ikea

ICYMI: Nothing Really Decomposes in a Landfill

Have you been greenwashed into thinking that a compostable bowl is a better choice because once you toss it, it will decompose in a landfill?

Or have you patted yourself on the back for buying those biodegradable/compostable trash bags?

Or have you shrugged it off that it’s fine to throw a banana peel into the garbage because its organic material and will break down?

I hate to break it to you, but that is

not really how landfills work.

In graduate school, our class had the opportunity to tour a nearby landfill and recycling center and let me tell you, it was very depressing.

I will never forget seeing all the things the people of southern Indiana tossed into their garbage cans, being pushed and packed by bulldozers.

And the smell! Phew! Unbelievable!

Anyway, that stuff Hoosiers tossed that day about 6 years ago is still probably sitting around, just as the day it was tightly packed into the Earth.

I am not going to get into all the undesirable aspects of landfills, such as methane production and groundwater leaching, but the best non-super jargony explanation I could find came from this article on livescience.com:

“Landfills are not designed to break down waste, only to store it, according to the National Solid Wastes Management Association. But garbage in a landfill does decompose, albeit slowly and in a sealed, oxygen-free environment. Because of the lack of oxygen, bacteria in the waste produce methane gas, which is highly flammable and dangerous if allowed to collect underground. It is also a potent greenhouse gas and contributes to global warming.”

-Molika Ashford, “What Happens Inside a Landfill

Organic materials need oxygen to biodegrade and landfills lack oxygen when they are tightly packed and sealed. In this same graduate class, we discussed instances of landfill “archeologists” who have found hot dogs and guacamole still intact and years old newspapers completely legible. See more here, here, and here.

It all goes back to the notion that this is no “away.”

Throwing something away, be it a piece of plastic from Amazon packaging, your jeans with a hole in them, a banana peel, a piece of junk mail, an extra metal thing from your IKEA furniture assembly, to that piece of IKEA furniture itself, they will all live on in the depths of landfills scattered across the country. 

And those landfills are getting full.

For instance, Chicago’s garbage is trucked 100 miles outside of the city to 2 landfills in Illinois and 2 landfills in Indiana. Watch this video from WTTW for a comprehensive look as to what happens to Chicago’s garbage once it is put out in the alley. According to the Illinois EPA, at the state’s current rate of garbage collection, Illinois will run out of space for garbage in the next 20 years.

So let’s keep stuff out of the landfill that doesn’t belong. 

Recycle that plastic Amazon packaging in the proper place, or better yet, ask Amazon and other companies to reduce their packaging. You can email Amazon customer service and request that orders for your account come with less packaging. The environmental impacts of Amazon could be a whole blog post in itself.

Fix your jeans with a hole in them or find textile recycling in your area.

Compost that banana.

Recycle that junk mail and call the company to have your address removed.

Don’t buy cheap particle board furniture from IKEA, instead, quality pieces are abundantly available secondhand.

So next time you go to the garbage can just take a second to think before you toss.

 

 

 

No More IKEA

The last piece of IKEA furniture is officially gone!

After much Craigslist searching, I finally found something that satisfied our needs. We have a lot of books and they need a home. This bookcase/TV stand was the perfect answer and at the perfect price, $80!

Within 24 hours, I replied to an ad, got a response, and had picked up our new TV stand.

new tv stand

We finally have a spot to keep all our cookbooks in one location. Before they had been scattered about the apartment wherever they could fit.

new tv stand2

Once it was set up, I was so excited that I just put books in any which way.

After a while, I added a few tchotchkes that were around the house elsewhere.

tv stand1

I am pretty happy with it right now!

Please disregard the mess of cords underneath, we have not gotten to organizing those yet!

We are Saying ‘Adios’ to Our Last Piece of IKEA Furniture

Back in college and the post-college days, K and I both had an assortment of IKEA furniture.  This included dressers, bed frames, coffee tables, nightstands, etc.

When I moved to DC, the easiest thing for me to do was pick some up from the IKEA in Maryland and lay it all flat in the back of our car (followed by 11 hours of putting it together). Then when I made the move back to Chicago, I sold all but one piece of it to the next person moving in.

 

That one unsold TV stand is now the only piece of IKEA furniture we have left in our apartment after selling a number of other IKEA pieces (aka K’s super wobbly dresser as seen below) shortly after we moved in.

 

dresser-for-sale

If you so much as poked this dresser with your pinky finger, it would wobble all over the place

 

 

Legitimately every other piece of furniture we currently own was previously owned by someone else.

For instance…

couch

Couch sourced from my aunt


 

coffee-table

Coffee table sourced from Craigslist


 

end-table2

End table sourced from Craigslist


 

IU chairs done 2

Kitchen chairs sourced from the IU Surplus Store & attempted to be refinished by me, but failed, so my dad helped


 

dresser1

Dresser sourced from Craigslist


 

dresser

5 piece bedroom set sourced from my Grandmother (50+ years old)


 

cabinet done

Metal cabinet sourced from a family friend and refinished by me


Not pictured are our kitchen table and mattress and that is mostly because I did not feel like clearing off the table to take a decent picture of it. The kitchen table came from a garage sale and was refinished by me, while the mattress was from a friend of K’s.

