Sunday, May 22, 2011

Day 22 - creativity in repurposing

At work on Friday I found an empty gift box on my desk.  It turns out that as I have been doing these little things to encourage reduction of waste and reusing resources at work people have started to pay attention.  As this gift box was on its way to the garbage bin someone put it on my desk to see if I could find a new use for it.  Although I am not hoping for all garbage to end up on my desk, it was exciting to think of the endless possibilities of finding new uses for our everyday items. 

Ideas for finding new uses for items you might not be using anymore:
old jewelery, scarves, buttons, random decorative items - Maybe it's just me, but I love to take these things, cut them up into new designs and hot glue them on to blank headbands.  I have an assortment to wear on my own and the others can be given away as gifts (if you know anyone who is willing to sport gaudy headpieces on a daily basis...)
clothes that aren't in good enough shape for goodwill - first I check if something is worth giving to goodwill for someone else to use, but if it torn or stained I try to think of other purposes before throwing away.  Cut into strips as rags, or use the strips to do some old school hair rolling (like curlers but takes longer...)  Other uses are making braided rugs, braided belts, or guitar straps out of longer strips of fabric.  Not too long ago I cut the sleeves off of some plaid shirts and lined them with fleece to make fingerless gloves.
cardboard boxes, wrapping paper tubes, misc cardboard - make a fort, a car, a spaceship or house for your kids.  And if you don't have kids, why not make one for yourself?  It provides a little more use before these head to the recycle bin.

What other ideas do you have?  There are endless suggestions at Etsy as well, try looking up a new use for something before you throw it away!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Day 21 - my new baggies

I am not going to try and keep track of how many days I missed blogging this week, I will just start where I left off.  It has been a challenging week as the baby was sick and the weekend was busy.  But here I am, back at it again. 

I received my re-use-it bags in the mail yesterday and was giddy to use them today.  The kid's lunch was packed in his usual lunch box, but instead of plastic baggies that would be thrown away he had his snacks in adorable cloth bags with guitars on them.  He was tickled when he saw how they velcro shut.  I sported my very trendy "This is not a paper bag" paper bag looking reusable bag today and got several compliments.  Don't you love when eco-conscious crosses with trendy fashion item?  Okay, maybe not, as that is what has gotten us in this pickle in the first place, right?  At least the current fad is somewhat productive on a consciousness level.  I digress.

Good news is, I love my little lunch baggies and it makes me want to pack a lunch which will reduce waste and will save me some money by bringing food instead of eating out.  Note to anyone going to try and switch your family to something like this, do NOT try to convince your husband that it is worth buying these because they are cheaper than Ziploc.  When I tried to explain how the average American spends $85 a year on sandwich bags I got laughed at for a long time, apparently we only spend a few latte's worth on our baggies.  I suggest going with the eco-friendly argument or the "I will eat out less" argument, it might work better. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Day 20 - baggie blues

I am not blue at all about the order I just placed for reuseit snack baggies and lunch baggies.  Great idea sent to me by my dear friend Nikki.  Thank you! 

BUT, the blues do hit when you learn what all those little sandwich bags lead to.  I learned today the following facts at
  • The U.S. goes through 100 billion plastic shopping bags annually at an estimated cost to retailers of $4 billion. (The Wall Street Journal)
  • The extremely slow decomposition rate of plastic bags leaves them to drift on the ocean for untold years. According to Algalita Marine Research Foundation, these plastic bags cause the death of many marine animals (fish, sea turtles, etc.), every year when animals mistake them for food.
  • Numbers were kept on 43 different types of refuse. Cigarette butts were the most common. Plastic bags came in second. (Ocean Conservency, 2008)
  • When plastics break down, they don't biodegrade; they photodegrade. This means the materials break down to smaller fragments which readily soak up toxins. They then contaminate soil, waterways, and animals upon digestion.
  • Windblown plastic bags are so prevalent in Africa that a cottage industry has sprung up to harvest them. These are then woven and sold as hats and (more durable) bags.
 Ouch, huh?  Once again it comes down to convenience and awareness.  I totally loved checking out this website as there are a ton of facts and they have a whole section of DIY ideas that are earth friendly.  I am definitely going to spend more time on this site and I can't wait to get my adorable kid friendly snack bags in a few days.  I got the ones with guitars on them for the kiddo and a cute lunch bag for myself.  Now to make the transition to reusable baggies for more than just grocery shopping. 

