Apr 10 2011

trash or treasure? [day 319]

There’s a lot of stuff that might be considered trash, but before you throw something away, think about the possible uses for it.  These are partially full cleaning supplies and pesticides, well, there’s also a random bottle of unopened champagne too.  Just because it’s half empty (or half full, depending on your perspective) and you don’t want it, dosen’t mean someone else can’t use it.  I list this on freecycle and it was gone in a matter of hours.  Yes, it’s my waste, but it doesn’t need to end up in a landfill or disposal center.

Before you throw things away, here’s some things to think about.

  • Repurpose. Could I repurpose this for something else?
  • Sell. Is this something that I could sell?
  • Give. Is this something I could give away?  Do I know anyone who might use this or need this?  Will a thrift store take it?  Remember, your trash might be some else’s treasure.  Put it on freecycle.  If it doesn’t go on freecycle, it might just be trash.
  • Green. What is the best environmental way to get rid of this item?  Can it be recycled?
  • Good. Is there a way to use this to bless someone else?  Can you give it to a fundraiser or charity?
  • Plan. Why did you buy this in the first place?  Have you made a plan not to buy it, or anything similar again?
  • Repurchase. If you need this item or something similar in the future, is there a smaller size or is it something you can borrow?

Yes, this is a lot to think about each time you plan to get rid of something, but if you start doing this, it will change your habits.  It will be easier to get rid of things because you will have a process and your shopping habits will change, as you will think long-term about something before you buy it.  It’s a win-win.  :)


Mar 30 2011

I don’t need no stinkin’ plastic liners [day 307]

I quit using plastic garbage bags, or any type of plastic lining in my trash cans.  Why?  I just don’t see why we need to place trash in plastic bags, taking much longer for it to decompose in a landfill.  I thought back to my kids earlier diaper days and the Diaper Genie.  I had one and used it for about a week, but I never understood why it was a good idea to turn dirty diapers into plastic sausage links.  It made no sense to me whatsoever.

I have, what most people consider, a very small trash can and recycling bin in my house.  They’re so small they fit under the sink cabinet.  They’re both plastic bins, making them easy to wash and they don’t leak.  Also, the small size makes them easy for my kids to empty into the outdoor containers.

I ran out of plastic liners a few months ago.  I decided to try going linerless.  It felt a little weird at first, but soon I started to wonder why I ever used plastic liners in the first place.  They really don’t do anything other than make the trash less biodegradable.  If I have some wet trash, typically food, I can place that in another piece of trash like a plastic wrapper from another piece of food.  This new system has been good.  No issues to report.  Buying things to purposely throw away is making less and less sense to me.

Here’s a few things I’ve learned in this process and a few tips I’ve picked up in researching this topic.

Biodegradable garbage bags. These bags cost a bit more, but if you absolutely need a trash liner, this is a good way to go.

Repurpose shopping bags. Instead of buying bags, reuse the ones you get from shopping.  They’re usually not big, but just consider it a motivation to cut down on the amount of trash you produce.  Use these for the ‘wet trash’ only when needed.

Learn what can and can’t be recycled. You would be surprised at the list of what can and can’t go into the recycling bin.  Pizza boxes?  No, because they have grease on them.  Styrofoam?  Yes, they started recycling this a couple of years ago.  I’ve found that most waste can be recycled.  We fill up our recycle bin way before the trash bin.

Separate your trash into bins. Some people have a compost-type bin for food trash, separate from the regular trash.  I have a separate bin for plastic caps so I can take them to Aveda for recycling.  I don’t do composting yet, but the change in our grocery shopping habits yield way less waste and trash.

Consider composting. I’m still considering it.  :)

Repurpose you trash.  If you need a liner for something, use a bread wrapper or potato chip bag.  You’re not adding anything to the trash and you’re not spending money buying fancy plastic liners to make your trash more attractive for the garbage truck.

Use plastic washable containers. Get rid of the metal trash cans, use small plastic ones, then you won’t need liners.

If you’re not sure about this, try it for a week.  You can always go back to using liners.  If nothing else, you’re saving money on trash.

 


Mar 15 2011

creativity on the fly [day 293]

Since I’m planning on rebranding my blog, I decided not to print up business cards for SxSW.  Yesterday there was a drawing for a book from the Go Virtual session and all you had to do was drop in a business card.  I sighed after reading the sign, then put my brain to work.

I have a coffee cup cardboard sleeve I’ve been carrying with me all week.  Yes, I’m using a paper cup, reluctantly, but I thought at least I can reuse the cardboard sleeve.  Light bulb!!  I’ll write my info on the cardboard sleeve.  I make my regular cards out of recycled stuff anyway, so this is not far from what I would have anyway.  I wrote my info, I dropped it in the bag and I listened to a great session.

