Reuse / Upcycle

Why Use Towels That Go In The Trash When You Can Use Towels That Can Go In The Washer?

How many rolls of paper towels do you use a year?

We probably only buy 3-4 rolls of paper towels and reserve them for particularly messy situations. I usually forget they are even under the sink.

Otherwise, I have been using a legitimate, real towel for cleanups.

To get to this point, I have stocked our kitchen with lots of actual towels that get washed in the washer instead of tossed in the trash can.

In our small kitchen closet, we have one drawer devoted to “rags” or clean up towels and we keep one hanging underneath the sink. These are basically just old towels, be they old bath hand towels or old dish towels. Certain towels are used specifically for the bathroom and ones for the kitchen.

The second drawer holds cloth napkins and dishcloths. The third has hand and dish towels.

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Having plenty of towels on hand keeps us from having to reach for the paper version, which we keep around for emergency back up.

After the towels are used, I let them dry on the washer door and toss them in the hamper.

A huge pro of using real towels in the kitchen is that it doesn’t necessarily mean more laundry. At the end of the week, usually on Friday or Saturday morning, I collect all the towels from around the house, wash them on hot, and replace them with clean ones.

That’s it.

The bath towels and sheets needed to be washed anyway, so it’s no more work for me, and no additional load of laundry.

We save money and landfill space. Win-win!

 

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When Was the Last Time You Went to The Tailor?

When was the last time you went to get your clothes altered to fit your body?

And no, the last time you went to the tailor/seamstress to get a bridesmaid dress hemmed does not count. That is not the same.

I have blogged a lot about taking care of the clothes we own, by getting them fixed or just plain, old taking good care of them!

One way to take care of the clothes we own, that I think is often overlooked by my age group, is taking clothes to a tailor to be fitted to your own body’s shape and size.

The standard sizes from clothing manufacturers are all over the board anyway. A size 6 in one brand is a size 10 somewhere else and the way we shop online without actually trying on the piece basically guarantees we will end up with clothes we thought would fit but most definitely do not.

Even so, clothes are not made specifically with your measurements in mind, but a tailor or a seamstress can help your ill-fitting clothing become the perfect size!

For instance, I went through a period a couple years ago where I gained some weight and none of my dress pants fit. So I went out and bought some. Fast forward to now, where I have since lost that weight and of course, none of those pants fit. They were so so saggy on me.

I didn’t want to buy another set of pants again and I liked them enough that I decided to get them taken in to fit my current body shape. Two of the pairs I decided I did not want to invest the money in tailoring, so I gave them to a friend. The other two I took down the street to a nearby cleaners. Forty bucks later I had two pairs of pants that fit.

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Previously, I had brought in a skirt I purchased from thredUP and had it taken in. It was great to walk out with a piece of clothing that had been altered just to fit me.

Sometimes it is not worth it to pay for alteration fees. In that case, let go of those clothes for someone else! But if it is a piece you love and a quality one, why not put a couple extra dollars into making it uniquely your size.

 

 

An Easy Way to Secondhand Shop: thredUP

For the most part, I do a pretty good job of avoiding the temptations of shopping for new clothes. I don’t wander the mall for fun, or go window shopping, and I have unsubscribed from alluring marketing emails.

Sometimes I succumb to my desires and I end up trolling websites, adding things to my cart, feeling bad about it, and then never returning to purchase it.

I try and keep a list of items I am specifically looking for so I don’t get swept away by something trendy and end up impulse shopping.

Back to where I mentioned feeling bad about shopping, this is important. I am fully aware of all of the environmental and social costs associated with purchasing new clothing (water, resources, labor, shipping, etc.), which makes randomly purchasing pieces really hard for me (but just to be clear, I still do purchase new clothing).

Enter thredUP, a humongous repository of secondhand clothes filterable by size, brand, color, you name it! The problem I find with shopping for secondhand clothes in physical stores is sorting through what you are looking for. It takes time and patience.

With thredUP you can search specifically for what you are looking for and also create alerts when say a Madewell cardigan is added. That’s how I ended up with the cardigan on the right.

