Friday, December 21, 2012

One last waste-less holiday post

I quickly wanted to share this page with you from Resource Recycling. Some of these suggestions might be a little late, but I enjoy their round-up(s) of recycled content products.

In addition, don't miss my two previous posts about wasting less during the holiday season. Even if you've waited this long, some of these gifts can still be purchased/made in time for the 25th.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Waste-less holiday ideas

Did you know waste generation sky rockets around the holidays? We make about 1/4 more waste in these short cold months.

Perhaps you're already down with getting and giving presents that create less waste. After the holiday season, I plan to share some of my ideas with you of what I did this year. (Can't show you now, or the recipients on my list would know what they're getting!) but... I will share with you a whole list of ideas:

From the Natural Resources Defense Council

From World Wildlife Fund

From Changing the Present

Treehugger has their guides broken into type of gift-recipient (geek, foodie, kids, etc.)

Buy carbon offsets from TerraPass

The Daily Green has a great list of lists.

If you're wondering what I'm making this holiday season, my Pinterest board of handmade gift ideas might be a good place to start.

Happy Environmentally Friendly Holidays to you and yours!

-The Reuser

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Reuse Conex wrap-up

I wanted to give you a run-down of my experience at Reuse Conex. I met lots of great people and learned about some amazing programs and businesses out there. Here's just a smattering: 

I met the lovely (and breathy!*) Nicole McGee from Plenty Underfoot. Of course, I had no idea at the time what her art was like, so I was pleasantly surprised to find her Etsy shop this morning and instantly fall in love with her items!

*She made a joke about being breathy in her presentation. I had just assumed it was because she was excited about her topic, (it happens to me-don't judge...) but I think (and she said) that it had something to do with being pregnant and due soon!

I also met John Littler from and later found out we're actually neighbors! 

I learned about some great projects/businesses such as, (just what the name suggests) ReRack (a reuse store dedicated to car bike racks) and I also met one of the GLEAN artists, Jen LaMastra. I bought a pair of earrings from her that spoke to me. (They said, quite simply, "Buy us.") I saw quite a few ladies wearing her beautiful creations at the conference. The jewelry shown at left are not the pair I bought, but I'm hoping to post a video of my presentation at some point and I did wear them for that.

I heard about a wonderful design competition called Respace by listening to Joel's presentation. I met Diane Cohen of Finger Lakes Reuse and Jenny of SCRAP in San Francisco. I was a little blown away by some of the facts presented by Scott Hamlin of Looptworks. (The one that is sticking with me is this: there is 70 times as much pre-consumer excess (waste) than there is post-consumer.) My brain is still trying to digest that information. 

I'm sure there's more that I'm forgetting. It was a great conference! 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Where Reuse and Social Media Meet

Greetings, friends!

I've been asked to speak on social media at a conference at the end of this week. 
This post will probably be pretty short on pics, but long on good content, so read on!

In preparation for my presentation, I decided to try to find some examples of how other companies are using social media to promote reuse (my presentation topic.) Lucky for me, one of the first companies I looked at was iFixit. I found they were doing an excellent job and decided I wanted to ask some more in-depth questions of them. 

My presentation is pretty short, so I won't have an opportunity to cover nearly as much ground as I'd like. (The talk will pretty much be some good examples followed by some bad examples with time for questions from the audience, hopefully...) However, after Elizabeth from iFixit took the time and energy to answer my questions, I wanted to post* the exchange here to share it with anyone interested in a little more information. I added a few comments here and there. My commentary is in purple

Q: Is social media part of anyone's job description? Part of everyone's?

As an entirely online company, our social media presence is really important. Pretty much everyone at iFixit is involved in interacting with customers online. iFixit has approximately 50 employees, all of whom are expected to have active profiles on and interact with users on iFixit Answers. Our guide writers make all our guide content and interact with users in the comments. In addition, we have Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus pages, on which about 5 or 10 of us post. A couple employees manage our YouTube page, creating video teardowns and guides. Our CEO, Kyle, did an AMA (AMA means "ask me anything") on Reddit this summer after the Retina MacBook teardown took off. We also use an inter-office social media network, Yammer, to communicate.
That's a big part of why all iFixit employees are required to take a grammar test as part of the hiring process (Kyle talks about it here.) Employees make up the face of the company.

Q: How do you determine how much time to spend on social media? Do you try to quantify ROI?

