Bulk Bathroom Shopping Kit

03.30.2016

0830

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My bulk bathroom shopping kit consists of mason jars and cloth bags. Buying bulk bathroom products is probably one of my favorite  shopping trips that I take. This is also due to the fact that I genuinely like bathroom designs. I think the bathroom is essential in how comfortable I feel in a home or apartment. The bathroom is a place where we clean ourselves, we have privacy and it’s where we can relax. My bathroom is very simple so it doesn’t have a lot of stuff on the countertop, in the drawers or even in the medicine cabinet. However, when I step into my bathroom, the tile feels smooth and warm and the space is clean.

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I fill up my 1 Pint Mason Jars with Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint soap and due to its concentration, I actually will dilute it in a small Pyrex bowl when I use it. I use this liquid Dr. Bronner’s soap to clean my sinks, bathtub, toilet, as pet shampoo and even wash dishes. It is an amazingly versatile soap that is mostly eco friendly. I also stock up on Alaffia’s GOOD soaps. I personally prefer the Lavender (white) and Prairie Rose (Pink) scents, but they have seven scents to choose from. I really like using Alaffia’s GOOD soap as body wash and face wash, and their ingredients are openly listed online. If you want to read about them, you can go to Alaffia: Fostering a Body of People and there will be a PDF download to the list of ingredients in their GOOD soaps for each scent.

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I stock up on face lotion and body lotion when I go bathroom bulk shopping too. I tend to carve the tare weight into the lids of my mason jars (using the point of a pair of scissors, be very careful if you decide to carve the tare weights into the lids) so that I never forget their weight. When I do fill up each bottle and write the PLU (product look up) codes, I’ll also write which lotion is for my face and which is for my body. (Notice the PLU codes are the same) Lucky for me, I tend to buy white colored bathroom products so I always have to jot down “Face vs. Body”.  Although if you do forget to write down “Face” or “Body” the consistency of each type of lotion is also a dead give away. My face lotion is more chalky and is not as viscous as my body lotion so if I ever accidentally apply one versus the other on the wrong area, I’ll notice it eventually.

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Also, if you want to ever keep track of how much you spend or use your products, I suggest you keep your receipts or create a graph to track your spending. I know this sounds a bit unorthodox, but I did this for awhile and I saw how much I saved. If you want to buy only Dr. Bronner’s Bar Soaps, or do not have access to a bulk location that sells Dr. Bronner’s Liquid Soap, this link might be helpful, How to Make a Gallon of Liquid Handsoap From a Bar of Soap. I did try this method and it worked. This is also why I included the Ball Gallon Jar in my store tab, under the Kitchen category as well as Dr. Bronner’s Soap Bars.

This is an overall view of what I bring to go bulk bathroom shopping and these items seem to help me in my shopping haul. I hope these items give you an idea of what containers you can use for your bathroom shopping haul. The overall savings of buying bathroom products in bulk will show over time, and I’m personally glad I switched to buying my products in this way.

*UPDATE- 06.16.2017- I no longer use Olive Oil Dispensers – Square Tall Glass Oil Bottle and Stainless Steel Pourer Spout to contain my bulk liquid soap, but instead I now use Ball Quart Jar, Wide Mouth, 32 oz. These jars are easier to clean and they’re much more sturdy in terms of glass design.

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Essential Design Tools

03.28.2016

0900

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When I mention my essential design tools, I’m talking about tools I keep around in order to hack an object or product. Whether it be the way that the product is used, is placed in a location or creating more than one type of use for it. These alterations are never designed to compromise the integrity of the product itself unless I really want to step into that realm. The reason why I don’t want to alter the integrity of the products too much is because by living a zero waste life, I must be able to make multiple products be able to be used for multiple functions. This idea of versatility with every product I invest in, is always in the back of my mind with every purchase or design hack.

