling program in accordance with Senate Bill 1383 (a CA mandate which aims to keep organic waste out of landfills), which you can check out here.3 Beyond this, you can still try composting and reducing food waste in your own home!

There are a few ways to compost at home. First, you can simply buy or purchase a bin for your backyard, or start a composting pile. You can check out this tutorial video to learn more.4 This is much simpler than people think! You only need a few things: water, air, “browns”, and “greens”.5 Browns are carbon-rich materials, which provide food for microorganisms to break down. This can include dry leaves, twigs, paper and cardboard, and plant stalks. Greens are where your food scraps come in: these nitrogen-rich materials create the ideal conditions for the breakdown of material. Greens can also include grass clippings and green garden waste. In general, you never want to compost meat, dairy, or bread. It can attract pests!

A second, more complicated way of composting at home is to try vermicomposting, also known as worm composting. This can be done indoors and outdoors, and involves purchasing worms and providing them with material to break down.6 This option is obviously not for everyone, but might be attractive to any worm-lovers out there.

Both of these methods produce compost that you can use in your backyard plants, add on the top of the soil on your lawn, or mix into potting soil for your indoor plants. Finished compost has many benefits! To name a few, it adds nutrients to soil, attracts beneficial organisms and reduces the need for pesticides, and improves your soil’s health by adding organic matter.5

Not everyone has a backyard, or wants compost to use in their gardens. Even if that’s the case for you, you should still try your best to divert your food waste from landfills. There are programs in LA (and other cities, too) that take community food waste and turn it into compost to be used in local ecosystems. LA Compost is a community-based organization that has a network of locations where you can drop off your food waste.7 They have booths at local farmers markets, and have regional compost hubs for community access. You can simply store your food waste in a container or bin, and drop it off at one of their locations when your container is full. You can store your container in the freezer to reduce any smells that may be produced by the rotting food. Last year, LA Compost diverted almost 4 million pounds of organics from landfills.7

Whether you create a personal composting bin, donate your food waste to local organizations, or recruit worms to help you, you can help reduce food waste in your own way. There’s no need to completely change your habits overnight. Start small, and over time you can build your way up to becoming a composting connoisseur. Every small action contributes towards reducing climate change and creating a better planet for all of us!

1. Wasted: How America Is Losing Up to 40 Percent of Its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill. Published August 16, 2017. Accessed July 31, 2023. https://www.nrdc.org/resources/wasted-how-america-losing-40-percent-its-food-farm-fork-landfill
2. Food to the Rescue: San Francisco Composting. Published October 24, 2017. Accessed July 31, 2023. https://www.nrdc.org/resources/food-rescue-san-francisco-composting
3. Curbside Organics Recycling Program. Accessed July 31, 2023. https://lacitysan.org/san/faces/
4. Beginner’s Guide to Composting.; 2019. Accessed July 31, 2023. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=egyNJ7xPyoQ
5. US EPA O. Composting At Home. Published April 17, 2013. Accessed July 31, 2023. https://www.epa.gov/recycle/composting-home
6. US EPA O. Composting At Home: Worms. Published April 17, 2013. Accessed July 31, 2023. https://www.epa.gov/recycle/composting-home#worms
7. LA COMPOST. LC-SS. Published June 2, 2023. Accessed July 31, 2023. https://www.lacompost.org

How to Reduce Your Fast Fashion Consumption

How to Reduce Your Fast Fashion Consumption

If you’re active online, you might have noticed “fast fashion” as a popular buzzword lately––but what, actually, is it? According to Merriam-Webster, fast fashion is defined as “an approach to the design, creation, and marketing of clothing fashions that emphasizes making fashion trends quickly and cheaply available to consumers.”1 Fast fashion is typically known for being inexpensive, widely available (especially recently due to online shopping), and “trendy” with what’s currently in style. Clothing created this way is often low quality because it’s being created with the intention of being sold at a very low price point, so production costs have to be kept low.

Fast fashion is also, unfortunately, generally associated with poor working conditions. Fashion companies often outsource their textile production to countries such as India and Bangladesh, where it is cheaper to produce and there are fewer labor safety regulations.2 Some garment workers make as little as $1.58 per hour, and many employers have been found to violate overtime and workplace safety laws.3 Workplaces are often unhygienic and can be contaminated by substances such as dust produced from materials; garment workers have been found to suffer from health issues such as coughs, fevers, respiratory problems, and musculoskeletal problems, including scoliosis.4,5 There have even been tragedies where workers were killed, such as the 2013 building collapse in Bangladesh, which resulted in over 1,100 avoidable deaths.6

The increase of fashion production has also led to an increase in fashion waste; each year, we produce 13 million tons (that’s 26,000,000,000 pounds!) of textile waste globally––about 70 pounds per year by each average consumer.7 Even more heartbreaking is the fact that most (up to 95%) of this waste could be reduced or reused, but is instead thrown away. Some fabrics, such as polyester, take up to 200 years to decompose,7 meaning that we are creating an abundance of waste that isn’t breaking down in our environment. The United States is one of the biggest consumers of fast fashion, and one of the biggest producers of fashion waste. Since trends are now changing faster than ever due to social media, we are buying clothing quickly to stay trendy, and throwing it away just as quickly to make room in our closets for the next trends.

