How to Recycle Paper the Right Way!

Welcome back to this new series on recycling. If you missed it, check out my first post in the series called How to Recycle Metals the Right Way!

There is a lot of mystery around recycling. Each municipality accepts different items making it even more difficult to figure out what is and what isn't recyclable. 

I think a lot of people want to recycle properly, they're just a little confused on where to start. So, here's my guide to recycling paper.

how to recycle paper the right way from #zerowaste #recycling

Of course, always check with your own waste management facility, and remember the zero waste lifestyle is about recycling less NOT more. 

As a reminder at the beginning of 2018, China, the main global buyer of recycled paper products, stopped accepting ANY paper bales with a 1% contamination rate or higher. The best recycling facilities are operating at a 4-5% contamination rate. 

It is so important that we recycle properly to try and get to the 1% rate.

important note on recycling paper:

The most important thing for recycling paper is that there is NO contamination in the recycling bin. This means that bottles and cans need to be empty of all liquids. Other food containers like yogurt tubs and pasta sauce jars should be rinsed.

Any food, soda, beer, etc. that gets on the paper renders it unrecyclable and can ruin and entire bale. 

how to recycle paper the right way from #zerowaste #recycling

cardboard boxes:

With the onslaught of online shopping we have more cardboard boxes than every before. These boxes are completely recyclable. You do NOT have to remove the tape and the labels (unless it's excessive like tape all around the box), but you should break the boxes down. 

Before recycling these boxes you should try to find a local business that will accept used shipping boxes for their own shipping needs.

This way the boxes can be reused. We should try to keep our resources in play for as long as possible before recycling. Remember, recycling is a last resort.

We should first reduce the amount of products we're consuming that come in cardboard boxes. Then we should reuse the cardboard boxes as many times as possible. Only when the cardboard box can no longer be used, should we recycle them. 

brown paper:

Brown paper is recyclable, but once again, before recycling see if someone else will take it and reuse it. 

You can save it for place mats, for labeling a cheese board for a party, or even wrapping presents

printer paper:

Paper that comes out of your printer, bills, note book paper all of that is recyclable. Something I found really interesting is that crumpled pamper is less likely to be recycled, but have no fear. If the paper is crumpled, torn in half, or folded it is still recyclable! 

shredded paper:

While crumpled and slightly altered paper is recyclable, shredded paper is not. The paper fibers have been shortened too much and the small shreds can jam machinery and contaminate bales of other materials. 

Shredded paper is a great packing material especially for fragile items. Beyond that, it's fabulous for compost especially worm bins!


Receipts are coated with BPA and are not recyclable or compostable. 

how to recycle paper the right way from #zerowaste #recycling


Photos are not recyclable. 

glossy magazines:

Magazines are recyclable! However, a lot of artists use magazines for their art projects. See if you can reuse this material before recycling it. If you have newer magazines donate them to libraries, waiting rooms, family shelters, nursing homes, etc. 

parchment paper:

Any paper that is stained with food or cooking oils are not recyclable so parchment paper is out. However, you can reuse parchment paper several times and then ultimately compost it! 

butcher paper:

Butcher paper or freezer paper is coated with plastic. It's neither recyclable or compostable. 

wax paper:

Wax paper is a mixed bag. It can be coated with a vegetable wax or coated with a petroleum based paraffin.

If it's coated with a vegetable wax it's compostable in an industrial setting. While it can breakdown in a backyard compost there might be some difficulties. 

The petroleum based paraffin is neither recyclable or compostable. I'm really not sure how to tell the difference between the two. 

paper cups:

Coffee cups are actually lined with plastic! They're not compostable, and they're not recyclable in most locations. To recycle coffee cups, waste management facilities have to have special machinery that separate the plastic lining from the paper cup.  

