Friday, December 18, 2009

Local, recycled and reused presents

Check out Rock Candy Art for some awesome local reused/recycled gifts. This is an awesome story of a family all hand making goods. They live here in Vancouver, WA!

Recycled Content presents

A cool list of presents with recycled content from Resource Recycling. Close the loop this holiday season!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Holiday goodness

This is a fantastic list of holiday decorations/crafts, many of which could be made with reused materials. Check it out!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

recycled paper bow

These paper bows are beautiful and can be made from any paper you'd like to reuse. I'm thinking they'd be pretty awesome made out of wrapping paper scraps or holiday ads.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

plastic bottles and tubs-the same?

I get asked some version of this question ALL THE TIME and I really liked Umbras's answer. You can link directly to it or read below. (It's featured with other questions, so I just pasted the one I was interested in here)

Also, here's a more in-depth explanation (also linked from Umbra's article)

Q. Dear Umbra,
I can understand that a recycling station might accept only plastics type 1 and 2. What I can’t understand is the common situation that they’ll accept only types 1 and 2, and only if the plastic is in the shape of a narrow-necked bottle. If it’s made of the same stuff, and in the recycling process will be ground up and melted down (or so I assume), why does the shape of the plastic item matter? Thanks!
Jonathan T.Norwich, Vt.

A. Dearest Jonathan,Recycling rules do often seem arbitrary, don’t they? We’ll take mayonnaise jars, but only if there’s a dab of mustard on the lid and a pickle on the side ... it can be mind-boggling at times. In this case, however, there actually is a logical reason.

That reason being that narrow-necked bottles (such as soda, shampoo, and dish soap often come in) are manufactured differently than wide-necked items like yogurt containers. The narrow-necked ones are blow-molded, while the others are injection-molded. Even if the types of plastic are the same, the rigamarole they go through during manufacture leaves them with different melting points, which means they must be handled differently in the recycling process. So it is sometimes difficult to find a buyer who wants or can handle both. For a much more detailed look at this topic, and a refresher on why you’re glad you don’t oversee a recycling program, see this plastics explainer from the good folks at the Central Virginia Waste Management Authority.

Plastic recycling continues to be a confusing topic for many readers. My best advice is to first buy as little plastic as possible, then do what Jonathan here has done: pay close attention to your town’s recycling guidelines and recycle what you can. Should you have time for a little light reading, I also recommend the eye-opening Plastic Recycling Facts at Earth911, and the Ecology Center’s Seven Misconceptions About Plastic Recycling. You might never look at a tub of butter the same way again.

Meltily,
Umbra

Sunday, December 13, 2009

bottled water

If you are still drinking bottled water, please take 1 minute to view this graphic and consider using a reusable water bottle. Thank you!

-special thanks to @demonbane for bringing my attention to the graphic.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

tea light cups

It's so weird, I was recently thinking about 1) how I really need to update my blog and 2) what a waste all those little tealight cups are. Then, along comes Robby and he sends me this. It's a cute little tealight-cup-as-picture-holder idea. Anyone have any other reuse options for tealight cups? Add them in the comments!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Those billboards might not be

as wasteful as you think. (An article about Clear Channel Communications recycling most of their billboards.)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Halloween goodness

As I was researching a few things, I stumbled upon this site. I was looking through the site, searching for reuse projects, but there's so much Halloween goodness, I'll just let you check it out for yourself.

reusing glass jars

Lately, I find we have a lot of glass jars in our house. (Could be that mislabeled Prego incident at WinCo when I bought 10 jars for 86 cents a piece!) But, here's some great ways to reuse those jars:

A list of ten ways to reuse glass jars

An awesome glass jar craft from Gingerbread Snowflakes

Now, when I'm geocaching, I'll have an excuse to pick up lots of wonderfully colorful fall leaves!

halloween lanterns

I bet you could reuse cereal boxes for these awesome lanterns for Halloween.

plastic gyre and its consequences

You've probably already seen this horrific slideshow. But, if you haven't, you probably should.

More information can be found about the plastic gyre:
Wikipedia
This article
and this article

Friday, October 9, 2009

Green Drinks presents: A Costume Party!

Hope to see you all at our next Green Drinks. It's going to be a very special event! If you've always wanted to come to one and never made it, this is the one to start with!

Details here

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Home Green Home

I will be here, will you? I hope so!

Home Green Home Buy Tickets
Monday September 28, 2009 from 9:00am - 3:00pm
Clark County ReStore
5000 E 4th Plain BlvdVancouver, Washington Get Directions
The Washington State Recycling Association (wsra.net) puts on 3-4 Washington Recycles Every Day (WRED) events every year as a service to its membership and to introduce itself to other members of the green community.

