Too much stuff

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.”

 

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Update on A Resolution

As part of my new year’s resolutions, I am working on reducing my clothing purchases and focusing on second hand when I need to.

 

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A pair of secondhand jeans I found last year. 

 

We are only three months into the year, so plenty to go, but so far I have attended a clothing swap and only purchased 1 new pair of pants for work.

 

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My first experience at a clothing swap.

 

My bridal shower has come and gone and I did not buy a new outfit. I thought about it, I searched around, but there was nothing that I really liked. It seemed silly to buy a new outfit for the occasion, so I even looked into Rent the Runway.

In the end, I wore an outfit I had for ages with a pair of shoes I have worn to a gazillion other weddings.

To be honest, I got plenty of compliments.

 

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Don’t worry, those balloons have been saved and will be reused. 

 

Luckily, I have friends who have gotten married previously, so I was even lent a wardrobe of white dresses to wear for any other upcoming wedding events. Thanks, guys!

I don’t foresee any other issues in the immediate future that would require me to make new clothing purchases. So, for now, I just don’t browse for clothes on the internet, stay away from physical stores, and unsubscribe from any mailing list who’s subject line starts with SALE!

Talking Trash: Garbology

You know you are nerdy when the current book you are reading is a book from the library on garbage.

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But hey, whatever.

I am reading Garbology by Edward Humes as part of Zero Waste Chicago‘s BYO Books March Book Club, and so far it has been a bit challenging to get through.

“Americans make more trash than anyone else on the planet, throwing away about 7.1 pounds per person per day, 365 days a year. Across a lifetime that rate means, on average, we are each on track to generate 102 tons of trash.”

-Edward Humes, Garbology

It is an informative book for sure and definitely eye-opening, but I often have trouble reading (and watching) about things that are just so darn negative. It is why I haven’t watched Cowspiracy.

The best part of the book was finding another, more meaningful book.

Let me back up and explain.

I hang out with my grandma a lot and when I go over there, she tries to give me stuff. I love old things and usually take what she offers me (we have started a collection of old cookbooks from her now). A while ago, I was helping her clean out a room and we went through books that had been on a bookshelf for probably 40 or more years. I took a couple that sounded interesting and a few that just looked cool.

Fast forward.

As I was reading Garbology, Humes referenced a book from the 60’s called The Waste Makers.

“Vance Packard…wrote a prophetic follow-up in 1960 called The Waste Makers. In it, he accused his industry and marketing critics of sparking a crisis of excess and waste that would exhaust both nation and nature, until future Americans were forced by scarcity to ‘mine old forgotten garbage dumps’ to recover squandered resources.”

-Edward Humes, Garbology

I sat on the couch pondering this book he referenced. It sounded so familiar. So I got up, and I peered into our bookstand TV case.

Sure enough, The Waste Makers was stacked between Catching Fire and The Martian. It was one of the books I had taken from my grandmother’s.

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I immediately called her and asked about the book, curious about who was the original owner. Unfortunately, she couldn’t entirely remember, but we deduced that it was most likely my great grandfather’s, a German immigrant who was adamant about planting trees.

The Wast Makers

I can’t wait to read this book that my great grandfather read. Even though it is 58 years old it is absolutely ahead of its time and scarily accurate.

“Wastefulness has become a part of the American way of life. [The people of the United States]…must be induced to step up their individual consumption higher and higher, whether they have any pressing needs for the goods or not. Their ever-expanding economy demands it.”

-Vance Packard, The Waste Makers

My First Clothing Swap

Have you ever looked at your closet exasperated and just said “UGHHHHHH!!”

Have you ever tried closing your dresser drawers only to have to shove a bunch of stuff down to get them closed?

This happens to me in cycles. I clean out my clothes, donate, and organize, only for several months later having to do it all over again. It is exhausting!

When I saw that the Sugar Beet Food Co-op was hosting a clothing swap, I was immediately on board.

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I tore apart my closet and dresser, pulling out everything that barely got worn, or no longer fit right. I had already had a pile of clothes that still were at my parents’ house, including multiple pairs of jeans I will never fit into again (sad day).  With the bags of clothes piled into the back of my car and I headed to Sugar Beet.

Upon arrival, we were instructed to sort our clothing by category onto tables.

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After everyone had laid out their pieces, we were then able to browse and pick anything that caught our eye (and was our size). My intention of attending the swap was not to get new clothes, it was more to offload what I had accumulated over the years.

The whole experience was neat because I was able to see other people pick up my articles of clothing and be excited about them. That was much more fulfilling than dropping off a bag of clothes at a donation center. I loved knowing that my pieces were exactly what someone else was looking for. Even so, not everything was picked up, so what was left was donated.