Supplies I keep in order to fix or hack day to day situations and circumstances around the house:

  1. Shoelaces and Rope
  2. S-Hooks
  3. Metal Binder Clips
  4. Velcro straps
  5. Carabiners
  6. Metal Rings

All of the tools I choose to keep are reusable and are made of durable material. I do prefer metal or stainless steel material because these tools can be manipulated into the shape of a loop. My favorite tools out of all of these are the carabiners and metal rings. Carabiners are strong, safe, secure and easy to use. Their closed loop design and locking mechanism was the design feature that caught my attention years ago. And due to the fact that these carabiners can be used repeatedly, the investment will pay off on its own. Metal rings can be used anywhere to create another secure loop for hooking any carabiner to it. These two tools coincide with one another when I use them.

I also favor rope as well. If you can find extra rope that’s braided together, then you’ve found gold in my opinion. The strength of braided rope combined with the knowledge of knots is essential. Also, rope has a soft flexibility to it where it can be use with clothing alterations, products and repairs. It’s flexible enough to create tension for a blanket fort, yet can be turned into a lasso to help save a drowning adult in a roaring rapid.

Metal binder clips and velcro straps are used as temporary grips for a group of anything that need to be bundled together. Although metal binder clips are limited in the width of the object they’re gripping, the metal material is still strong enough to retain it’s own shape.  Velcro straps can be used for larger bundles and can also be linked together to extend their capabilities around larger bundles.

S-Hooks are simply used when I need to hang something up without needing to drill a hole into another material. It is my go to tool when I have to deal with an object that needs support due to gravity more so than any other issue.

There are parameters to living a zero waste life, but one has to live within those parameters and still meet their own needs. Some might say that keeping supplies such as  the ones I’ve listed above is excessive, yet, I reuse these design tools repeatedly. If you notice that you constantly reuse certain tools or constantly go out and buy the same supplies, I’m betting that you’ve stumbled upon your own design tools. Invest in supplies that are versatile and are produced with durable materials, and they will consistently give back to you.

My Basic Toolbox

03.23.2016

0830

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I like household fixes, I genuinely do. There’s a sense of accomplishment that goes along with it and a better understanding of how your home functions. Plus, a lot of household repairs are quite simple and easy to get out of the way if you have the right tools and techniques. So I do keep a few tools on hand in my toolbox for this reason, but over the years, I also purged my tool collection. I tend to use a few tools frequently for fixes and I’ll borrow others. I don’t think it’s necessary for me to have an extensive collection in my toolbox due to the fact that I prefer to borrow tools on bigger jobs. Plus, owning more tools means I have to put more effort into maintaining all of my tools. Basically, now my small toolbox includes:

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Level 1:
Exacto blades with blade refills, electrical tape, Teflon (plumbers) tape, a combination lock, 2 old ID cards as putty scrapers, solar calculator

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Level 2:
Pair of trauma shears, long nose pliers, combination pliers, gardening shears, multi bit screwdriver, wind up flashlight, Eklind Ergo-Fold Hex Key Set, DAP Dry Time Indicator Spackling & Nail Hole Filler, biking gloves

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Level 3:
8-Inch pliers wrench, ratcheting adjustable wrench, claw hammer, bike tool kit, masking tape, extension cords, variety of screws and nails, (Denim bag: mini level, compact mirror, measuring tape, laser measure)

My denim bag is the bag I bring to site visits for my job. It’s basically tools I need to map out a floor plan or sketch out a floor plan easily. I’m a big advocator for borrowing tools, being that I think it helps a community in creating a stronger bond and it eases the stress of trying to own every tool out there for every single fix-up job. I do understand that not everyone will hand over their tools to a total stranger, but there are chains such as Cresco Equipment Rental, which is an equipment rental store, that allow you to rent most any equipment you need.

I also keep an eye on tools that may dry up such as the nail hole filler, electrical tape and masking tape. I keep an eye on them due to the fact that I have a tendency to not use an item for a long time and then the product dries up and becomes trash. It’s for that reason as to why I only own a few AAA batteries and only four battery operated items. I’m a believer in owning and buying ONLY WHAT YOU NEED in the quantity that you need it in. With the intention of buying only tools that you need, I also think that investing in a good set of quality tools is essential. Quality over quantity works on all levels. Over estimating your need for items will always lead to more waste and producing trash.