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Two J. Crew cashmere sweaters and a Madewell cardigan for much less $$$

I created my search and then waited for the right one to come along, but since there is only one of each item (usually), you need to act fast! By the time I checked my email alert, someone had already added it to their cart. An item can stay in someone’s cart for a specified amount of time and if it is not purchased it is opened back up. If you really like an item, you can check that you will auto-buy if didn’t end up getting purchased.

It was really easy and I used that feature to get my Madewell cardigan. I also set alerts for certain brands I am fond of, which is how I found the two cashmere J. Crew sweaters on the left. I wanted a cashmere J. Crew sweater but they retail for over $90. This one on thredUP was new with the tags still on for half the price. It is warm, cozy, and I love it.

A handful of my wardrobe has come from thredUP and I intend to add more pieces along the way. My coworker recently stopped by my office and asked if I had used thredUP before and my response was something like, “Yes, I have a bunch of clothes from there, this J. Crew sweater I am wearing is from thredUP! Oh wait, so is this Ralph Lauren skirt! I am wearing an entirely secondhand outfit!”

All in all, I recommend thredUP. I have not used other secondhand shopping sites like Poshmark yet but plan to take a look. I am on the hunt for a white denim jacket!

Do you have a place you love to secondhand shop? Let me know!

This post is not sponsored by thredUP, I just like their site and want to share! 

I Paid Someone To Fix The Hole in My Jeans

I have lofty goals sometimes and try to fix things that are in need of repair.

The key word is “try” because it is been proven that I am not a skilled seamstress as outlined in this past post. Luckily, I received a basic sewing machine class for Christmas and am on my way to improving my sewing skills a bit.

My attempt to patch the hole in my jeans failed miserably and I ended up hoarding that pair until I could turn them into housing insulation.

Since then, I recently had an older pair of jeans rip a hole in the crotch while I was doing an impersonation of an Olympic curler (yes, you read that right). As I glided into a deep lunge, I immediately knew my pants were done for.

But like last time, I held on to this pair because I knew there was a way to bring them back to life even if it wasn’t fixed by me.

A couple of weeks later, while walking down the street, I noticed a storefront that advertised denim repair and thought I would give it a shot. So I brought them over to Mildblend Supply Co, paid $25, and a week later had fully repaired jeans.

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Where is the fixed hole? It is hard to tell!

Twenty-five dollars seems like a lot for just fixing a hole, but its cheaper than buying a new pair of quality jeans.

According to the employee who was sifting through all the repaired jeans to find mine, their store is one of the only ones in the Midwest that has a darning machine (check it out on their Instagram). They did an amazing job. Can you even tell where they fixed it?!

Given that the probability of me ripping my jeans is pretty high, I foresee going back there again.

In Chicago and have hole-y jeans (that aren’t supposed to have holes, not those trendy ripped ones)? Then check them out!

 

 

How Facebook Can Help With Secondhand Shopping

My love for Craigslist has not waned, but I have found a new place to add to my arsenal for buying items I need and selling items that don’t “spark joy.”

It came about when I started to sell our wedding decorations post-wedding. I posted lanterns and table numbers to Craigslist but heard that Facebook Marketplace was now the place to buy and sell. So, I tried it out.

In terms of selling, it is pretty easy. Just post your item and buyers can reply via Facebook Messenger. You can mark items as pending and then as sold once you have completed the transaction, providing a rating to your buyer. The downside is that Marketplace provides an “Ask for Details” button that automatically messages the seller asking if the item is available. From my experience, buyers like to use that button A LOT. I mean, if it is still posted, and not marked as pending, it is still available…

Buyers can also send customized messages about items and save items to come back to later. You can search specific areas, within a certain radius, as well as by category.

I cross posted all of my wedding decor on Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace. I got the most responses to my items from Marketplace, and that’s where the majority of my sales came from. Seller beware though, while I did get more responses, the responses were a lot of unnecessary questions, beyond asking about its availability. People asked where I was located, if they could only buy specific items of the lot, and what dimensions where. All this information had already been included in the post’s details.