I did leave with one article of clothing though. It was a knit vest and it is so cozy warm that I have worn it for the last two days.

 

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The only thing I allowed myself to take home from the swap! 

With my resolution of reducing my clothing purchases this year, hopefully, I won’t need to be attending too many more swaps!

 

How I Did on Those 2017 Goals

I made a number of goals for myself to be less wasteful last year. Find a refresher of what I aimed for here.

Without further adieu, let’s see how I did.

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I am proud to say I crushed this goal!!! As of right now, without my December compost bucket weighed, we kept 272.91 pounds of food waste out of the landfill. Add in another 18-22 pounds from this month’s bucket and we almost doubled the goal! Holy cow!

In addition to composting at home, I am also planning on composting at my wedding in 2018.

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Another goal semi-crushed! We partook in a CSA box this summer and I challenged us to only purchase locally grown food for 24 weeks. That’s not the entire year, so that’s why I say this goal is semi-crushed. We definitely made an effort though and are more cautious of where our food comes from.

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I definitely still spent money this year, but I like to think that I did a decent job of not wasting money on frivolous purchases. From Craigslist buys to making a waiting list, I did employ tactics to keep money in my wallet. Having a tiny apartment also helps because I can’t buy things if I know there is nowhere to put them.

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Still working on this one…

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I still have a lot of clothes, plus there are still some clothes at my parent’s house. I am going to a clothing swap next month, so I am excited to see how that goes! As for repairing, I definitely tried mending a pair of jeans but failed miserably. At least I was able to give that pair a second life as housing insulation. My running shoes also get a second life as a track floor. I also pulled together resources for what to do with clothing and textiles that are beyond repair or normal use. Check that out here.

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In terms of biking, this was one goal I did not really accomplish at all, but in terms of walking, I definitely did some of that. Where I live and work are both very walkable and also have access to great public transportation options.  I really do want to try biking to work, but that will have to wait until after the winter.

So all in all, I think I did a pretty good job with my goals! Still working on a few, but that’s okay.

What are your goals for 2018?

 

 

 

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.

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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.

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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?

How To: Stop Junk Mail

Getting stuff in the mail is awesome.

Getting unwanted stuff in the mail is not.

 

We all have experienced it. You open the mailbox and find something addressed to you or the current resident (whom you have never heard of) and have no idea why you are getting this piece of mail. You don’t even know what this company is that’s sending you catalogs.

Besides just tossing it in the recycling bin, there are a number of ways you can keep yourself from getting junk mail in the first place.

The biggest thing you can do is avoid giving out your address, but sometimes junk mail will find you anyway.

Below are some resources you can use to be removed from all sorts of mailing lists.

 

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Here are some of my requests I submitted to PaperKarma. Who are you King Ranch Saddle Shop?!

 

Another way to combat the onslaught of unwanted mail is to find the sender’s phone number, any number you can find, and call them to remove yourself from the mailing list.

Be warned that it takes over a month sometimes to be officially removed from mailing lists. A lot of the time, a catalog or a mailing is already in production and printed with your name on it before you make the call.

On another note, as much as I love giving money to a good cause such as a charity or non-profit, be careful. Sometimes when you donate, your mailing information can get shared with (or sold to) other organizations. For example, post-election, K donated to an environmental organization and now we get TONS of calendars, address labels (SO MANY), notepads, and more.

If you are looking for more, check out my friend Celia over at Litterless who also wrote a great post on getting rid of junk mail.

Take Those Wire Hangers Back

Does your closet ever look like this after a while?

 

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Or more realistically, does it look like this?

 

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Anyway, I pretty much don’t get any of my clothes dry cleaned, but K gets a lot of his shirts pressed, so we end up with a mess of wire hangers every couple months.

These hangers cannot be recycled, and if you can’t think of anything else to do with them, they can get quite annoying.

Did you know you can just take them back to the dry cleaners?

I have brought a bag to the closest dry cleaner (one that K does not even use) a number of times and have never had a problem. They always accept them!

You can avoid the wire hanger overflow by following a number of steps:

  • Don’t purchase “Dry Clean Only” clothes
  • Refuse the hangers from the dry cleaner
  • If you do take them, reuse them!
  • If you cannot, bring them back!

 

 

How to Be a Craigslist Boss: Part 2

The other day, I posted Part 1 of How to Be A Craigslist Boss.

Now it is time for Part 2: Selling on Craigslist!craigslist

Creating Your Post Is Important

Good Images

I personally think the key to a good Craigslist ad is all in the pictures. I will never even look at a post without an image!

Seriously just take some good pictures of the item you are trying to sell. It will take 5 seconds. Most likely the quality of the phone on your camera is amazing, so there is absolutely no excuse for bad photos.