For most household fixes, you can either fix it yourself which means, you’ll go out to buy the part that needs to be fixed (which most likely will come in packaging that will be discarded) or you can hire a contractor to do the job and hope that they take all the trash with them. Hiring someone to do the job may cost more, but I guess that’s the toss up of how you want to produce trash. Unfortunately, either way, trash will be produced. One of the only hopes when it comes to those situations is that you hope your maintenance of the home stands the test of time.

The point of this blog post was not to tell anyone to copy what I own or to give a standard toolbox set, but evoke some thought of how we go about owning tools. My father was a big believer in fixing up our home on his own so as a child, I always saw a massive collection of tools and I had to re-organize my thought process of how I was going to approach tool ownership.

Minimize, minimize, minimize, it’s one of the simplest steps towards a zero waste life.

Bulk Grocery Shopping Kit

03.21.2016

0900

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When it comes to grocery shopping, there needs to be an organized system of how you go about gathering your items. Pre-packaged food gave me this convenience when I hadn’t started on my journey to a zero waste lifestyle, so I had to break down what jars and bags I was going to use for bulk shopping.

My bulk grocery shopping kit consists of cloth drawstring bags, Ball mason jars, Bormioli Rocco Fido Jars and my Lyra Aqua Color Water-Soluble Wax Crayons. I use the mason jars for liquid bulk food such as almond butter, honey, Bragg’s Liquid Amnios and balsamic vinegar. These jars are great for liquids due to the fact that there is very little left over odor from previous products when you need to use the jars for something else. I tried using the  Bormioli Rocco Fido Jars, but the gasket on those jars absorb odor quite a bit and they stain as well. For the fine grain bulk foods like wheat flour, cane sugar and sea salt, I use the Bormioli Rocco Fido Jars so that the transfer from my grocery bag to my shelf is much simpler. (I literally just move the jar from my grocery bag to my shelf- yea, unpacking after grocery store trips is that fast). The jars are also great for storing snacks from the trail mix bins section. If the jars are too heavy to bring to the grocery store, then the bags will still be fine to use. The drawstring bags are used for the rest of bulk grocery shopping as well as fruits and vegetables.

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When you use the mason jars and the fido jars, make sure you tare the weight of the jars before filling them up. For the mason jars, I usually carve the tare weight into the lid of the jar and for the fido jars, I’ll write the tare weight on the inside of the gasket so that the cashier can see the weight through the lid. I write the PLU (price look up) code and the initials of the bulk food on the lid with the water soluble crayons. I write the initials alongside the PLU code because products with the same consistency and color can be mixed up (ie. balsamic vinegar and liquid amnios). I hope my bulk grocery shopping kit helps in prepping your grocery shopping kit. If you have any questions, I’m more than willing to answer them.

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Alternative Screen For Doors

03.16.2016

0830

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Materials:

  • Fabric shower curtain
  • Shoelace
  • Metal rings
  • Binder Clips
  • Nails (thin enough to fit through the holes of the shower curtain)

Tools:

  • Hammer

As Spring is rolling in and Summer is around the bend, I wanted to show a design hack that doesn’t require much commitment. I have a small balcony that leads up to my area and it doesn’t have a screen to keep out pesky bugs. I’m a fan of fabric shower curtains for the fact that I like to toss them into the washing machine and hang them up to dry. I have a few fabric shower curtains that I keep around for design hacks such as these.

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A shower curtain fits almost the height of a standard door frame. For anyone who lives in a space where they cannot impede on the design structure of the space  (ie. due to tenant contracts via landlord), this seems to ease the pain of when your area is overheating during the hotter season. I took 2 tiny nails and hung up one of my fabric shower curtains. Make sure that the nail on the end where the hinge of the door frame is located, is about 6″ from the edge of the frame. This is because when you swing the door open, you have to take in to account the width of the door itself. The curtain must hang easily and without tension as the door is open at 90 degrees. On the door handle side, try to use a binder clip to extend an arm to hook it to any lock hinge with an S hook, or you can simple place a push pin in the wall and hook the binder clip handle to it.

