Upcycling Shelves

06.13.2017

0600

Materials:

Tools:

  • Miter saw
  • Electric drill  and drill bits

So my family usually keeps leftover material from previous house projects or from items that were disassembled. A lot of the time wood planks are left over. These vary in sizes so I try to upcycle them around the house. My father had a book shelf a while back and it had two 42″ shelves that were 1″ thick and two 72″ shelves that were one inch thick.

I  knew those shelves could be used elsewhere in the house so I designated the shorter shelves for the upstairs kitchenette and created shelves with the other two longer pieces, in two other separate areas of the house.

I bought four grey Everbilt 10 in. x 8 in. Gray Medium Duty Shelf Bracket for the kitchenette and I bought two white Everbilt 9.75 in. x 7.75 in. White Elegant Shelf Bracket for the shelf in the bedroom. The shelf in the hallway will be mounted up with two wood 2x4s on each side.

For the kitchenette, I located the studs by knocking on the wall (you can also use magnets to locate the nails located in the studs as well) and since I wanted the top shelf to have at least 16″ of space from the shelf to the ceiling, I had to create two marks that marked both the top and bottom of the top shelf. I then measured another 11″ below the bottom line of the top shelf and made two marks for the bottom shelf. I wanted to leave at least 22″ above the countertop so there was enough room for using the countertop surface.

Because the shorter shelves didn’t reach across the wall of the kitchenette, I offset the shelves to make the weight of the items on the wall even. I measured the distance between the studs for each shelf, and transferred that onto each shelf. It’s easier to attach the shelf brackets to the shelves first, and then attach them to the wall. My studs were 30″ (on center) between each, so I knew to leave half an inch from the edge of each shelf edge and then measure inwards 30″ to mark the next center of the next bracket.

Once I attached the brackets to the shelves, I had to pre-drill the holes for the screws in the studs on the wall. If you screw in the top screw on the bracket closest to the wall (where the blue arrow is pointing to), and then place a  small level on top (where the violet arrow is pointing), then you can swing the other bracket up (where the maroon arrow is pointing), until the level shows that the shelf is at an even plane.  This seemed to be the easiest way for me to attach the shelves and also double checking the correct balance of the shelves.

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For the shelf under the window, I first located where my studs were and made sure I cleared the electrical outlet. Ideally, I would have place a bracket where that electrical outlet is located, but there wasn’t any room. I wanted the height for this shelf to have an 8″ clearance, so I simply measured 8 inches below the existing shelf and marked two lines for the top and bottom of the shelf. For this shelf I trimmed the edges so it would fit the width of this space better. I also drilled a hole above where the outlet was located, so there would be access to the outlet.  I attached the brackets to the shelf based on the width of my studs. For this shelf, I literally held up the shelf with one hand, and traced the inside of the drill hole locations with the other. As long as I continued to press the shelf against the wall, it didn’t move much. I did this because I wanted to mark where the drill holes were and also to pinpoint the center of the holes. There wasn’t room to swing the shelf up to level it out, (such as the kitchenette example), so when I placed the level on the shelf, I only had to adjust the shelf slightly to even it out. Once the first screw was placed, it pretty much held up it’s own weight until I could drill in the last three screws.

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The shelf in the hallway was mounted with a different method. I actually had to cut this original shelf piece in half. It was the other 72″ long shelf piece, and by placing each of the halves next to one another, I created a  18-1/2″ depth shelf. I first located the studs in each wall and measured 11″ height clearance for the space above this shelf.  The width of the space was so small, that putting up brackets would have taken up too much room. I pre drilled the holes in the 2x4s based on the width of my studs I had located. Always remember which 2×4 belongs on which wall, so you’re not accidentally drilling extra holes. After that, I placed each piece on the new mount and held the shelf pieces in place with finishing nails.

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This was just one of my upcycling projects using materials I found in the garage. If you can find materials that are still in fairly good shape, I would try to upcycle it for a useful piece of item that you may need. It’s cheaper than going out to buy brand new material- especially since you’ll still have your extra supply of material laying around.  I like to use up what I buy, it’s habit of mine and it’s saved me money over the years. I hope this post helped jog some ideas for you!