The lids are plastic #6 and not recyclable in most curbside bins, but the cardboard sleeve is recyclable! 

how to recycle paper the right way from #zerowaste #recycling

milk cartons:

Milk cartons, soy milk cartons, etc. are mixed materials. Many have plastic linings like the paper cups. Some are tetra paks which has aluminum sandwiched between the paper. Whether or not your waste management plant takes this type of material varies greatly town to town. 

pizza boxes:

Typically the bottoms of pizza boxes are too greasy to be recycled. So, you'll want to separate the lid and bottom of your pizza box. The greasy bottom part of the pizza box can be composted and the top of the pizza box can be recycled! (assuming the top is grease free) 

paper napkins and towels:

The fibers are too short to be recycled, but they can be composted. 


News print is recyclable and compostable! 

how to recycle paper the right way from #zerowaste #recycling

pasta, cereal boxes: 

These boxes are recyclable just make sure to remove the plastic window if there is one!


If you have paper envelopes please remove the plastic windows before recycling. While it might not have been that big of a deal before the contamination rules were placed - it's incredibly important now to keep the paper as clean as possible! 

Let me know if there are any paper products I left off and I will add it to the list! Stay tuned for the next posts in this series about recycling plastic and e-waste. 

10 Tips for Starting a Blog to Change the World

If you want to start a blog, I think you should do it!

Blogging has allowed me so many amazing opportunities. I have honed my speaking, writing, photography, and story telling skills in more ways than I can count.

I've sharpened my brain and encouraged the pursuit of constant learning. I think everyone should set out to be a life long student. If we're not growing and learning, what are we doing?

10 Tips for Starting a Blog to Change the World from #zerowaste #blogging

You're not going to find professors and syllabuses forcing your to learn after you graduate so consistently writing about a topic is a great way to hold yourself accountable to the pursuit of knowledge. 

Beyond all of this awesomeness, I've met some of my best friends! In fact, I met my Maid of Honor through blogging.

This is a photo from our first meet-up, and here's the overly prose-y blog post I wrote about it to give you an idea of where I started. 

10 Tips for Starting a Blog to Change the World from
10 Tips for Starting a Blog to Change the World from

And, here is where we're on the way to City Hall where I got married almost two years later! You can read more about my zero waste wedding

Back to blogging..... 

I get so many emails from people asking me if they should start a blog and my answer is always YES!!!!!! 

I hope there are a million zero waste / eco-friendly / ethical bloggers. Let's spread this message all over the world. 

Blogging is an ideal platform because everyone is online and you can spread a message and idea quickly. Even better when that message is about saving the world! 

Who loves breathing, eating, and shelter!? *This girl*

1. just start:

My first piece of advice is just start. I spent weeks, weeks agonizing over my name. I love my blog name, it all worked out just fine and dandy, but honestly... I wish I just went with (PS I own that domain so don't get any tricky ideas. ;) 

The thing is when you first start blogging, you're not going to have a ton of readers. Don't worry about the name right away. Don't worry about design right away. You can always change. 

The most important thing, is that you're writing and getting into a consistent routine. 

I had 16,000 people on my blog in the first six months. Now, I have over 16,000 people a day. I could have EASILY changed my name at any point in time in those first couple of months.

Don't get caught up in everything being perfect or you will never start.

2. get clear on your POV:

Why are you starting your blog? Get really, really clear on your "why" and your point of view (POV). 

Once again, you don't have to start out knowing exactly why you're blogging, but you should be able to figure it out after writing for a couple of months. 

We all start out referential. Our photographs look like someone else's. Our writing sounds like someone else or pulls from similar ideas. It's just how the creative process works. 

But, after a while you should be able to create new, original content, true to you and your message. 

I found my very clear point of view after writing a couple of months. I really was able to nail down my core message, "It's not about perfection; it's about making better choices." 

When I chose this motto, there was a huge gap in the zero waste movement. Everything felt very extreme, very all or nothing.

Growing up in Arkansas, I know what it's like to not have access to recycling, bulk bins, and other "zero waste" things. Even in that scenario, you CAN make a difference.  

That's how Going Zero Waste was born.

