Zero Waste Washington drives policy change for a healthy and waste-free world. We envision a just, equitable, and sustainable future where we all produce, consume, and reuse responsibly.

40th Anniversary Celebration: Sept 17

Zero Waste Washington

Officially turns 40!

We are celebrating all who helped make it happen over the past 4 decades

Saturday, September 17, 2022, 2-4 pm

Gasworks Park Picnic Shelter, Seattle (Outdoors!)

IMPORTANT NOTE:  We changed the location to Gasworks Park from Montlake Playfield Park, due to logistics issues. 

We will be at the large picnic shelter that abuts the old red gasworks machinery works under the big roof. 

You can’t miss us!

Come join the fun as we look back at each of the four decades of ups and downs, laughs and sighs, and so many wonderful policies and programs tackling waste in Washington. 


This outdoor fest will be kid and pet-friendly and include themed food (!), unexpected games, photos and items from each decade, and a brief program honoring the people who made it happen. This is not a fundraiser. You won’t want to miss it.


Please rsvp at


Or rsvp directly to Michelle Alten-Kaehler at

michelle@ or (425) 803-0653, to receive event information.


Last minute decisions are OK.


The beginnings of Zero Waste Washington

In 1979, a determined group of activists organized to launch Initiative 61, a Washington State bottle bill (which followed an earlier effort in 1970).  While Initiative 61 failed to garner the votes needed, it inspired those involved to take action to strengthen recycling and reuse in Washington. The dedicated advocates continued meeting, and Washington Citizens for Recycling, today Zero Waste Washington, was born. In September 1982, the organization gained 501(c)(3) status. Through the years, staff and board worked with partners to pilot and test and advocate for cutting edge policies that have led the nation. From the passage of the 1989 Waste Not Washington Act that fostered curbside recycling, to the 1990s law requiring government agencies to use recycled materials, the 2006 E-Cycle Washington Program, the recent Medicine Return, PaintCare and plastic bag and Styrofoam bans, Zero Waste Washington and partners have been a catalyst for real change.

It’s a party! Come meet people who think zero waste

On September 17th, at Montlake Playfield Park, from 2:00-4:00, we will have a ball as we celebrate 40 years of working to make Washington State healthy and waste-free.  At this children and pet-friendly event, board members, staff, volunteers, and partners, past and present, will meet up with old and new friends for games, refreshments, and a walk through history, viewing displays of photographs and memorabilia recalling their work with Zero Waste Washington.  A brief program will recognize everyone who made it all happen over the past 40+ years.


To rsvp and if you have questions or suggestions, please contact Michelle at or (425) 829-9497. Do you have memorabilia from the past 40+ years? Let us know! We would love to display it

Working Together to Reduce Waste in Washington Cafeterias

By Carl Baird, Zero Waste Washington, Heather Church, WA State Department of Ecology, and Amanda Gibson, Volunteer at large

Across the US, the use of single-use food service ware in schools has a significant impact on our health and the environment. Students, parents, teachers, administrators, and county representatives are all part of a movement to bring reusable, durable materials back to school cafeterias. This helps these institutions meet recycling and waste reduction goals. In Washington, Zero Waste Washington has convened the Washington Workgroup for Sustainable School Cafeterias to assist schools and school districts across Washington state to implement reusable solutions in the lunchroom. This workgroup brings together professionals and volunteers committed to helping school cafeterias waste less, transition to durable service ware, and meet the needs of their students.

Sami Springs (Clark County Green Schools), Margaret Rice (Washougal School District ), and Ellen Ives (Waste Connections) with durable foodware at Washougal High School. Photo from Washougal School District.

Workgroup objectives

To spur healthier and more sustainable school cafeterias, the workgroup established the following objectives:

  • Collect information on the current state of durable use, recycling, and composting in school districts throughout the state, as well as barriers to adopting more sustainable practices;
  • Use that information to help school districts reduce waste and transition to durables;
  • Provide a network of resources for school districts, nonprofits, and agencies working to promote sustainable practices in our cafeterias; and
  • Increase awareness and support for these practices throughout our communities.