After the session, they did the drawing for the books.  The girl doing the drawing had no idea that was in there, but as she was choosing a card, she said, “I’m going to grab this one that feels different.”  I won my choice of the two books AND I got my paper sleeve back.  My little Ecogrip has quite a journey going here.  I think I might need to give it an itizen tag.

Sometimes easy solutions can be found for life’s little problems, all it takes is a willingness to do something.  Not bringing cards probably wasn’t my brightest plan, but they have plenty of recycling materials here and I’ve made several cards on the fly.  Less than one minute of thinking about a solution yielded many great things.  I got a new book, people got to see how repurposing works, my cardboard sleeve is getting a long life, less paper was used, something created as disposable has been used over 5 times now and I have a great story.

If you run into a small issue today, throw one minute at creating a simple solution.  :)


Mar 2 2011

a new hand-me-down [day 280]

This Children’s Place t-shirt is for sale NEW, and not a used hand-me-down, even though it says it’s a hand-me-down.  Am I missing something here?  I don’t get it.  Why would someone buy this new?  If you buy it new, your kid is walking propaganda that you’re a liar.  Also, if you’re buying new stuff, why would you want it to say that it’s a hand-me-down if it’s not?  I guess you could buy it, put it on your kid for a few minutes, wash it, then give it away?  Still not getting it.  I like the recycling and reusing message on the shirt, but really?  This should be a custom made t-shirt… on a used t-shirt.


Feb 22 2011

dell desktop computer [minimalist challenge item #5]

[item] Dell desktop computer, dual processors

[purchase info] Purchased from Dell brand new, custom built, $4,000

[time in my possession] Approximately 10 years

[last used] 1.5 years ago

[difficulty level in getting rid of it] Medium

[destination] Recycle

[info] I bought this 10 years ago from Dell, and it was the biggest and baddest at the time.  It’s before dual processors were the standard.  I got a good 5 years out of it for my freelance business.  It’s had many issues, crashes a lot and won’t run anything current.  It costs more to upgrade these than it’s worth.  My only hesitation is getting rid of it was wipping the harddrives, as they had lots of personal files and info.  A pickaxe took care of that.  :)  Bye, bye old Dell computer.  Rest in peace at the electronics recycling center.


Feb 3 2011

hello, my name is jody and I’m a hoarder [day 252]

So this is the third day we’ve been “iced” in.  This is clearly not snow, as you can walk on top of it.  I even saw a video of a kid ice skating in the street.  My kids are bouncing off the walls and I’m so ready for this mess to go away, and them to be back in school.  I’ve been working from home most of these three days, but I’ve also spent a little time cleaning too.  It’s forced cleaning, and here’s why.

I finally hired someone to paint all of my doors and baseboards.  As much as I would like to do this myself and save the labor cost, I simply don’t have the time, or the desire, to do it.  My time will be better spent doing other things and the guy I hired really needs the work, so much that he drove here in the icy crap to work in my house.  It’s a win-win.

Having baseboards and closets painted is basically like moving.  It’s a good opportunity to not only clean everything, but to purge.  I still have way too much stuff and I need to keep downsizing.  I’m a hoarder.  Not to the extent of the people on the TV show, as those are the most extreme cases, but I’m a low level pack rat.  The few rooms I have downsized are really making me think how much stress and hassle it is to own so much stuff.  It’s simply not needed.  I listed a bunch of stuff on freecycle and it all went within a day.  I have so much more to get rid of!  Being in my house with all this stuff is making me crazy!

My garage is now the “last stop” in the process of purging.  Everything from my house is going out to the garage, from there, it will be sorted, purged then the remaining items will be organized, cleaned and brought back in.  I can honestly say, not much as come back in.

When purging and organizing you stuff, here’s a few tips that might help.  I could write a whole book on everything I’ve learned through this process, but I’ll just share a few of the major points.

Sort the mess.

Have bins or boxes set up for all of the “stuff destinations” you have planned.  You’ll stay in gridlock, shuffling things around with some basic sorting plans.  Here was my destination list:

  • freecycle
  • eBay / craigslist
  • keep
  • thrift store
  • recycling
  • trash
  • someone I know that wants this

Waste not, want not.

Keep in mind that you might not want this stuff, but that doesn’t mean someone else wouldn’t be blessed by having it.  It’s not any additional work to take things to a thrift store versus the city dump.  And freecycle?  People will come get it right from your house, you don’t even have to take it anywhere!  Less physical work and just a small amount of time on the computer listing it on freecycle.org.