This is the first time a WRED event has been located in Vancouver. Come out and hear from some innovative and conscientious programs and businesses from Vancouver and Portland. Lunch and tours are included in the registration.

Come learn about:
Clark County Habitat for Humanity ReStore
Computer Reuse Education and Marketing (CREAM)
Bi-O-Kleen
Green Star Flooring
Metro Paint
DRS (Drywall Recycling Services) and
United Natural Foods

Ticket Info: $80 (WSRA members $65)

Green Drinks!

It's been awhile since I've posted Green Drinks to my site.* Here's the info for the next Green Drinks:

Where: Lapellah near the new Fred Meyers off of HWY 14
When: September 29th-Informal intros start @ 6 PM (feel free to gather earlier)
Who: Anyone is welcome

This month our 5 min spiel speaker will be Kendra Pearce from Urban Farm School. Urban Farm School is a Clark County based small business that is dedicated to helping the common person find the knowledge and confidence to grow and preserve their own food. UFS offers private garden and canning consultations, workshops, lectures, family events, and GardenforLife parties. Please, visit www.urbanfarmschool.com for details about our services and upcoming class schedule.

*Please be patient, I'm trying to find a good "calendar of events" plug-in for this site. Until I do (any suggestions?) I have to just make events their own posts.

Upcoming events in the area:

Our very own Halloween costume party! Please mark your calendars for Friday October 30th. We are organizing music, drinks, and costume prizes. So get creative and dream up a great costume. More details soon to follow. ;-)

Friday, September 4, 2009

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Dear Reuser #1

I've always wanted this blog to be a forum for answering questions from the public. Awhile ago, I got a few questions, but unfortunately got so swamped with work, I've been a bit behind with blog posts. Here's the first of what I hope to be many questions.

Dear Reuser,
I have a dead lightbulb and am wondering if I should throw it away or recycle it?

If the lightbulb is CFL(spiral) it needs to go to household hazardous waste (all flourescents contain a small amount of mercury to work and this can be recovered and used again if taken to the correct place.) If it's just a normal, standard bulb, you can just place this in your normal garbage. The glass that is used in incandescent light bulbs cannot be recycled with container glass-it's a different consistency and composition and can cause structural integrity issues in recycled glass containers. Therefore, it's best to just throw these away (at least for now.)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Parking meters as bike lock-up stations

Good to see they reused the parking meter infrastructure, instead of just trashing it.

Hat tip to @agreenliving for the link.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Gardening

That was so much fun! Earlier this summer, I had FINALLY finished my planter project (a whole post will be dedicated to that, since I reused many materials for it) except for watering and actually planting something. Then, I let it sit, unplanted for almost two months! (Oh, the tragedy!)

Earlier tonight, I'm chatting with Dear BF, waiting for him to come home from work and reading Urban Farm School's blog and I casually type to Dear BF "I wish I had more time for gardening." and his reply was "You could be gardening right now!" He had a good point!

So, I planted some items. My lazy herb garden has been ridiculously successful this year, so we'll see what comes of this. As you probably have already surmised, I'm about as lazy as they come in terms of gardening. Even if I get baby carrots that I end up giving to the dogs, that will be a WIN!

Honestly, I've already won because I got a little bit of exercise and a couple hours of pure gardening bliss.

The items I planted in 3 of my 5 planters are:
nasturtium
marigold
random herb mix from Cedar Grove Compost (promotional item from conference)
random seed from Uncle Dennis. (guessing it's some kind of onion, but could be completely off.)
basil seed
chives (have grown this same bunch of chives indoors for almost 2 years)
carrots
onion
parsley
butter crunch lettuce
three basil plants (two I had in pots and one rooted from farmer's market basil)
broccoli

I'm probably way too late to be planting most of these items, but we shall see!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Windbelt

This is another departure from my normal reuse posts...or is it?

Here's a nifty article about a company creating wind power with almost no moving parts. Perhaps they could reuse "waste" fabric for these from another application?

I just found the article (and technology) interesting.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

recipe: Cream cheese pie

This is a departure from my normal green-centric posts. This is a special Twitter request via @groceryoutlet

Cream Cheese Pie
Ingredients:
pre-made graham cracker crust -or-
1/4 C crushed graham crackers
1/2 C sugar
1 cube butter
-Cut butter into crackers and sugar and press into pan

filling:
1 pkg cream cheese (I use neufchatel for less calories-works just fine.)
1 can sweetened condensed milk (NOT evaporated milk-not the same thing!-I learned this the hard way. But, I have used the "lite" stuff and had it turn out fine.)
1/3 C lemon juice
1 T vanilla

beat room temperature cheese in bowl until fluffy, add milk, beat, add lemon juice and vanilla. Mix. Pour into pie shell and chill 5-6 hours. Serve with fruit topping if desired.

