Last day ~ Coffee Filters

My Mother, who has so diligently followed along with my blogging over the past month, has changed some of her habits! So I feel like my 30 days has been successful—even though I didn't do the best job with the challenge—because I know this has had a positive influence somehow. She is now recycling, composting food scraps and saving dryer lint in paper towel tubes for kindling! (but WHY she's still using paper towels after this post confounds me! That's one of the easiest switches to make, Mom!)

Anyway, she asked me the other night about whether or not you can compost coffee filters.
The answer is YES, you can compost the filters right along with your grounds—which compost piles LOVE. Some people out there have mentioned that the filter paper is bleached—but if you're already drinking coffee that has filtered through this paper, I don't think that's something you need to concern yourself with.

But I would suggest looking into bleach-free filters since I am SURE that the processes by which the bleached filters are made do absolutely nothing good for the environment.

Even better, get yourself a RE-USABLE coffee filter. Aside from the obvious benefits of saving money and creating less trash—you'll never wake up to make your coveted cup of coffee just to find that you've run out of filters!
There are many options out there and they'll run you around $10, give or take. They include filters made from hemp, cotton and metal mesh. From what I've read, they're all easy to use. Just rinse between uses. And you're probably not going to notice a difference between these choices unless you are a coffee connoisseur.


3 days left to accept the challenge

It's time for me to pass the blog! Who's going to step up? It's actually a lot of fun~I swear. I'm going to miss the blogging part the most. I had a really great first week but after that, it was all downhill. I wish that when I accepted, I had known about the huge photoshoot obstacle. I'm disappointed that I didn't find a better way of handling that. Live and learn. On my next shoot, I'll be on the Big Island of Hawaii and hopefully able to take advantage of the great farmer's markets they have all over the place there. Also, I plan to stay a bit longer and camp on my own, so I hope to be much more low-impact than that last trip. But coming back from eating poorly, fueling up on iced coffees and being surrounded by strip malls and take out (at least in La Quinta, CA), also made it hard to get back on track when I returned. It's so hard to go from eating badly every day to eating fruit and salads. Detox!

Weekend trash report & the MBTA

I'm happy to report that I had a fairly trash-free weekend.

On Saturday, I had a lazy morning, then took the commuter rail from Boston to Manchester-by-the-Sea on the North Shore. It's a charming little beach town with an equally charming beach called Singing Beach. Ahhhh. It is named for its unusual sand, which squeaks or "sings" beneath your feet.

I took my bike with me on the train, knowing that the walk from the train stop to the beach can be a bit of a schlep. It's not far, but on a hot day, with your beach tote in tow, it can be a drag. Plus it was just a faster way for me to get to the train station in the first place. However, upon boarding, I found that the train was not equipped with bike racks. So myself and the other 10 biker owners had to awkwardly maneuver our bikes to "sit" on the seats. The train attendant explained that the "bike train", which has one car lined in bike racks, departs at 10:15 (I was on the 12:15). Oooh I'm sorry. So I'm trying to save money and gas and the environment by riding my bike and taking public transportation but you can't accommodate that? I love it. The MBTA encourages you to use public transportation but then asks "why don't you just bike the whole way?" Meanwhile, the car was empty aside from the people with bikes. So why is it that they can't convert more trains to be bike-friendly? Typical MBTA. I'm sure they'd be really pleased to have their seats all torn up from our gears and pedals. And they're losing money this way—I got a free ride—I think the attendant felt bad because he knew it was so inconvenient and frustrating. I'm sure the MBTA will hear about this one way or another. There were some pretty pissed-off people. Don't mess with bikers!


Old Clothing

Tonight I might start cleaning out some old things. I think I am missing a purse - I seem to think that I had a silvery-gray purse ... but now I'm not sure if it was just one that I almost purchased! Either way, that's a sign that I need to clean out my closet!! (or that I'm losing it, but I'd prefer to go with the former).

So what should I do with all of the unworn things I am sure to dig up? Trash 'em? No way! Here are just a few ways in which you can recycle your used clothing.

1. Consign items with a Consignment Shop
For the items that are still in really nice condition—i.e. no stains or rips—bring them into a consignment (second-hand) shop! Consignment shops are a great way to earn money back on your old pieces and to give someone else—perhaps someone less fortunate or just plain stylish and resourceful—a chance to snatch them up. Usually the final selling price is split between the store and the consignee. It's usually a 50/50 split but find a shop near you and check out their details. And of course call ahead to see if you need an appointment.