What to keep, what to part with.

This is the most difficult part of the process.  My first question to myself is, “Can I easily get this again if I need it?”  Other questions might include, “When is the last time I used this?” or “Do I see a need for this in the near future?”  Go through this process.  If you’re hung up on an item, put it in the keep bin.  Once you’ve done this process once, go through it again.  I sometimes make 4 or 5 passes through my stuff.  I’ve purged a lot and so far, I’ve had no regrets of anything I gave away.

Staying organized.

Once you’ve purged a room, keep the clutter out by having an area to put things.  My garage is the “catch all” for every room.  The clutter goes out there in a designated spot, and rarely does any junk make it back into the house.  When organizing a room, don’t pack everything in, leave space for a few new things and space to stay organized.  Also, when cleaning out a room, take everything out.  Start from scratch.  It’s easier and you will be able to purge more and organize more easily.

Again, this is not a comprehensive list, but it’s a few of the biggest helpers in downsizing.  I have to say, it’s a long process, but it feels really good!


Jan 27 2011

surrounded by plastic [day 247]

Today, just a small collection of odd photos.  These remind me of a joke told by Steven Wright a long time ago.  He says he owns two rare photos, one of Norman Rockwell beating a child and one of Whodini locking his keys in his car.

Photo #1: Protecting the plastic

Seriously?  We need to wrap the plastic recycling bins in plastic sheets, and then place that wastefulness in a box?  What exactly is the purpose of the plastic wrap?  Maybe they did that so we would have something to place in our new recycling bins.

Photo #2: Surrounded

This is an old photo, taken in a motel room on our way to Mexico.  Did I really need a Starbucks latte that bad?  I have my own travel cups, but instead of bringing one I wasted a waxed paper cup, a plastic lid, a cardboard hugger thing and a plastic keep-your-coffee-from-spilling stick.  My roommate had a plastic bag sitting behind the coffee, and all of this sitting next to a plastic sign saying “save our planet”.  It’s a sign to place on the bed if you don’t want them to wash the sheets.  I wanted to place it on the bed, but we were only there one night, and I’m guessing the next guest would appreciate them being washed.

Photo #3: Sustainable styrofoam?

Wow.  What were these marketing people thinking?  Sustainably grown coffee, a beautiful story of how they’re helping the environment, all neatly packaged in a styrofoam cup.  My friend took this photo while traveling on an airplane.  Not like there’s a lot of choices at 32,000 feet above the earth.

These photos are just a few reminders of our disposable society.  How long will it be before our planet looks like a scene from a sci-fi movie?  No, I don’t mean the fun futuristic ones where we all own spaceships, wear silver clothing and have intergalactic space travel.  I mean the ones where people are trying to survive because there’s nothing left.  Yes, this might sound extreme, but is it?


Jan 26 2011

recycle freecycle [day 246]

Freeycycle is the modern day dumpster diving, without having to touch a dumpster or trash can.  From the freecycle site: It’s a grassroots and entirely nonprofit movement of people who are giving (and getting) stuff for free in their own towns. It’s all about reuse and keeping good stuff out of landfills. Each local group is moderated by local volunteers (them’s good people). Membership is free. To sign up, find your community by entering it into the search box above or by clicking on ‘Browse Groups’ above the search box. Have fun!

I had my first free items from freecycle.org a couple of weeks ago.  Three empty 5-gallon paint buckets from Home Depot.  I really needed just one, but the others will come in handy too, as I need to get rid of most of the paint I’ve been hoarding for years.

A few days ago, I got 3 lamps from freecycle.  One of them being a really cool, ultra-modern lamp, but needing repair to the on/off switch.  I haven’t repaired the lamp yet, but I can use the electrical from one of the other lamps that was missing a shade.  This lamp was not cheap and is probably the nicest lamp I own now.  The other small lamp, also missing a shade, will be my new energy efficient light in the nook on my staircase.  I ran electrical to that a couple of months ago since there was electrical in the closet underneath the stairs.

I’ve also gotten rid of things that I don’t need anymore.  Clutter is not my friend, so this made it easy.  I had some fence boards that I had no place to store.  Someone on freecycle was getting as many fence pieces as possible so he could build a new fence.  Smart dude, as he probably saved $5k and kept a lot of wood out of the landfill.   Continue reading


Jan 19 2011

recycle your electronics for good [day 238]

I saw this recycling box at the local camera shop.  No, I wasn’t shopping, I had to go there for work.  I was surprised to see the red dot that says, “10% of proceeds will go to charity”.  10%?  There are a lot of collection boxes where all of the proceeds go to charity.  I know there’s some cost involved with the recycling or repurposing of electronics, but this is clearly a retail profit center.  I’m not against retailers making money, but if you have a choice of 10% or 100% of proceeds going to help people, wouldn’t you rather choose 100%?