How to Store Vegetables and Fruit Without Plastic Bags

04.25.2017

0700

When I was growing up, I understood that fruits and vegetables were stored in the refrigerator. As I slowly transitioned to being an adult, I realized that my assumptions were pretty wrong.

Living a more zero waste lifestyle makes you more conscientious and aware of your choices as a consumer. Not buying excessive food and buying a reasonable amount of perishable foods so that extra trash isn’t produced is also a part of the lifestyle. I had to learn that even as I continued on this journey. This meant that I had to really understand how certain fruits and vegetables ripened and why. There are a lot of articles and diagrams for how to store vegetables and fruit, but I thought I would draw up my own diagrams and create my own chart (which you can download here, Store Vegetables and Fruit Without Plastic Bags)

It’s amazing what you realize you don’t have to store in your refrigerator and how much room that frees up is also a gift in itself. There are a lot of ways to store vegetables and fruit, which will keep them from ripening too soon.

I organized my chart by color coding them with the different ways you would have to store the produce. The images below illustrate how to store the produce listed in the chart.

  1. Vegetables
    1. Yellow = Open Container in a location
    2. Orange = Open container with shallow water on countertop
    3. Green = Airtight/Open container in Refrigerator
    4. Dark Blue = Dry/Damp towel in Refrigerator
  2. Fruit
    1. Red = Open Container in a location
    2. Light Blue = Open container with shallow water on countertop
    3. Pink = Airtight/Open container in Refrigerator
    4. Violet = Dry/Damp towel in Refrigerator

Store Vegetables and Fruits Without Plastic Bags

3d illustration of empty cupboard

Store Vegetables and Fruits Without Plastic Bags- Countertop

Store Vegetables and Fruits Without Plastic Bags- Refridgerator

Download my chart in PDF format here, Store Vegetables and Fruit Without Plastic Bags.

I hope this post gives some helpful ideas as to how you can store your vegetables and fruit without plastic. I certainly have used it and it works great. It’s a lot less work in my own life to organize my refrigerator this way, so Happy Grocery and Produce Storing!

Vegetables That Regrow Themselves

04.11.2017

0700

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After reading a few articles about certain vegetables that can regrow on their own, I had to try it. I found a few articles that referred to this unique set of vegetables like this article 13 Vegetables That You Can Regrow Again And Again.

I decided to try to regrow green onions, carrot and celery. The green onions started to regrow almost immediately and the celery root started to regrow after about a week. The carrots took the longest to sprout leaves, which was about the three week mark.

The process was so simple. I did exactly what the article said, cutting off the celery and green onions about 3 inches before the root base. I cut the carrot bases off about half an inch from the base. That might have been a little too close, because the carrots took the longest to regrow. I changed the water out weekly, which I used to water my other plants. After about two weeks, the celery pretty much finished re-growing. It gave me a about five inches of new celery to consume, but not more than that. The green onions did keep regrowing though. I would cut off the stems about where I had cut them off before and they would regrow right back. And it’s still re-growing!

I moved my carrots to my garden, so we’ll see how those turn out. This was a cool experiment, and I encourage anyone to try it. Be patient with your vegetables, and change out the water weekly. I started this process about two months ago, so this post took awhile to put together. I still eat my green onions from my experiment, and I add it into my salads each Sunday when I meal prep for the week. It’s simple and I don’t need that much to eat, I just gather what I need for the week, and by the next week, my green onions are back!

There’s probably a more efficient way to grow these and I’m probably missing a few key ingredients to make my green onions even tastier, but this is a great first step in this process. This experiment does make me want to create my own aquaponic system now.

Happy regrowing!

Zero Waste Take Out Food

03.28.2017

0700

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Ordering take out food is the one thing I didn’t want to give up when I started living a zero waste lifestyle. The concept of always going out to eat when I didn’t want to cook, seemed viable when I first started this journey. Of course, going home, not wanting to cook and  finding the energy to go out to eat was also another challenge. So, after some investigating, and research I had to put together a “Food Take Out Kit”. Most of my research was simply through trial and error with this kit, and finding restaurants willing to serve food in my dishes. I’m lucky that I live in a city that is trying to be more environmentally friendly so I did find a lot of restaurants willing to serve my take out food in my own dishes.

