I scoured the web to find ideas on what to do with my growing mound of newspaper – besides the obvious recycling.   Here are a few ideas, some useful, some fun. 

Fireplace logs – winter is coming and instead of buying pre-made fireplace logs, make your own from discarded newspaper (or I suppose any paper you have around the house – could be a good option for junk mail!).  http://familycrafts.about.com/cs/homecrafts/a/blhglogs.htm

Made beads for necklaces, bracelets, earrings or just for fun –  These beads have a very earthy quality. It looks like a great project for those long winter days with tween girls at home.  http://www.astorybooklife.com/how-to/paper-beads/

Newspaper structures – I just stumbled on this fun project, create structures out of newspapers. http://pepperpaints.com/2008/05/13/newspaper-hut/   I am going to enlist my husband, the structural engineer, and our son for a day of structure building!

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Reduce Waste

February 14, 2008

Americans consume a lot.  We also waste a lot with enormous landfills and barges sent out to sea with our trash to end up somewhere else, just not here. 

I have one challenge for each of you.  Reduce waste.  Think about what you buy, the packaging it comes in and how you can either do with out it or figure out how to reuse it.

Some ideas:

Find a recycle center in your area.  Our municipal recycling is limited and time consuming.  We use it but we also use a separate recycle center called Ecology Action that accepts far more recyclables with a lot less work.  Our muni recycling will only take 1 & 2 plastic in bottle shapes, Ecology Action will take all 1 & 2 packaging such as the fruit packing berries come in as well as unbound cardboard, newspaper, phone books, cell phones, and pressed cardboard like cereal boxes.   We keep bins in our garage and just throw the stuff in it.  When it is time to make a run, we combine it with another errand in the same area or we use it as an opportunity to go out to lunch and enjoy an afternoon in the city.   My son loves this, he has such a great time sorting the recyclables and making sure everything gets where it needs to go.

Re-use glass jars.  Sure you can recycle glass – it is the most widely accepted recyclable material but it still takes resources through energy to recycle anything.   You can recycle by finding alternative uses for those pickle jars or spaghetti jars.   I like to store beans and rice in them.  They also work well to sort nails, screws and bolts in our garage.  My son uses them to hold treasures like seashells and sand from various beach vacation.   If you have found a jar for every use you can think of, list them on your local Freecycle or Craigslist and send them on to someone who could use them.

Find alternatives to paper.  A tree had died to give you every bit of new paper you use.  If you need “new” paper, buy 100% post-consumer recycled paper.  Wrap gifts in nice bits of fabric or reuse those gift bags that you get.  My family has been passing around the same Christmas gift bags for five years now! 

Spend a little more money to buy quality or look for real wood used furnishings that can be restored.  Quality furniture, hopefully made from wood grown in a sustainably managed forest, will last far longer than cheap particle board wood type furniture and will ultimately reduce what finds its way into a landfill.   I tend to look at garage sales for quality wood furniture that, while not immediately attractive, can be remade into something beautiful.  I have restored a Mission Style Spindle Bed, a few free chairs that were in good shape except the upholstery was ruined, and a few tables.   My sister and I make decorating our homes on the cheap with quality a game and we help each other restoring our finds.  It gives us time spent together and helps us build and maintain our relationship while also creating beautiful homes. 

Reducing waste is definitely a simple life virtue.  First, doing without but also ensuring you use what you buy and leave as little behind as possible.

Do you pick the fruit?

July 16, 2007

One of my frugal/simple/organic message boards is having a review.   Simple/ecological living acts are designated as fruit and embarking on the simple/light lifestyle you begin by picking the low hanging fruit and moving up the tree as you get more comfortable.  Have you reached the top of the tree?  I am proud to say we have.   I have placed an asterisk next to the things we do to be more simple, ecologically friendly.  We do a lot but we could clearly do more.

Low Hanging Fruit

  • Bring your own reusable bags to the grocery store*
  • use reusable containers rather than plastic bags or ziploc bags*
  • shop at a local farmer’s market to reduce petrol use in shipping food to your grocery store*
  • shop once a week*
  • increase ac temp/lower heat temp*
  • use compact florescent bulbs*
  • shop thrift stores and second hand when purchasing items*
  • Install a clothes line*
  • Drink out of one cup during the day, refilling it as necessary*
  • ditch bottled water, fill a pitcher in the fridge for quick access to cold water*
  • wear clothes more than once*

Medium Hanging Fruit

  • Plan car trips for maximum efficiency*
  • bike/use public transportation for work
  • have a producing garden*
  • mow lawn with reel mower
  • replace grass with native plants to reduce water and work* – in progress
  • compost kitchen scraps*
  • install gutters/rain barrels to collect rain water

Top of the Tree

  • buy appliances with high energy star rating*
  • install solar panels
  • install tankless water heaters
  • install solar powered water heater
  • buy a Prius
  • telecommute to work*
  • switch to front loading washer*
  • move closer to work