Washington schools are already making progress

Many schools and districts in Washington are taking action, joining the districts (Seattle and others) that led the effort in recent years. Here are just a few examples:

  • Spokane International Academy is replacing their single use expanded polystyrene lunch trays with durable, reusable trays to decrease their waste by up to 900 trays per day.
  • Pullman School District in Whitman County is using magnetic garbage can lids, as well as education and outreach, to retain silverware in their cafeterias.
  • Federal Way Public Schools in King County will transition Mirror Lake and Wildwood schools from single-use baskets to re-usable, five-compartment lunch trays.
  • Washougal High SchoolJemtegaard Middle/Columbia River Gorge Elementary Schools, and Canyon Creek Middle/Cape Horn Skye Elementary Schools in Clark and Skamania counties transitioned their culinary services department into a scratch cooking program and reduced waste from their cafeterias by transitioning to durable service ware. This year, each of these schools will continue their efforts by purchasing a milk dispenser and reusable glassware to reduce landfill waste from used milk cartons.
  • Kirkwood, Garfield, and Lincoln Elementary Schools, and Toppenish Middle and High Schoolsin Yakima County will purchase reusable trays for all the kitchens in the district to reduce the use of single-use paper, plastic, and expanded polystyrene products. Toppenish School District provides meals to over 4,000 students daily, including breakfast, lunch, and afterschool snacks.

Ecology is now accepting 2023 School Award Submissions.

Do you know a school or school district that may be interested in implementing a waste reduction program in their cafeterias or classrooms? Ecology’s Waste Not Washington School Award Program is now open and accepting applications for the 2023 funding cycle! This program awards schools up to $5,000 for projects in waste reduction, recycling, and composting and requires no matching funds. Feel free to browse Examples of Waste Reduction Programs to see what kinds of programs have been implemented or are suggested, but remember- this isn’t an exhaustive list and if your school has an idea for a new program, contact us! Ecology staff is always happy to talk with interested applicants and walk them through the process.

Contact Ecology at with any questions you have!


To find out about and join the Washington Workgroup for Sustainable School Cafeterias, please contact Stephanie Lecovin at

Impacts of Furniture program. We need a name!

By Xenia Dolovova, Waste Reduction Programs Director

The Furniture Fix-It project is gaining traction. Donated damaged or imperfect furniture is being repaired and refurbished to almost new condition and then provided to refugee and low-income families. We are excited to share our results so far.  And we need a name – we are seeking your creative suggestions!

Furniture program action

We have recently completed three events in partnership with the City of Tacoma (April), Food Lifeline in Seattle (July) and Bainbridge BARN (August). Dozens of volunteers came together to learn from each other, repair, create, collaborate, and have fun. So far, the project has provided repaired and refurbished furniture for 53 recently arrived refugees (14 families), saved 8,775 lbs. of furniture from the landfill, and helped avoid 4,180 kgCO2e of emissions.

We need a name

As the program grows, we see a need to graduate from a working name Furniture Fix-it into something that is catchy and easily remembered. We are announcing a contest for a new name for the project! To help guide your creativity, here is a summary of what we are trying to name.

 WHY and WHO we SERVE:

  • We are guided by two main goals – reduce furniture waste and get great furniture to people who need it.
  • We help local communities find a working outlet to give furniture a second chance, which then benefits refugee and low-income families with refurbished furniture.

WHAT and HOW we DO it:

  • Reclaim and collect distressed furniture items from the public, organizations, or businesses through pick-ups and collection events.
  • Refurbish, redesign, refinish, reupholster, repair, revive, revamp, renovate, restore, (you got it) with help from amazing fixers and crafty volunteers. Lots of education happens, too, for volunteers and the public on refurbishing strategies.
  • Give items a second life by donating them to families in need.

Please share your ideas for a new name with us by September 15:

All ideas welcome!

You Could Win…

The winner will be announced mid-September and will get an exclusive Zero Waste Washington tote bag, social media mention when the new name is revealed, and recognition at the Zero Waste Washington 40th anniversary celebration. (This will the best zero waste party ever hosted 😉).

Another need:  warehouse or similar space

We are looking for a space (min 1000 sq. ft.) within King County to temporarily host our growing operations. Please let us know if you have any leads!

Before and after

Enjoy this gallery of amazing before and after photos of furniture pieces the project delivered to refugee families.



To volunteer with the project (no previous skills necessary):  We are also seeking fixers with woodworking or electrical skills. For other ideas and suggestions, and any ideas on storage or locations or transportations services, or if you have any other questions, email Xenia at

Seattle Fix-It Fairs are back!

