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Too Many Sweaters… Not Enough Scarves?

Friday, February 11th, 2011
By Christa

The other day, I took an old sweater of mine and turned it into a dress for La Paloma. I’m really proud of the end result but… I winged it, so there are little things wrong with it. Seams that don’t line up particularly well and so on. If I hadn’t been impatient and had followed directions created by those with more repurposing experience than me, maybe it would have been even better.

Turns out, I still have a ton of old and new sweaters that I’m probably never ever going to wear – sorry, bad gift givers! When I went looking for more repurposing ideas, I found a great tutorial for turning a sweater into a hat and scarf.

Okay, it’s technically a hat and scarf set for a kid, but with a big enough sweater, the sky is the limit! No need to make an owl – or even an animal at all. But if you like the animal idea, the sky is still the limit. This is the kind of clothing repurposing I love – that and t-shirt mods.

Do You Feel Like You Have to Sneak Dead Batteries Into the Trash?

Thursday, January 27th, 2011
By Christa

Well if they’re rechargeable, stop sneaking around and get them to the recycling center. But if they’re not, there’s not all that much you can do with them other than toss them – as this video full of very silly actors explains.

UNLESS you’re in some states, like California, where it’s against the law to dispose of batteries in your everyday trash. If you’re in one of those states, you need to check out to find out what you ought to be doing with all those batteries.

Just don’t feed them to a duck or a cat, which is what a lot of YouTube commenters claim to be doing with them.

An Upcycled Rocking Horse for Grownups

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011
By Christa

For an example of awesome upcycling, look no further than Tim Wigmore’s clever and fun Giddyup Rocking Stool made from old leather saddles, FSC-certified marine grade Okoume, and a natural oil finish. In the designer’s own words:

“Old worn saddles have a beauty and patina of age that I find really attractive. The use of old, tired or broken saddles is an attempt to not only utilize an existing object, but also to elevate peoples perception of the old and pre-used. After having an old broken saddle sitting in my studio for some time I began to consider how I could design a piece that would utilise the beauty of the saddle.”

Tim Wigmore’s Giddyup is meant to keep you moving while you work or watch TV – and it’s supposed to be more fun than sitting on one of those exercise ball chairs. If you opt for this over that, though, I recommend investing in some all-natural leather conditioner to keep your seat supple.

5 Ways to Green Your Time Off

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011
By Christa

A few weeks back, I shared 5 ways to go green at work, which reader Little Red reminded me isn’t always easy. Some companies like to update software overnight. You may turn all the lights off if you’re the last one out, only to find them on again in the a.m. when you’re the first one in because the cleaners turned them all on. Your office may not have a fridge for your bagged lunch or a coffee maker for your afternoon pick-me-up. And your choice of computers? Non-existent.

Where you have total control or almost total control is in your own home and in your personal life. In other words, in your time off. Since that’s your time to do with as you see fit – at least within the confines of your family life, if you have one – it’s a lot easier to go green! Here are five ways you can make your evenings and weekends more environmentally-friendly and physically healthy:

1. Replace you usual weekend activities – going to the movies, whatever – with something healthier and simpler. For the outdoorsy types, I recommend hiking, biking, or walking. These work especially well if you happen to have nature nearby, but even the city dweller can go for a long walk in the concrete jungle. Picnics are always good, doubly so if you pack food you’ve prepared yourself using organic, locally-grown ingredients. If spending more than a few minutes outdoors isn’t your bag, how about taking those ingredients and cooking up something yummy, then having a vegetarian or vegan dinner party for neighbors and friends?


Should Bottle Water Be Banned?

Thursday, December 30th, 2010
By Christa

This past summer, the town of Concord, MA voted to ban the sale of bottled drinking water beginning in 2011. It sounds unusual, but apparently Concord is in good company. Areas of New York, Illinois, and Virginia, along with 100 other cities in the U.S. and elsewhere have taken similar steps to cut down on the sale of bottled water sold within city limits and encourage locals to give tap a try. Some are banning it, while some are taxing bottled water heavily.

Why? First, the production of plastic water bottles uses about 17 million barrels of oil each year. Second, not everyone tosses those plastic water bottles into the recycling bin – I see them on the street and on the beach around my corner of Mass. all the time. And third, it takes almost 7 kilos of water to make one bottle of imported water, according to Sustainability Engineer Pablo Päster.

But is it ban-worthy? You tell me:

If you’re interested in instituting your own ban on bottled water, there are a couple of steps you can take. I know we don’t all live in municipalities with clean, tasty tap water – mine, for example, smells too chemically right out of the tap – but getting a Brita Pitcher can turn so-so tap water into yummy tap water. And when you’re on the go, a stylish stainless steel water bottle makes it easy to stay hydrated without resorting to yet another bottle of Aquafina… which, like 25% or more bottled waters is actually just municipal tap water run through an extra filter or two.