I first called a lot of the restaurants in my downtown area, to see if they were willing to participate in my zero waste effort. A lot of the restaurants were more than willing to participate, but with different methods. Some were willing to take my dishes to the kitchen where they would directly serve my dishes right into my containers, and some were more adamant about bringing the food out on one of their own plates and then transfer it into mine, so to not contaminate their kitchen. Either way, it was fine with me. However, during my research, I did come across some restaurants that were not willing to do either method.

I furthered my research by ordering take out from as many restaurants as I could, when I could. It takes a bit of trial and error, but if you have a Food Take Out Kit, I think it make these trips much smoother. The one thing that seemed a bit tricky was the different types and sizes of side dishes these restaurants offered. Also, I had to slowly gauge what sauces or dips would come along with certain dishes. I didn’t really know what sized to go container each restaurant used, so I used large glass tupperware in hopes that the volume of my tupperware would suffice.

I usually go to the prospective restaurant and order my food with the hostess right then and there, so that I can hand them my glass tupperware dishes to fill up. I had to make a couple of trips to really get this kit down correctly, but here it goes. In my Food Takeout Food Kit, I have:

Food Take Out Kit:

  1. Containers:
    1. Three 54 oz. containers (for main dishes)
    2. Three 35 oz. containers (for smaller portion dishes and side dishes)
    3. Four 1 cup containers (for sauces)
  2. Reusable cloth produce bags
    1. Three medium sized bags
    2. One large bag

I use tupperware by Kinetic GoGREEN Glassworks Series 6-Piece Rectangular Oven Safe Glass Food Storage Container Set 54-Ounce Each for my larger dishes, as well as Kinetic GoGREEN Glassworks Series 6 Piece Square Oven Safe Glass Food Storage Container Set 35-Ounce Each for my smaller dishes, side sides or appetizers. I use Pyrex Simply Store 1-Cup Round Glass Food Storage Dish for sauces or dips that the dishes might come with.

I also will bring my dishes to my local grocery stores, to their deli counter to fill up on whatever I need to. It’s also easy to fill up on cheeses or meats at the deli counter with large rectangular dishes like these. It’s easier for the deli worker to tare the weight of your dish and to fit your choices easily as it’s also easy for them to move around the items to fit more snug.

The downfall of this system is that not every restaurant will allow you to use your own dishes so therefore you either have the choice of eating out at the restaurant or not at all. On the other hand, there is a way to bring that food home which you may have a good selection of restaurants willing to participate in it, and you’re not producing unnecessary trash. I don’t mind that certain restaurants opt out of this participation. They have every right to run their business as they please. However, I’d prefer to buy from restaurants willing to do this though.

If you want to try this Food Take Out Kit, you actually may already have tupperware at home that you could use. If not, I included links to the ones I use. To clear up any confusion, make sure to show the hostess that you already have the 1-cup containers for sauces and dips ready to be filled. I’ve noticed that their concerns are usually associated with the condiments that come with the dishes. The last bonus with creating a zero waste take out food system, is that if you’re not finished with the meals once you bring them home, just place the lids back on and you can save the food for later or eat it the next day. It’s such a simple clean up system!

Yes, I use two bags to carry these dishes around.

Yes, it gets heavy at times.

Yes, it’s worth it, knowing that I’m not contributing to more trash to the landfill.

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The Dangers of Microfiber Cloths

03.07.2017

0600

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You know when a new product comes out, and it promises to eliminate chemicals and cut down on the process of cleaning, and then we wait ten years or so and figure out the drawbacks from this said new product? Yeah, that’s what this post is about. So when microfiber cloths hit mainstream media, I purchased a set just to try it out. They worked as the company had stated, they worked efficiently and I never had to use any chemicals ever again. They seemed like the perfect clean up rag for tile surfaces, mirrors and I even tested it out on some pen marks on room walls.