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Nooooooooo. No images and terrible headlines (see below).

Effective and Precise Headlines

No need for flashy headlines here, just be specific on what you are selling.

Say it is a couch and you are between two headline options.

Headline #1: “Great Deal! Comfiest Couch Ever!!!”

Headline #2: “Crate and Barrel Brown Leather Sectional- Good Condition”

The second option gives the buyer much more information than headline #1.

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I could not resist this headline though. Very clever!

Keywords

On the same note as headlines, you need to use specific keywords in order to get people to view your post. At the bottom of the post body, add tags to help people find it when searching.

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Good amount of keywords and not keyword overload.

Be Specific

Include any details that you happen to know about the item. Some details you may want to include:

  • Manufacturer
  • Age and when you bought it
  • Condition (missing pieces, scratches, dents, etc.)
  • Smoke and pet free home (especially important for upholstered items)
  • Dimensions
  • Any links to the item if it is still currently being sold

Pricing

Shoot for a price that is not too low and not too high, but leave just enough room for buyers to negotiate down.

You can list that your price is firm or will accept OBO (or best offer).  The good thing about Craigslist is that you can always change your price later if you are not getting any bites.

Make sure to do some research and see what similar items are going for on Craigslist too.

Also, take into account the condition of your item. If it is broken or missing pieces, say so and price accordingly.

Being Safe

Safety is an important aspect when you are selling things to random strangers online. 100% of the time, I have never once had an issue, but still please be careful.

  • Do not post your actual address. Just use your zip code or a major intersection in the area.
  • If you can, schedule to meet in a public place such as a crowded, well-lit parking lot.
  • Have another person with you if you can (I have actually brought my grandmother before, but not like she could help beat off an attacker).
  • Do not accept PayPal, check, wire transfer or anything like that. Go for cash only.

 

What has been your experience selling or buying on Craigslist? Or any additional tips? Let me know!

More Resources:

 

How To Be A Craigslist Boss: Part 1

I have bought and sold a ton of stuff on Craigslist.

Past roommates have even been found with it and that is a whole different story.

In fact, I furnished my entire dining and living room in DC with Craigslist items for under $400.

Below are two Craigslist tables currently hanging in our living room.

You can even find love on Craigslist and not in the Missed Connections section. My cousin met his now-wife through it because he bought her couch. Crazy, right?

Right now, I am searching Craigslist for a TV stand and dining table, but seriously you never know what you might find, which I think is the most fun part!

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Since I do most of my shopping lately on Craigslist, I thought I would put together a handy little list of tips for those who are new to finding and snatching deals on the platform.

1. How to Search Through Craigslist Crap Like a Boss

Search Terms

As I said before, I am looking for a TV stand, but I pretty much never just search “TV stand.”

So many different items can hold your TV. Some of the search terms I use include: “buffet,” “credenza,” “sideboard,” “dresser,”  and “media console.”

When looking for my kitchen table I either use just “table” to capture every kind or “kitchen table” and “dining table.”

Additionally, you can use the pipe key “|” to include an “or” in your search.

The Map Function

I find this most useful when looking for apartments, or when I am feeling particularly lazy and am wondering what people nearby me are selling.

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Check “Posted Today”

If you are looking for something common, such as the kitchen table I am looking for, Craigslist is inundated with these items all day long.

And if you spend any significant amount of time searching for something, you will notice the same posts you saw yesterday after a couple pages. To see what is newest, you can check the box for what was posted today.

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Knowing How to Filter

I also like to filter my results by newest posts instead of by relevance and price. The faster you can reply to a new post, the more chance you have to score that deal.

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There are a couple other ways to filter out unrelated posts too. To remove spam, you can filter the price to a minimum of $2.00. I also like to only search posts that have images and to bundle duplicate posts.

2. Timing Is Everything: When to Search

Obviously, you can check Craigslist anytime you want, but there are certain times of the year that will yield more results.

  • When people move: at the end of the school year or the end of the month
  • After holidays: people get new stuff and need to make room for it
  • Weekends: for when people need to sell stuff ASAP

3. Location Matters

Some geographic areas are just going to have better goods than others.

Chicago being a major metropolitan area provides a lot more opportunities for there to be a bedroom set you are into and a lot more people to buy that weird coffee table you have been trying to get rid of.

For instance, I have a friend who was in the market for a vintage Coleman cooler like ours below.

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He lives in Michigan and Craigslist did not have any listings for these type of coolers, but when I searched in Chicago, there were at least 5 available. I ended up getting the cooler for him here in Chicago and he picked it up the next time they were in town.

Stay tuned for my next post on selling on Craigslist!

Additional Resources: