recycle

Those Pesky Plastic Bags

I had a friend ask me what I do with plastic bags that I eventually accumulate.

Not just the standard grocery bags, but the plastic packaging, bread bags, dry cleaning bags, or other types of bags that are labeled as plastic #4 and don’t belong in the curbside recycling bin.

These bags should not be tossed in with your regular recycling because they basically mess up all the machinery and cause all sorting to come screeching to a halt as they have to pull bags free from the machines.

plastic bags

As any normal person does, I hoard them under the kitchen sink until I have a full bag. Then I drop them off at my local grocery store, like Mariano’s, Target, Jewel, Walmart, and more. Check here to see what stores have drop-off locations near you.

In reality, we shouldn’t be using these plastic bags in the first place, but sometimes we get them. They get handed to us before we get a chance to even say something, or a friend sends you home with your leftovers wrapped up in a bag.

It happens. It’s okay.

But it is important to note that using plastic bags because you can bring them to the grocery store to be recycled is NOT THE ANSWER.

Instead, bring your own reusable bags to the store. You’ll also save $0.07 on the bag tax (if you live in Chicago, IL).

 

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Hole Filled Jeans Become Housing Insulation

Earlier in the year, I tried fixing my favorite pair of jeans by patching them.

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It worked for a couple months. but then this happened

jean rip

These jeans became beyond repair, but I couldn’t bear to just toss them out with the garbage when they were in no shape to be donated.

So I did what any rational person would do.

I hoarded them for several months until I figured out what I could do with them.

Enter Madewell.

Madewell3

They have partnered with Blue Jeans Go Green to execute a pretty neat jean recycling program. Bring in ANY type of jean to one of their stores and they will help turn them into housing insulation.

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So far, they have collected over 1 million pieces of denim and saved over 600 tons from going into the landfill.

Right now, Madewell is running The Denim Forever Tour, hosting pop-up recycling stations at locations all around the country.  So check out if they will be anywhere near you between now and October.

Below is what my hole-y jeans will become! Insulation to warm people’s houses.

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Just for dropping off your jeans, Madewell will provide a $20 coupon towards a new pair of their jeans.

Check out this cool video about the program.

 

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.

 

paper karma

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?

 

dry cleaner hangers

Or more realistically, does it look like this?

 

dry cleaner hangers1

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!

 

 

Meal-Kit Market Means More Waste

Since I prefer the gift of experiences, K and I were gifted the chance to try out Blue Apron.

Although I like the idea of having all of the cooking ingredients measured and ready for me, I was skeptical of the amount of packaging waste something like this would produce.

Our box arrived on Friday.

blue-apron1

 

We shall see about that..

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Waste was obviously my biggest concern, so I laid out everything we received in the box. There are even little packets of flour, sugar, butter, etc. in the paper bags. I thought that was unnecessary.

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Blue Apron’s vision is to build a better food system by doing the following:

  1. Developing better standards to grow higher quality ingredients.
  2. Supporting regenerative farming practices to replenish our land.
  3. Eliminating the middleman to deliver fresher food.
  4. Reducing food waste to create better value.

While I applaud the attempt at reducing food waste, there is still excessive packaging waste. Like what am I supposed to do with those 2 giant ice packs? They don’t even fit in our freezer.

From a tastiness standpoint, our meals we made were fine. That’s really all I have to say about them, but I definitely do not think it was worth it.

Have you ever used anything like Blue Apron and discovered all the waste it provides?

I think I would rather just shop at the farmers market.

One Less Straw This October

Do we really need to use straws? What is wrong with just drinking from the glass?

Every day in the U.S. 500,000,000 plastic straws are used and then tossed in the trash, or in some cases, on the beach.

You can assist the OneLessStraw pledge campaign by signing a pledge as an individual, business, or school, to say no to plastic straws for the entire month of October.

one-less-straw-logo

My mom has always been a smoothie drinker and would use plastic straws to drink them. That was until I got her metal reusable smoothie straws for Mother’s Day this year! (You really have to watch out for me and gift giving now, you may just end up with a bamboo toothbrush!)

There are plenty of places where you can find reusable straws. Life Without Plastic is one example, or you can check out OneLessStraw’s resource guide if you really cannot live without a straw.

I saw the below video a number of months ago and it completely changed how I look at straws. It is graphic and disturbing, but maybe we need that for us to understand that these straws just don’t go away when we toss them into the garbage can.

 

 

 

No Lid, No Straw, Please

starbucksThe other day I ended up having to work from Starbucks, which is cool and all, but I do not like coffee.

Since I was spending 2+ hours parked at their table using their wifi, I obviously had to purchase something.

It was a bit of a surprise event to be working at Starbucks, so I did not come prepared with my own beverage container. 😦

 

Although that was a bummer, I did, for the first time ever, remember to ask for my iced tea without a lid and a straw. I felt pretty proud of that! So next time I will hopefully bring my own cup, and if I don’t, I will remember that simple request!

No Butts About It: 350 Cigarette Butts Later

Yesterday, I participated in another beach clean up at North Avenue Beach. This event was put on by Alliance for the Great Lakes Adopt-a-Beach Program and Barefoot Wine & Bubbly to help make our beaches barefoot friendly.

And were they barefoot friendly? No. 

The amount of broken glass we picked up was startling. Even more startling was the excessive amount of cigarette butts I picked up.

Over 350 cigarette butts picked up by a 2 person team in just over an hour!

While my partner tallied and picked up other types of litter, I focused solely on collecting cigarette butts. I just continued counting and counting as I added more butts to the growing pile in my hand (I was wearing gloves, do not fear).

When we counted up our tally marks to reveal that we had over 300 cigarette butts in our trash bag, I was in shock! There were dozens of other teams too who may have picked up just as many.

In 2015, more than 52,600 cigarette butts were picked up at Chicago beaches, representing 27 percent of total litter found according to Alliance for Great Lakes data.

I just get really sad when I see people using our beaches (and our Earth) as an ashtray.

Luckily, the Alliance is putting a fun spin on properly disposing of cigarette butts.

Read more about their project here.