Reducing waste through upcycling, repurposing, refashioning and reloving.

Showing posts with label zero waste. Show all posts
Showing posts with label zero waste. Show all posts

Flowers for Dreams: Low-waste, ethical and beautiful.


A second post from me in a week? Yes. Because sometimes I find a story right under my nose and I have to share it asap. Especially when it's about a flower company and Valentine's Day is around the corner. 

The cut flower business is bloomin' wasteful. 

45 ways to make less trash.



At the beginning of 2016, I committed to trimming my waste. After years of using this blog to gently reinforce the message that mindless consumerism is a problem, I decided to take off the gloves. Inspired by the zero-waste movement, I joined Be Zero's #makelesstrash2016 challenge and declared my intention for the year: to trim my waste. Because we are literally consuming ourselves. And we need to wake up.

Thanks to the generous (and robust) zero-waste community I've become a part of, I'm reminded often to stop worrying about the word "zero". Zero waste is an industrial term being applied to a lifestyle. It refers to a circular-based economy where we design without waste as an end product. We don't yet have the infrastructure, laws, or consumer demand to move us from our current linear economy to something circular. Zero waste is a goal - the lifestyle is not to be taken literally. That's why we need to educate ourselves on materials, on resources, and on how we can give companies the incentive to make change. We have to simplify and become resourceful, thrifty, and community-centered again. We have to rethink the way we consume. And we have to make less trash.

What have I learned this year? That every small change matters. That avoiding plastic packaging is incredibly difficult. That avoiding single-use plastic is not nearly so difficult. And that putting my money - and my energy - where my values are is worth it.

Here are 45 tips, takeaways and learnings from 51 weeks of trimming my waste: 


Week 40 Giveaway! (My Green Traveler)



I'm 40 weeks into my challenge to trim my waste and I'm so happy to be able to celebrate with an EPIC zero-waste giveaway. Really. Sometimes an idea comes along and it just makes sense. That's what I thought when I first saw My Green Traveler on Instagram. They just launched their Kickstarter and I have THREE of these amazing containers to give away.

Read on to find out more about this fabulous reusable to-go container, their Kickstarter and how to win your own Green Traveler. The giveaway is worldwide!

Trimming my waste: Week 25 (mending spree!)



Goals - Week 25: 
  • Repair things I love to wear
  • Admit that I'm not going to lose "those 5 lbs" before September (and so resize stuff!)
  • Go on a mending (rather than a spending) spree

I live in Chicago. It's either cool or cold a lot and I wear some version of jeans most of the year (because I have the kind of full-time job where that's ok). Then summer happens. It feels like it will never come and then it does. And it always surprises me. The first time I try on things I haven't worn in a year... well, it's rarely fun. Because I've gained a few inches. Or because I realize my favorite things are still unwearable. Because I neglected to fix something that was a problem a year ago. 

In the last couple of weeks, motivated by actually going on vacation during the summer (something I never do!), I've been tackling some mending. Here's what I took on: 

Trimming my waste: Week 24 (pupcycling)


Goals - Week 24: 
  • Celebrate upcycling of every sort!
  • Encourage everyone to just start somewhere 
  • Keep reminding myself (and you): a "zero-waste" lifestyle is about mindfulness, choice and creativity - not perfection

Meet Peanut. Four months old and just 1.7 kg (3.5 lbs). She's not only the star of this (p)upcycle, she's also the newest member of a popular Instagram family! (see them together below)

Trimming my waste: Week 22 (quick refashion)


Goals - Week 22:
  • Clear out closet clutter 
  • Repurpose what cannot be donated or easily recycled
  • Have a little more guts when it comes to "refashions"

I went to bed on Friday night with a head cold and woke up Saturday feeling dazed. You know when you feel too crappy to leave the house, but not so sick that you can't function? Yeah. That. Which means I made myself tackle one small task so I'd feel like I'd accomplished something. The task: put the heavy duvet cover away for the summer. 

