the ReFab Diaries: zero-waste lifestyle
Showing posts with label zero-waste lifestyle



Ok - I'm sorta cheating. Because I don't think it's that challenging to make a move "zero waste". But I'm moving in three days so I get to start with an easy one! 

When I talk about waste around moving, I'm not just talking about the packing materials. I'm talking money. A move is expensive. Especially if you're paying people to put your stuff in a van and take it out on the other side (which I am). So if you can avoid wasting money on packing materials, you should! 

1. Pack it yourself: Yes, moving companies will pack things for you. But they charge by the hour so...

2. Free Boxes: If your friends/colleagues can't help you, our online sharing culture makes this easy. Freecycle and Craigslist are good sources. I scored oodles of boxes through a local Facebook trading post. They've been used at least 3 times before and this won't be their last rodeo.

3. Pay if forward/Reuse: I already know who I'm giving them to when I'm done!

4. Recyclable/reusable padding: I've been raiding the recycling in the basement of my office building for non-plastic packaging materials (pictured above). While I will use some plastic, it's almost entirely the recyclable pillows rather than bubble wrap. Having said that, did you know you can turn bubble wrap into beads

5. Upcycle the cardboard: Finally, to give myself something to look forward to in the world-beyond-the-move, I have a great cardboard upcycling project planned. Watch this space :)

What am I forgetting? If you have advice to share on this topic, please leave a comment!





Minimizing waste, maximizing education. That's the goal of California based T4T (Trash for Teaching)T4T inspires, students, educators, businesses and communities to rethink what others overlook. They rescue manufacturing overruns, discards and castoffs, originally headed for landfill, and re-imagine these items. Just look at what they collect - dumping it would be a horrible waste!


I happily admit to being sentimental at heart. But we moved a lot when I was a kid and I've lived on four different continents in the last 25 years. You don't move that much without leaving a LOT behind along the way. Nevertheless, when Agy invited me to contribute to the "I didn't throw it away" blog train, it was easy to say yes. Because somehow, in spite of all the moving, I'm surrounded by things I've had for 20+ years. I'm Capricorn. I once read that Capricorns "love to fill their homes with association." This seems to be true for me! So what are these things I've hung on to and why?



Things I still use


 Today is my 39th birthday (hence the Capricorn reference!). On my 19th birthday, I asked my mom to take me shopping at the local (Durban, South Africa) flea market. That day she bought me the leather purse/handbag and silver bracelet pictured above. They're not only things I still have but things I use often. Especially the purse. Why have I kept them? Because I still love them and they're in great shape considering their age. I think I can get away with wearing such old things because leather and silver aren't really vulnerable to trends. And considering my age, I think they still suit me - thanks mom!




Things I've inherited


These are the very few things I inherited from grandparents. I definitely love them as "things" but I know I keep them because they act like Time-Turner's for me. When I look at the glass jars, I'm transported back to my mom's parents' home. I can smell the mothballs, Jeyes Fluid, my grandmother's 4711 fragrance and my grandfather's Old Spice. And I remember playing with the sprung metal shirt-sleeve holders my Grampy stored in that bigger glass jar. He worked for the post office on the railway - I guess it was crucial that his sleeves stay up?

My great grandmother's sewing kit was a treasure I found when my Nanny moved from a small flat into assisted living. I never knew my great grandmother, but I was always told I have her hands. And I'm deeply attached to the tools she once used to create!

Finally, the little silver pill box belonged to my father's mom. After growing up in a Catholic orphanage on the east coast of South Africa, she got married and had SEVEN children. This woman was somehow the warmest, wittiest person (in spite of my very difficult grandfather) and was adored by her many grandkids. She didn't have a lot to leave, so this little box (and the pair of tiny ruby earrings that live in it) are beyond precious to me.




Things I've repurposed


One of my best friends gave me a hand-painted tea towel and oven glove for my 21st birthday. I always loved them but never used them because bright white cotton in my kitchen ... well, I knew I'd wreck it. So I carried them around for years then, one day, decided to repurpose them as a sewing machine cover. I've never regretted the decision because now I see the cover every day and think of Lyndi. 




Words ...


