Wednesday, July 31, 2013

How to Creatively Reuse Box Springs

Boy am I excited to bring you these next two reuses.

A colleague of mine sends me emails from time to time about all the fun creative reuses he employs at home. This first one is great because who hasn't found themselves with an unwanted mattress or box spring before?

Bob decided to put his to good use. Here's what he has to say about this project:

I know Reuse is your thing…. So I had to brag about my last reuse project… but I will use pictures instead of words… 

In addition to the finished product.. I scored 9 long 1x2’s for garden stakes or other future uses.. a little bit of firewood, a huge piece of cardboard that went into the garden for weed barrier.. and just a little trash, that fit in my trash can and didn’t require a big trip to the transfer station… plus it kept the kids busy and off of the gaming… 
What do you think? 

What do I think? I think it's ingenious! I need one in my garage.

To see all the "process" photos, go here.

Readers-what do you think? Does this inspire you to creatively reuse something you'd otherwise be throwing away? The more I "get into" this creative reuse thing, the more I see fun ways in which to use "trash" that is all around us. Nice job, Bob!

Stay tuned for the next one. I think I like it just slightly more than this project. But, that could be a function of it having to do with animals and I'm sucker for animals...

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Grimm Consumption Series #2

Bike commuter on the show Grimm

I was really pleased to notice this little moment in the show. In Episode 9, Juliette is heading home from work(?) and instead of showing her driving, they decided to show her riding her bike:

Bike commuting is very authentic to Portland.
In fact, it was named America's Best Bike City
last year by Bicycling Magazine 

Notice her super cute red coat? I'll mention that again
in a second. 

If you're gonna ride, you should wear
a helmet, so kudos again to the show for modeling
positive behavior!

Here, we see Juliette set down her backpack (durable!)
and get another glimpse of that pretty red coat.

I'm pointing out the coat because Juliette (Bitsie Tulloch) wears it in a ton of scenes/in quite a few episodes. Again, it's realistic/authentic (It rains a lot here-feels like 11.5/12 months out of the year.) It's also sustainable consumption-she doesn't have a different coat on every time we see her on-screen (ala Sex and the City.)

Have you seen any examples of good/not so great consumption in your favorite shows?

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Grimm consumption series 1

Sustainable consumption Wins and Losses on the TV show, Grimm

I recently have become interested in consumption examples in TV shows and movies. Grimm is filmed near my home, so I thought I should probably take a look. (We had always meant to watch the show anyway, but I, traditionally, have a hard time with "scary" shows (I have nightmares) and we missed some of the episodes when it first aired, so we never watched it.) I really enjoyed the first season-it's fun to see places and references you know. Now, I'm totally hooked!

This is the first in a series of posts that looks at some of the highs and lows, consumption-wise on the show.

I didn't have to wait long to find something to comment on. These screen shots are from the second episode in the series. Juliette brings home some food-take out and Voodoo Donuts. Unfortunately, the take-out is in a plastic sack. I'm curious to see if they'll use plastic disposable bags again this season, seeing as Portland has banned them. Let's hope not! (And if they do, perhaps they need me to come on set and help out with some more sustainable consumption choices for the props?)

Juliette (Bitsie Tulloch) brings home take-out
and Voodoo Donuts for Nick  (David Giuntoli)

She sets down the bag.
The useful life of the average plastic bag
is estimated to be less than an hour. 

Already forgotten? At least there's Voodoo Donuts!
AND donut boxes compost, so there's that...
If the TV show needs some reusable bags that are authentic to the Portland area, I can certainly hook them up. Stay tuned for some more glimpses of sustainable (and not-so-much) consumption from the show. 

Monday, July 15, 2013

Why won't you guys take my rigid plastics anymore?

A primer on China's "green fence" and reducing consumption.

Q: Why won't recyclers take rigid plastics anymore?
A: No market for the material. All recycling decisions are based on whether or not there is a market for the material. If you, as a recycling processor, don't have anyone buying the stuff from you, you'll quickly be swimming in it. Ewww...

Q: Why isn't there a market anymore?
A: China's Green Fence Policy. In February, China erected a virtual "Green Fence" and became more stringent with enforcing regulations governing contamination in bales of recycling.

Q: How long will this last?
A: Hard to say. Some are speculating at least until the end of the year, others are saying the changes are here to stay.

Q: So, then, what do I do with this stuff?
A: Put it in the garbage. Until new recycling markets open up, these materials are "true trash." (See above about recycling decisions being based on markets.) All of the answers here are for our market (Clark County, WA) and I would urge you to always check with your own local hauler for questions about recycling. 

Q: But, isn't it bad for the planet to throw stuff in landfills?
A: Not really. Landfills, while not perfect, are the best disposal option we have at our, well, disposal (pardon the pun) at this time, given how much waste we create.

Q: I don't love these answers.
A: We don't either. But, without a market for these materials, these are the best, truthful answers we have for you at this point in time.

Q: What can I do about this? Who has control over these decisions?
A: Honestly, the best, most expedient thing you can do is to REDUCE your consumption. Everyone likes to focus on recycling (we've been taught to) but recycling, even at its best, is not a silver bullet for all our waste woes. You, as a consumer, have immediate control over one thing: how much (and what) you buy. Need to take cookies to a meeting and don't want to have to throw away the clamshell? Make them yourself or buy them in bulk from your local bakery. 
Clamshell packaging does not
have a strong market currently.
Beyond reducing consumption, an investment in domestic markets is also, arguably, needed. Perhaps writing letters to local and/or federal decision makers, urging them to invest in green jobs would be a worthwhile use of your time? The other way to help is to vote with your dollars-make sure that what you do buy has post-consumer recycled content. If you are buying stuff made from recycled content, you're signaling to the markets that the cost and effort of recycling will be worth it. (But, again-only what you need!) Finally, Thurston County (our neighbors to the north) have a great page all about what can be done (in general) about waste.

Q: Any silver linings to all of this?
A: Absolutely! 

  1. There is evidence that when recycling is readily available, consumption increases. So, when we find ourselves in a situation like this one, it's reasonable to extrapolate that consumption may decrease and that's certainly a good thing. 
  2. The end of readily available markets that weren't too stringent about contamination may mean that domestic recycling infrastructure investment (that doesn't get to take shortcuts) becomes more economically viable. 
  3. This article addresses some of the pros/cons of Operation Green Fence for domestic recyclers.
Bottom line: if you aren't buying the stuff, you don't have to worry about the end-of-life of the stuff. 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Q: What is the worst item mistakenly placed in recycling carts?

The answer may surprise you.

Then again, maybe it won't. Hopefully, by this point, you've heard that plastic bags are a huge issue for recyclers. Try this test at home: twist a plastic bag until it becomes like rope, then try to break it. Surprisingly strong, no? Plastic bags and other types of plastic film get clogged in the sorting machinery that separates all the paper products from the containers.

When the machinery gets clogged, it has to be shut down and cleaned by hand, as seen in the photo below. How often would you guess this cleaning takes place? Once a week? Once a day? How about every two hours. This cleaning accounts for more than a quarter of labor costs at sorting facilities such as the one in Clark County.  If you only care about one thing when it comes to your recycling cart, let it be this. Your recycling handler and your planet thank you.

-The Reuser
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