This involved clearing out the bag I use to store it... and what did I find in there? Old clothes, most of which I dropped into a donation box on Sunday. And the two shirts that are the stars of this post. I've been storing them for over a year and as soon as I saw them, I remembered why! 

Trimming my waste: Week 18 (DIY body scrub)



Goals - Week 18:
  • Boycott products containing microbeads
  • Reduce my dependance on big-brand skin care products
  • Make more, buy less
The Aveeno scrub pictured below used to be my go-to product. Yup, I'm admitting it. Even though it states quite clearly on the package that it contains "gentle microbeads", I still bought it. I had no idea and now I know I've contributed to the massive pollution of our lakes and waterways. When I finally understood, I threw it out. 

What are microbeads? Microbeads are tiny pieces of plastic that are added to everyday cosmetic products like face wash, toothpaste, abrasive cleaners and lots more. They are most frequently made of polyethylene but can be made of other petrochemical plastics such as polypropylene and polystyrene. Microbeads are tiny (smaller than 5mm) and wash straight down the drain, easily bypassing water filtration systems.





Trimming my waste: Week 17 (DIY dish soap)



Goals - Week 17:

  • Gradually replace store-bought products with homemade ones
  • Reduce packaging waste
  • Simplify

Stretch goal: use only homemade cleaning products

Trimming my waste: Week 16 (buy better trash)



Goals - Week 16:
  • When buying packaged goods, carefully consider the packaging
  • Boycott any manufacturer using #6 grade plastic
  • Support cradle-to-cradle companies when possible

Stretch goal: vastly reduced reliance on packaged goods

Trimming my waste: Week 6 (email clean up)




Goals - Week 6:
  1. Spend less time dealing with email
  2. Avoid the message to buy
  3. Avoid the damn message to BUY

Stretch goal: ZERO promotional emails

If you use gmail, you have a partitioned inbox like I do. And it's a really a great way to filter "promotional messages", most of which we've volunteered to receive. Who knows why. Many reasons, right?

Here's the problem: they're all tempting us to buy things we don't need. So. My goal this week is to scroll down and UNSUBSCRIBE. It's a pain. But if I'm committed to reducing my "stuff" and trimming my waste, temptation to buy doesn't help.

Any of you done this?




Trimming my waste: Week 5 (DIY deodorant)



Goals - Week 5:
  1. Precycle - bring less non-recyclable plastic into my home
  2. Buy less, make more (without being stinky)
  3. Save money!
Stretch goal: make this for everyone I know so they'll try it!  (recipe after the jump)


Trimming my waste: Week 4 (zero-waste coffee)


Goals - Week 4:
  1. Look for ways to make my coffee habit more environmentally friendly
  2. Make less trash
  3. Repurpose more
Stretch goal: pay more to buy locally roasted, fair-trade coffee.

Trimming my waste: Week 3 (hairbands from tights)




Goals - Week 3:
  1. Upcycle a non-recyclable item
  2. Repair or repurpose old clothes
  3. Buy less, make less trash and create more  :)
Stretch goal (punny!): use old tights to line plant pots

Trimming my waste: Week 2 (upsizing the recycling)



Goals - Week 2:

  1. Really pay attention to how much I throw away #thereisnoaway
  2. Decrease landfill waste
  3. Notice how fast the recycling fills up
Stretch goal: Composting - achievable if I figure out a sensible solution for a single urban apartment dweller.

Trimming my waste: Week 1 (hard soap FTW)



If you missed it, here's the post explaining the whole "trimming my waste" thing.

Goals - Week 1:

  1. Precycle: reduce the amount of packaging I bring into my home, even if it's recyclable
  2. Reduce exposure to chemicals in cosmetics. Because no one seems to be regulating them or       explaining them very well. See Stink! ... you won't like what you smell hear
  3. Support small, local businesses making products using simple ingredients

Stretch goal: DIY soap or body wash.

Ok, week 1. Easing into this commitment... because it's just soap, right? And it's not hard to find beautiful, affordable, kindly-made bars of soap. So this is an easy way to start.