For more information check out my about me page and my back story. 

  • Maybe you're a marine biologist and want to write and share the pollution you see first hand. 
  • Maybe you're a mom in middle America who's doing the best they can with what they have.
  • Maybe you're a rockstar on tour trying to do zero waste while traveling.
  • Maybe you're in college.
  • Maybe you still live with your parents.

Whatever "it" is, we all different experiences and points of view that we can share! 

3. determine motive:

This differs from POV because this is about why you're blogging. Why do you want to write? Why do you want to share your POV?

  • I want to help people
  • I want a non-judgemental place to educate friends and family memebers
  • I want to build credibility to enter into a career in sustainability
  • I want to make new friends
  • I want a creative outlet
  • I want to hold myself accountable
  • I want this to be my full-time job
  • I want fame and fortune 

There's nothing wrong with wanting any of these things. Although, fame and fortune in this setting is going to be a little bit harder to achieve. 

And, if the last two are your goals, blogging is not a get rich quick scheme. It is grinding. It is working long hard hours, so I really hope that you're doing it because you love it and that you want to help people. 

However, there's nothing wrong for wanting to be noticed for all of your hard work. 

4. don't do it all at once: 

Don't jump into blogging and think that you have to be producing content on every platform at all times. That is SOOOOO overwhelming.

I'm three years into blogging, and I'm still working on getting my YouTube channel up and running full time. 

It takes time. Just pick the platform you like the best and focus on that platform for 3-5 months. Once you get the hang of it and have built a small following, then add on another social platform.

5. forget the numbers:

Numbers aren't everything. Would you rather have 100 true fans or 1,000 followers? You'd probably rather have 100 true fans! 

In fact, in the eco world, my numbers are so big that I've priced myself out of a lot of collaborations with eco, zero waste companies. Which is why it's important to diversify your income as a blogger, but that's another post on turning your blog into a business. 

Really learn to enjoy writing, taking photos, and talking with people. Forget about the numbers, especially in the beginning, and focus on the process.

It can be disheartening to feel like you're not growing as fast as you'd like to, but I promise it will come if you're doing the work. 

It took me 8 months to get my first 500 followers on Instagram. Within the next 8 months I went from 500 to 20,000. 

The more you grow, the easier it is to grow. It's like a snow ball, and the hardest part is always the getting started so forget the numbers and focus on your skills. 

6. don't do it alone:

Find a community. The best thing I recommend is plugging in. I'm a member of the Ethical Writers and Creatives group and it is fabulous!! 

It is so nice to have a supportive group of bloggers who truly understand what you're going through. There are also so many opportunities to collaborate with other members. 

Once of the fastest ways to grow is to share! 

Honestly, I wish I would have shared more in the beginning. I come from a theatre background and when you're auditioning only one person can get the part. 

It's a competition because only one person wins! 

It is nothing like that in the blogging world. In the blogging world, everyone is stronger when they work together! If you read my blog you probably read LitterlessParis To Go, and Be Zero

And, that's amazing! We all have different POV's and they're all valuable. We only add value to each other; we don't detract from it. 

10 Tips for Starting a Blog to Change the World from #zerowaste #blogging

7. write and create stellar content:

I think this one speaks for itself, but you have to write and create stellar content. Currently the market is oversaturated. 

There's a lot of people who want to do this full-time. (And, why not!? It's awesome! ((but it is a lot of hard work))) And, the way to stand out, the way to get noticed, is to write and create really, really stellar content. 

Now, don't let this give you a perfection complex. A lot of my early work is NOT stellar content. But, at the time it was my best work!

Over years of honing writing and photography skills I am still OK. I still have so much room for improvement. But, I improve by consistently showing up every single week and working at it. 

Get started, and if you want to get more help, take a class! It's A-OK not to have the answers to everything. I took a photography class in college. I'm currently in another photography class. 

One of my reasons for writing a blog was to continue my education. What better way than improving a skill like photography? 