I call this recipe the lazy girl's cheesecake. It's denser than cheesecake and a bit different taste. But, if you like cheesecake but don't want to put the work in, this is YUM!!!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Mitten warmers

Here's an instructable to make mitten warmers or cold packs. What I love about this particular post is that it gives many different options, depending on your craft talent level. It starts out with the "hardest" level and then gets progressively easier. Check it out!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Tons of great tips

Can be found here. Everything from the office, to the kitchen to the laundry room. Just go check it out!

The ReUseIt Network

Wow. I had no idea...

I was about to post the paragraph below and somehow ran across this. Apparently, the founder of Freecycle has some ownership issues. It's frustrating to me that personal politics/pride/greed, etc can sometimes get in the way of the big picture and sadly, this has come up for me about four times in the last week. We only have one planet to live on-we're all in this together, like it or not.


As I was surfing the other day, I ran across the ReUseIt Network. Unfortunately, there isn't one in Vancouver, WA (not surprising, really.) What IS surprising is that Portland doesn't have one either! What the heck? Maybe Portlanders are just using freecycle for the same purpose? Has anyone had any experience with ReUseIt? Is it different than freecycle? If so, how? I'm really curious.

More from RePlayground

Here's a lamp made from a plastic jug. This project reminds me of sails-it would be a nifty addition to a sea themed room.

And a fruit bowl made from toilet paper (and other paper) tubes.

One more: a reusable tote bag made from a sports jersey.

They have a great site-go check it out!

bottle = vase

From the wonderful minds at RePlayground: bottle vase.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Ooh, new blog!

I think I'm gonna like this one! One of my favorite posts here. I added this blog to my roll on the right.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Recycled Arts Festival

If you're not already planning on attending this, you should be! Over 70 vendors this year. I'll be there, as well as most of my colleagues. Make sure you get your buns (and the rest of you) to this festival!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Reusing playing cards

This project is really cool. I wonder what else playing cards could be used for? I bet lots of people have some pack that is not quite full (not playing with a full deck?) that could be repurposed.

A world on fire

Click here to read an 8th grader's essay about the world from her point of view. I really enjoyed this essay. Hopefully, you will too.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Reusing cereal box liners

I've started saving and reusing cereal box liners. So far, I've used them to store foods in the freezer (I used a rubber band to secure the open end) and I've pounded meat in them. Here's 13 other creative ways to reuse them.

How do you reuse cereal liners? Have you never thought to reuse them? Will you now?

Monday, June 1, 2009

Reusing newspaper for planting seeds

This looks like a fun little project for seed starting. I should have my co-workers son (who loves origami) try it out. If I try it, I'll post pics. If you try it, please let me know how they work out!

Dumpster diving, anyone?

Probably a bit different than what you're thinking...

TP roll faces

This is not a tutorial, but I think these are awesome.

reusable snack bags-tutorial

Packing a waste-free lunch? Here's a link to reusable snack bags.

I mostly use reusable tupperware type containers*, but once I teach myself to sew**, I think I'll try some of these.

*Once, back when I used to frequent the Dollar Tree a heck of a lot more than I do now, I found very small containers with lids-10 for a buck! I wasn't sure at the time what I would ultimately use them for, but I'm glad I bought them, because I use them for countless items now.

**I'm becoming more and more convinced every day that I need to learn to sew. My good friend Amanda tried to teach me once, but we tried to pack too many things into that one weekend and I ended up learning some, but not enough, from her. I have quite a few other friends who understand sewing, so I need to just bite the bullet and buy a machine and get crackin'! (I'm trying to pace myself with projects, though, to only do one or a few at a time, as I'm notorious for starting projects and then giving up when I'm at about 70%***)

***This is why the dog bed project was so awesome for me. I finished the entire project in a weekend. That's unheard of (for me)

****I'm footnote happy with this post-can you tell? :D

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Another fantastic pet bed

This time made from a reused table. This project is gorgeous!!! What a spoiled cat... it's so regal! Oliver looks totally worth it, though.

Reusing old bicycle tire rims in the garden

There's about a bazillion things you can do with old bicycle parts. Here's a project that reuses bicycle tire rims to create a trellis for creeping plants. Special thanks to a good friend, S.H. for the link.