We don't have any ROI quantification for social media as of yet. Personally, I try to keep it to well under 10% of my time spent working. But I don't know for sure about other employees; we don't have specific guidelines. It varies, of course, based on the buzz: right after the Retina MacBook teardown, for example, we were all spending far more time than usual on social media.

Q: Does your company have an internal social media policy?

Not really. Our handbook says this:
"Good writing is credibility. In blog posts, in tweets, in emails, on our web site, our words are all we have. They are a projection of our company. For better or worse, people judge us if we are sloppy writers."

Pretty much any time I give a talk on social media, I'm asked about company-wide social media policies. I do have one that I would feel comfortable sharing. However, this morning, it eludes me. If you're interested, contact me and I will get it to you. You can also do a search for social media policies online-from your favorite company or local jurisdiction. In addition, I would also whole-heartedly agree with the tenet that good writing = credibility!

Q: What is the largest benefit you believe your company gets from social media? Largest drawback?

Benefit: We are sustained financially by online word-of-mouth. Site traffic and personalized interactions with customers mean sales.
Drawback: On a few rare occasions, the site has been brought down when we were unprepared for so much traffic from social media.

Q: Regarding the "stories" section of your website: How do you collect/post these? Are they moderated before posting?

I assume you mean the stories section on (I did.) When users receive a purchase, we send them an email to make sure the package arrived safely, to provide them with a link to the relevant guide for the part they bought, and to encourage them to submit their repair story. These stories are not moderated. All stories that are submitted with a picture end up on that site, even if the picture is unrelated. Stories submitted without a picture are still live online, but they're not linked from anywhere (you can access them by iterating the story number in the URL, e.g. We may someday do something with the non-picture stories, but our programmers are busy with other projects for now.
We have a "repair stories" category on the blog too, but those are all employee-written blog posts.

Q: Anything else you want to say about the role of social media in promoting reuse?

Many of the terrible things we're doing to the environment as a society are out of consumers' immediate hands—I can't snap my fingers and make mining and manufacturing sustainable. But we can limit how much we're contributing to that mining and manufacturing, by keeping our stuff working for longer. Realizing what power we do have requires a shift in our cultural attitude, which means reaching a lot of people. Social media is really good at reaching a lot of people.

Online communities can change attitudes toward repair and reuse. Many of our users come to the site after posting pictures of a broken phone screen on Facebook—their friends say, "Hey, you don't need to get a new phone. You can fix that yourself for cheap. Check out" 

Hope that helps and that your presentation goes well!

Elizabeth Chamberlain

I want to thank Elizabeth profusely for her time and insights. I hope the presentation goes well, too, Elizabeth! Maybe I'll get to meet Kyle at the conference.

*I took a few liberties with the text of the original email-mostly adding in links and fixing any dead grammar I created in the process.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Refashioning: XS skirt to XL

There are 3 blogs that I follow that aim to take old, ripped, torn, stained, unfashionable and/or thrifted clothes and "refashion" them into new wardrobe pieces. I've been creating a number of headbands for myself (another post...I'll get to it...eventually...) but this skirt project was one of my first forays into refashioning an actual item of clothing.

Most of the headbands I've been creating are made from t-shirts. I stopped at a rummage sale a few months ago and the clothes were a buck a bag. (My favorite find was a vintage apron. I LOVE aprons, but I digress...) They didn't have a ton of fun t-shirts, but I found enough shirts to make a dollar bag of clothes totally worth it. A lot of the other items I picked were much too small for me. I picked up 2-3 shirts that I loved the fabric and figured if they didn't fit my colleague, I would make headbands out of them. (They fit Melissa, so she kept them-yay!) This skirt was originally an Extra Small. There's no way it was ever going to fit me, but it was a little long and I hoped that I would be able to chop off the top panel and make it fit. After some false starts, I'm happy to say I have successfully refashioned my first garment.

Enjoy the progression:

To see if this project might work and to gauge where to cut the small skirt, I used a skirt that currently fit and laid them together. After much fretting, I basically decided to just cut off the entire top panel.

The blue skirt is the one that fits.

You can see the size labels in this photo.
I'm not making this up! ;)
Checking the size/length

Removing the lining.
I had originally planned to try to replace
the lining, but it proved too difficult
for my amateur sewing skills.
Instead, I just wear bloomers with the skirt
as it is quite transparent.

Making the chop!

checking color of jersey material to mend lining
(didn't end up using) This T was too white!

Here, you can see the jersey that I ended up
using. It's a much nicer color match.
The piece that was cut from the top of the skirt
is shown here. That section was eventually made
into a headband. 

repairing the lining (where I had to cut around the zipper)

Too bad I didn't actually end up using the lining...