8. don't neglect local:

It's really exciting when you start gaining followers and you get to talk to them every week about creating a more holistic, eco, green life. 

In your quest to empower others, don't forget to empower your own town. Have you heard the phrase "Think Global, Act Local"? 

I still make a point to host community clean-ups and work with my local government on projects.  I do pro bono talks and events around my town because that is how I am really going to grow the zero waste movement locally. 

We all need to be making a concerted effort both at the global and local levels. 

9. own your domain: 

Buy your own domain!

You do not own YouTube.

You do not own Instagram.

You do not own these platforms!

I cannot stress this enough.

Do not put all of your eggs in the social media basket. You need to have a place where algorithms don't matter. 

It's perfectly fine to use these platforms, just make sure you have a home base. 

10. get a pen and paper: 

If starting a blog has been something in the back of your mind, I want you to grab pen and paper. 

Set a timer for 10 minutes and write down, everything you dream of happening when you write the blog.

  • What are your goals?
  • What do you see? 
  • Who are you helping? 
  • What colors are seeing? 
  • What emotions are your feeling?

Set a timer for 10 more minutes and write down a list of blog post ideas and topics.  

  • Every challenge you've faced
  • Every change you've made
  • Anything you've changed in pursuit of a more hollistic, eco, green lifestyle 

These are all blog posts. These are all leading you to your point of view. 

Set a timer for 10 more minutes and write down all of your fears. 

  • What's holding you back? 
  • Why are you afraid? 
  • What's stopping you? 

Compare your fear list to your dream list. I'm going to guess that once you achieve the goals on your dream list you'd feel pretty silly if you let those fears hold you back. 

So crumple up that fear list and recycle it. 

I am working on more content to help others start blogging. I would love to know if there's anything you'd like to see! 

How to Address Businesses about Their Packaging

I've said it a hundred times, going zero waste in your personal life is only one piece of the puzzle. In order to make lasting change, we need all pieces of the puzzle moving. This includes groups, organizations, businesses and politicians. 

I've already written posts on finding your local zero waste community and getting involved in local government. 99% of my entire blog is based on individual action so I have that part covered too. ;)


The key piece I'm missing is businesses! Now, this post isn't for business owners, it's how you can help influence and shape business practices as an individual. 

One of the arguments I hear against living a zero waste lifestyle, is that individual responsibility is a lie. That corporations do the majority of the polluting and it is their job to clean it up. 

While I agree that corporations do share some of the blame, I think it is everyone's responsibility. 

The individual buys the products, the companies make them disregarding natural resources, and our politicians let it all happen.

No one is blameless here, but it's important to remember that citizens must act so policy and businesses can react! 

Businesses take cues from, us, the shoppers. We are the demand! We get to demand change, and that happens in a few ways. 

  1. conversation
  2. voting with our dollars
  3. outcry


I challenge you to write three businesses about their practices this month. 

I think one of the best (and easiest!) places to start is with straws. 

Straws are a super hot topic right now. Cities are banning them left and right. (Just to be clear when we say straw "bans" it means straws on request only. Restaurants are ban from putting them in drinks automatically and offering them to tables.) 

Straw bans cut down on a significant amount of waste and can save the restaurant some $$$. I have composed a sample letter for you to use as a guide. 

Good morning,

I hope you're doing well. Diner Town is one of my favorite places to grab lunch; the pecan pie is my absolute fave! During my last visit, I couldn't help but notice that straws are automatically placed in all of the drinks. 

Straws and single-use plastic in general have been getting a lot of media attention. France has done away with single-use plastic cups and cutlery so has Seattle. Even McDonald's is looking for plastic straw alternatives. 

Straws may seem small, but it adds up. In the US alone, we use 500 million plastic straws everyday! 

Currently, 8 million tons of plastic winds up in the ocean each year. Most of that is single-use plastic which is responsible for killing over a 100,000 marine animals annually. 