So many uses for old bottles

Here's a cool slideshow from Treehugger. There's even a plastic bottle "greenhouse" on slide 8. There's a part of me that would love to have one of those!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

water balloon luminaries

I found this link via @SisterDiane on Twitter and I now know what I'm going to do with my left-over candle wax. I have a candle warmer and after I've extracted the wick and all the yummy smell from them, I wasn't sure what to do with them. I was thinking about freecycling them to a candle crafter, but this looks like a lot of fun and relatively simple to do. Now, I just need to add a few old pots to my thrift store list and get some water balloons! Yay! New project!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Reuse contest-win this travel mug!

When I first had the concept for this blog, what I always envisioned was to find creative reuses for things that I (or others) were currently throwing away. Because I'm not above bribery, I've decided to reward your awesome ideas with a prize! So, here's the first in what I hope to be a series of contests to come up with the most creative reuse for an otherwise trash item. As you probably already know, we have two dogs. These dogs are very spoiled and get all kinds of yummy treats. The treats most often come in sealable plastic bags. (Pictured is about 1/4 of the bags I've collected.) Your task is to come up with a creative reuse for these bags. Could be utilitarian, could be art-it's completely up to you.

When you have your reuse, add it as a comment to this blog post. You can enter as many times as you like (as many reuses as you can think of.) Please post only one reuse per comment. Make sure you include some way of me contacting you at the end of the contest. The contest will end on Sunday, May 31st at 12 noon PST.

What are you going to win? I'm so glad you asked. It is this wonderful insulated travel mug which can be used again and again and is made from recycled plastic. Read more about and see much better photos of this mug here.

Thanks for playing and good luck!

P.S. In the interests of waste reduction, I did contact the company that we buy some of our treats from to try to buy them in bulk. I was told they don't package them that way, but I might try again. If anyone knows of any way to buy any of the pictured treats in bulk/with less packaging, please let me know. I would certainly like to eliminate this waste at the source! I would accept this information as a contest entry, since reducing waste is even better than reusing!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Reused suitcase as dog bed

Recently, while looking for reuse projects to feature, I ran across this. I thought I might be able to make it myself. Shortly after that, at an estate sale, I found a suitcase for $1. It seemed like I was fated to attempt the dog bed.

The first step was to open up the suitcase and take out all the guts. Who knows what this suitcase was used for, but there were some very odd items inside. Included was foam with voids cut out. Two of them were obviously bottles of some type and then there were some others that I really have no idea their purpose. Anyway, I took out the foam and on the other side of the suitcase was some faux sheep skin fabric and under that was foam pieces and a fleece pillowcase. I ended up using the pillowcase and foam pieces in the project.

Once I pulled everything out, I spent the next few frustrating hours trying to take it apart. Samsonite really made this thing to last. You can see in the photo all the different tools I used. The next step was to add the legs. I drilled holes, slightly smaller than the furniture screws. I added foam blocks to keep the dogs from getting poked. Finally, I made a no-sew cushion and added it on top. In addition to the fleece from the pillowcase and the foam pieces, I also reused stuffing from carnival animals that I purchased the last time I made a no-sew dog bed. (You can see the first one I made in the background of some of the photos.) If you're looking for cheap poly-fill, carnival animals from thrift stores are a great way to go. You just have to cut them open, pull out the stuffing and then fluff it up a bit before using it again.
I was a tiny bit worried that after all that work, the dogs wouldn't like it. I had Wash jump up on top so I could take a few pictures and he seemed pretty comfy. Later, as I was cleaning up, I turned around and he had got up on the bed by himself. I'm glad the dogs like it, because if they hadn't, that would have been really frustrating to put in all that work.

For more photos of the process and the final project, click here.

One final note: this project was harder than I expected. If you want one for your pets, but don't want to spend the hours making it, feel free to buy it from the Etsy merchant in the first link. I'm sure they'd love your business and it's really worth the amount they're asking for it.

Friday, May 8, 2009

planters galore!

Here's a bunch of different types of planters. Hopefully, using stuff you already have sitting around.

Self-watering plastic bottle planter
Building your own Earth Box
Why spend $20 for the Topsy Turvy, when you can make your own at home for much less! Inverted planter
Or, if you don't like that one, here's another

reusing paper bags for packaging

For instructions on how to do it, click here. My mom always used paper bags for wrapping packages, but I've never seen an envelope made out of them. I need to start learning how to use a sewing machine. Doing "no-sew" projects only takes you so far.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

ReStore and CREAM Grand Opening

Earlier this morning, I was at the Grand Opening of the Habitat For Humanity's ReStore and CREAM. They've been open for business for a few months now, but today was the big shindig. I didn't stay for long, but I did snap these pictures there this morning. If you have a project that you need materials for, please consider shopping the ReStore (or a similar store) first. If you don't currently have a project, that's ok. I've collected some to inspire!