The nail holes are also a simple fix if you decide to move out and need to patch up the holes with caulking. On the open side of the shower curtain I clipped a metal binder clip and on the hinge side of the door, I looped a metal ring. The side with the metal loop tends to wedge perfectly in between the door and the frame on the hinge side. However, when placing the metal ring, try to wedge it horizontally. I actually use a folded up washcloth to wedge under the door to hold it open too.

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On the bottom of the curtain, if you want some weight to the curtain, you can simply attach some metal binder clips with a key chain on each (I know you guys have these key chains lying around somewhere). If you don’t have any key chains, try to find a small weight to hang from the binder clips. The reason why I use binder clips in this design hack, is because I don’t want to sacrifice the integrity of the shower curtain itself.

If you still want the curtain to be lower, you can take some extra shoelace/string/rope/twine and create an extension for the top like this:

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Because the nails are on the top of the door frame, you have about three inches to give in the distance that the curtain starts to hang. If you add these extensions on, the curtain should fit right under the door frame. But if you do add these extensions, you will need to add another nail so that the middle of the curtain isn’t loose. So it will look like this:

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My extensions seem to be enough for me when it comes to hanging my shower curtain and the design on the shower curtain gives a little bit of illuminated art during the day. I don’t add the binder clips or the key chains at the bottom of mine during the summer. I think I like the drastic movement it makes with the wind when it flows through my space. I hope this design hack helps for any of you who may be living in apartments or homes that get uncomfortably hot during the summer. It’s a way to make your own screen without destroying the integrity of the architecture and design or paying for a brand new screen.

Seven Tips To Begin A Zero Waste Life

03.14.2016

0800

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When I first began this journey to live a zero waste lifestyle, although there always seemed to be a list of tasks that I would end up doing; I wish there was a list of things I needed to do in sequential order. There was a lot of backtracking as well as re-organizing when it came down to the sequence in which I should have gone about starting this journey. Because this journey also is adjusted to each person’s lifestyle, my system was not refined for a couple of months. I still wished someone could have informed me about what to do first verses my assumption that the first task was to get rid of all products packaged in plastic.

  1. Begin by making bags from old bed sheets and extra rope/shoelace.
    1. These bags can be different sizes. I made mine into 2 different sizes. Take those bags and weigh them at a store so you can record the tare weight onto each bag. If you narrow down your bags sizes, it’s easier to input the tare the weight and when you shop and you won’t be fluctuating between a variety of numbers. It will be easier on you and the cashier as well.
    2. These bags will also become useful once you start cleaning out your life. Since you’ll most likely be donating or eliminating items from your life, the areas that you’re cleaning out will most likely need something to separate your items in. And these bags will also help in the beginning of your journey into bulk shopping (which takes care of that pesky task of eating to survive).
  2. Sort out your products that are contained in plastic or wasteful packaging.
    1. It’s easier to separate products by room and by use, so go slowly. Then go through and reduce the amount of products.
    2. If you can’t eliminate a product completely, you know that the next tasks is to find an alternative; that alternative also needs to be a zero waste alternative. Unfortunately, that’s also one of the tricky tasks during this journey. Some people may need certain products due to medical reasons or health conditions, so these products take a little bit more time to eliminate and more research as well. Make sure you choose the best solution for yourself.
  3. Invest in jars. I invested in Bormioli Rocco Fido jars as well as Mason jars.
    1. These jars will help you organize your items that need a more sturdy container as well as assist you on your journey in bulk shopping. Food packaging is one of the most wasteful habits we have adapted to, so by investing in these jars, you’re already preparing yourself to take care of the easiest problem.
    2. Also, when you start bringing these jars to the grocery store, make sure you ask the cashier to tare the weight before you fill it. For the Mason jars, I actually carve the tare weight into the lid and for the Bormioli Rocco Fido jars, I write the tare weight on the gasket rim so that the cashier can see the tare weight through the lid.
  4. Go to the local bulk grocery stores near you and find what’s available in their bulk section.
    1. Check out what they sell in their bath and body bulk section as well as the bulk food area. By doing this, you can create a list of ingredients and products that you know are available to you.
  5. Reduce and donate
    1. Although the idea of “tossing out everything” sounds simple, it really isn’t. It takes time and effort. To go from owning a lot of items that you have accumulated in your lifetime, to owning three items is not easy. It takes a lot of evaluation and re-evaluating your routines and habits to adjust to the limited amount of items you now own. The easiest way I knew how to attack this task was to simply ask “Do I need it or do I want it? If I need it, what’s an alternative to it that would not produce waste?”
    2. In time, you’ll notice that perhaps items that you thought you wouldn’t be able to let go of, you can. This process of eliminating and reducing the amount of items in your life changes the way you approach possessions as well as products. It will take time, so be patient with yourself- but always strive to be completely zero waste.
  6. Start a compost.
    1. With all of the bulk items you’re going to buy, I very much suggest starting a compost. If you don’t have enough land to start a compost, look into city programs that may offer something similar. You can even search for local businesses that might be willing to take your compost or buy it.
  7. Opt out of junk mail and use the mail pieces that do get through as scratch paper.
    1. This is an easy task. I used Catalog Choice and Direct Marketing Association Choice which offer a mail preference service for consumers. Granted, the list of magazines and newsletters I have opted out of on both of my accounts are not short. I had to input quite a bit of organizations and businesses, but it’s well worth it in the end.
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I hope this list helps those of you who are starting out on your own zero waste life journey. I know it wasn’t a simple and short type of list, where I only listed tasks to do in a bullet point format. I wanted to explain why I chose these seven items to anchor the beginning of the journey for zero waste newbies. Good luck to all and if you have any questions, please email me, my email is in my about section of this website. Also if you want to see what items I have purchased, please check out my store link.