2. Hold a Clothing Swap party!
Have you ever heard of this? A couple of years ago I hosted one at my house. It was a lot of fun, a great way to get the girls together, and to get some things cleaned out of our closets! I invited 10-15 girls, asked them each to bring approx 2-10 items to swap and I provided some drinks and appetizers. It was great fun and everyone went home with something. Anything that was left was donated to charity. I sent invites via email—I used a sweatshirt to compose the letters S-W-A-P on a concrete floor, took photos and then collaged them in Photoshop. Actually, writing this has inspired me to try to host one again!

If you aren't into hosting your own, it has become a bit of a "movement" and people are hosting larger swaps all over the place. Just do some surfing on the interweb to find one near you. I attended one in Cambridge a couple of years ago where there were piles and piles of donated clothing and some re-making going on as well. I found some great stuff!

Punky Style is actually hosting a swap August 5th in Worcester, MA. I'd be down to go except that I'll be getting ready to go to Hawaii then!

PunkyStyle.com’s First Annual Clothing Swap
Lucky Dog Music Hall, 89 Green Street. Worcester, MA
August 5th, 2008 7:00 PM

3. Tear 'em up for rags
Rather than using paper towels or purchased cleaning rags to clean up dirty messes, wash the windows, dust, etc.—rip up some old clothes. Old t-shirts are great but really anything cotton works well.


CALL TO ALL READERS ... who wants to take on the challenge? You have a week to step up! I have a hard time believing that there's no one out there who wants to challenge themselves to be more environmentally friendly :)

Trash to Treasure III

Ever wondered what to do with all of your used post it notes? Living in a rented space and unable to paint? Perhaps this "Wall of Notes" can provide some inspiration for a new home design project!

Next up are these fabulously remade vintage chairs by Annie Coggan. As she notes on her blog, each chair was "rescued from a yard sale or an antique shop where it sat by itself" and then reworked into the amazing pieces you see here. Beautiful. Genius.

And lastly, I wanted to share another piece of brilliance, this one by Jeremiah Pasternak of Pasternak Antiques in Rockland, ME. He took a vintage Bertoia chair and reworked it by adding approx 1500 hand-cut strips of scrap craft foam. Makes for a very Dr. Suess-esque piece!

So where can you get something to work with?
How about heading out to the Grafton Flea Market this weekend (if you're in the Boston area)?


My feet hurt! Darn shoes! And the pair yesterday and the day before aren't even new! But they still tore up my feet. Today I'm wearing sneakers but because they still hit at the same place as one of the other pairs, I needed more bandaids. Lots of garbage. :(


my garden : mi jardín

Lots of green!
When I began this challenge, I believe I told you about my garden. Well I have an update! Nothing is ready for harvest yet (aside from the herbs), but soon I will have an abundance of organically grown tomatoes (3 kinds), peppers (red, orange and yellow), cucumber and lettuce.
I'm not sure why the lettuce is taking so long ... I thought it would mature in 2 weeks. Maybe I planted too many seeds in each hole. They are sprouting but I thought they would be in my tummy by now!

The reason why most of my things are planted in pots is because of the suspected lead in the dirt in this area. Next year, hopefully most of my dirt can be supplied by my compost!

I'm lucky to have this space to garden in an urban area ... but even if you aren't afforded this luxury, you can still grow some of these things indoors in pots by windows. Or if you're really ambitious, look into building your own indoor greenhouse!

Recycled glass 2

Speaking of recycled glass, my friend L who just bought a house with J, introduced me to Ice Stone, a sustainable surface material made from recycled glass and concrete. Not only is it gorgeous, but it's the first and only durable surface in the WORLD to receive McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry (MBDC)’s coveted Cradle to Cradle™ certification.

{picked up from the Ice Stone website} Cradle to Cradle™ assesses products on a number of criteria, such as the use of safe and healthy materials, design for material reuse and recycling, efficient use of energy and water throughout production, and instituting strategies for social responsibility. At IceStone we manufacture our products with 100% recycled glass in a cement matrix, diverting hundreds of tons of glass from landfills each year. We operate out of a renovated, day-lit factory in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, creating U.S. jobs for workers in an eco-friendly, safe and respectful environment.

So if you're looking to renovate your kitchen or bathroom anytime soon, check out this product! It could also make a great surface for a coffee table ... take a found object as a base, throw a slab of this on top and wha-laa! Hello conversation piece.


Recycled glass

Although I've gone a little off-track with my no-trash month, I still want to keep up the blogging and share a few things with you from my trip. But starting tomorrow I'm going to try to get back on track. I still haven't heard from anyone as to who's going to step up to the challenge for August!! Who's it going to be?!

While in Mexico, we had the opportunity to visit the glass factory in Cabo San Lucas. I've seen glass blowing before so that was no big deal, but it's still always nice to visit a local shop where you can see the artists at work and purchase their goods in support. You know the items are made right there on location, unlike a lot of the tourist shops where you might question the "authenticity".