Tracy (one of our sewers from partner Refugee Artisan Initiative) with attendee Stephen’s mended hat

By Kami Bruner, Waste Reduction Program Manager

On June 25th, Zero Waste Washington hosted its first in-person Fix-it Fair in over two years at the New Holly Gathering Hall in Southeast Seattle. Partnering with Seattle Housing Authority, Southeast Seattle Tool Library, Refugee Artisan Initiative, and the Giving Room Project, we welcomed guests with items in need of repair ranging from lamps, to bikes, to rug shampooers, to dresses and more!

It was the first time most of our fixers and volunteers had ever participated in a community repair event – an exciting and eye-opening experience for many! The enthusiasm was palpable as fixers and attendees alike saw in real time how they were collectively preventing items from going to the landfill and returning them to potentially years more of service!

The Giving Room was on hand with their new rolling Free Store to offer attendees a variety of home goods – all at no cost.

With over 80% of the items able to be repaired, we prevented nearly 200 lbs. of items from heading toward the landfill or languishing in garages and on shelves. For items we couldn’t fix onsite, the owners were provided with useful guidance on where to get spare parts, tips on next best uses, and proper disposal pathways.

Thoughts from participants:

“…this event was very special. Unbeknownst to us, we were participating in sustainability principles… volunteering, giving back to community,  charity….

I saw many happy, and satisfied people at event. Thank you so much.” – Nora, an attendee

“I feel like a millionaire!”- Attendee whose item has been awaiting repair since the start of the pandemic)




Next event:  October 1

If you missed the last Fix-it, fear not! We’ve got another one scheduled for October 1 at Seattle Makers near Gasworks Park, and there are many ways to participate!

If you’d like to be a fixer or volunteer, we’d love to have you:

If you want to get something repaired, that’s great too! Click here to add yourself to the attendees list and get your item on our radar (RSVPs are not required but are helpful for us to prepare):

More Fix-it Fairs will be organized in upcoming months. We hope to see you at one of them!


Kami and Xenia at the end of another successful event!

For more information and if you have suggestions, please contact Kami at

You’re Gonna Need More Freezer Space: Food Waste and Preservation


By Kami Bruner, Waste Reduction Program Manager

Food waste is something I work hard to avoid in my life today. It comes from my childhood. I grew up in a home where we didn’t waste food, aggressively… and often embarrassingly. It was not a political or environmental statement, simply the result of my parents growing up during “The War.” Our food wasn’t homegrown or particularly elaborate – mostly consisting of canned, frozen, or boxed “casserole” mixes. Nothing to write home about but entirely serviceable for a family of five with parents working multiple jobs…often at odd hours.

Adding to the gustatory mosaic were the leftovers my dad invariably brought home from his various handyman jobs. As a jack-of-all-trades electrician and plumber/pipefitter, he did a lot of work for restaurants all over Nashville (my hometown). Sometimes this food was in addition to payment, sometimes in lieu of…. We ate it without thinking much about it other than making sure nothing went to waste – the primary motivator for my dad. He hated to see anything wasted (this extended to far more than food, but that’s another article). At the time, I was more ashamed of the whole thing than I care to admit – wondering why we couldn’t just buy all our food like other people. Were we poor or what? I didn’t think so, but my friends’ families sure didn’t do it. That said, we always had something to eat – even if it was fried chicken that had been in the deep freeze since…last summer.

Food and food waste intersects with other issues

It wasn’t until years later when I began to think more deeply about the source and quality of food, the often brutal conditions of labor embodied in our food streams, and the environmental impact of it all, that I began getting more interested in what I ate and how it made its way to me. Soon thereafter, I learned the term “food insecurity,” belonged to Tennessee’s oldest biodynamic farm CSA, began dumpster diving with fellow Food Not Bomb activists, and more. The intersections were both mind-blowing and confounding:

  • People can grow food in a regenerative way that makes the land, animals, and people healthier… and produce a HUGE amount of food!
  • There is an obscene amount of perfectly edible food going into the trash on a daily basis at institutions, stores and restaurants.
  • Despite the seeming abundance, there were and still are millions of people not getting enough to eat (and this affects people disproportionately depending on where they live, if they have children, if they are not white, and if they have a disability). But people were also organizing to address these issues, like one of my local Nashville heroes, Sizwe Herring
  • There are methods of extending the life and amplifying the nutritional value of foods that can benefit everyone – as described by Radical Faerie and fermentation guru Sandor Ellix Katz in Wild Fermentation and later book The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved

Food waste prevention strategies

Over the years, I have gleaned some basic strategies to systematically reduce food waste.

