reuse

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…

 

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Twist Ties to Avoid Tangles

I have noticed retailers are selling these things that keep your headphones from getting tangled. They are especially being pushed on gift guides this year as stocking stuffers.

That’s cool and all, but we don’t need to be sold another product.

Open your kitchen drawer.

Use what you have.

headphones

I have a TON of twist ties laying around and I use them for everything. Both sets of headphones are controlled by them and I use a stretched out hair tie to corral another charger cord.

The point here is, look around your house and see what you can use before adding one of those things to your shopping cart.

 

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?

No Need for Pretty Wrapping Paper

You won’t find rolls of pretty wrapping paper in this house.

Wrapping paper and gift wrap for me include a pile of the Trib’s comics section.

the funnies

And a bag full of gift bags and tissue paper that was previously given to me.

bag of tissue paper

If I am handing you a present in a gift bag,  there is a 100% chance that it was given to me by someone else.

It is just silly to pay for something that is going to get ripped up and thrown out! Thus why I ranted about it last Christmas too.

gifting2

I get it. That cohesive look of presents wrapped in a glossy wrapping is Pinterest worthy.

But what I do not get is why anyone would throw out a perfectly good gift bag. They can be used infinitely until they rip!

I keep every single one I receive. And every one will be used again. And hopefully again (I am looking at you people I am giving gifts to! Do your duty!).

Inspiration

This blog does not get an unreal amount of traffic.

My page views are not off the charts.

And I am totally okay with that.

That’s because I love hearing from friends and family (and those on the internet) about what they have learned from my blog. It makes all of it worth it.

I have had friends in Washington reach out about recycling questions. I have had family friends in Maryland send me food waste articles. Followers now know what to do with their old running shoes, their old Apple products, and their old jeans.

 

I had a friend from DC message me the following:

“I love following your blog and seeing all that you do to help the environment. It really inspires me to do little things to do my part. I realized how awesome cloth napkins are for EVERYDAY!”

So much excitement about cloth napkins!

compost bucket7

Another friend has started composting, like real composting in her backyard. I am so proud!

Just being able to make one small difference is really what this blog adventure is all about.

So thank you.

A Reuse Reminder from My Running Shoes

My old running shoes recently were given a new life.

Since the old ones were out the door, I kinda needed to replace them in order to continue running.

I decided to go with the same type of shoe I have had for the last 3 pairs of running shoes, the Saucony Ride. Sticking with what works.

Anyway, when I opened the shoe box I found a great little surprise on the inside.

Saucony recycle box

How cute!?

Garage Sale Finds into Framed Art

K & I have a small obsession with maps.

We already have a map of Cape Cod Bay and Washington DC in our apartment.

So when I stumbled upon a copy of the Charts of the Illinois Waterway at a garage sale, I knew I had to go back and get it. K also told me I had to go back and get it.

garage sale1

It has maps of the Mississippi, the Chicago River, the lock system, and the canals that helped reverse the flow of the Chicago River.

K was thrilled with the purchase. We knew right away they would make great additions to our growing map collection.

The maps hung around for a few months until I finally got around to finding frames for them, even though we did not have much wall space left anymore.

framedmap1

We picked our favorite two: one of the waterways of the U.S. and one of the downtown portion of the Chicago River.

framedmap2

They look pretty good over the TV and am happy with the purchase and placement of them. It is also always a way better story when you can say you got something at a garage sale!

framedmap3

Up North for the Grayslake Flea Market

I made a pretty arduous flea and vintage market schedule this spring. Although I have been slacking, for the most part, I  did visit Randolph Street Market last month and over the weekend took a drive North to the Grayslake Flea Market.

Grayslake flea1

It was a pretty cool, but nice, Saturday and I enjoyed walking through the outside vendors over the ones in the main hall.

grayslake flea3

This sign caught my eye right away and I just loved it! Old things are awesome and we should enjoy them!

grayslake flea2

For instance, check out this awesome wallpaper table. It would look so awesome in an entryway if I had one of them. By the time I made a second lap back through the outside vendors, this baby was snatched up. It was a steal at $125!

I did not end up getting much, but I did find a vendor who used to be a science teacher. She found the below 1970’s science posters in her classroom one year and loved the graphics so much that she kept them.

grayslake flea6

Thank goodness she did because I absolutely loved them! The “Our Environment” one caught my eye first.

grayslake flea5

After sifting through a pile of them, I purchased my three favorites. K loved all the posters when I brought them home and he was actually upset I did not buy them all!

grayslake flea4

That will probably be the only time he will be mad I did not buy something from a flea market. I hope to frame them someday when I have more walls to hang stuff on. Right now we are kind of out of wall space!

Recycling My Running Shoes

Does anyone else hoard their running shoes? I keep them around forever and use them as my already-gross-don’t-care-if-they-get-any-grosser shoes.

After writing in a previous post about what to do with materials that are no longer usable to someone else, I learned about Nike’s Reuse-A-Shoe Program that turns your completely destroyed shoes into Nike Grind materials for floor surfaces and new products.

nike recycle

Last week I popped over to our local Nike running store and dropped off one of my oldest pairs of running shoes. They have no cushion left and the heels are all torn up inside.  No one is going to want those, but Nike does, and they will give your Sole Mates a second life.

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!