Talkin’ Trash and Tacos

By: Hallie Brennan, September 2016

If you’ve been Googling “zero waste home” lately chances are you’ve come across images of spotless homes whose “waste” for the year can be seen in a single Mason jar.  Perhaps the thought that comes to your mind is, Easy, no problemo!  Bulk aisle here I come!  And all the power of bulk to you, my friend!  But many of you may be thinking, yeah freakin’ right!  As trashy thoughts of last night’s pizza and Coca-Cola order with extra napkins and that side of ranch start to resurface in your mind.  So lets be real; most of us grew up in a home where tossing something into the trash carries with it less thought than hash-tagging your latest Instagram post.

Jo and I have the luxury of calling beautiful Santa Fe, New Mexico, our home.  Often times referred to as the City-Different – by means of widespread local businesses, one-of-a-kind Northern New Mexican cuisine, world renowned art markets – but one additional difference that allows Santa Fe to stand out among other US cities is its alternative to landfill usage by means of the local organization, UPCYCLE SANTA FE.

That’s right, Santa Feans, we’re here to help you not get too trashy with your life!  We understand a year’s worth of trash isn’t going to easily fit into a single Mason jar.  Someday I hope we all have the perseverance to achieve the single Mason jar lifestyle, but in the meantime, UPCYCLE SANTA FE is here to help wean you off trash, and here’s how…

We’re building stuff!  And I mean some serious stuff!  Did you know most of what’s tossed into your trashcan, and then into your landfill, can be reused as a building material?  Meet Eco-Bricks and Ubuntu-Blox.  By consciously separating what is Upcyclable, and what you think is trash, you can cut back your landfill contributions tremendously!  (Insider secret: there’s really no such thing as trash.  Stay tuned for our next blog post…!)

So let’s start in the kitchen; an area of the home where a lot of trash can be easily generated by simple everyday tasks like making dinner for yourself, or the family.  Lets talk about tacos.  You like tacos, right?  You’re vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, or carnivore… chances are you like tacos.  I’m inviting you to taco night at our place.  Zero-waste taco night; of course, there’s a catch to these delicious, Earth friendly, tacos!


Here we have our ingredients for delicious slow-cooked BBQ chicken tacos.

  • 2 raw, bone-in, chicken breasts
  • 1 bottle of BBQ sauce
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 bag of kale
  • 1 bundle of cilantro
  • 2 avocados
  • 3 limes
  • 3 tomatoes
  • 1 onion
  • 2 packages of deli cheese
  • 4 jalapeños
  • 1 can of corn
  • 1 Amber Ale (for that tasty beer baste flavor; irresistible)

After whipping up some of the best chicken tacos this side of the Mississippi, we’re left with quite a mess in the kitchen.  The aftermath photo of fresh ingredients from the grocery store is less pleasing to view.  It’s kind of gross, right?

Trash talkin'


Lets remove the easy stuff: recyclables and compost material.  Glass, aluminum and tin are tossed into the recycle bin, and all of the discarded organic materials are tossed into the backyard compost pile.  (If you’re not composting food waste from your kitchen it’s totally time you start!)



Here’s what remains after recyclables and compost material has been removed.  Things have already gotten a little less trashy around here!   I’ve taken a few minutes to rinse out that chip bag, scrub off the raw chicken gunk from the laminated deli paper, and rinse off cheese residue from the deli wrap.  Once rinsed completely clean of residue, place the clean “trash” on a drying rack to drip dry.  You might be thinking how disgusting this all sounds, and wondering why on Earth someone would take time to do all of that?  Again, if this stuff grosses you out, why on Earth do we assume Earth enjoys it?  Does Earth enjoy your raw chicken gunk deli paper sticking to Her soil?  Probably not, folks…

Time to make the ecobrick!  Whatever is an eco-brick?  Click here to find out!


The key to a successful eco-brick is clean and dry non-organic “trash”



Once all the “trash” is clean and dry we begin to stuff the eco-brick in what becomes a wonderful bicep workout.  I’ve got my favorite wooden spoon, but drumsticks, chopsticks, or long-handled paintbrushes may also do the trick… stuff the “trash” into the plastic bottle.  Keep it firm from the bottom to the top.  Remember, after all, you’re creating a BRICK!  A building material!  Once you’ve filled the brick to the brim simply drop it off at the UPCYCLE SANTA FE eco-brick collection point at:

917 Don Juan Street, Santa Fe, NM 87501

Don’t know of an eco-brick collection point in your town?  Google it!  You’d be surprised to find out about environmental activists getting active in your own community.  And if you aren’t able to find an eco-brick collection point in your town, we’d like to encourage you to start the first!  Take this honorable chance of a moment into your own hands, and plan your own building project!  We’d love to help you with this, just shoot us an email!



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