I would like to ask that Diner Town, adopt a straw on request only policy. This means that straws aren't automatically put into drinks or advertised. Instead, they are only handed out when a customer specifically asks for one. 

This will significantly decrease the amount of straws you go through having a positive affect on the environment and the bottom line. 

 I really hope you'll take my request under consideration. thank you! 



Writing letters seems pretty intimidating, but I promise - it's easier than you think and it gets easier with time! 

letter dos: 

1. Tell the company why you like them:

Do they have the best pecan pie? Is this a special place to you? Let them know. Companies receive a lot of angry emails. Very rarely do the receive positive ones. 

Most people only go out of their way to write if they're angry. Sending a positive letter will mean they're more likely to listen and be receptive to your message. 

2. Use facts and show that they will be in good company: 

Let them know about the problem. Awareness and education are still THE NUMBER ONE hurdle the zero waste, plastic free movement is facing. A lot of people still don't know this is a problem. 

By presenting the problem and showing them how other people are working towards a remedy, you're showing they are not alone, and that what you're suggesting could be popular. (Maybe even a selling point???  Nielson found that 66% of global consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable brands!) 

3. Make the ask obvious:

Have you ever received an email without a request or a question? Often you just read it, and wonder "How should I respond?"

Make sure you answer the questions, "What do I want?" "What's in it for them?" clearly. This will avoid confusion, and there will be a greater chance of you getting a response. 

How to Address Businesses about Their Packaging from

4. Keep it short:

How many long emails have you read all the way through? I'm guessing you skim the majority of them. I know when I open up my inbox to a wall of text... I tend to skip to the next email. 

So keep it short and sweet! 

5. Follow up: 

Follow up two times and only two times. Give it around a week in between each follow up if you haven't head back. After the second time, if you still haven't heard back they're probably ignoring you which is really annoying! 

letter don'ts:

1. Don't get angry: 

Don't get upset and super angry. They'll be immediately turned off and won't want to help you. I believe the old saying goes "You catch more flies with honey than vinegar."

other letter ideas: 

Of course, you can take these principles and use them to contact any company about anything. Maybe you have a favorite face cream that comes in a plastic squeeze tube, and you'd like to see that change. 

Using all of the same principles, craft a letter letting them know how you'd like for them to change. Instead of a plastic bottle, maybe they could use a metal squeeze tube which is recyclable or package in glass. Maybe they could initiate a take back program! 

Brand's aren't mind readers. We have to show them what we want. We can prove customer interest and that starts with you! 

voting with your dollars: 

I don't like to threaten companies in my letters. I don't like to say, "DO this or I won't be buying ever again!" because when does bullying ever work? 

But, voting with your dollars is an important part of the process.

When you buy sustainable products, you're signaling to brands, "Sustainability is desirable!" You're letting them know they should make more sustainable products.

But, you should know almost no purchase you make is gong to be perfect. Head over to this blog post to figure out how to make the best choice for the environment. 

Every purchase has an impact on the environment, the person who made it, you, your home, and finally when you're through with it. 

It's pretty amazing to think about the process something has to go through before it gets to you. If you're interested in the life cycle of products make sure to check out this post, What is Zero Waste, What is the Circular economy? 

So, try to vote with your dollars, when you can, for a sustainable future. 


And, last but not least, there's public outcry. Sometimes, companies are tone deaf. Sometimes they don't care or they're just really, really, really bad at communication. 

It takes a large group of people using their voices to condemn their practices. So many people reached out to Old Navy after this video came out about them destroying their clothes instead of donating. 

Sometimes, it takes a village to create change. Sometimes, it takes a village and an army. 

There are a lot of ways to get involved, but it does take a little bit of action. Try writing a couple of letters this week. 

Once you get the hang of it, you can reuse the scripts and plug in different information. You can use mine for straws! Just change it to reflect your own personal anecdotes. 

It's easy to feel helpless as one person, but we wouldn't be seeing any of these awesome changes and policy being enacted if it weren't for you!