After I cut the top section off, I tried the skirt on
to check it would go around me and to check the length.

repairing a side rip. (The skirt
was fine, but I was a little rough
on it and accidentally ripped near the side seam.)

inside view of the repair
Here's where the process kinda jumps ahead. I'm not sure why I have a serious lack of photos here. It's probably because I took the project to work with me for a few days. I tried to do way too much at once and ended up badly mis-sewing it. I got LOTS of seam ripping practice on this project. I decided to add a panel of jersey and then used elastic from a pair of not-hubby's old boxers for the waist band. I have to say, up until the point of threading the elastic, I was really dubious about how this would turn out.
Once I threaded the elastic, this project really looked promising.  
Sewed up the elastic and then hand-sewed the casing.

Finally, here's a pic of me wearing the skirt and headband, from earlier today.

I can't believe I changed the size of a skirt from an XS to an XL!!!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

New, fun #reuses

While researching the Junk Brothers post that I did a few days ago, I stumbled upon this fun gallery of 6 before/after projects. Enjoy!

Before: vintage TV. After: Aquarium

Thursday, August 9, 2012

A great blog for reusing furniture

I just spent several hours meandering through all the wonderful redone furniture that can be found at Melody's blog, "My Passion For Decor"

Check out many more wonderful
projects over at Melody's blog

I'm not sure if she uses all the pieces in her home or sells them or what, but if you need inspiration/tips for refinishing furniture, I would definitely direct you here. She has some truly gorgeous (and fun!) projects.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

I miss the Junk Brothers

I think one of my first exposures to "creative reuse" was the short-lived* HGTV show The Junk Brothers. We were chatting about the show today and I was trying to convey the level of awesomeness that Steve and Jim were able to create with discarded items. I really wish there was an online gallery of before/after photos from the show. I've been searching for just that for awhile now. I'll link to a few things I've found.
Jim and Steve pose with their tricked out mega-BBQ

List of episodes with before photos (these aren't nearly as impressive without being able to see what they were transformed into

Interview with the brothers in Make: magazine (has some photos, but no captions...)

This guy made a kitchen island inspired by the Junk Brothers show. This is one of the only "after" photos I have and it wasn't even their project (Although, I remember this one and it's very similar.)

Anyone know if there's some place where you can view a gallery of all the before/after projects? I think I'll try to see if I can find this show on Netflix. It really was inspiring (although, the boys are much better carpenters/reusers than they are actors-sorry guys, but your banter was painful...)

*Apparently, it wasn't nearly as short-lived as I had originally thought. I think I only watched one season, possibly part of the second. Seems like there may have been as many as 4 seasons, though.

Friday, July 6, 2012

More reuses

Here are some #reused material projects I thought you might like: (These products can all be purchased at the Clark County Habitat for Humanity store.)

Can you guess what this bench is made out of?
For a clue, check out where the front panel meets the legs.

A: A crib!

These dog houses are made from all reused materials.
Check the next photo for the ingenious lining of the door arch.
Can you guess?

 Reused Hose!

This birdhouse is made from an old paint can and many other fun reused items. 
Seriously, if you like reuse projects as much as me, you should really check out your local Habitat For Humanity store (Called ReStore, everywhere but Washington State)

And, for good measure, here are two more fun things I ran across while spending wasting huge amounts of time on Reddit.

Plastic bottle turned scoop

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Reused items in yard art

Here's a submission from a friend.
Curt made his mom these yard art pieces. 
The materials used: 
Rebar - Purchased
Wire - Found on side of the road
Hub cap - 75' Land Cruiser
Fan blade - '70 Land Cruiser

Amazing what you can do with some reused materials and a little ingenuity!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Free recycling class in July

A free recycling information class will be held July 18th. This is a 2 hour class-the first hour is a general discussion of waste reduction, what’s recyclable in our system (and what’s not) and why/why not and then the second half of the class is a transfer station tour. The class runs from 5:30-7:30 PM out at West Van (West Vancouver Materials Recovery Facility-6601 Northwest Old Lower River Road  Vancouver, WA 98660.) 