In addition to Marketplace, I have joined a number of community selling groups on Facebook, like Chicago, Buy, Hustle, and Trade, and Wedding & Party Recyclers Group.  I also am apart of a neighborhood group, so it is likely there is a group near where you live too.

Another group I am a member of on Facebook is the Chicago Buy Nothing group, where members post items that are available for someone else to take, or where members post items they are searching for. I posted moving boxes and supplies after we moved this summer and was glad someone else could use those items.

moving boxes

I was just glad these boxes didn’t end up in the landfill.

The downside of using Facebook and Craigslist, of course, is having to field questions and coordinate with buyers when you could just drop your unwanted items off at Goodwill or Salvation Army.

I see myself adding Marketplace to my repository of places to search for items I am looking for locally. The opportunity to be able to pick up a sought after item from a neighbor down the street, for less than it would cost new, is a win-win for me.

Have you used Marketplace? What are your thoughts? Do you have any other apps or sites that you swear by?

Disclaimer: This post is not in any way affiliated with or sponsored by Facebook. 

Oh Hey There 2019

And just like that, it is 2019.

I am kind of pretending that time has not moved so fast and have not made any resolutions for the new year.

Honestly, I do not need another to-do list.

Last year, I hoped to accomplish the following resolutions.

2018 goals

Here is how I did based on the following scale:

Neah= didn’t even happen

Meh= kind of did it

Yay= accomplished!

1.) Buy in bulk: neah

This just didn’t happen. Will work on this for 2019.

2.) Reduce clothing purchases: yay!

I did make a real conscious effort to reduce my clothing purchases. For instance, I went to a clothing swap, borrowed white dresses for wedding-related events, and only bought a pair of pants and socks for my honeymoon.

3.) Be conscious of what goes in the trash: yay!

I am overcome with legitimate sadness whenever I see things being thrown out that shouldn’t be. It has even rubbed off on K, which is amazing. To bring my lifestyle into our wedding, we had composting and used less wasteful wedding vendors. We collected 227 pounds of food waste in 2018 and I finally worked up the courage to approach the subject of having a compost pick up service in our office. Also when we moved over the summer, I made sure that boxes, bubble wrap, and plastic went to the right places.

4.) Bike to work: meh

So I did bike to work once. I was a little terrified, especially because after I got to work, I found out a cyclist had died the day prior after gotten hit by a truck. Needless to say, I didn’t do it again and now its a bit cold…

5.) CSA Round 2: meh

While we did get another CSA share for the summer, I cannot say that we did a better job of trying to get through all of our produce before it went bad. I did go through a phase of freezing a lot of the veggies, so that was a plus!

6. Remember to say no to straws: meh

Sometimes I remember, but most of the time I don’t. Our biggest win in this category was asking the bartenders at our wedding to not provide straws unless our guests asked for one.

Overall, I am pretty content with how we did in 2018.

2019 will be some more of the same.

What are your plans for 2019?

Batteries Can Be Tossed

I often get asked what to do with stuff.

What do I do with plastic bags since they can’t go in the recycling blue bin? Where do I take pillows? And sheets and towels? Textiles that can’t be used? Salvation Army or Goodwill?

Recently my dad asked me if he has to recycle alkaline batteries, and not long afterward, a friend texted me the very same question.

batteries

Back in the day, your regular TV remote battery couldn’t be put into the municipal trash because they contained harmful mercury that could leach into waterways. Nowadays, batteries do not contain mercury, which is good.

In Chicago, alkaline batteries are accepted in the garbage cart, while rechargeable batteries are considered hazardous waste due to nickel cadmium and must be recycled accordingly.

These batteries can now safely go in the trash/landfill, which isn’t necessarily that great.

Yes, they can be thrown out (like a lot of things), but you can also go one extra step and find a place that recycles them. You can look up where to recycle your batteries here, and for the most part, it is going to depend on where you live and what your town or city collects.

So check it out and do something with that pile of dead batteries in your junk drawer.

