Author: mkhuber

My Xmas Gifts Were (Mostly) Made in Chicago

I haven’t been to the mall for any of my Christmas shopping (I did purchase a few things on Amazon though, not going to lie).

Actually, most of it got done at the Chicago Plumbers Hall…

…which is where the Made in Chicago Market is held.

made in chicago market2

Everything there was handmade in Chicago, so it made picking out gifts super easy because I knew where they were coming from. They were not shipped over from China. They were painstakingly made by hand by artisans in my own city.

Made in chicago market1

After an initial lap, I started to formulate gift ideas in my head. Of course, I cannot discuss any of my purchases here because some of my most dedicated readers are the recipients!

This season, not only did I find unique items, but my purchases helped an individual maybe make ends meet, or provided the capital for improvements to their business.

It is a win-win situation.

If you missed the Made in Chicago market, there are still plenty of Chicago holiday markets running from now until Christmas. Which ones will you go to?

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Chicago Confronts Climate Issues

Most Sunday nights in December you will find me in comfy clothes and huddled inside.

This past Sunday, however, I pulled myself from my cozy couch, got dressed, and went to the Field Museum.

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I have not been to the Field Museum since elementary school, but I was not going to see Sue or King Tut, I was going to meet up with a community of people concerned about climate change.

The Chicago Community Climate Forum brought together over 60 organizations and OVER 2,000 PEOPLE in the climate movement.

 

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Chris Wheat, Chicago’s Chief Sustainability Officer

 

This gathering preceded Monday and Tuesday’s 2017 North American Climate Summit, where over 50 mayors came together to discuss climate change on a local level here in Chicago.

 

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Packed hall listening to great speakers

 

For the public gathering on Sunday, a plethora of speakers and performers provided a dialogue on what we can do on a local and community level. Afterwards, there was an opportunity to mingle and network, as well as sign the Chicago Agreement on Climate & Community (which you can sign here.)

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Overall, it was a really moving experience. Sometimes, especially with this administration, it can feel very frustrating and the future can look dismal. But seeing the passion and drive of all the attendees on Sunday calmed my anxious heart a bit.

Chicago is defiant.

Chicago is strong.

And Chicago will show the nation and the world that just because this country is is the only one IN THE WORLD that has not signed the Paris Agreement, we will persevere.

The 5 R’s

Back in the day, it was just the 3 R’s: reduce, reuse, recycle.

3 r's

I know this because I did a science project about it in 6th grade and decorated it with puffy paint.

But since then, 2 new R’s have been added to the spectrum: refuse and rot.

There are other R’s that people add such as repair and repurpose, but I kinda lump those under reuse, so I am going to leave those out for now.

The best way to visualize the 5’s is in an inverted pyramid, with our biggest, most common actions on top, leading down to what we should be doing the least at the very bottom.

So at the top of this inverted pyramid, we have our number one way to avoid waste and that is Refuse. Saying no is the number one way to keep stuff out of the landfill. I talked about this recently in my 10 Most Overlooked Ways to Reduce Waste post. Saying no keeps those items from entering our lives in the first place, be they straws, food packaged in plastic, or freebies. Collectively saying no, and therefore decreasing demand, also can spur change.

After we have refused all the bad stuff (excessive packaging, food that’s grown far away, etc.) it is time to focus on what we do have and use, and then Reduce it. Don’t go out to eat for lunch every day or cut back on buying new clothes.

Now we have a curated list of items that we own and use. Sometimes those items will break, need some fixing or their original purpose becomes unnecessary. This is where Reuse (and repair and repurpose) comes it. Turn that old dresser into a jazzed up TV stand. Unleash your inner DIY goddess.

Now we get into the last resort part of the pyramid. If we cannot Refuse, Reduce, or Reduce something, then the next place it should head is into your compost bin to Rot.

Who knew that many years after middle school I actually would be composting!

Pictures

But plastic is not compostable, so any milk jugs and glass bottles (that you have not already refused and reused) should then be Recycled. Notice that recycling is pretty far down the list.