Interrogate food “date labels”

Labels on our food packaging – “Best By,” “Freshest Before”  – are really confusing. Almost all date labels do not have anything to do with the safety of the item. Most are mere suggestions of when the food is at its “peak deliciousness.” Broadly following the dates as “okay to eat before date x” and “pitch after date x” leads to an incredible amount of perfectly edible food going to waste.  Try practicing using your faculties (sight, smell, taste, touch) to discern for yourself if something has actually spoiled. Here’s a great piece on the topic: “Food expiration dates don’t have much science behind them” by Jill Roberts, Associate Professor of Global Health at South Florida University.


For surplus items in your fridge that might be teetering on spoilage, could you repurpose it into another dish? This applies especially to milk (maybe try your hand at yoghurt or simply adding into a soup) but also fruits (dehydrate them into fruit leather or freeze for additions to smoothies and/or pie filling) and breads (croutons, French toast, bread crumbs – all better using slightly stale bread!). Bananas, beyond all their other overripe uses, can become a surprisingly tasty curry base! Past-prime vegetables can be integrated into stirfrys and creative “casseroles,” added to soups, dehydrated, or frozen for later use (always a saving grace for the good-intention greens in my home). Wilted and surplus fresh herbs can also be blended and frozen into herb cubes for adding to later dishes.

Here’s a fun guide from the TooGoodToGo folks that can help you mix it up when it comes to repurposing the random food stuffs in your fridge: Download the Remix Recipe Cookbook and lots of other great information.

U-Pick then U-Freeze (ferment, can, or dehydrate)

As you know, in Washington we have abundant options for picking your own fruits, vegetables, and tons more at farms. But if you haven’t thought about or tried it in a while, why not find one near you? I recently joined a friend on one of her UPick excursions, motivated by the goal of making and freezing my own berry blend to reduce costs and plastic. After we’d gathered a veritable boatload of raspberries* and strawberries, we headed to a nearby trail that was burgeoning with delicious thimbleberries. Later, I gathered blackberry and salal and assembled a grand frozen berry bounty for future smoothies. *note: raspberries are notorious for turning into mush – one must be extremely gentle when picking and freezing lest one end up with a delicious but difficult to manage block of raspberry-flavored ice.

Put that box of broth back on the grocery shelf!

The butt ends of those vegetables you sauteed for tonight’s pasta and the chicken bones from last night’s takeout will make a healthy, homemade soup stock. And you don’t have to rush to do it! Just chuck your scraps of whatever in a container and put it in the freezer. Bits of onion, celery, carrot, garlic, peppers, and more are great. Keep adding to it until you have an amount that feels weighty…when ready, dump them into a crock pot and cover with water. You don’t need to be precise with quantities and timing — it generally turns out fine. One note: some fish and veggies (such as cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, turnips, rutabagas, artichokes), however, have an overpowering flavor and you might want to use sparingly or avoid them.


Simply by storing our food properly, we can extend its useful life. The NRDC offers great graphic on using your refrigerator right (see graphic)! The bit about the fridge door leaves my head echoing with the frequent childhood admonitions from my dad about “I’m not paying to refrigerate the whole neighborhood!” I did eventually learn the lesson.


You ate what? On eating roadkill

I see you smirking. You’re thinking “Well, she’s from Tennessee, they probably eat roadkill for breakfast.” While I have skinned a racoon, it’s only since I’ve been living in Washington that I’ve actually eaten roadkill (a practice only legalized here in 2016 – making Tennessee look ahead of its time, passing a similar bill in 1999!).

This practice is often stigmatized but it provides typically high-quality protein for individuals and families at a fraction of the cost (even accounting for associated processing fees and materials). And from an environmental and ethics perspective, there’s no contest between any sort of roadkill harvest and a farm-raised creature (even Peta agrees with this). A single healthy deer can feed a family for months depending on portioning. That said, there are certainly risk factors to be considered as well as proper protocols to follow when gathering roadkill.