Ottoman Attachments

03.09.2016

0700

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Materials:

  • Cloth bags
  • Short screws that will hold the bags in place

Tools:

  • Screwdriver

With no coffee table as a furniture piece, means that I have to manipulate the uses of my ottomans. Coffee tables do provide a flat and even surface to place our items on but storage is also necessary. I personally need a place to keep my remote control and reading material. Sometimes that  storage is also where I keep a small pile of papers for sketching when I’m watching TV or my cell phone when I want it off of the couch when I’m sitting on the couch.

Since my ottomans have storage space under their lids, I decided to solve my  problem by attaching a few canvas bags. These bags are old bags that I’ve had for awhile and I thought they would work great here. I picked my canvas bags due to the strength of canvas itself and the colors are neutral enough that they won’t stand out too much from the ottoman color. I attached the smaller bag with a safety pin and the larger bag with two screws. If you’re going to try this method of attaching bags to an ottoman, I suggest you put a sample weight in the bag as you measure the height that it should hang above the floor. All bags are designed and sewn with different stitches and will fill out in different capacities. Some bags are designed to fill out more on the bottom half of the design and some will not. By placing a sample weight in the bags (ie. remote controls, some papers, a magazine), you will be able to see how the bag will sit against the ottoman with the tension relying on the screws or safety pin(s). If you decide to have a bag for magazines or papers, make sure that there is enough room on both sides of the object so that you can slide it in and out of the pocket with ease. This may take some adjustments when you’re trying to place the location of where the bag is going to sit above the floor.

This system works very well and I can store my remote control, my phone when it’s not being used and even reading material that I’m waiting to read. I’ve used these attachments for years and I actually have another ottoman which also has two bags attached to it with the same method. These bags are also great when you need to store an object(s) that you need access to quickly, such as kids toys. I hope this post was useful for those of you who may use it. Depending on the needs of you and your family, you should pick your canvas bags accordingly, by testing out different sized bags.

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DIY Reusable Cloth Produce Bags

03.07.2016

0800

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Materials:

  • Bedding flat and fitted sheets
  • Bedding pillowcases
  • Shoelace/rope to use as drawstrings for the bags

Tools:

  • Sewing machine
  • Sewing kit

I use old bed sheets and old pillowcases to make produce bags with drawstrings to close the top openings. For this project, I used four pillowcases and two bed sheets. The weight of each piece of sheet varies in thickness, so I know that the tare weight will differ. This project does take a little bit of time, but the payout is immensely satisfying.