So now we are on a mission to replace the lone piece of IKEA particle board with something of a bit more quality, maybe something that won’t get instantly dinged up. Don’t worry, the TV stand will move on to another good home. My brother has his eye on it.

tv-stand

Lone piece of IKEA furniture left in our apartment, in what used to be a sea of MALM

The best part is that I love hunting for that perfect replacement piece. We are thinking of a midcentury modern lowboy dresser to provide us with some extra storage. Now it is down to finding the right one, at the right size, and the right price.

Sure, I could go online and order a TV stand that is made of particle board and will fall apart in 3 years, but I would so much rather have a real piece of furniture.

One that someone else loved.

I will be scouring craigslist, garage sales, and thrift stores until I find the perfect one. That will provide me with so much more satisfaction than just clicking “Place Your Order.”

Reclaimed Entryway Just in Time for Colder Weather

For a long time after we moved in, the area next to our front door was a dumping ground for anything and everything. There were boxes, excess furniture, chairs, and a dresser all there at one point.

Eventually, after several months (6), we figured out what we wanted to put there. Since our apartment is tiny, our number one priority was storage. I was having nightmares of the upcoming winter months (“Winter is Coming”) and gloves, hats, coats, and boots, just piling up on the floor.

Our first piece of the entryway was our reclaimed shelf. I spray painted two IKEA brackets copper and created the shelf itself from leftover wood from my dad’s shop. On top and out of the way, I purchased a set of 3 wicker baskets from Amazon that hold our helmets, bike locks, umbrellas, and soon to be hats and gloves.

 

Since moving in April, a place to hang our coats has not been a huge issue, but we are nearing the end of October and it needed to be addressed. To hold our coats,  I crafted some hooks out of old garden faucet handles that I have been collecting for a few years from antique fairs. Again, I “borrowed” a piece of aged and reclaimed wood from my dad.

entryway3

The most awesome piece of our entryway is the reclaimed bowling alley bench. The bowling alley was left over from a job my dad was working on, so I bought the legs on Amazon and we screwed it together. Viola!

Underneath the bench are two wire baskets I got on sale at Michael’s to hold our shoes. It is a miracle that they fit perfectly underneath the bench!

entryway7

All in all, the entryway was not that big of an investment, totaling about $140. It really makes the dining area look cozy and put together and totally worth it.

entryway4

Again, I would not have been able to do this without the expertise and help from my father. So shout out to him for being the best and helping my ideas become reality!

Using What We Already Have

After moving in, K still had a perfectly good IKEA HEMNES mirror that we really did not know what to do with. We were not using his HEMNES dresser anymore and already had a mirror in the bedroom. So, for the past two weeks it has just been leaning up against the wall, getting in the way of everything.

It so happens that the mirror that came with our apartment’s bathroom was in really bad shape (so bad that I am not even going to post a picture of it) and we had planned on replacing it since we moved in. I had casually perused bathroom mirrors on the internet, but really we already had a perfect mirror leaning against the wall all along.

Since the bathroom is white on white on white, the black frame was much too dark. To go with the beachy vibe of our shower curtain and bath rug, we chose to paint it a blue ocean breeze.

mirror before

This whole project was finished in just over 24 hours. Last night I taped up the mirror, using an outdated bike lane map to cover it up.

Fun Fact: You cannot buy spray paint in the City of Chicago

Over the weekend, when we asked the employee at Home Depot where the spray paint was, her response was “Anywhere outside Chicago.” At first I thought she was joking, but then we did some research and it is true!  It is an attempt to curb graffiti. With no intent but to fix up our mirror, K picked some up when he was out in the suburbs and I got started on the project last night.

I craftily brought the mirror outside on to our fire escape landing and propped it on our compost bucket (serving double duty!) Since it is not a big outdoor space, it took some maneuvering to get all sides and angles of the frame. There were multiple times I probably could have tumbled down the stairs….all in the name of upcycling.

The frame dried really quickly because I used KRYLON COVERMAXX . It dries in 10 minutes and can be handled in 1 hour! After a while of leaving outside and periodically checking to make sure a pigeon did not poop on it, I brought it inside to fully dry overnight.

Some quick touch ups in the morning and it was ready to go! I waited a full 24 hours before actually handling and hanging the mirror to ensure it was dry.

mirror drying

There was already a screw in the bathroom wall to hang the previous mirror on so we decided to wire the back of the mirror instead of screwing more holes in the wall. I drilled two small screws into the back of the frame and strung picture hanging wire between them.

And now for $3, our bathroom looks a bit more cool, and we used something we already had. 🙂

mirror finished