Roadkill, if not retrieved, does not necessarily go “to waste,” as WSDOT workers often either drag roadside carcasses into nearby woods to be consumed by other scavengers or take them to a composting facility. But in the worst case scenario, these animals simply go to the landfill. And sadly, WSDOT is still collecting between 5,000-6,000 animals from roadsides each year, according to wildlife biologist, Kelly McAllister (link:

As scavenger and Washingtonian, Tim Bento, told the Seattle Times in a 2017 interview, “It grieves your spirit … to see it go to waste.”

A note on food cultures and identity

As good as all this potential bounty sounds to some, not everyone dreams of growing, harvesting, or preserving their own food. From stigmas surrounding poverty to intergenerational traumas resulting from enslavement, many folks very intentionally avoid romanticizing “the harvest.” Not to mention, all of the associated activities take time – a luxury resource many cannot afford. Here’s an interesting paper deconstructing some of the notions around food and equity written by S. Margot Finn: Food Injustice: What the Food Movement Misses About Poverty and Inequality

Resources to help

There are many good resources and guides for food waste prevention:

Policy solutions

There are a lot of points along the “food chain” at which food goes to waste, starting at the farm and ending in kitchens everywhere. Work is ongoing to address the “upstream” food waste issues, like the recently passed bill here in Washington, HB 1799, championed by Representative Joe Fitzgibbon, that targets diversion of yard and food waste from our landfills.  And from the Department of Ecology, Use Food Well Washington Plan-A roadmap to a more resilient food system through food waste reduction lists 30 policy solutions.  In the next few years, Zero Waste Washington and partners will work for more legislative bills to address food waste.

Kami, originally from Tennessee, enjoys exploring our local zero waste options. For local zero waste efforts, check out Zero Waste Washington’s list of zero waste and bulk stores around the state.

Washington Litter Summit recordings

The well-attended online Washington Litter Summit was held July 19 and 20. This educational event was designed for government employees, non-profit staff, community leaders and public officials working on solutions to address litter-related problems in Washington State. The goal was to share technical, solution-oriented strategies, resources, policies, success stories and innovation to turn the tide on litter. Another summit is planned for next year.

Recordings of the sessions, along with speaker PowerPoint presentations are available here

If you are interested in helping plan the 2023 Washington Litter Summit, please contact Heather at

You are invited: new series focusing on reuse of durables (construction and demolition, thrift stores, reuse stores…)

Zero Waste Washington is helping plan a new online series, Deep Dive Virtual Forums , on the topic of reuse. This quarterly series will focus on material reuse organizations and their role in building the resiliency of local communities. Each forum will feature presenters talking in-depth about the programs they’ve developed to provide resources and serve the needs of residents, work toward policy solutions, and create economically viable systems. The first forum is September 7.

By material reuse, we are referring to the reuse of durable goods, including: construction materials, consumer and household items, electronics, books, textiles, and fixtures and furnishings.

Here are details about the first event:

  • Deep Dive Virtual Forum – Reuse Centers: Creating Local Community Connections & Benefits
  • Sept 7 (11:30 – 1:00 eastern, 8:30 – 10:00 pacific)
  • Register Here

The first forum will focus on the power of reuse to create collaborations and bring together multiple sectors and build synergistic relationships. Three organizations across the US (Oregon, Maryland and Arizona) will show the impacts of their creative initiatives.

Presenters are:

  • Terry McDonald, Executive Director, St. Vincent de Paul of Lane County in Eugene, Oregon
  • Nancy Meyer, Chief Executive Officer & Chief Operating Officer, Community Forklift in Edmonston, Maryland
  • Karen L Jayne, Chief Executive Officer, Stardust Building Supplies in Mesa and Glendale, Arizona


If you have questions or suggestions for these new deep dive forums, please contact Heather at

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Zero Waste Washington cannot do this work without you. Thank you for your generous support. Together we are driving policy changes for a healthy and zero-waste future in Washington.

And thank you for all that you do in your own lives and in the community to help create a zero waste world. Action each of us takes every day helps reduce the amount of waste going into the trash, which in turn moves us toward our vision of a just, equitable and sustainable future!

Send us your success stories! We’d love to hear them and maybe even include them in a future newsletter.

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