Beyond textile waste alone, the fast fashion industry is also contributing to the destruction of our planet. If we don’t work to reduce fashion waste, it is estimated that the global emissions produced by the apparel industry will double by 2030.8 Apparel production also contaminates water supplies and dries up water sources.8,9 Did you know it takes 700 gallons of water to produce one cotton shirt, and about 2,000 gallons of water to produce a pair of jeans?9

It’s crucial that we, as a society, reduce our fast fashion consumption. From a moral standpoint, we have to protect workers who are being exploited for their textile production. And from an environmental perspective, we must reduce the irreversible damage that we are doing to our planet, both from textile waste and contamination from apparel production. Fortunately, reducing your fast fashion consumption can be easier than you think!

Here are some ways you can reduce your fast fashion consumption and fashion waste:

  • Buy less. This seems like a simple concept, but sometimes it can be difficult. Our current society encourages consumerism and tells us that we MUST have the most recent trends. However, you will save money and reduce your consumption if you choose to buy staple pieces that will never go out of style instead of the newest trends. Bonus points if you buy durable clothing that will last! This will save you from needing to replace low-quality clothing items every few years.
  • Thrift! There’s no shortage of secondhand stores in Los Angeles. These range from lower price options, such as Goodwill, to specialty “curated” stores with higher price points. Many secondhand stores even have charitable focuses and donate some of their proceeds to local organizations. Check out the LA Vintage Map for an interactive map of secondhand stores in and around L.A.10
  • Donate your clothing to thrift stores instead of throwing it away. In general, most thrift stores are always open to take donations, as long as your old clothes are in decent condition. Even if you think nobody would want your old clothes, there are lots of people out there who would be excited to spruce up their own wardrobe with your pieces!
  • Swap clothes with friends. If you don’t feel like buying from thrift stores or donating your old clothes, find a buddy who wants to change up their wardrobe and trade a few pieces with them. This is a fun way to shake up your closet.
  • If you are able to, choose to shop at smaller, sustainable businesses. Sometimes this is called “slow fashion”––clothing that is high quality and made by workers who are paid fairly and work in safe conditions (often within the US). However, this clothing is often more expensive, as the cost of producing it is higher, so this might not work for everyone’s budget.
  • Learn to mend, alter, and upcycle your own clothing! Sometimes our clothes don’t fit perfectly, or they start to come apart at the seams a bit. That doesn’t mean you have to get rid of them! Learning how to update or fix your own clothing will help you feel agency and control over your wardrobe, and it will help you keep clothes in your closet instead of tossing them at the first sign of wear. There’s no shortage of tutorials on YouTube and TikTok––search “beginner sewing” to find some videos! You can also find an easy mend guide on Remake.com.11
  • Repurpose your old clothes. If your old clothing is well-loved and starting to fall apart beyond repair, you probably can’t donate it––but you can find other purposes! Cut up old clothes into rags to use for cleaning (you can use these instead of paper towels, which is even better to reduce waste). You can also turn an old t-shirt into a pillow (check out a tutorial here).12 Be creative and see what ways you can come up with to give your clothes a new life!

Sources:
1. Definition of FAST FASHION. Published July 6, 2023. Accessed July 17, 2023. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fast+fashion
2. Ross E. Fast Fashion Getting Faster: A Look at the Unethical Labor Practices Sustaining a Growing Industry. International Law and Policy Brief. Accessed July 17, 2023. https://studentbriefs.law.gwu.edu/ilpb/2021/10/28/fast-fashion-getting-faster-a-look-at-the-unethical-labor-practices-sustaining-a-growing-industry/
3. March 21 RR•, 2023. The Exploitation of Garment Workers: Threading the Needle on Fast Fashion. DOL Blog. Accessed July 17, 2023. http://blog.dol.gov/2023/03/21/the-exploitation-of-garment-workers-threading-the-needle-on-fast-fashion
4. Kabir H, Maple M, Usher K, Islam MS. Health vulnerabilities of readymade garment (RMG) workers: a systematic review. BMC Public Health. 2019;19(1):70. doi:10.1186/s12889-019-6388-y
5. Hobson J. To die for? The health and safety of fast fashion. Occupational Medicine. 2013;63(5):317-319. doi:10.1093/occmed/kqt079
6. Bangladesh textile workers’ deaths “avoidable.” BBC News. https://www.bbc.com/news/business-22296645. Published April 25, 2013. Accessed July 17, 2023.
7. Abssy CLEHCVM. World Reimagined: The Hidden Environmental Costs of Clothes, and How Companies are Addressing It. Published January 13, 2022. Accessed July 17, 2023. https://www.nasdaq.com/articles/world-reimagined%3A-the-hidden-environmental-costs-of-clothes-and-how-companies-are
8. Measuring Fashion: Insights from the Environmental Impact of the Global Apparel and Footwear Industries. One Planet network. Published September 17, 2021. Accessed July 17, 2023. https://www.oneplanetnetwork.org/knowledge-centre/resources/measuring-fashion-insights-environmental-impact-global-apparel-and
9. McFall-Johnsen M. The fashion industry emits more carbon than international flights and maritime shipping combined. Here are the biggest ways it impacts the planet. Business Insider. Accessed July 17, 2023. https://www.businessinsider.com/fast-fashion-environmental-impact-pollution-emissions-waste-water-2019-10
10. LA Vintage Map – All vintage, resale, and thrift stores in LA. Accessed July 19, 2023. https://lavintagemap.com/
11. How to Mend Your Clothes: 5 Easy Stitch Fixes for Beginners. Published April 30, 2020. Accessed July 19, 2023. https://remake.world/stories/style/how-to-mend-your-clothes-during-quarantine-5-easy-stitch-fixes/
12. How To Make A Throw Pillow Out Of A T-Shirt. Published September 24, 2019. Accessed July 19, 2023. https://thewickerhouse.com/2019/09/how-to-make-throw-pillow-out-of-t-shirt.html