When I decided to tie a ribbon around these letters and keep them, I was being romantic. Now, 20+ years later, they represent a way of life mostly gone. And I don't just mean letter writing and the use of snail mail. I also mean the kind of delayed gratification we were once capable of. And the amazing quiet and intimacy of communicating this way. And the permanence of the words. One day I will actually re-read the letters. For now, I'm grateful to my younger self for hanging on to them.

Note: As I contemplated what to share in this post, it struck me that most of what I haven't thrown away I actually use, or look at, daily. They're mostly things that are very much part of my life and they all have stories. I have one small box for hoarding - I call it a memory box. It's the place that holds things like the letters and other sentimental bits and pieces I will never get rid of. If I ever overflow the box, I know I'll probably get rid of some things. Until then, I cherish what it holds.



This post is part of a blog train hosted by Agatha from Green Issues by Agy (now Agy Textile Artist) on "I Didn't Throw It Away". We have become such a throw-away society, but there are some things in our households that we still keep. Why is that so? Perhaps this blog train (that began Dec 1, 2014) can unlock the reasons behind it! Follow the daily posts and read about the stories behind the things we have kept for many years and why we didn't throw them away.






I tend to be a fake-tree person. This year, while contemplating getting a real one, things took a different turn. We spotted a pile of fallen branches and agreed they might make a fun tree. So I ended up with the mess pictured below ... 


And once I stripped a lot of branches off to "make" the tree, I wondered what I could do with them. Which set off the spree of DIY ornaments below! All quite easy to make. I've linked to tutorials and inspiration.





Happy December! Today is the launch of the I Didn't Throw It Away Blog Train. Hosted by the wonderful Agy Lee of Green Issues by Agy, we're trying to unlock the reasons why we keep certain things yet readily throw away others. Is there a story behind every item that we keep? How do we form that special connection with them, and why does it last so long? 

Every day from today until mid January, one blogger will share with you the things that he/she has kept for over 20 years, the stories behind them and why it wasn't thrown away. My post will go live early January. Find out what Agy's held onto and follow along  :) 






In blog land, you get hit up by companies all the time. For what is essentially free marketing. That's not how they present it to you, of course. But essentially I, the blogger, get nothing. So I, the blogger, generally say no.

When I got an offer from Adam at The Bouqs, it was simple and direct: "we'll send you flowers if you'll commit to reviewing them." Done. No fine print. No BS. And that's how they seem to function across the board.



Last weekend I took myself and Ms Ro on a little woodland adventure in Michigan. We spent Saturday night near the beach a mile south of Sawyer. Then on Sunday, we drove up to Fat Blossom farm in Allegan. Fat Blossom is a family-owned organic farm. A couple of times a year, they turn the back woods into an "Enchanted Forest". I honestly wasn't sure what to expect ... but based on the fairy-house kits they sell at markets in the city, I was optimistic. And I wasn't disappointed! Everything is built using natural materials, most of which is found on the farm. They run building workshops for school groups, girl scouts etc - it's refabbing at it's most whimsical!


I'm currently in South Africa, visiting my parents on the west coast. They live in small town (traditional fishing village) called Velddrif. My mom is chairperson of the local craft club (go figure) and today I attended the club's weekly meeting.


As I created the post featuring Ruth's plarn lunch tote (4), I found myself looking for other cool things created using this cheap-to-create material. Because it's the epitome of upcycling really. Plastic grocery bags are nasty things. They've been banned in a whole lot of places around the world. But in most of the US, we have a choice. Bring your own bags, choose paper, or choose plastic. And if you choose the plastic, what do you do with the pile that quickly gathers in your house?

Turning them into something that will actually last is a really good idea. So if you liked the lunch tote, here are some more ideas for you.




A while back I spotted a Tom's refab trend: turn trashed versions into sandals. Awesome. But what if you're not a show-your-toes person? So ... I did another little look around recently and found a collection of patching ideas I love! If your Tom's are horribly hole-y ...


1. Patch them, country style

2. Patch and add a big, colorful button!

3. Make 'em over, scrap-work style

4. Add a patch and touch of lace

5. Or if they're really just done, fill them with dirt and grow something in them  :)






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