Resources:

Salvation Army Vs. Goodwill

When we clean out our closets, move, are making way for new things, or are deciding which items in our lives “spark joy,” there is bound to become a donation bag.

It may be the giveaway pile or donate box, whatever you call it, it has to go somewhere.

The old books you’ve already read can be handed off to a friend looking for a new summer read, sold on Craigslist, or posted on the many Buy Nothing Project groups for someone else to enjoy.

More often than not though, with our busy lives, it becomes just too much work to try and find a new home for your items and coordinate a time to have it picked up. So the items get dropped off at a donation center because you want the stuff out of your house NOW.

Recently, I was asked which was a better place to donate your pre-loved items, Goodwill or Salvation Army? I didn’t have a clear answer, so obviously this became a good blog topic.

Salvation Army

According to their mission statement, “The Salvation Army, an international movement, is an evangelical part of the universal Christian Church. Its message is based on the Bible. Its ministry is motivated by the love of God. Its mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination.

They work to meet all sorts of human needs from helping disaster survivors and stopping domestic abuse, to combating addiction and assisting the unemployed. Learn more about what they do here.

Donating clothing and goods to The Salvation Army helps fund addiction rehabilitation programs. You can donate at their Family Stores and drop-off locations or schedule a free pickup. We had The Salvation Army come to pick up our couch once. It was nice that they could take care of that.

According to CNN, the Salvation Army spends 82% of donations on aid and you can check out Salvation Army’s sustainable development goals here.

Goodwill Industries International

Goodwill is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization whose mission is “to enhance the dignity and quality of life of individuals and families by strengthening communities, eliminating barriers to opportunity, and helping people in need reach their full potential through learning and the power of work.” They seek to help all job seekers and in 2017, Goodwill helped more than 288,000 people find employment.

Donating your items to Goodwill helps create job opportunities by funding job training and services and they also claim it keeps billions of pounds of textiles and clothing from meeting their end in the landfill. You can calculate the impact of your donation on their website which is pretty cool. For instance, if I donate 5 shirts, that provides 31 minutes of on-the-job training.

But is that what really happens? This Huffington Post article does a good job of explaining what happens to your clothes when you drop them off at Goodwill. In reality, after the good stuff has been picked out and the unusable has become rags, the rest gets shipped overseas. I was not able to find anything that directly explained what they did with stuff when it didn’t sell, but here is a blog about their sustainability initiative.

What’s the Verdict?

It is up to you! Both are keeping materials from the landfill and helping others in the process. I am sure there are parts of each that some may not agree with, but both are better options than tossing your clothes in the garbage. To avoid having to go through all your clothes and donating every few months, be conscious of your purchases and only buy what you actually need, buy secondhand, or attend a clothing swap.

What are your thoughts?

Moving Box Madness

Almost immediately after our wedding, and then our honeymoon, K and I packed up our tiny apartment and said goodbye to our first place together.

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I was pretty sad about it because I get emotionally attached to things and places. There were so many good memories in that apartment!

What was even sadder though was the amount of waste that could have been if I had not been conscious of it the entire moving process.

The Boxes

We had some boxes saved in the basement from the previous move and purchased many, many more to pack up our belongings. On top of those boxes, we had tons of boxes from all of the registry items that we could finally fit into our apartment.

Just so many boxes.  Everywhere!

moving boxes

Just a small sample of the amount of boxes

Luckily, I was able to give away pretty much all of the moving boxes for them to be reused again. I gave some to my mom to pack up all those lanterns for our wedding, I posted some on Craigslist and gave some to a friend who was moving shortly after us.

The Plastic Bags

What was worse than the boxes, was the plastic packaging! As we opened new small appliances from our registry the amount of plastic bags just piled up to the point where I filled an entire gigantic bag with them.

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Recyclable plastic bags can be brought to your local grocery store and usually are not accepted in curbside recycling because the bags get caught in recycling machinery. So I just saved all the little bags until I filled up a big one and kept it in my car until I went to the grocery store next.