The really important thing here is that these electronics don’t end up in a landfill.  Most of them contain toxic materials that pollute our drinking water and our environment.  As long as the dumb phones, VCR’s, camcorders, old cameras and old computers stay out of the trash, I can live with a little bit of retailer pocket padding.  If you have a choice of 10% or 100% though, go for the 100%.


Jan 16 2011

light bulb! an idea or just simply for light [day 234]

My friend that had the flood finally got to move back into her house yesterday.  As I was helping, I noticed the old bathroom light fixture sitting in the trash, with all of the old light bulbs still in it.  With the challenge, I can’t buy light bulbs, so I gladly unscrewed them all, placed them in an unwanted pink basket and brought them home.  I have 2 lamps that need bulbs.

I want to switch my bulbs over to the compact fluorescent energy saving bulbs, but that requires purchasing them.  It’s great to do this, but throwing away good bulbs seems like a bad idea to me.  I plan to switch them out as they burn out, as they are better for the environment and they use 25% of the energy of standard incandescent bulbs.

I decided to count the number of bulbs and the types that I have in my house.  Here’s the analysis.  (Whatever, it only took 5 minutes)

  • Incandescent – 43
  • Compact Fluorescent - 23
  • LED – 13
  • Halogen – 24
  • Low Watt – 8
  • Fluorescent tubes – 2

Dang!  I have a lot of lights in my house!  Only 41% of my lighting is energy efficient.  Using an energy star calculator, replacing all of the non-energy efficient bulbs in my house would cost just under $500, retail price.  The halogens would pay for themselves in 1 year in energy savings.  The incandescents will pay for themselves in 14 months.  So the big question is, do you replace them right away or do you replace them as they burn out?  Or some people might even be wondering if they should replace them at all?  What are the pros and cons here?  Let’s put these bulbs head to head and see what makes the most sense.

Pros: switching to energy efficient lighting

  • Saves money on your energy consumption. Up to 75% savings on CF’s and 90% on LED’s.
  • Much better for the environment. LED’s have no toxic materials in them and require no special disposal procedures.  CF’s help prevent the greenhouse effect and global warming.
  • Lamp life. LED’s last ten’s of thousands of hours, CF’s last approximately 6,000-15,000 hours, incandescents last approximately 750-1,250 hours, halogens last approximately 2,000 hours.  The life span of energy efficient bulbs are substantially longer than the non-energy efficient bulbs.  This makes the initial higher cost of the bulb a good value.
  • Costs. When factoring the bulb costs and the energy costs together, these save a lot of money in the long run.

Cons: switching to energy efficient lighting

  • The bulbs cost a lot more to purchase. The purchase price is higher, usually 2 to 5 times more.  The upfront cost is more, although the long term savings should be taken into consideration.
  • Lights on. CF’s take time to “warm up” and the light gets to it’s full brightness in about a minute.  For some people this is an issue, but I’ve gotten used to it.  It’s actually nice in the morning when you first wake up not to have bright lights in your face.
  • Lighting ambiance. LED’s light lacks in brightness and because of the light temperature, has a bluish hue to them.  Incandescents have a warm, yellow light.  Incandescents also have directional capabilities that the others don’t have, which is why you see a lot of halogen fixtures in stores and restaurants.  Lots of progress is being made with the energy efficient bulbs in this respect.
  • Disposal. Disposal of CF bulbs is tricky, as they contain a small amount of mercury.

For me, the pros outweigh the cons.  I will continue to replace the bulbs as they burn out with energy efficient bulbs when I can.  When the shopping challenge is over, I’ll consider replacing a portion of these that are in fixtures I use frequently.  Some of the accent lighting fixtures I don’t use often can wait.

Disposal and recycling issues. The recycling and disposal of the CF’s is still not easy.  (Jason, better late than never on this post)  Although there are many recycling programs, there aren’t many drop off places and the city recycling program doesn’t pick these up from your house.  It’s just not easy to dispose of these bulbs right now.  There are, however, two major retailers that participate in the recycling and disposal of these bulbs.  They are The Home Depot and Ikea.  Yes, it’s a little bit of work to save your bulbs and take them to the store, but you can plan it with a needed trip to that store.  Get together with you neighbors and take turns making a “bulb disposal run” each month.   Given the life span of these bulbs, it’s not a huge time sacrifice, and given the size of them, it’s not much of a space sacrifice either.  :)