What's also nice is that they use recycled, lead-free glass. I failed to get a snap shot, but out back they had piles and piles of broken glass collected from various sources. That's cool and another reason why I have no problem buying a few things. I'd rather get some nice Christmas presents for people from places like this than go out a week before Christmas and just CONSUME trying to find stuff at the mall. It's a lot more fun and thoughtful to collect things throughout the year as you come across them.

The facade of the building also showed a few nice examples of ways in which glass can be recycled without melting it down and blowing a beautiful vase. I loved how they embedded vases in the brick walls—some randomly placed and some more thoughtfully arranged—and used broken pieces in a mosaic floor. I really like the combination of the green glass with the terracotta grout.


greetings from Mexico

Apologies. I've been pretty absent. I've been on the road and it's just been hard to find time to sit down and post. Writing anything takes a bit of time and to say anything meaningful (I try not to bore you with my blab too much!), is even harder.

I have been taking note of things along the way, but I don't have much positive news to share with you. Yesterday, for instance, when lunch break came, we ordered food from the resort we were in, and it all came delivered in plastic containers. Bummer. I was hoping maybe they'd come with a silver buffet spread for us. :)

I did put all of the containers in a paper bag in the hopes that they have recycling there ...

Wow I'm exhausted. I am falling asleep. Will write more when possible. Swear I have a few things that just aren't down on paper yet!


Bad trip, bad.

Here I am in La Quinta, California. It's GORGEOUS! The mountains. The palms. THE HEAT. Wow, it's hot. 108 today. And I'm feeling awful. I have a pounding headache, I'm weak, tired and just plain DONE. I have been sleeping poorly and feeling out of it all week and last night didn't help. I didn't sleep at all. My landlords (who live upstairs) were out of town but left their teenage daughter home. So of course, ppppaaaarty time! Unfortunately it was just a bad coincidence that I needed to be up at 3:30AM for a 6AM flight. Needless to say, I really didn't sleep. And I'm not one to be able to sleep on planes. Especially planes with lots of crying babies. Which brings me to ask, WHY HASN'T ANYONE LAUNCHED A CHILD-FREE AIRLINE?!! I'm not a kid-hater, really, but there are child-free resorts, why not a child-free airline to get you there? I bet it would do really well. That's my million dollar idea of the day. Run with it.

The more I fly, the more snobby I get about it, I think. (Hey, I'm just being honest). You have to deal with so many people in such a tight space, delays, sitting time on planes, etc.. You really start to develop some strong preferences especially when it comes to where you prefer to sit and where you never want to sit again. On the second leg of my flight today, I sat in the back of the plane. Right next to where the attendants get all of the food/drink from and where the bathroom is. Good if you are demanding and want their attention, bad if you don't like people standing over you as they wait in line for the bathroom. Also, it's loud and apparently that's where they pack all of the crying babies. On top of that, you are supposed to board first, which means sitting on the plane while the rest of the plane boards, and you get off last. No matter where I'm sitting or what boarding "group" I'm in, I always wait until the very end to board. The less time in that small space with a couple hundred other people and their germs, the better.

So, let's do some trash talk. I have to say that this trip is pretty much in the landfill in terms of being trash-free. Between the tight scheduling, long days of photo shoots and limited number of people (means no one to cook "real" food for us), it's going to be a lot of ordering-in, take out, etc. On top of that, we have to shop for "props" such as flowers, fruit, veggies, wine, etc. But there's just no time for hunting down the local flower hut on the side of the road. If it comes up, great, but otherwise, it's Trader Joe's where things are wrapped in plastic. Even this evening we went to a grocery store and when it came time to bag things up, they used a million plastic bags. I cringed, but I'm not in charge and I at least asked if they had paper, but no one else seemed bothered by it. It's a real bummer but honestly, I'm not sure what else to do. Just in terms of being professional, I can't really throw my hands up and make a stink. It is what it is and I'll do what I can.

Anyway, when I left the house this morning (or whenever that was...), I brought fruit with me for the plane rides. That was great, but my 2nd flight was delayed and I ended up getting really hungry on the ride. I ordered the cheese & crackers & nuts snack for (gasp!) $4. I didn't save all of my trash from today, but I did decide to save the trash from this snack pack. The amount of packaging used for this little snack was just astounding. 1 paper package of raisins, 1 plastic package of nuts (waaaay oversalted), 1 plastic package of cheese, 2 separate plastic packages of crackers and then all of that was set in a plastic tray and enclosed in a plastic bag!

That's just a little much. This goes to show you how much the seemingly little things in life contribute to the trash scene in a big way.