The Bubble Wrap

On top of the boxes and the plastic bags was the bubble wrap. So much if it. I have given some away, but still have plenty that I have posted on Buy Nothing Facebook groups. There have been a few leads, but no follow-ups so far. Any readers need some bubble wrap?!

While we usually purchase furniture pieces secondhand (we already bought a desk from Craigslist), we did get some new pieces that reminded me of why I hate ordering stuff.

For instance, our new bed frame was delivered 2 days early when K was out of town and was for some reason put down this unfinished set of stairs in the front of our apartment. It was so heavy that I couldn’t get it out alone and had to call in reinforcements. Thanks, Amazon.

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At least the bed frame came early because our new mattress didn’t show up at all. Through countless calls and legitimate hours on the phone with UPS, we ended up having to pick up our mattress from the customer pickup center. Not ideal.

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As destroyed as the box was, fortunately, the mattress itself was okay. Ugh, eye roll.

I am so glad that we are basically done with finding pieces we were missing for our new apartment. The boxes, the plastic, the styrofoam, it was just so overwhelming.

If you aren’t convinced yet, read Buzzfeed’s recent piece, “The Hidden Environmental Cost of Amazon Prime’s Free, Fast Shipping.” I for one am not a Prime member and happily accept the standard shipping.

Who is Bea Johnson?

While most people involved in reducing their waste have heard of her, most of my friends and family who read this blog have no idea who Bea Johnson is.

Well, Bea Johnson, of Zero Waste Home, started the whole Fit-My-Entire-Family’s-Annual-Waste-in-A-Mason-Jar trend.

That’s right.

Her family of four can fit all the waste that they produce annually in one jar.

 

This is her family’s waste for 2017. Source: https://zerowastehome.com/about/bea/

The reason I am bringing her up is because I had the opportunity to hear her speak on Monday at the Shedd Aquarium thanks to an event put on by my buds over at Zero Waste Chicago.

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I have not been to the Shedd in ages, mostly because I am terrified of fish and only like free museums, but they are super involved in conservation through their Great Lakes Action Days and plastic waste reduction through their Shedd the Straw campaign.

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The evening started out with an action expo of numerous local organizations and businesses striving to reduce their waste. I knew most of the organizations in some way or another and got to see a lot of familiar faces.

I did get to pick up some low-waste powder laundry detergent from Meliora Cleaning Products, which I am super excited to test out. That’s a post for another day.

After the expo, we filed into the auditorium to hear Bea speak about living without waste.

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Bea’s journey to a zero waste lifestyle started in 2006 when her family first moved to be closer to town and it’s walkability. She outlined her failures with making her own cosmetics, shampoo, and even toilet paper.

She and her family follow the 5 R’s: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, & Rot, which I have posted about before.

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Her family refuses what they do not need and say no to single-use plastics, promotional freebies, junk mail, business cards, and more.

Then they reduce what they actually need. One thing that she said really struck me, “Once we pass our comfort level, anything beyond that becomes excess.” That is absolutely true. She has 4 kitchen cooking utensils, uses only white vinegar and Castille soap to clean, and her entire wardrobe can fit in a carry-on suitcase.

The family approaches reuse by swapping out disposables for reusable alternatives, which means glass jars for food, an old pillowcase for bread, and buying secondhand.  Everything they buy is from a thrift store or from E-Bay for super specific purchase you can’t easily find.

After that, they recycle what they cannot refuse, reduce, or reuse. Contrary to what people believe, living a zero-waste lifestyle encourages you to recycle less. Whatever is left is composted, or rot.

Overall,  Bea Johnson finds the best benefit of her lifestyle is the simplicity, which is something I can get behind. Although I understand and support her lifestyle, I know that for some people, it is just not attainable, which is totally fine.

You may never be able to fit a year’s worth of trash in a jar and that’s okay (I know I won’t). Every small step or implementation of one of the R’s is a step in the right direction.

 

 

I advise you to learn more about Bea and Zero Waste Home. It is really interesting. And with that, I leave you with these two pieces from Monday:

“When you live with less you have more time to do what is important to you.”

“It’s a life based on being instead of having.”