It definitely is not as far as the very last option of the Landfill, the place where your trash goes on to live forever. I love when trash cans are labeled with “landfill.” It helps you think before you toss that your gum wrapper is going to head to a giant hole in the ground and not to this fantasy land of “away.”

 

What is in a landfill?

Not sure this information is accurate anymore…

 

And that’s the 5 R’s (+ Landfill)! Here is an example of one piece, say a magazine, going through each step of the pyramid.

  • Refuse: You are offered a free magazine subscription that you politely decline
  • Reduce: You still love reading physical magazines (and if you do, that is great! You do you!) so you cut back on how many you subscribe to and get the rest online.
  • Reuse: After reading the magazine, you cut out the pages to decoupage a DIY project or use the pages as padding material for your Christmas ornaments.
  • Rot: When your done with your DIY projects, you add it to your compost pile or bucket
  • Recycle: If you don’t have access to composting, you toss the magazine in the recycling bin.
  • Landfill: If you don’t do any of the above things…

 

Twist Ties to Avoid Tangles

I have noticed retailers are selling these things that keep your headphones from getting tangled. They are especially being pushed on gift guides this year as stocking stuffers.

That’s cool and all, but we don’t need to be sold another product.

Open your kitchen drawer.

Use what you have.

headphones

I have a TON of twist ties laying around and I use them for everything. Both sets of headphones are controlled by them and I use a stretched out hair tie to corral another charger cord.

The point here is, look around your house and see what you can use before adding one of those things to your shopping cart.

 

Thanks A Bunch

Most of the time it is other people that get in the way of and inhibit living a life with less waste.

BUT there are also the people who encourage you, listen when you are rambling about compost or send you articles they think you’d find interesting.

So in honor of Thanksgiving, I want to thank all those encouragers and listeners in my life.

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Thank you to my Mom for being an avid reader, always liking my Facebook posts, and being interested in what I am writing. I will forgive you for brushing it off every time I tell you that I am going to build you a compost bin in your backyard.

Thank you to my Dad who has contributed to a lot of my DIY  projects when I need help or materials.

Thank you to my Aunt MM who replies to my posts with great enthusiasm about how she is making changes or how she has been using cloth napkins for ages! Also for teaching me about haggling and getting a great deal at garage sales. Some of our recent purchases together are below:

Thank you to my friend Julie for calling me the other day to tell me she was going to purchase non-toxic nail polish and for sending me new blog ideas.

Thank you to my friend Britni and her husband Eric for appeasing me on a ski trip by picking up trash and always holding myself accountable.

Thank you to my friend Nina for starting her own compost bin in her backyard.

Thank you to K’s friends who read the blog specifically to make fun of K for composting. You’re still talking about composting and I call that a win!

A huge thank you to all my other friends, family, and readers who have sent me articles, comments on my posts, shared a story with me or told me how much you like reading my blog.

 

Thank You!!!

 

FancyFlip Wedding Resale Event

The other week I stood in line for over half an hour with my mom and my future mother in law waiting to get in a hotel ballroom.

At 1:30 on the dot, we rushed in, scanned the room, and ran over to the nearest vendor.

Fancyflip

We were attending FancyFlip a traveling wedding resale event. Those who just got married can get a booth and resell their stuff, and those who are future brides and grooms can buy it!

There were some great booths with some awesome goods! From signs to tablecloths and fake flowers to candles, there were so my options!

The best part is that there are brides who were in the same position you are currently in. They provided advice and suggestions on how they used their items.

Another bonus were the fantastic prices! People just wanted to get rid of their stuff and most likely get it out of their basement. The sellers were motivated to sell!

We ended up leaving with the following:

  • Table numbers from vintage picture frames
  • A dessert bar sign
  • Kraft paper bags for hotel guests
  • A seating chart frame
  • 2 Easels

We made some awesome deals and I can’t wait to turn around next year and sell it again!

10 Most Overlooked Ways to Reduce Waste: Part 2

Welcome to Part 2!

If you missed Part 1, you can check that out here.

10 most overlooked ways to reduce waste.p2

Let’s get right into it.