To size them up, I first divided a pillow case into quarters and I use extra shoelaces to make the drawstrings. I like to have at least two different sized bags so that I can use one size for my staple bulk shopping and the others to be used for standard bulk shopping. The pillowcase that will be divided into quarters would be the smaller size and I would half another pillowcase to be the larger bag template. I only need four large bags so the rest will be the standard bulk bag size.

The easiest and quickest way to finish this project in a short amount of time is to first measure out the size of each fabric piece, but measure out the pieces so that the fold of the fabric will be on the left or right side of the rectangular template. The reason why I recommend this is that when you sew, you can make one continuous stitch line without ending. If you create the fold of the fabric on the bottom, you have to sew both sides with separate stitch lines. Understandably, if you end up with very linear fabric pieces once you measure out your sheets, having two stitch lines will be inevitable. Keep in mind, the top is left alone for the drawstring pocket.

I usually measure the pocket for the drawstring at 1/2″ width and I pin it in place using ball head straight pins. I then sew the pocket for the drawstring and leave the ends open for the drawstring to be fed through. Then for each fabric piece, I fold the opening edge and bottom edge in about 1/2″ and pin it with a few ball head straight pins. You can also fold this hem over once more to secure the hem as well. Once all of the bags are sewn, I tie off all of the thread ends so that the ends don’t dangle and get caught up in the washing machine. Then I take each bag and feed the drawstrings through each pocket using a small safety pin. Once the drawstrings are fed through their pockets, I tie off the ends so that the drawstring won’t slip out.

Because I measured out my fabric into two basic sizes, I take one bag of each fabric type and size and bring it to the grocery store to record the tare weight. My tare weight for my standard bulk bag is 0.07 lbs and for the larger bag it’s 0.12 lbs. I usually write my tare weight towards the top of the bags due to the fact that cashiers tend to look for twist ties there. However, don’t write the tare weight too close to the very top of the bag, being that once you close the bag opening with the drawstring, the writing gets somewhat lost in the folds of the bag.  I usually write the tare weight about 3″ from the top of my bags. I use LYRA Aqua Color Water-Soluble Wax Crayons to write on my bags and I bring them with me to record the PLU codes (Price Look Up codes) right on the bags.

From the four pillowcases and two bed sheets I used in this project, I made 57 bags. I also made two tiny little bags from the leftover fabric pieces, because I really didn’t want to add it to my trash bin. I hope this post helps for those who are looking to make your own produce bags. This was a two day project and although I was exhausted after finishing it, I was beyond ecstatic when these bags were put to use. These bags are used everywhere around my house from using them for lunch bags, to containing my cat’s toys and even using them in the kitchen to keep items organized. So utilize that sewing machine and I hope you enjoy your new DIY bags as much as I do.

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Taking Notes On Reflective Surfaces

03.02.2016

0830

DSC_3692For notes I need to look at on a daily basis, I tend to write them on my mirrors, that way I can see the notes during my morning routine. Dry erase markers are easy to use on any reflective surface and they’re effective. I do utilize my calendar in my phone as well when it comes to notes but there’s something calming about not turning your phone on right when you wake up each morning.

I do take notes in my car using dry erase markers as well. I don’t write and drive by any means, but when a design solution is strong enough to provoke  me- I’ll jot it on my window or mirror. It’s just another way of me not turning to my phone for support. There are dry erase markers that are designed to be refilled like these AusPen 6 Assorted Refillable Whiteboard Markers – Chisel NIB but mine are just dry erase markers from EXPO, which are not refillable.

When I first encountered the issue that these markers would end up in the landfill, I then invested in a Quirky Scratch-n-Scroll Mousepad with Erasable Writing Surface. I used to own the larger and classic version of this  Cra Z Art Travel Magna Doodle, but over time, the writing utensil seemed to not pick up the small magnets under the writing surface. For those who have tablets and can download sketching apps (I do have an iPad), taking notes on tablets can also be another alternative. Inevitably, I think that when my EXPO dry erase markers dry out, I might have to invest in these Schylling Magic Slate Drawing Pads Party Pack Bundle – 3 Pack pads. Time will tell and depending on how you relate to your writing, there are many alternatives out there to use and create less waste to go to the landfill.

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