Anyone else going to go bagless? 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Day 18 and 19 - digging a little deeper

I can't claim to have done a whole lot of new and different things the last two days, but I have been working hard on digging deeper into the core of me and trying to figure out where I got so far off track.  It used to be the norm for me to buy all my clothes and furniture second hand, look for ways to conserve resources better, spend my free time out on trails or adventuring in the snow and use my time and energy to make the earth a better place.  Something has happened to pull me away from those values.  Now I am a mom, at a time where I feel it is so important to be exemplifying these behaviors, and I am doing no such thing. 

Is it the lack of time and energy as you get sucked into the daily insanity of juggling a family and a full time job?  Is it the instant gratification I get from buying something shiny and new, a treat for working so hard and sacrificing so much?  But why have I gone so far as treating myself for the sacrifice of those things I used to hold so dear?  Writing this blog and changing my priorities are a new way to 'treat' myself and to stop having to give up so much. 

New priorities:
1. Teach my children how to enjoy Nature and the importance of conservation and preservation. 
2. Exemplify by spending more time outside.  Awareness is the entry to Action.
3. Have fun again...  

How about everyone gets outside and has a little fun playing in the dirt.  It's a great reminder to not take everything so seriously. 

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Day 15, 16 and 17 - Happy Mother's Day Mama Gaia

A few days behind as the baby has been sick and I am tired.  I am working on incorporating my habits, saving electricity by turning off lights whenever I leave a room, turning off my computer each day when I leave work, cutting down on disposable cups (although I found out that if you order a latte at Starbucks and give them your reusable mug they still use a disposable to measure and make the drink... sheesh!) also focused on saving water and being aware of my daily waste.  All of these things are thankfully becoming more habit than challenge, as it should be.  Today is one of the most important day's to think about our impact on the earth because it is Mother's day.  A day we can honor nurturing our maternal instinct and our ability to take care of others, including the earth and all it's beings. 

Mother's day is a funny day.  The focus (as media would tell you) is supposedly on the mother and what she wants to do, but really it's just a way to teach kids to honor the mother, isn't it?  It's not like you spend the day with a few hours by yourself with a good book, a massage, a soak in the tub or anything.  Or maybe people do and I just didn't plan my day right.  No, I loved spending the day with my wonderful, sweet, whining, crying, children because despite the tears they are my life.  Sometimes I wonder how Mother Nature feels about these things.  Do you think the human race is at the toddler stage?  Or is it the early adolescence?  Perhaps Mama Gaia is just wanting some time to relax today.  I hope Mother Nature has a good sense of humor.  

Today's present to Mother Nature is time spent in the garden.  New plants planted and seeds were put in the soil.  Hopefully she got to relax with a little massage (digging in the dirt), a little makeover (new flowers) and a nice soak (watering the fresh soil.)  Maybe this will help her realize that even though we are loud, seemingly careless at times and slightly obnoxious, we all love our mama's. 

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Day 13 and 14 - let's get dirty

I know I am a bit late for this, but it is time to start gardening!  Last night I flipped the soil for the third time this Spring in my two little veggie plots and I think they are almost ready for some seeds.  As for planting thus far I have only had a chance to throw a few flower seeds on the front lawn beds.  Literally thrown as I like to garden like Mother Nature does, a combination of wind dispersal and randomization. Really it is just my creative way of landscaping with the help of my small children, but I like to think it is the 'natural' approach. 

Tonight I am working on planning the garden.  How can I maximize our soil to minimize our impact on the Earth?  When it comes to our food it is important to think about ways to alleviate the amount of miles Produce typically travels so we can have it available in our grocery stores.  Could you imagine what would happen if everyone grew three or four veggies in their garden during the Summer?  What impact would that have on eliminating the fuel used to transport our carrots, lettuce, tomatoes, peas and more from wherever it might be coming from? 