#5 Vote with Your $$$

Every time you purchase something, you are contributing to its demand. This is simple economics.

Put your money towards products and companies that you believe in. If it is important to you that your items are produced using renewable energy, then support companies that do.

For instance, there is a fair trade shop just around the corner from our apartment and it is currently struggling, so after work today I popped in and used my dollars to buy wool dryer balls and Bee’s Wrap. My dollars did not just get me faster-drying clothes in the dryer but they made a statement that I support these kinds of shops and want them in my neighborhood.

Resources:

#6 Your Pantry and Fridge

Open your fridge.

Now open your pantry.

How much of the stuff in there is going to end up in the trash can/landfill? I am not just talking about food packaging and wrappers, but food waste too.

Keep this in mind when you are at the grocery store. I am not asking you to only shop in the bulk aisle of Whole Foods, but just start noticing.

Once you do it is hard to shake it.

 

CSA week 7

Joining a CSA helped us cut down on packaged produce, but sometimes we still received things in plastic. 

 

Resources for Cutting Back on Packaging:

#7 Wait it Out

When I find something that I want (not need), I bookmark it in my browser under a folder called “Things I Want to Buy.”

And then I leave it there for days, weeks, and months.

If I am still thinking about it long after I saved it, then I will consider it further. If not then it gets deleted, and to be honest, not many things have survived the “Things I Want to Buy” folder.

Basically, avoid impulse buys by having a waiting period for each item. You might find that you didn’t like it as much as you thought, or get home and realize you already have 5 black sweaters.

Resources:

#8 Put Some Effort into What You Already Have

Did something break? Then fix it.

Do your jeans have a hole in them? Sew them.

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The #8 overlooked way to create less waste is also known simply as taking care of your stuff! Wash and dry clothing according to the directions. Store equipment in the proper place. Use a coaster. Give your car regular maintenance. Fix the soles of your shoes when they have worn through.

Putting a little extra effort or elbow grease will make your stuff live a longer life.

Resources: 

#9 Buy Secondhand/Previously Loved

If you’ve followed this blog, you know that the majority of our furniture is secondhand. Everything pictured below has either come from Craigslist, a garage sale, or family/friends.

Not only is it way cheaper than buying anything new, but it keeps pieces out of the landfill. Beyond furniture, I do have some pieces of clothes that are secondhand, but the majority of my wardrobe is not. It is something I am working on.

Resources to get your secondhand shopping on:

#10 Don’t Give into Trends

The fashion world likes to tell us that we need new styles of clothing every few months. If it is not the 70’s bell sleeves, the chokers, or those “cold shoulder” shirts, it will be something else tomorrow. That way you can buy, buy, buy.

Don’t give into that crap. You don’t need any of it. I like to think that the clothes I purchase will be something I wear for a long time, so I stay away from trends and keep my closet pretty neutral.

Whatever the next ridiculous trend is, pass on it, and just wear your regular sweater that covers your shoulders with pride!

More Resources:

 

What else would you add to the list?

10 Most Overlooked Ways to Reduce Waste: Part 1

Millennials love lists, according to my friend Julie, and she requested I put this list together.

This list is not going to tell you to use a refillable water bottle and reusable bags. Those things are on pretty much every list about going green, but come on, we can do better than that.

So I present to you:

10 most overlooked ways to reduce waste.p1 (1)

#1 Choose Quality

In life these days, we are inundated with cheap, cheap crap (and by crap I usually mean plastic) on Amazon, in the line at the store, and basically everywhere. We are enticed by the price, make a purchase, and within some short amount of time, that piece of crap breaks or gets worn out.

Into the landfill, it goes, where it will exist until, well forever.

We can avoid this by choosing more quality pieces when we make a purchase. When going for quality there are a number of things you want to look out for:

  • What is it made from? Choose materials that are known for their longevity like stainless steel or solid wood.
  • Who made it? A local craftsman puts time and hard work into their products.
  • What is the guarantee? Look for companies that have lifetime guarantees and will take back or fix your purchases.
  • Price? Yes, upfront it may cost more, but in the long run, it is something you will not have to replace.