And I love the irony of the trash on the perfectly manicured, green lawn in the middle of the desert.

I'm so sick of bean salad

I just wanted to share that. That's the problem with cooking for one. You end up having to eat the same thing for a week. I don't like beans that much.


Food for week 2

As previously mentioned, in preparation for this (and out of general curiosity/interest), I had signed up for Boston Organics and today I was to expect my first delivery. So when I left the house this morning, I put an empty cooler out on the porch and look what it was filled with by the time I got home! It's like Christmas ... in a very healthy and trash-free house (and with a very ugly kitchen floor).

I was sorta bummed that almost every thing had a sticker on it. I had thought that maybe they would be sticker-free since I think a lot of the stuff is (at least it's supposed to be) local.

And unfortunately, I just found out that I'll be going away for 9 days (unfortunate for the food, lucky for me) ... so most of this will probably be donated to the other two mouths in the house (not counting fruit flies).

Yeah so let me just panic for a quick sec about how those 9 days on the road—Boston to CA to AZ to Mexico to Boston—are gonna take a toll on my challenge. I'm anticipating some tough times. I have no idea where/how we will be eating, I'll be on planes half of the time and in residence homes (basically time shares - but empty right now) the other half of the time. And I'm not sure I feel like explaining to the kind gentlemen at the border of Mexico why I'm carrying a bag full of compost.

Any ideas?

Week 1 Trash

Wow I feel like I've been so absent! I've just had 2 really busy days.

Anyway, week 1 is officially over and I'm ready to present my trash to you. Unfortunately, yesterday was a really crazy day at work and I had a lot of stuff to present—which means generating trash. For those of you who don't know, I work in advertising as a designer. What that means, is that while I'm here blogging about ways to save the world by not using paper towels, I'm printing out pages and pages of brochures and other work. I'm the biggest tree killer ever! :(
It's hard to avoid, but I have been trying to be more conscious of how often I print and waiting until I absolutely have to see something on paper. The problem is that with type setting and colors and all of that—they look completely different on paper than they do on screen, so it really is necessary to check those things as you go along.

Well I'm sure what you're all waiting to see is my trash. So here it is: WEEK 1 — July 1-8.

So what's there? In a somewhat clockwise manner...
2 dryer sheets
1 paper wrapper from butter
2 clumps of plastic wrap (1 from watermelon, 1 from fruit fly trap attempt)
1 bag from Smoked Salmon - purchased prior to challenge
1 container with hair and polyester fuzz from the carpet in my room (the thing sheds worse than a cat) ... the hair is compostable but because it takes years and years to degrade, I chose not to add it to my compost because we might harvest the compost sometime before then and I'd prefer not to have clumps of hair throughout my dirt!
1 container from the coffee maker at work - coffee grounds are compostable and plastic container is recyclable, I just haven't pulled it apart yet
paper from back of stamp
5 bottlecaps
little yellow sticker - not sure from where
thing from bottom of raspberry container
bits of tape from failed fruit fly trap
1 cotton round
2 plastic straws
1 sticker wrapper from green onions
plastic closure from bag of sugar
bit of green stuff from sponge
plastic closure from heavy cream
1 q-tip
fruit stickers (i think i lost some)

And the garbage from making "comps" of my work:

we have a machine that puts sticky stuff on paper so that you can bind things together ...
and this is what's left after you take the paper off - waxy backing that I don't think is recyclable and plastic top sheet.

And 3 chicken drumsticks wrapped in foil (they had been in my fridge since before the challenge ... and were not good to keep or eat. These were put in the outside trash immediately)

Whatcha think?


End of day 5 & 6

{food images courtesy of kr}

I have some bad news to report. I was not good last night. I went out to Toro (much cuter than the ugly website would suggest) with my friend K and I forgot to bring a container with me to bring home food scraps. It's a Spanish tapas restaurant so we really didn't have that much food but I tried to keep a tally of what I had that was being tossed.
1 ear of corn (actually, 2 halves)
1 drumstick bone (which I can't compost anyway)
1 slice of lime
1 slice of lemon
1 clover (I know, random ... they put them in the sardine containers in which they put the mussels)

Not too bad, right? There were also a couple of straws that were put in my drinks and a napkin coaster laid out before I was able to say anything. It was really busy and I'm not sure the bartender would have been very amused. I did bring those home.

So what else have I been eating? The other day I made a three bean salad. I know this photo doesn't make it look very appetizing, but until I get a better camera, my phone will have to do. I promise it tastes better than it looks. Anyway, I had a can of garbanzo beans sitting in the pantry and figured I should use them. My friend L is always making bean salads so that was the first thing that came to mind. I knew it wouldn't make a lot of trash. And I was craving something with curry, so I Googled "Curry Bean Salad". The resulting find sounded decent, so I headed to the store. Thankfully, Harvest Coop allows you to buy individual pieces of celery. How cool is that?! I can never finish a whole bunch before it goes bad. I brought my own produce bags that I had saved from before the challenge began, as well as my own containers in case I bought anything from the bulk section.

This evening I made a cake and whipped cream—from scratch! I know it's not that big a deal, but I don't think I've done that since I lived at home and helped my mom make one. So probably 10 or more years ago. When I realized the recipe said to use parchment paper and I didn't have any and couldn't find any at the CVS or 711 down the street, I almost gave up. But I just kept thinking, if I don't make this, the strawberries are going to go bad again and I'm going to have to toss an entire carton of heavy cream (ok, so another exception to the no dairy thing ... maybe I should just call it lo-dairy). So I just buttered and floured the pan and it was fine. Trash from cake: paper wrapper from the butter & plastic thingy from opening the heavy cream (can you recycle that?)

And so the cake finally got made ... in the midst of battling an infestation of fruit flies. Yeap. Gross is right. I walked into the kitchen yesterday to a rotten smell emanating from the garbage can and fruit flies EVERYWHERE. I can tolerate a lot, but fruit flies, I cannot. They make me feel all creepie crawly. I really would have liked to have avoided it or had some help from a roommate, but no one was around and I couldn't let it get worse. So I had to take it upon myself to deal. First off, get the garbage can & bag OUT (none of which was my garbage!). Then I mopped the floor, cleaned the counters, the few dishes in the sink, etc. My friend K said to put out dishes of apple cider vinegar. So I tried that but the flies were just sitting around the dish as if it was a lazy afternoon at the local pool. So I Googled "get rid of fruit flies" (what would I ever do without Google?), and found some helpful hints. I now have three traps set in the kitchen and am hoping they work by morning.

The point in sharing that fabulous adventure was that I did make some trash in the process of trying to get rid of these things. I'm sorry, but that was #1 priority. I have some pieces of tape from the first trap I made that didn't work out so well. And after these traps have done their job, I'll have some plastic wrap to add to my week 1 box.

I don't think this challenge is about beating yourself up over every little thing. I think it's mostly about being mindful/paying greater attention to some areas of your trash-making life that you might be able to be more in control over. It's about not accepting that you have to buy things packaged in loads of plastic and styrofoam and paper because that's what's most convenient and conventional, but finding alternatives that can fit into your lifestyle.

Disposable Razors

I have a ton of work I have to catch up on today because it's all due tomorrow ~ eek! But I had an email from my Uncle this morning and in it, he mentioned the trouble with disposable razors. The EPA estimates that over 2 billion disposable razors end up in landfills every year in the US. So before I go, I wanted to leave you with a solution. If you don't already, at least get a razor with a reusable handle (so all you have to buy is the blades)—a much better option than purchasing those plastic bags of 10 disposables. Plus, the quality is usually much better.

For men, you could go old-school and use one of those "Straight" razors that they use in real barbershops with the double edge blades and use natural soaps and creams. And I'm guessing you just resharpen the blade? Sounds like a cool way to go. Revive a lost art. Maybe a little dangerous? Here's an article on shaving with a Straight razor from Mother Earth News. And if you need a "how to" video, check out YouTube, there are plenty.

So I'll leave you with this product that I found when I was searching for biodegradable cutlery. It's made by Preserve and the handle is made from 100% recycled plastic and you can return them for recycling using their postage-paid label. They use them to make plastic lumber for park benches, decks and more.

I was surprised to find that these razors are available all over the place. In the Boston area, Whole Foods, Trader Joes, Crate & Barrel, Shaw's, Stop & Shop, Roche Brothers and Harvest Co-op are all distributors.

I guess you still have the issue of throw-away blades with that option.

Oh and I haven't mentioned electric razors ... that's because they suck up electricity. Most stay plugged in 24/7. Consider giving up on that fix :)

Laundry day

I did some laundry today and ran into a couple things I wasn't sure what to do with. First, the dryer lint. Is it compostable? Most places say it is. If you use fabric softeners, you should try to use environmentally friendly ones so that you aren't contaminating your fabric with all sorts of chemicals. Of course this goes for your laundry detergent as well. That way your lint will be chemical-free and OK for the compost. If you'd rather get creative with it, start saving it up to be re-used in one of these ways:

1. Dryer Lint Clay
(adapted from
PlanetPals, where you can also get recipes for dryer lint papier mache and paper)
2 cups firmly packed dryer lint
1/3 cup warm water
6 tablespoons white glue
1 tablespoon clear dishwashing liquid
food coloring

Put lint into a mixing bowl
Add other ingredients and mix thoroughly.
When you can no longer mix, knead with hands until you get uniform texture.
Have fun!

2. Fire starter
Going camping this summer? Anticipating a long, cold winter? Lint is a great fire starter. Stuff it into empty toilet paper tubes and use them to get your next fire going strong. Or, even better, stuff an empty egg carton (the paper kind, not plastic ...) with lint and pour in candle wax. You can then break off sections as you need them. Sure beats hunting for enough kindling to get your fire roaring.

3. Support nest building
This tip, from the "official dryer lint page" is my favorite. They suggest hanging pieces of dryer lint in trees in the springtime for birds to use in building nests! I can only imagine my neighbors watching me climb a ladder to hang lint in a tree.

4. Donate your lint to The National Lint Project
And you'll get it returned to you sculpted into some sort of creature. Yeah ... you should just check it out for yourself.

The other thing I didn't know what to do with was my dryer sheets. The typical sheets are not compostable. They are actually filled with tons of toxic chemicals. Little did you know. Not good for you or for the environment. BUT there are some on the market that are. Look into Sun & Earth and Mrs. Meyer's.

If you want something really posh, check out The Laundress. At $16.00 for a box of 40, they must be pretty amazing.

Or you could just hang dry everything. For some of us, this isn't very feasible. I live with 2 other people and I'm guessing they wouldn't be thrilled to have me airing my laundry (dirty or not) all over the house.

In terms of laundry detergent, there are tons of environmentally-friendly options out there now. Walk into any generic grocery store and you should be able to find at least a few to choose from. But this is one cool idea I'm betting most people haven't heard of yet. It will be neat to see if the idea gets picked up anywhere around here. Does anyone have one in a store near them? Apparently there are a lot of places in Minnesota where you can find them. Anyway, what I'm blabbing about is this company ReStore that has designed a "Refill Station" for their products. Not only are their products environmentally-friendly, but you can bring the container back to the store and refill it at the station and receive a discount.


Day 4, 5

Hope everyone had a great 4th! I had a really nice evening viewing the spectacular fireworks display from an apartment overlooking the Boston Esplanade. It was the perfect perch, away from all of the crowds and with a front & center view { thanks to C for the invite }. Photo is actually from a couple years ago, viewing from the back deck at work. This time we were much closer. Ok, I'll stop bragging :)

But it was a challenge for me in terms of creating no trash. It's definitely hard when you're surrounded by plastic cups and paper plates and napkins and people who don't necessarily know what you're up to. Where if you misplace your cup, you just grab a new one. Where the host doesn't know you and you're not familiar with the place and don't want to make a spectacle of yourself. I actually brought a paper bag (reused from before the challenge began) with ingredients for mojitos ... which I was craving. Fresh mint from my garden in a tupperware container, organic cane sugar in a tupperware container, limes in a recycled produce bag, light rum and club soda. I also brought a cloth napkin, just in case.

The drinks I made were great but I had to make them in plastic Solo cups. Bummer. I would have brought cups with me but all we have are glass. But I brought all of the limes and mint home that were leftover in my cup in order to compost them (can you compost rum-soaked limes??). I also brought the recyclable cup home. But to be honest, I ended up with an extra plastic bag because my friend J packed the supplies up to bring home - the paper bag had ripped - and he didn't fully appreciate my mission at that moment :) But at the same time, the plastic bag was one that had been saved to be reused and will be reused again ... so at least it will see an extended life beyond just one use.

Earlier yesterday:
I went to make a strawberries and cream cake that I had wanted to make for a get-together last weekend but never had time ... but the strawberries were moldy. I know, I feel guilty because I bought two pints at Harvest Coop last Sunday and they both went bad and all of them have ended up in the compost. I don't think Harvest is the place to buy berries. I think that when I purchased them, they were already getting soft.

Anyway, I can't believe I haven't even been doing this for a week yet. It feels longer! On Tuesday, I'll give an overview of the trash I've been accumulating. I'm happy to report that there isn't much so far. BUT I know I need to buy a new camera—just a little point and shoot—and that will have packaging. I don't know how you can avoid that one. The risk involved with purchasing a used one is just too great. Plus if you order it from someone on Ebay, there's still packaging. Sometimes it's even much worse than if you just bought it locally because they overcompensate to be sure nothing gets damaged.
Speaking of Ebay, I won this tray last week. So I'm anticipating it will arrive early next week, probably packed in box full of styrofoam peanuts. I ordered it because we have this giant dish drainer from IKEA that I thought was going to be fabulous, but it didn't come with two important dish drainer elements: a utensil holder and a tray to catch the water. It's a little awkward but I'm determined to make it work! I don't want to spend another $20 on a new one.