RFID Recycling Bins?

Thursday, December 16th, 2010
By Christa

Has your city gotten its recycling bins wired yet? Some areas – e.g., San Francisco, California; Cleveland, Ohio; Ann Arbor, Michigan; Charlotte, NC; and Laurel, Maryland – have installed radio frequency identification (RFID) chips in their recycling bins to track compliance and the amount of recyclables being collected from specific zones and homes. The tags are coded to serial numbers on the containers and the addresses where they’re being used, and they allow officials to track recycling stats without having to figure out en route which bins belong to which houses.

Advocates for the RFID-equipped bins say they will encourage people to be more aware of what they are throwing out and how their waste is disposed of. They also argue that the technology can be used in conjunction with programs that reward recyclers with incentives like gift certificates to local businesses. Detractors argue that the RFID recycling bins are often paired not with incentive programs, but rather with fees for non-compliance (which can range from putting out bins too early to not putting them out at all). And of course, there are the usual privacy concerns – particularly since in some areas, non-compliance means a trash inspector having a looksee at your cans.

What do you think? Are RFID recycling bins a great way to encourage people to go green or another example of too much government intervention?

The Greenest Handbag Is the One That Doesn’t Bring Anything New Into the World

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010
By Christa

Browsing Eco-Chick recently, I was delighted to stumble onto WASTE since I am a bag fiend. Waste handbags are not only absolutely fantastic, they’re also made exclusively out of discarded materials from the auto industry. I’m talking discarded leather arm rests and head rests, seatbelts, rubber straps, and more. What you end up with is a bag made from high quality materials that are designed to be durable, which is just the thing when you’re looking for an everyday bag.

Every WASTE bag is completely unique because they’re crafted out of what’s available so nothing new is needed to produce them. WASTE’s artisans un-stitch all those discarded parts and then craft something durable and beautiful by hand to achieve a color-coordinated, polished look. Why’s this important? Car upholstery uses a lot of leather (and other stuff), and about 45% of what is used is tossed out. Using the leftovers means less garbage in landfills and less energy spent on making new materials for other industries – in this case, the handbag industry.

As you can probably guess, these green handbags don’t come cheap – my favorite prices in at €193 for the option currently available – but if you have the money and need a bag, why not WASTE?

Reusable Shopping Bags: Going Green Means USING THEM

Thursday, November 18th, 2010
By Christa

Commenter Nora Charles brought up an extremely good point in a recent post, namely that those supposedly eco-friendly reusable grocery bags pitched by stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joes are made from petrochemicals. Not to mention that they don’t always last that long, and it’s so easy to forget them in the car. Advertised as a green option, reusable shopping bags can be a good alternative to paper or plastic, provided that you actually remember to bring them into the store every time you shop.

But are they green? As WSJ described the reusable grocery bag that supermarket chains frequently display by the checkout:

It’s manufactured in China, shipped thousands of miles overseas, made with plastic and could take years to decompose. It’s also the hot “green” giveaway of the moment: the reusable shopping bag… Home Depot distributed 500,000 free reusable shopping bags last April on Earth Day, and Wal-Mart gave away one million. One line of bags features tags that read, “Saving the World One Bag at a Time.”

You could say, okay, I’ll opt for a nice new set of cotton grocery totes, but that’s not necessarily the best choice, either. Even non-recycled plastic grocery totes may be more eco-friendly to manufacture than ones made from cotton or canvas, both of which can use large amounts of water and energy to produce, not to mention harsh chemical dyes. And even that plastic grocery tote may have taken 28 times more energy to produce than a plastic bag and eight times more energy than a paper bag. Huh.

So what, exactly, makes a reusable grocery bag green? The short answer? Using them. Four or five reusable shopping bags can apparently replace 520 plastic or paper bags each year. Unless you’re one of the (relatively rare, according to surveys) people who recycles your plastic bags, that means a whole lot of bags that won’t go into landfills. So remember to grab those bags!

What, that’s not green enough for you? You’re still worried about those petrochemicals and all that production energy? Great, I have yet another solution for you, and this one is even greener than buying new reusable shopping bags and actually using them. You could, if you have a sewing machine/serger or can borrow one, make your own reusable grocery bags using:

I think the first and the last DIYs are my favorite, even though I don’t have the patience (or the bags) necessary to actually make the first ones. The last one, though, I’m itching to try, and not just for reusable grocery bags, either. (The Beard has apparently lost all the lunch bags in the house.) Have you tried making your own reusable shopping bags? How’d it work out?

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