If you would like to sign up for the class, please pre-register with Elsie Deatherage with the City of Vancouver by calling 619-4122. Seats are limited.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Alternatives to Disposables - Reusable straw review and giveaway

Glass Dharma giving away 1,000 free glass straws for Earth Day

This is the "beautiful bendy"
and it's the straw I am
currently drinking from. 
Last month, I taped a live segment with the More Good Day Oregon program entitled "Green On The Go." I already had most of the reusable items that I wanted to display in my personal inventory. One item I hadn't ever invested in, though, was a reusable straw. I contacted a company here in the states that makes reusable glass straws, Glass Dharma and they sent me a few straws to highlight on the show and to try out. Work and a whole mess of other obligations prevented me from actually trying the straws until yesterday. I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised. For me, it was as if I had been trying to cut a steak with a plastic knife my whole life and suddenly someone gave me a real steak knife to eat my food with. The experience didn't leave me speechless or anything, but I was struck by how much I enjoyed drinking from a glass straw. This might sound a little strange, but they feel really good in your mouth. You can feel the temperature of your beverage and the end is smooth, not like a plastic straw.

To be honest, before the segment, I hadn't given much thought to straws. I have been slowly removing disposable items from my life and trying to replace them with reusable alternatives, but I didn't have any strong feelings/thoughts about straws, yet. Since the segment, I've been thinking a lot more about straws. Just like the steak knife, this is what straws should be! When choosing between disposables and durables, I have yet to find an instance where the following doesn't hold true: durables are more elegant, nicer to use and well, more durable than their disposable counterparts. I know we all love the convenience of disposable products, but the fact remains these items aren't very convenient to our planet. Even if the disposable is able to be recycled (which is rarely the case) there are still a lot of resources that went into creating this item that we use and then immediately throw out.

If you'd like to try out a glass straw, Glass Dharma is giving away 1,000 of them this Earth Day. You can submit an essay of 100-200 words or a short YouTube clip. Easy peasy!

Don't be discouraged if these new habits take awhile to form. I've changed my habits for: bags, to-go containers and cups but it seems to take me, on average, about a year to create each new habit. I won't say I'm proud of that, but I seem to have trouble with:

  • Remember to have the item with me 
  • Take it in to the store or restaurant
  • Remember to ask the cashier or wait staff for no disposables
  • Actually use what I brought with me. 
I've screwed up the process at every one of these steps in the past, but eventually I get it and it becomes second nature. Habits are hard to break, but the enjoyment of using a better product that you're not just going to throw away is well worth it, in my opinion. The perceived inconvenience is far outweighed by the quality of the durable products, and the glass straw is just the latest product to convince me of that.

Lastly, here's an interesting infographic from that talks about some of the problems with our constant purchasing of disposable products. I thought it was interesting, perhaps you will too.

Happy Waste Reduction!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Cabinets #reused to make a child's play kitchen

Janell is so crafty!
Go check out the rest of the story.
It'll warm your heart. 
My friend, Janell, made a completely adorable play kitchen for her little one, using mostly reused/upcycled items from the Habitat For Humanity thrift store and a few items from Empower Up's thrift store as well. Go check it out!

Update: Through Pinterest, I stumbled upon two more completely adorable play-kitchens made from reused/upcycled furniture.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Green On the Go

1/3 of our waste is packaging and containers. Learn ways to cut this waste when you're "on the go"

According to the EPA, "containers and packaging" makes up almost 1/3 of our waste generation. (about 30% or 76 million tons per year, to be more exact) Luckily, much of that waste can (and should be) recycled, but many of the items you would accept "on the go" cannot be recycled. This is due to food waste, weak or nonexistent recycling markets and various other reasons. If you have reusable alternatives to disposable items that you would encounter when you're out and about, you don't have to worry about where those items will end up.

I did a segment on this this morning. (see photo) See below for some reusable alternatives to disposable packaging. (Edit: here's the link.)

I want to first say that having and using reusable items need not break the bank. Going green shouldn't cost you a lot of green. If you keep your eyes open, you can find low cost or free alternatives to disposable products. I'll note how much I spent on the items I list below. I also want to say a huge Thank You to the More Good Day Oregon program for continuing to get out the waste reduction message.