What Are “Forever Chemicals”?

What Are “Forever Chemicals”?

You may have heard the term “forever chemicals” in the news lately. Maybe you heard it from the $5 million class action lawsuit with Thinx menstrual underwear,1 or the multibillion dollar lawsuit with 3M.2 But what are “forever chemicals”, and how did they get that name?

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, are a group of man-made chemicals, meaning they don’t exist naturally in our environment. For years, they have been used in consumer goods or industrial processes because of their water resistance and non-stick properties. For example, PFAS are used in non-stick pans, waterproof fabric (such as raincoats or stain-resistant rugs), and grease-proof takeout food containers. They’ve also been used in industrial goods, such as firefighting foam.

PFAS don’t break down easily, and “persist” in our environment, which is why they’re often known as “forever chemicals”. They often end up in our water supplies, meaning we get exposed to PFAS when we drink contaminated water or eat produce that was watered with contaminated water.3 Additionally, when we eat fish or wildlife that was exposed to PFAS, we can absorb their PFAS into our own bodies. This process is known as bioaccumulation.3 Finally, we can get exposed to PFAS by using products that contain the chemicals, such as skincare and cosmetics.4 Representative data from people in the United States has shown that PFAS are detected in the bodies of >99% of our population.5

Although PFAS seem scary, there are ways to protect yourself. Here are some ways to try to limit your exposure:
● Teach yourself which companies avoid PFAS in their products! You can check the PFAS
Free Products List6 or use the browser extension Clearya,7 which alerts you when you
are online shopping for products that have unsafe ingredients.
● If you are able to, swap out your non-stick cookware for stainless steel or cast-iron options. If you only have access to non-stick cookware, make sure you use soft utensils such as wood or silicone while cooking to avoid scratching your pans.
● Avoid products labeled “waterproof” or “stain resistant”. These products are often coated with PFAS. This could range from clothing items to home products such as couches and rugs.
● Avoid take-out food packaging when possible, and always remove take-out food from its packaging before reheating it.
● Make popcorn on the stove instead of microwaving it. Some microwavable popcorn bags are coated with PFAS.
● If you have access to them, use water filters in your home that filter out PFAS, such as reverse osmosis or activated carbon filters.

Most importantly, make sure you are expressing to policymakers that they need to take action to protect us from PFAS! And help your friends and community members become aware of PFAS so that they can take action to protect themselves, too.

Sources:

1. PFAS Class-Action Thinx Period Underwear Lawsuit Settled for $5 Million. Consumer
Notice, LLC. Published January 26, 2023. Accessed July 9, 2023.
https://www.consumernotice.org/news/pfas-thinx-lawsuit/
2. Multibillion-Dollar Settlement Reached In 3M ‘Forever Chemicals’ Lawsuit. Consumer
Notice, LLC. Published June 28, 2023. Accessed July 9, 2023.
https://www.consumernotice.org/news/3m-settlement-forever-chemicals-lawsuit/
3. Per- and Polyfluorinated Substances (PFAS) Factsheet | National Biomonitoring Program | CDC. Published May 3, 2022. Accessed July 9, 2023. https://www.cdc.gov/biomonitoring/PFAS_FactSheet.html
4. Nutrition C for FS and A. Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) in Cosmetics. FDA.
Published online March 3, 2022. Accessed July 9, 2023.
https://www.fda.gov/cosmetics/cosmetic-ingredients/and-polyfluoroalkyl-substances-pfas-cosmetics
5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Fourth National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals (NHANES). Updated tables, January 2019.
6. PFAS-Free Products – PFAS Central. Accessed July 9, 2023. https://pfascentral.org/pfas-
free-products/
7. Clearya: Nontoxic Shopping Made Easy! Clearya. Accessed July 9, 2023.
https://www.clearya.com