reduce

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.

 

levis-jeans

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.

 

clothingswap1

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.

 

bridal shower4

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!

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Actions for A New Year

Happy 2018 Everyone!

I spent New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day hanging at home, getting recharged for the year ahead.

In general, a lot is coming up in 2018, and a lot of big and small decisions will be made that will have both big and small impacts on the environment.

There are definitely actions I can do better at and these are what I plan to focus on in 2018.

2018 goals

What are your goals?

Do you have any suggestions on how to reach these goals?

 

 

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…

 

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.

jean-patch2

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!

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!

 

 

How I Bought 1 New Piece of Clothing in 6 Months

I hadn’t even realized it had been that long.

Back in September, I made a vow not to buy new clothing for the rest of 2016. I slipped up in November, but by December I did not falter again.

Now we are cruising through February and I came to the realization that I still have not made any new clothing purchases.

Do I live under a rock? No, but I have made some conscious decisions on how to keep my credit card inside my wallet. Here are my top 3 tips on how to not be tempted into buying new clothes.

1. Unsubscribe, Unsubscribe, Unsubscribe!

I said goodbye to the constant emails that tempted me with sales and deals. Now I no longer get sucked into going to the retailer’s site to see what I can get for up to 75% off.

A side benefit is that my inbox is much less crowded.

 

2. Don’t Go Shopping Just Because

bike

Bored? Go ride your bike. 

In many worlds, it works like this:

Bored? Let’s go shopping!

You are not shopping out of need, but instead out of pure boredom and for the thrill of finding a deal. Most likely anything you come home with is not something you needed.

Instead, fill your boredom up with something more productive. Read a book, knit a scarf, go for a walk. Think of all the money you’ll save! (That is unless you decide to pick up an expensive hobby, good yarn can get pricey!)

 

 

3. Save Your Wanted Items For Later

There are definitely times where I come across a piece of clothing that I may not have a legitimate need for. Instead of making an impulse decision, I save the link to the product in a bookmarked folder on my browser called “Things I Want To Buy.”

Usually, if I save an item in there, I forget about it later and it never gets purchased. Or I go back to see what is on the list and realize I definitely do not need it. If I still remember it’s there weeks later, I will consider it more. I personally find it to be a good system.

It also makes a really good go-to for gift ideas!

What do you think?

How To: Gracious Gifting

My Christmas gifts are all finished, and they have been for awhile. If you pay attention to the people you are giving to throughout the year, it is fairly easy to come up with something. For example, I keep a note in my phone with gift ideas for my friends and family.

gifting1

Giving and getting experiences is by far the best type of gift. Even if that isn’t an option, I want to be able to give something that truly has meaning to the receiver, is a need, and stimulates the local economy at the same time. Sorry, department store Christmas commercials, I will not be buying people random sweaters for the holidays.

Here is what you can do to be a conscious gifter:

Go Local

Help a small, local business out and get your gifts from them. To avoid a physical gift, gift cards to a favorite restaurant are always a good option.

Go High Quality

Make your purchase worth it. Going handmade and local usually means it’s going to be of higher quality compared to store brand. Go for brands that have lifetime satisfaction guarantees like LL Bean, Eddie Bauer, or anything on Buy Me Once.

Make It

The most memorable gifts I have ever given have been ones I have made with my own hands. One Christmas I spent countless hours knitting my dad a cable knit scarf and he wears it ALL THE TIME.

Have Someone Else Make It

Sometimes the thing we want to give others is beyond our own ability. If so, employ a local artist or someone from Etsy to help get your message across. I have sent get well cookies to sick friends and personalized flower vases for newly married couples.

Wrap It (Or Don’t Wrap it)

Wrapping paper is a huge waste. I refuse to buy it ever again, especially when we are daily subscribers to the Chicago Tribune. That provides plenty of newspaper to be used for wrapping. Additionally, I save every gift bag and bow I receive so I can pull those out if necessary.

gifting2

 

 

Learn Something New Every Day: Removing Toothbrush Bristles

Last night I turned to K and said, “Where are the pliers?” Giving me a weird look, he asked why. I nonchalantly stated I needed them to remove the bristles from my bamboo toothbrush.

A totally normal response, right?

Either way, my first bamboo toothbrush’s life span as a toothbrush came to an end. After removing the bristles, the handle can be composted in a commercial facility.

So I took a seat and started to pull on the bristles. At first, nothing happened. I yanked and yanked until bristles burst from my toothbrush. So the real lesson here is, do this over an easy to clean surface because bristles WILL BE EVERYWHERE.

After the first chunk of bristles, it became easier and easier to remove them.

 

toothbrush3

Halfway through

toothbrush2

All gone! 

I did my best to keep the bristles and the toothpaste dust contained. When I was finished, I marveled at the fact that I just took 10 minutes to pull bristles out of my toothbrush just so it could be composted. I think it is definitely worth it over the way millions just simply toss conventional toothbrushes in the landfill without a second thought.

toothbrush1

The aftermath

 

No More New Clothes

Having been laid off from my job, I am now on a bit tighter of a budget than I was before. I saw this as the perfect opportunity to test my own willpower.

While I am not a big shopper (I get bored after maybe an hour on a good day), I definitely do buy new clothes here and there. Especially with the back to school season in full swing and all the cozy, warm fall sweaters and boots showing up in the stores.

I already have sweaters, boots, and scarves, and definitely don’t NEED anymore.

So, for the rest of 2016, I will not be purchasing any new clothes or shoes.

One of the best ways to avoid temptation is to remove yourself from store’s email lists. If I do not know they are having a 40% off sale, then I am more likely not to start browsing and see what is on sale.

 

email-subscriptions

No more of these. Unsubscribe.

 

I did this weekend go to a craft fair and flea market, but I am not counting my purchases from either. I supported local, handmade products and bought second-hand.

I will be keeping you updated! Do you have any suggestions and what has worked for you?