How to have a green, trash-free party PART 1

This topic has been on my mind for a bit. How does one invite people over for a casual get-together while still being conscious of what you are consuming/wasting, etc.? You don't want to be the Big Green Monster in the room, and scare off all of your friends with images of sharing a veggie BBQ, on the ground, eating with your hands.

That doesn't have to be the case.
So let's start with the PLASTICWARE { Each year, 40 billion polystyrene utensils are thrown into landfills } The plasticware is a tough one. If you're planning on having a large amount of guests, chances are, you don't have that much silverware. So I have a few solutions you could try in order to avoid purchasing a giant box of plastic pieces that will just be trashed at the end of the celebration.

1. Go to your local thrift store and buy up the random pieces of flatware. You're already out grocery shopping, just add one more stop onto your list of things to do! You can hold on to these for years to come and dig them out whenever you have another party—or re-donate! Yeah, sure you have to wash them at the end of the day, but most of you are probably using dishwashers anyway, right? I don't have one, but a few minutes soaking in the sink is worth it. AND, you can use the eclectic look of mixed silverware to your advantage in decorating. Or, if you want a more cohesive look, maybe think about tying small ribbons around each piece!

2. Ask a few friends if you can borrow their flatware. I guess it depends on how fancy their stuff is and how friendly you really are ;) but if you borrow just a few different sets from different people, you'll know whose is whose at the end of the day.

3. If you ever order food delivery, you might also get packaged sets of plasticware (often with napkins). Start saving them! Then you can use them for times like this.

If you're not feeling those options, another choice would be to purchase new, more durable ware that can be reused time and time again. While this might cost more up-front, you'll save in the long run because you won't have to buy for the next party. The image shown here features cutlery, plates & cups by the company Preserve and they are reusable (dishwasher safe) and recyclable. I think I favor this option over #5 because while #5 is biodegradable, it's a given that you'll be tossing it after 1 use and the energy it takes to create so much new product might outweigh the biodegradable factor. But any of these are favorable to using throw-away plastic.

Look into biodegradable/compostable cutlery. There are many options in this category and they are all very sturdy. Some are made from potato starch and vegetable oil, others from Bamboo and I think some are even made from sugar cane! Pretty cool stuff. You might have to buy bulk, but just hold on to the excess for next time, or give to a friend.

Day 3 and bottle caps

Today has been an uneventful day in my world of trying not to make trash (but that's a good thing, right?). I have been living off of what I've had in the fridge so I really haven't even had to buy much. I did finish off a container of blueberries this morning, but that is recyclable. I haven't had lunch yet and I didn't make any trash last night either. Oh actually, I had a beer. Are beer caps recyclable? Does anyone know? I don't think they are, but here are a few (albeit perhaps bizarre) ways in which you can reuse them (courtesy of an article on eHow).

1. Make a homemade mud scraper. Cut out a piece of plywood (or use a left over piece from another project) in whatever size you desire. Nail bottle caps side by side with the flat, smooth side down. Cover the board. Now you have a great mud scraper to clean your boots and shoes off on. Just hose it down to clean. Nail bottle caps to a hand sized block of wood, fluted side up. Hold it in the palm of your hand to scale fish.

2. (I actually like this idea!) Get 16 each of two different kinds of bottle caps and use them as checkers. You can paint them red and black or whatever colors you like but they look really neat left alone, too.

3. Cut tiny pictures to glue inside the caps. Then cover them well with glue and let them dry. Glue a small magnet to the flat side and use them as refrigerator magnets. Put holiday pictures in them and drill a tiny hold at the top and hang them as mini Christmas ornaments.

Or maybe you can donate them to this company that uses them to make fishing lures ...

Though I find the large amount of plastic packaging a bit ironic ... Why even go through all the trouble to use recycled beer caps and then put the product in a mess of plastic? This often seems to be the case with recycled product. Seems to be more about being able to say on the package that your product is recycled than it is thinking about the thing as a whole—cradle to grave.


Trash to Treasure II

I wanted to build upon one of Dayva's previous posts about found apartment furnishings, because I too, have furnished pretty much my entire apartment with stuff from Craigslist, other thrift/vintage stores, estate sales or found for free.

My Mom owns a consignment shop in Connecticut and I spent a lot of time there when I was growing up—from the days I spent in a crib by my Mom's side as she worked, to my days as a teenager earning some money working for her. So I guess the whole thrifting thing is in my blood! But really, there is something so rewarding about finding those treasures. It just doesn't feel the same when you go into IKEA. Even the IKEA table I have, I purchased from someone on Craigslist! And not to mention that it gives you a good story. But the dig definitely takes some dedication, an eye for the diamond in the midst of a lot of cubic zirconia or at least a willingness to take a risk on something, patience in putting it all together and maybe even doing some refinishing touches of your own. And if you're like me and you don't have a car, a Zipcar membership can be your best friend.