Because I used these rag mostly for cleaning up and wiping down surfaces that were wet from water, I washed them when it was necessary. The first time I washed them, they stuck to the rest of the rags in the load so after that, I used a laundry delicates wash bag to contain them.

Then more research started popping up, and here’s what was discovered…

What are microfiber cloths?
Microfiber cleaning cloths are made of microfiber fabric comprised of polyester and nylon. Microfibers are much thinner in diameter than human hair. Those used in cleaning textiles are split in a way that creates spaces within each fiber. Regular microfiber, such as Split microfiber vs cotton that used on furniture or in clothing, is soft but not useful for cleaning because it is not absorbent. Conversely, the spaces within the split fibers in split microfiber can absorb up to 8 times their weight in liquid and trap dust and germs so they are not spread around or released into the air. Studies have found split microfiber products can reduce the bacteria count on surfaces much more effectively than cotton. Check a product’s packaging to determine if it is split microfiber or not. If it’s not labeled, you can check by running your hand over the cloth. If it doesn’t grab at the imperfections of your skin, then it’s not split microfiber.

Uses for microfiber cloths

  • Dusting surfaces. Simply wipe the surfaces with a dry cloth. No sprays are needed because a static electric charge that attracts and traps dust develops when the cloths are moved across a surface.
  • Cleaning mirrors and glass. Slightly dampen a portion of a cloth and rub the glass surface with it. Once you’ve removed any spots or smudges, use the dry portion of the cloth to dry and polish the surface.
  • Cleaning counters. To superficially clean counters, use dry cloths to pick up surface dust, dirt, and hair. To deeply clean counters, slightly dampen a cloth and use your usual cleaning spray.
  • Washing dishes. Use just as you would any other dishcloth.
  • Mopping floors. You can use a dry cloth to pick up surface dust, dirt, and hair or a slightly damp cloth to wipe down your floors with your usual cleaning solution. You can also purchase mop heads made of microfiber fabrics. Many people who own Swiffer-type mops designed for disposable mopping pads simple attach a microfiber cloth to the mop instead of a disposable pad.

Cleaning microfiber cloths

If you take good care of your microfiber cloths, they should continue to perform at their peak for years.

  • Remove trapped dust, dirt, and hair by presoaking the cloths in water and a mild detergent.
  • Wash the cloths in cold water (hot water damages the fabric so it is no longer effective). Only wash the cloths with similar fabrics because they will pull lint out of cotton or other materials during the washing process. Bleach and fabric softeners shouldn’t be used (bleach deteriorates the fabric and fabric softeners clog the spaces in the microfibers so they are no longer absorbent).
  • Line dry the cloths or use the lowest heat setting on your dryer and do not iron them. This prevents heat damage to the microfibers.

Environmental ramifications
There is debate over the extent to which microfiber cloths are environmentally friendly. They are beneficial to the environment in that they aren’t tossed out in the trash after each use like paper towels, nor do they need replaced as frequently as cotton cloths. Moreover, they significantly reduce the amount of water and cleaning products needed when cleaning.

Despite these advantages, microfiber cloths are made from nonrenewable resources and are not biodegradable. There is also concern about their role in microplastic pollution. This sort of pollution occurs when tiny bits of polyester and acrylic rinse off of fabrics during washing and end up collecting on the coastlines of densely populated areas. Fish can ingest the harmful debris, as can humans when they eat affected fish.

Inevitably, choose your products wisely. There are positive aspects and negative aspects of every product you purchase. I’ll probably keep my microfiber cloths to wipe down mirrors still, but I’ll switch out for cotton rags to wipe down my surfaces instead. I would like to get rid of them, but that would also mean that because these are not recyclable, they would inevitably go to the landfill. I have used them to protect my glassware and dishware when I was moving, so that seemed fine. Pick and choose how you want to use these cloths depending on your lifestyle and routines. Microplastic pollution is everywhere and it’s up to us to change our thinking habits about the products we use and how we go about discarding them. Maybe we will not be able to eliminate the pollution, but we can certainly reduce.