How about giving it a try?  Even a small window box or outside planter can grow a vegetable.  One less vegetable you are purchasing that might have been sprayed or might have used fuel to get to the store can make a small impact.  I have extra seeds if anyone is interested. I got a little overly excited when buying seeds this year.  Not sure how I will fit this all in:

Purple carrots, orange carrots, radishes, snap peas, piccolo zucchini, regular zucchini, edamame beans, lettuce, chives, spinach, tomatoes, corn, sunflowers, and quinoa.  Whew!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Day 12 - repurpose for multipurpose

A super quick entry tonight as it is late and it has been a very busy day!  Today I had a great experience where someone I ran into commented on my shampoo adventure and gave me some more tips (I think I was most surprised and pleased that someone had read what I wrote yesterday).  Thank you Taylor, I am super excited about the new ideas. So now I am getting ready to go and make a simple face serum out of the products I made shampoo with last night.  I get multiple purposes from my ingredients and less waste is produced in the form of excess plastic bottles, excess chemicals and the transportation that goes into getting all of our beauty products into stores.  I will sleep well with a little almond oil and essential oil serum enhancing my delicate skin. 

Enjoy re-purposing what you have in your home to help reduce waste!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Day 11 - simple recipes to reduce waste

Today's simple step starts with a recipe.  1 cup distilled water, 1 cup Castile soap and 1 tsp Almond Oil.  What do we have?  Yes, you guessed it, shampoo!  I made my own shampoo with three simple ingredients and filled up a bottle that just ran out.  Reusing the same bottle over and over and refilling it with this concoction means I am putting less chemicals down the drain and using less plastic bottles.  It also means I am saving some pennies as I won't be buying my expensive fancy shampoo for awhile.  It took less than 5 minutes to do the whole thing and now I have fun new shampoo.  I can't wait to start making new fancy flavors.  Next time I will try steeping some fresh rosemary and mint in the water before adding the soap.  Yum!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Day 9 and 10 - Reduction and Regression

The garage sale was a success.  I have gone through many phases of my life where I love nothing more than going out and hunting a good garage sale to find that one special treasure, but I have never been on the giving side of this feat.  It is a very strange experience putting your personal belongings out onto a table for people to go through, handle, comment, judge and then try to purchase for mere change.  I thought a garage sale would be engaging, entertaining and a way to make new friends but instead it was hard work, boring, tedious and at times belittling.  Despite this, the end result was worth the whole experience.  Our house is cleaned out and *hopefully people found good uses for things that we no longer needed.  There were a few high points during the day when people were really excited about an item which made me feel all warm and fuzzy about letting it go, but on the whole it was an exercise in letting go. 

Our overall reduction of stuff has felt very cleansing.  Reduction is feeling somewhat addictive to me, as I look around the room right now I see a multitude of items that I feel I could easily go put out in the free bin to give away to the people still driving down our street looking for the last deals.  Letting go of things gets so much harder when you have a family, I look at something to give away and my four year old says "why would you give that away mama, it is so special to us!"  It just about melts my heart.  But then I think, shouldn't I be sad that he thinks these things are special?  Wouldn't it be so much easier if we didn't get attached to things?  Our impact on the earth is directly linked to the amount of stuff we hold on to, the waste that we create and the demand we create by purchasing all of these things. 

Well, at least for today I can say we have made an effort to reduce.  Unfortunately this weekend has also been about regression.  I gave in to convenience this morning and had Starbucks, in a disposable cup.  Ugh.  I took an extra long shower and I even used plastic spoons on the ferry and threw them away, and then went to the grocery store without my reusable bags and got plastic bags!  I went against all of my good habits that I have been working so hard to incorporate.  Why does this happen?  You would think this bout of regression could have waited at least until I was into this for a month, I can't believe it is showing up after the first week. Perhaps it is like the regressions I see in my boys right before they are about to embark on a developmental milestone.  Perhaps I am about to reach a new milestone in my ecoquest...?  Or perhaps it was Sunday and I was lazy.

From waste reduction to environmental consciousness regressions, the new focus is on redemption.  So, as a minimal act of redeeming myself I have made a small donation.  My offering is not directly going to an environmental cause, it goes out to all of those affected by the tornadoes, part of our money from our sale goes to the Red Cross today (interesting when examining letting go of things when so many have things taken away from them without choice).  Some days it is about supporting each other in order to have a healthier Earth.