How to decorate with windows. (ReStore has lots!)
Give your house more curb appeal by changing out the door.
Finally, I don't think ReStore has any of these right now, but you'd be surprised what they do have that could be changed up a little bit or completely altered to be reused and given second life.

Also, if you need some electronic equipment, the shelves of CREAM are the best place to start. Perhaps they'll have what you need, perhaps they won't. But, if they do, you'll be very happy you made the stop!

Instructables Earth Day round-up

Not Round Up like the nasty chemical. No, this is an awesome collection of Earth-Day inspired links via Instructables. Sweet!

Jewelry frame

I'm totally going to make me some of these. I added "frames" to my thrift store list.

bottle chandelier

I'm not sure I'll be trying this one any time soon, but I think it could look really cool in the right situation. Via Ready Made here's a bottle chandelier.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

plastic bags-why not curbside?

I got an email today at work about plastic bags and why don't we accept them in our curbside recycling program. The answer took me more than an hour to write and I think it has some great links, so I thought I'd re-post it here. If you have any questions, feel free to email me or leave them in the comments.

Thank you for your email and your concern about plastic bags. Yes, we're well aware of the damage plastic bags have on the environment. In fact, at the Home and Garden Idea Fair that we were at last weekend, we were trying to raise awareness of this issue with a display that depicts the average amount of plastic bags used by consumers each year and we gave away free reusable tote bags and decals that say "Got Bag?" (a program of Leadership Clark County) to fair-goers.

However, the problem is not as simple as us accepting plastic bags for recycling. Plastic bags cause huge problems for recycling plants. Here is a great article that very accurately portrays the problems we're up against when it comes to plastic bags. (author note: actually, I linked originally to page 2, which I think has more to say about specific recycling issues.) Recyclers across the nation all have this exact same problem with plastic bags. In some parts of the country, they are accepted curbside and in others (like here) they're not. Regardless of whether or not they are an "accepted" item, they still get into the recycling stream.

I'll give you an example. In Portland, they do not accept plastic bags in their curbside recycling program, either. However, the plant that sorts all of their recycling gets enough plastic bags (that never should have been in there in the first place) that they have to shut down the equipment every two hours and send someone in with a box cutter to manually cut the plastic bags out of the machinery. This equates to an estimated 25% capacity reduction for them.

The problem of plastic bags was also featured on the front page of our newsletter. There is a picture of a sorting screen badly clogged with plastic bags. I just talked to one of the materials recovery facility staff and he said that he conservatively estimates that he sends out 60+ tons of plastic bags a month-if he has a buyer for them. That's the other piece of the recycling puzzle-anything that we collect for recycling has to then be delivered to someone who can actually recycle it economically. In a lot of cases, this means shipping our recycling overseas.

Here's two more articles that just came in my inbox (weird/good timing) about plastic bags.

Honestly, the best possible answer is that people don't use plastic bags in the first place. Reusable shopping totes are an inexpensive way to avoid ever using a plastic bag again. I wish everyone understood the damage that plastic bags can do to wildlife and habitat. Perhaps more of us would be willing to make the switch to reusable shopping bags, if that were the case. For any plastic bags that you do have that you don't want, returning them to a grocery store is the second best way to dispose of them-this ensures clean plastic bags that can then be recycled.

I hope this explains some of the reasons we don't accept plastic bags curbside. We do, however accept them at our transfer stations-again, it being a case of clean bags that never have a chance to damage machinery.

If you have any other questions, feel free to contact me.

Sincerely,
Terra

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

So many uses for old 55 gallon drums...

Via instructables. There's a ton more projects (worm bins, rain barrels, etc.) on the right hand side. I linked to an Earth Box. Does anyone recognize the mulch in the first picture and/or have any idea why it's there? (I'm assuming it's pine needles and I'm also assuming for weed control but I was wondering if anyone else knew?)

Green Drinks One Year Anniversary Success!

Tonight was the One Year Anniversary of Green Drinks. I was so proud! We had about 85 people turn up and the Mayor of Vancouver, Royce Pollard spoke, followed by the City's sustainability coordinator, Mike Piper. Click here for some pictures from the night. Thanks everyone! I look forward to the next year!

Home and Garden Idea Fair

Here's some pictures of my crew and I setting up for HGIF this past weekend. We answered lots of questions about commingled recycling reusable bags.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

license plate birdhouse

There's lots of ways to reuse old license plates. I have a plate that has particular sentimental value to me, so I'd like to make this out of it. We'll see if I ever actually get around to doing it!