Resources for making quality purchases:

#2 Your Lunch

First of all, don’t buy lunch.

Bring your own. Yes, pack up your lunch in the morning or the night before and bring it to work. I do it every single day.

But everything you bring doesn’t need to be destined for a Ziploc bag tossed in the trash. Make some investments (or go secondhand or use what you already have) in reusable pieces that you can pack your meal in every day.

Resources for a less wasteful lunch:

#3 Say No/Don’t Take Stuff You Don’t Need

This one is really easy, but also really hard at the same time. Sometimes it is difficult to say no to people, but a simple “No, thank you,” should suffice in most situations when you are offered useless (but sometimes useful) stuff.

You are not required to take anything from anyone. If you have no use for something, just don’t take it. Don’t feel obligated in any way.

Here are some common situations where you can be offered stuff you don’t necessarily want:

  • Dentist (You can accept another roll of floss when you finish the one from 3 years ago)
  • Conferences (water bottles, magnets, pens, notepads, etc.)
  • Races (shirts, water bottles, drawstring bags, etc.)
  • Generic events (tote bags, glasses, hats, pens, etc.)
  • Sporting events (magnets, calendars, t-shirts, bobbleheads, etc.)

ALL of those things are the first to go when you declutter. You know I am right. 

Resources to say no:

#4 The Bathroom/Beauty Routine

Bathrooms can be a haven for where body lotions go to die in the back of the cabinet.

The first step is to take stock of what you have versus what you actually use and need. From there, swap out disposables for reusable items.

Easy and not so scary swaps:

 

cotton rounds

My washable cotton rounds

Resources for taking it a step further:

#5 Limit Online Shopping

Yes, Amazon Prime is amazing, but everything you order on the world wide web comes with packaging, and usually, it is excessive packaging.

I for one would rather shop in a brick and mortar store where I can see the quality of an item, and I can touch it and feel it. When buying online, despite how many reviews you read, you aren’t quite sure what you are going to get when you open the overly packaged box.

One thing I try to do is see if an item I am looking for is available at a nearby store for pickup. When shopping online, a lot of clothing stores let you see if your item and size is available at specific locations. You can reserve it right then and there. No shipping involved.

Resources:

 

Stay tuned this week for part 2!

No Need for Pretty Wrapping Paper

You won’t find rolls of pretty wrapping paper in this house.

Wrapping paper and gift wrap for me include a pile of the Trib’s comics section.

the funnies

And a bag full of gift bags and tissue paper that was previously given to me.

bag of tissue paper

If I am handing you a present in a gift bag,  there is a 100% chance that it was given to me by someone else.

It is just silly to pay for something that is going to get ripped up and thrown out! Thus why I ranted about it last Christmas too.

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I get it. That cohesive look of presents wrapped in a glossy wrapping is Pinterest worthy.

But what I do not get is why anyone would throw out a perfectly good gift bag. They can be used infinitely until they rip!

I keep every single one I receive. And every one will be used again. And hopefully again (I am looking at you people I am giving gifts to! Do your duty!).

Spammed by Environmental Orgs.

Last year, we donated to Sierra Club post-election.

Which is great and all until you consider how much mail we get from them and now every other environmental organization under the sun (that’s an exaggeration, but it feels like it).

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Not only do we get constant mail from the Sierra Club, but also the Nature Conservancy, National Wildlife Federation, EarthJustice, World Wildlife Fund, and Heifer International.

We have more return address labels than one could possibly use in a lifetime, and plenty of stickers, calendars, and notepads have shown up in our mailbox.

While I support these organizations, I do not support their ridiculous mailing campaigns.

Isn’t it funny that an organization devoted to our environment would waste so much on mailings?

That an organization focused on conserving resources is shoving them into our mailbox?

I have already covered stopping generic junk mail and it is no different with these organizations. I will now be individually contacting each one to ask to be removed from their mailing list, not because I don’t back what they do, but because I don’t want their spam filling up my recycling bin. #Sorrynotsorry