HURDLE: Some "hard" soaps turn my skin to chalk after one use. Ak! So, like most things, there will be some trial and error involved in this transition, especially in winter in Chicago. That's ok. I also might try soap making again. But I really need to read up on making a genuinely moisturizing version because a plain glycerine base won't cut it.

Do any of you have a favorite bar that's kind to really dry skin? Or a recipe for such a thing? Perhaps the winter solution is a homemade body wash like this?




2016 challenge: 51 weeks of Trimming my Waste



Happy 2016! I'm a week late but hey ... better late than never right? In fact, that's sorta the sentiment behind the new series I'm kicking off this week. Better something than nothing. Better to start than wait for the perfect time and place to start. Right?

So here's the plan: for the next 51 weeks, I'm going to share with you all the small changes I've made (and will make) to "trim my waste". And by "waste" I mean everything from actual trash (and recycling) to the unworn items in my closet, the energy suckers in my home and an array of other wasteful habits and behaviors. Why? Because I've been arguing for years that upcycling is my low-pressure way to change mindsets. A gentle prod in the direction of more conscious, conscientious consumption.

But the time for gentle is over. As a species, we've shoved our planet into a new geological epoch. We mechanically produce and consume at a speed (and on a scale) that defies belief. For example, we've already dumped so much plastic into our waterways and oceans that microplastic particles are now virtually ubiquitous, and plastics will likely leave identifiable fossil records for future generations to discover. Fabulous.

And we've done it so fast that we've barely paused to notice that there's no planet B. So. I'm done with gentle. Gloves off my fabulous refabbers. It's time we get our hands really dirty. And refab ourselves. I know I'm not close to walking the walk... are you?

Like many of you, I'm inspired by zero-waste mavens like Trash is for Tossers, Be Zero and Zero Waste Home. But, like some of you, I'm seeing only the end result of their years of effort. I wasn't there to watch the process. So I see a perfectly stripped down home and zero-waste behaviors already well-established. Lauren Singer (Trash is for Tossers) provides 2 steps to zero waste. Here's the problem: each step contains multiple steps and many involve switching out products (mostly to eliminate plastic). That's great. But few of us have the cash to just chuck half the things we own and buy (more expensive) steel, wood, glass and bamboo substitutes.

Honestly, making your home and your life more sustainable can seem daunting (and expensive). But so can starting a diet, going "dry" for January or working out after an indulgent holiday season. Many of us still commit to these thing in the new year, don't we? Instead, how about committing to a different sort of trimming? Not a crash diet or starvation. Just trimming. But in a focused way.




If you'd like to do a little waste-trimming yourself, check out Be Zero's "Make Less Trash" challenge and share what you're doing! If you play on Instagram, use the challenge hashtag:  #makelesstrash2016 







Waste? Not! - Day 1


Last week I read an article pointing out that people who live in the US produce more trash than anyone else on the planet. And, apparently, don't recycle nearly as much as we should. It got me thinking ... about a lot of things. One of them being the words we use to indicate that something is "trash": garbage, rubbish, refuse, junk, disposable-X and waste. 

I grew up with parents and grandparents who loathed "waste". And they didn't mean garbage. They meant squandering. Or neglecting instead of using. They used the word to convey lack of appreciation on some level. It was often leveled as an accusation: "What a waste!" And nothing got my grandmothers fired up quite like wasted food. 

They lived by the idiom "waste not, want not." A more streamlined version of "willful waste makes woeful want." And what exactly does that mean? It means if we don't waste what we have, we'll still have it in the future and will not lack (want) it

With that in mind, welcome to Waste? Not! Week. A week of celebrating people and organizations who looks for ways to reduce waste. People who take what might be "wasted" and use it well. To make something useful. Something beautiful. Something that reminds us that our definition of "disposable" has become dangerously distorted over time. 

To kick things off, a giveaway ... check back tomorrow :)