Two uses for old mini-blinds

Here's one: Plant Markers

Also, related, one of my neighbors has square foot gardening plots set out in her front yard and she used vinyl blinds to mark the 12" segments. (Sorry, no photo.)

Duct Tape no-sew tote bag

via Instructables

Extraordinary Uses for 16 Ordinary Household Items

via Make: and Woman's Day, uses for household items. There's some neat ones.

Of course, I don't condone #3 for plastic cups.

Algae bioreactor

I don't pretend to understand this post from Make: but I thought it was cool because not only does it reuse water bottles, it also is about alternative energy.

Reusing plastic bottles

Via Make: here's 10+ uses for plastic bottles.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Naked Lady Party!

This is not probably as interesting as what you're thinking. Here's a description of what a naked lady party is. My thrifty girl friends (we sometimes call ourselves the "trashy ladies") have held two of these so far and have made a pact to hold one every six months. It's a great way to be encouraged to clean out your closets, to get new-to-you clothes and to reuse clothes instead of throwing them out.

Hold a naked lady party with your friends soon! If you have any questions about how they work or how to set up a successful one, drop me a line! BTW, we don't "auction" off every item the way it mentions in the link. We just let people grab and have fun. Sometimes we'll do a wear-off with fashion model type strut in the item of clothing, if there's any discrepancies about who it should go to.

Monday, April 20, 2009

MAWST #5

Money and waste saving tip #5 (actually, it could be 5-47, but we'll just call it 5)

42 reuses:

This article is fantastic. Some of the items are pretty "evergreen green" on the spectrum, so don't feel like you have to do them all. But, hopefully you'll find some good tips for reusing and saving!

Are you Pea Soup green or Evergreen green?

The important thing to remember is that it doesn't matter!

Often, when talking with people about being green, they say things like, "I don't know where to start." or "it's too overwhelming." This is when I pull out my "spectrum of green" analogy. (Special thanks to Sara L. for introducing me to this topic) If you think about it, we're all probably at least a little bit "green." Perhaps you have made some green changes to save money or you've seen some startling information that has interested you and convinced you to make some changes. Either way, you fall somewhere on the green spectrum. What I try to tell people (especially if they're overwhelmed) is that it's ok to be pea soup green for awhile. You know why? Because it's better than not caring at all. And, you'll probably change other behaviors, once you've integrated the first changes into your lifestyle enough that it doesn't even seem like a change anymore.

When I first understood the benefits of using reusable tote bags instead of disposable plastic or paper bags, I only ever remembered to put my bags in the car once in awhile. Then, eventually, not only was I remembering to put them back in the car, I was actually remembering to bring them in to the grocery store with me. Now, it's very rare that I go somewhere without my own tote bags. I can't remember the last time I accepted a plastic bag from a store-any store.

I'm not trying to brag or make you feel guilty if you're still at the "they're at home on the table" stage. What I am saying is that we all start somewhere, that change is never easy but that if you stick with it, eventually you'll come out the other end of the spectrum and never even remember being pea soup green in the first place.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Star Wars and green?

These are this green geek's dream come true!

I really like the "Recycling-it's not just for Jawas" one. Awesome!

I got worms!

Ok, I don't, but it's been a topic of discussion lately. Here's the workshops coming up in the Vancouver area for the next few months. For $35, you can get started with worm composting. Or, you can opt to attend the Earth Day event at Marshall Center this weekend and take the worm workshop for free!

I'll also be there, giving a "recycling 101" workshop. I hope to see you there!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

food waste scraps-preferred disposal method?

This is in response to a question I got through Twitter. I was asked: "Since I haven't progressed to composting yet, what's better for fruit peels and the like: garbage disposal or trash?"

Rather than reinvent the wheel, I'll just post a link to this answer to that very question. (Alex, if you want help tracking down the methane question, let me know. I'd be curious to know the answer for Portland. I'm currently tracking down the answer for Vancouver.)

However, I will also note that there's some other options. Just about everyone can compost. Composting with worms can be a little tricky, but can be done inside and with very little space. Composting outside on a balcony is also an option. Finally, there is the bokashi method of composting. Urban Farm School gives workshops on this and I'm planning on attending one in the future. I don't know a lot about it yet, but in the case of an apartment dweller, even if you don't have plants that would love the nutrients, you could easily give it away on craigslist. If you don't have many food scraps (which I'm assuming Alex doesn't) or if you're a lazy composter like me, you can freeze the scraps in a container until you're ready to compost them. There also might be a local community garden somewhere close that would take your food scraps (especially frozen-not already decomposing) and compost them. Ideally, food scraps will get composted. This is by far the best solution for them.