The set with all the splendid reusables laid out.

reusable bags: Of course by now, most people have seen these and are even probably using them. There are now insulated bags and foldable ones that are quite small (slip them into a purse or pocket and you'll never be at a loss for a bag.) The insulated one shown was given out by our local County Department of Environmental Services group. Many of the items I talked about can be found in this way. I'm even starting to see a lot of these items in thrift stores! The green/yellow foldable bag was given to me as a gift and the blue one I bought from Bath and Body Works. The black balled-up bag was a promo item from our company.

reusable coffee mugs: Of the two that are pictured, one is from Starbucks (gift) and the other is this mug. Aladdin uses recycled plastic in a lot of their products, so if you choose to buy one of these, you're helping complete the recycling loop. The one pictured was a promo item at a conference.

reusable water bottles/cups: The gray cup shown was a promo item and the other one I bought from Pier One. I do really like the reusable cups, though, because the lid and straw makes them pretty safe to keep on my desk and I find that they encourage me to drink water more often. (Andy Carson also said the same thing to me off-screen this morning.) There was also a water bottle on the table. It's made by Liberty and is made here in the USA. The bottle was also a promo gift from a conference.

collapsible to-go containers: Tupperware and Rubbermaid both make collapsible containers. The green one in the video is from Tupperware and I bought it at a thrift store and the blue one was borrowed from a friend and made by Rubbermaid.

reusable straws: All the straws featured in the video are from Glass Dharma. They come in a myriad of shapes and sizes. Some have colored glass dots that keep the straw from rolling off tables. You can also purchase cleaning brushes. There are also stainless steel reusable straws, but I didn't have any of those to show.

durable utensils: The two shown in the video were borrowed from a friend but I do have a set from Preserve that I sewed a carrying case for. Preserve plastics boast a 100% recycled plastic content. There are many options for durable/reusable utensils. Everything from recycled plastic to bamboo and steel. It all depends on how much space you have and the weight that you want to carry.

reusable sandwich/snack bags: I bought the ones shown from a local artist. I know you can easily find reusable sandwich and/or snack bags and reusable sandwich wraps from a lot of different places. Check Etsy local if you'd like to buy from a local vendor.

What disposable item would you like to eliminate? Are you willing to create a new habit of carrying your reusables with you? I won't lie, it does take time (and determination) to change our consumptive habits, but the pay off will be worth it!

Happy Waste Reduction!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Plastics: an info round-up

Here are some interesting articles on plastics. I've written before on how confusing plastics can be, how you can't mix them all together for recycling, and especially how confusing all the new and different types of plastics out there can be.

These two articles address the new types of plastics. It's good to learn a little (or a lot) about these plastics, as they aren't necessarily all they're touted to be.

This tray may look like many other
plastic trays, but it's actually made
from PLA-polylactic  acid.
This forum post does a good job of differentiating between the different types (see near bottom-Jerry Powell's response) and this article is about claims of biodegradability.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Waste Reduction segments (video)

To see videos of my recent waste reduction segments online, click on the links below:

I recently realized that not everyone has access to Facebook and that's where I was doing an ok job of posting my recent waste reduction segments. So, I decided to add them all here. Enjoy and let me know if you have any questions/suggestions. 
An antique camera in the front lobby of the KPTV studios

November (talking about the then-upcoming Check ‘Em Off, Green event) 
Mark your calendars, now! Check 'Em Off, Green will be December 1st this year.

December (talking about reducing holiday waste associated with gift-giving via buying local, reusing, etc.)

January (talking about waste reduction through swapping unwanted items online) 

We also have been having an issue with extraneous amounts of needles found in the recycling stream, so I did a news segment on that as well. (One note: the # of needle sticks quoted in the segment is incorrect unfortunately (or, fortunately depending on how you look at it) The # of people getting stuck by needles is more like 1 per month.)

Special thanks to KPTV for helping us get out the waste reduction message.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Post-holiday swapping of unwanted items

So, the holidays are over (Hope you had fantastic ones this year!) and I bet you might have received some new games, clothes, books, DVDs? If your home is bursting at the seams like mine, you might be considering what to do with items you no longer want/need/use. Consider swapping them! This Wednesday, I'll be going on the KPTV Good Day Oregon MORE program to talk about swap sites. In preparation for that, I've updated my list of swap sites for you. There's 25 sites on my list-I've made sure they're all active.

Unfortunately, I don't have time to vet them all for you, but you can easily click on whichever ones you think sound interesting and check them out for yourself. I'd recommend looking at the total number of items available, what type of feedback system they have, etc. Also, it's probably a good idea to decide what types of items you'll be swapping most often before picking a swap site or two. I'm a long time member of Goozex and it works great for me to swap my movies and video games, but it would not work for me if the majority of what I had to swap was clothing or kids' items. There are other more appropriate sites for that.

Here's an article with some great common sense tips to keep swapping safe.

So, how about you? Have you ever tried swap sites? What are your favorites? I haven't found any that really dazzle me in terms of handling "all" items. You?

Happy swapping (waste reduction) in 2012!

P.S. My list of swap sites is always available under the Resources link to the right.

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