Shown here is a photo of my living room ... the only things bought new in this room were the curtains, the rug, the 6 black frames on the wall and a couple other small accessories. The couch was a street find—as in FREE—because the neighbors threw it to the curb when they were moving out. The turquoise coffee table and orange chair were Craigslist finds. The small table by the window and the vintage credenza were both my grandmother's. And the art in the center of the wall above the couch was also free from a different neighbor!

This is another favorite Craigslist find and a great conversation piece. Everyone who comes into our house comments on this lamp. Unfortunately this isn't the best photo of it (in an old apartment), but it's a vintage arc lamp. Part teak with a marble base.

Lastly, for now, a set of mid-century chairs that were my grandmother's and which I gave new life with a very simple re-upholstery job. While I really lucked out in getting these free, you can find stuff like this any day on Craigslist or in a variety of other places. Page down for some more resources. To the right, a lamp found at Boomerang's, a Jamaica Plain thrift shop. I've since changed out the shade for a more simple, modern one (without pleats). Small changes like that cost very little and can make a big difference.

Resources (I'll add more later - all my bookmarks are on a different computer):
Machine Age
Cambridge Antique Market
Salvation Army

The Evil Paper Towel Dispenser

This is a tough one. I keep coming really close to reaching for that paper towel after washing my hands. Perfect example of one of those hidden habits I need to break during this challenge. So from now on I'm going to picture this:

And imagine slapping one of these These Come From Trees guerrilla public service announcement stickers right on there:

And think of this cool ambient public service message done by Saatchi & Saatchi for the WWF:

"To make people realize that saving the planet starts with them saving paper, we took a standard paper dispenser and made a simple modification with green foil and the silhouette of South America. This allowed us to prove that the survival of the forest is directly connected to what people consume."

Equally bad is that roll of paper towels you have in the kitchen. We had stopped using them around here until recently when I accidentally bought a package thinking it was toilet paper. But if they're not there, you can't use them! So replace them with reusable towels. We have about 6 that we keep hanging out in the kitchen. Once one seems dirty, it gets thrown into a pile by the washing machine for the next load. In terms of cleanliness, there is no indication that using individual paper towels is cleaner than reusing cloth. Just try to be somewhat hygienic in the ways you use them!

Day 1 tally

My garbage can here at work at the end of Day 1. Empty. Yay! Thankfully I didn't have to print much. SUPPOSEDLY, they recycle here. The building management says that even though they put everything into one can when collecting at the end of the day, they actually separate it down in the basement ... UH HUH, right. Not sure I believe that, so I'm going to have to take my printouts home with me to recycle.

I did make a little trash last night. I had purchased half of a watermelon this past weekend for a BBQ, but it didn't get eaten. I cut it up last night but it was wrapped in plastic wrap that really wasn't reusable. So that and the cotton pad are the first things to go in my Week 1 garbage box.

Day 2: I arrived to work this morning to find that the strawberries I bought this weekend have already gone moldy. So now I have to hold on to them & bring them home to throw in the compost. Sad. So I made a trip to Shaw's (I KNOW, I should have bought at the Farmer's Market, but I didn't know until today that my fruit was bad), paper bag in hand (I have a bag of old paper and plastic bags at my desk that I reuse - in case I don't have a tote) to pick up some new fruit, almond milk and some chocolate (70% or more cocoa content, organic dark—surprise! it's good for you—a great antioxidant as well as many other health benefits).

This morning I also remembered to bring some cloth napkins and a set of silverware with me to work to keep at my desk. I also brought a spare bread knife because I have a loaf of Iggy's bread here that I've been having a difficult time slicing!

So this is the breakfast scene at my desk pretty much every day (I'm NOT a morning person so I usually have breakfast when I get to work). Everyone is always commenting on how fancy my meals look. I think it just looks colorful because I like a variety of fruit - peaches, strawberries, raspberries & blueberries. I always hear people complaining about the price of fruit, which yeah, it's not cheap - but neither is buying a breakfast sandwich at Dunkin every morning. I think I just spent less than $8 on all of it and it should last the rest of the week. The granola is from the Harvest Coop. I purchased it from the bulk section, using a plastic container which I will reuse—either to purchase more, or as tupperware. I also don't really drink dairy anymore (though I haven't been able to completely give up on cheese), so I use almond milk which comes in recyclable cartons. It's really good for you, contains more calcium than milk and tastes great! Check out Michelle's post over at Does A Body Good for more info on that sort of stuff, because I'm not an expert.