Thanks for the question, Alex! Keep 'em comin!

Monday, April 6, 2009

landfill bound labor posters find new life as whiteboards

From Jeffrey Smedberg, Recycling Program, County of Santa Cruz Public Works Department, Santa Cruz, California:
A waste reduction success story:
Every employer has to display a wage and hour poster enumerating labor laws affecting employees. We recently took down dozens of these large laminated posters in our County offices because the information was outdated. The blank white backside - an expansive 25" x 39" in size - serves admirably as a wipe board for use with dry erase markers. We advertised the availability to employees and also to the public via the local Freecycle Yahoo group like this: "Give the kids a place to safely draw on the walls. Cut a poster down to size if your shopping list never gets this long." The interest in reuse of this otherwise landfill-bound item has been surprisingly strong.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

My waste-free grocery lists

I used to reuse little scraps of paper (junk mail envelopes, receipts, etc.) and write down my grocery list. However, I type much faster than I write, so once Dear BF gave me an iphone, I thought I might be able to use no paper at all for my grocery lists. Enter Ta-Da Lists. I signed up for a free account and have used it for everything from my bucket list to weekly grocery lists. When I go into the grocery store, I simply bring up my list and click done as I'm adding things to my cart. I love it!

Oh yeah, the other impetus for this conversion was that my personality is the type that once I write something down, I purge it from memory. One time, I lost my grocery list half-way through shopping. I couldn't do anything at that point but give up and go home. I've only (mercifully) had that happen to me once. I'm pretty useless without my lists. Now, they're always conveniently waiting for me on the internet.

Pictured above is today's list. It's pretty small, as we already have most of the items we need for this week. Oh, and "nut things" is supposed to be "nut thins" My fingers were on autopilot and I couldn't be bothered to correct it.

Pill bottle key holder

I saw this craft a long time ago and always wanted to post it on my blog-once I was up and running... I think if you started out with a brown bottle or painted the top, it would be even more stealthy. I doubt many criminals would think to look for a key hidden in this way. Love it! I know two of my friends could have very much used this recently and saved themselves some hefty locksmith fees. I'm thinking about making them as gifts for family.

I particularly like this one, because even though you probably would only ever need one of these for your own house, it is a use for an item that is sometimes hard to recycle. (In most places, any plastic bottle with a neck is accepted curbside. However, I've been told by materials recovery facilities (the places that sort your recycling into categories in order to be recycled) that anything smaller than your fist oftentimes won't make it through the processing systems correctly.)

Making hexagonal storage boxes

This one seems a tiny bit complex, but I would like to try it sometime. We certainly eat enough cereal in my household to always have plenty of material on hand.

gift bags from envelopes

Seems I'm on a bit of an envelop kick. Here's a tutorial on making gift bags from gift card envelopes. Enjoy!

Making your own padded envelopes with reclaimed materials

This post is awesome! Check it out. I'm going to add her whole blog to my blogroll, as she appears to be just the talent I was thinking of when I started this blog.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Coffee Collar punchcard

Dear BF relayed a story to me the other day of a local retailer (Edit: the retailer is Backspace.) that has coffee collars (you know the skirt you put on your hot coffee cup to protect your hand?) that also doubles as a punchcard-thereby encouraging reuse of the collars. Genius!

Earth Day Celebration

If you're looking for a fun, interactive and FREE Earth Day event, drop by the Marshall Center on April 18th. I'm even giving a class that day! (Recycling 101) Check out details here and/or follow the Twitter feed. This event is open to the public, family-friendly and free!

Got Foam?

If you have block foam (styrofoam blocks-like those used to pack electronics) that you've been collecting, there is a block foam collection event for SW WA residents tomorrow! Click here for more details.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Habitat for Humanity ReStore Grand Opening

Habitat For Humanity has opened a ReStore here in Vancouver. Even better, it has the Vancouver version of Free Geek (called CREAM) within its walls, as well. Check out the details for the Grand Opening.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

MAWST #4

Money and waste saving tip #4:

If you live anywhere near Portland, OR and have a painting project, try Metro Paint. It's recycled paint and it's a lot less expensive than it's new paint counterparts. Buying Metro Paint supports this important waste-saving program by closing the loop and creating a market for a recycled good.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

plastic bags?

In the last post, I mentioned it's not a good idea to put plastic bags in your recycling bins (unless your area allows it-in most cases, they ask for bags of bags) This newsletter has an article explaining why we don't want plastic bags to show up with other recyclables. Most grocery stores have an area to return plastic bags for recycling. Better yet, reduce your consumption of plastic bags by using reusable tote bags!

Where to put my recycling?

It's interesting (and frustrating) to me to hear people say, "I don't have anywhere to collect my recycling, so I just throw it all away." I've heard this more than I care to remember. First of all, you bought yourself a garbage can, didn't you? I would venture to guess that most people buy themselves garbage cans (we have six in our house!) and yet everyone seems to think that recycling receptacles should be provided. I don't really understand that dichotomy.

If you are throwing everything in your house in the garbage and claiming that it is more convenient, I would say this: The more you recycle, the less garbage you're making. The less garbage, the less often you have to take it out. If you want to take your garbage out half as often (or less) start recycling! And if you don't have a receptacle, well, go buy one! Or, better yet, reuse something for a receptacle. I'm sure you have an empty box or bag somewhere-use it for recycling. Just don't put plastic bags in with your recycling-opt instead to dump the materials in the bins. I'll post more on why later.

How do you deal with recycling in your home? Are you reusing something or did you buy a separate bin?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

MAWST #3

Money and waste saving tip #3

If you don't already take advantage of recycling in your area, give it a try! You'll probably be amazed by the amount of garbage space saved by recycling. Recycling is, in most cases, less costly than garbage service, so if you're able to decrease your garbage service as a result of recycling, you'll actually be saving money. In some cases, recycling is mandatory (as in the City of Vancouver) and in some places it's "free" (although the true cost of recycling is usually just rolled up into your garbage bill.) Check with your local solid waste officials and/or your hauler for the specifics in your area. Make sure you're recycling everything you can. You will most likely see a cost savings-especially if you aren't already recycling.

MAWST #2

Money and waste saving tip #2

If you have a little left over room in your dishwasher and some recycling you need to set out (like, say a salsa or spaghetti sauce can or bottle) you can throw it in with your dishes. It will be clean and ready to be recycled.

Reusing pop tabs



Here's an example of a handbag made out of pop tabs. Awesome!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

MAWST #1

Money and waste saving tip #1:

Use cereal liners to hold meat while tenderizing. They're usually stronger than plastic baggies or wrap and are probably something you'd be throwing out anyway.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Thrift store shopping

One of the best ways to reuse is to buy...well, used items. To this end, I like to do my fair share of thrift store shopping. Habitat For Humanity just recently opened their Vancouver store, so I went in yesterday. (Actually, I went in for a board meeting, but that's another story) Anyway, so something caught my eye... it looked at first like a tree skirt. Upon closer inspection, I realized it was a kimono on a stand. I was immediately taken with it, but had no idea how much they were asking, assuming it was out of my grasp. Turns out it was within my grasp. I debated last night and finally convinced myself to go back for it today. I LOVE it! I will take some pictures and share with everyone, as soon as I get it set up.

Have you had any fantastic thrift store finds? Share your stories in the comments section!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Green Drinks


Have you heard of Green Drinks yet? If not, I highly recommend it. Check out Green Drinks in your area. Here's the Vancouver, WA page. I help put together these events, so if you're in this area, come see us! If there's a topic you want to see, let me know. I might be able to oblige.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

why reuse?

When I first got started in waste reduction, I soon heard of this hierarchy of the three R’s. If you’re also in waste reduction, you probably already know what I mean by that. For those that aren’t, the three R’s are “Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.” The hierarchy pertains to the fact that it’s better to reduce your consumption (not make waste in the first place) than it is to reuse or recycle and it’s better to reuse something than to just recycle it. Shortly after I heard about the hierarchy, I heard the term, “Reduce, Reuse, then Recycle” encouraging people to do the “higher use”

Anyone who knows me has probably heard me say I don’t consider myself a very creative person. I don’t have much talent for creating something from nothing. However, I know other people are incredibly talented in this way and my talents lie in talking about other people’s work. To that end, I wanted to create a blog focused on creative reuse of objects that normally would have either been (hopefully) recycled or (unfortunately) landfilled. My hope is that readers of this blog will send in innovative (re)uses for items and I can share them with all. So, if you have a project you’re particularly proud of and would like to share, please email it to me. (Please include photos as we all like pretty pictures!)

Hello World!

Hello green world!

Welcome to my blog. I've been wanting a space to blog about green items in general (tips, events, etc.) and reuse of items in particular.

Some plans I have for posts on this site:
  • posting waste items and asking for creative reuses from readers
  • posting events that I will be attending or wish I was attending
  • posting green tips, tricks, etc.
  • posting articles that I think would be of interest to my readership (just as soon as I build it...)
If there's something specific you want to see here, let me know. My background is public education and my expertise currently is in waste reduction. If I don't know the answer, I may be able to track it down for you, so ask away!
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