How To Reduce Waste In Your Home

08.12.2019

0600

Reducing the amount of trash that comes into your home is not as hard as it sounds. It might sound like a daunting task because we as consumers, buy a lot of packaged items that we bring into our home. However, it’s a simple process of elimination.

For instance, if you evaluate your kitchen items and everything you buy weekly, monthly, and yearly- that’s pretty much your entire list. For the yearly items, if you can find reusable alternatives, you can essentially eliminate your yearly inventory shopping.

Then, list all your weekly items that you tend to buy, and find reusable, non-toxic alternatives for those items. Your weekly and daily items are most likely the trash culprits. Half of the time, we don’t realize how many coffee cups we buy every day or even plastic packaged lunch items that we purchase daily. Eliminating the daily trash will help greatly reduce the amount of trash that enters your home. There are a lot of reasonable alternatives when it comes to kitchen items. Using cloth napkins in lieu of paper napkins, and using real dishware instead of paper plates can help eliminate the disposable trash output. You can also use real utensils instead of disposable utensils. You can bring a reusable coffee Tumbler when you go to get tea or coffee, so you don’t end up with a disposable cup.

A lot of people don’t know that the paper containers provided for us at grocery stores, and food establishments are lined with plastic, and those containers do not compost or bio degrade. The plastic layer, prevents it from composting completely. It’s a little bit like green washing because you may think your container is completely made of cardboard but it really isn’t. Using reusable items is a much better alternative, because you are in control of how much trash you are producing.

For your bathroom items, it’s the same process as evaluating your kitchen items. Go through your items and figure out which products you use and purchase, yearly, weekly and daily. Slowly replace the yearly items with reusable and sustainable options, as well as a weekly and daily items.

When it comes to medications or anything medical, I suggest that you consult with a doctor before you decide to eliminate certain products. I purchase sunscreen consistently. I live in California, where the sun is strong, and skin cancer is a real concern. I’m very aware that I am producing plastic trash with my sunscreen bottles. However, I would never want to put my health at risk just so I can proclaim that “My lifestyle is absolutely zero waste!”, and I wouldn’t want you to do that either.

Health concerns are very personal, so you know your own limit. If you can eliminate a plastic contained product and opt for a reusable version, than I think that’s great. Right now, I buy my conditioner, body lotion, bar soap, liquid soap, and tooth powder, in bulk. When it comes to sunscreen, face moisturizer and dental floss, those come in packaging.

You can use this evaluation process for the other rooms in your home. The biggest trash producers are the kitchen and the bathrooms. Some people have other rooms where they tend to buy a lot of items for, and those can be also evaluated in the same fashion.

This process takes time, and it takes self awareness to be consistent. Start slow and just work on an area or room in a certain amount of time. If you give yourself a time limit, staying consistent and motivated, becomes easier.

Mending Items Versus Buying Items

07.29.2019

0600

If you read about my Fast Fashion post, it relates to this one. If not, please go check it out. Even though I do by thrift store items, I will still mend an item to save it from a donation. Sometimes I will mend my items and then I donate the item. For instance, I found an old shirt at my aunts house. It had a few holes in it but overall, I liked the color and I didn’t mind the cut of the shirt. The color went perfectly with my color palette for my capsule wardrobe, so I really wanted to save it from being donated. I just needed to mend the shirt, so it would be decent to wear.


Now I have an almost new shirt.


Whenever I upcycle clothing, I always keep scraps of the leftover clothing item. In my Reusing Fabric and Thread blog post, I wrote about keeping my fabric scraps in a small bag. I literally have a bag of scraps. I love fabric, and the use of fabric in different products, (depending on the thread count, material, and the way fabric is sewn together,) can be a very durable material.

Some shirts have higher thread counts, which lends them to become excellent candidates to upcycle into grocery bags, or other heavy duty bags. The smaller scraps that I keep, I always try to find a use for them. Whether it’s going to be upcycled into a small project or large project, the one thing I can count on is that I can throw it in the washing machine to clean it. 

If I had a choice to make, with picking and choosing reusable products, I prefer to choose items that I can wash easily. I don’t like to buy items which require a special cleaning method or liquid to clean. I like to sew and mend items, because the product that I’m usually mending, only needs to be washed with soap and water.

If you reflect on the products that you use daily, the majority of them are probably sewn together: your clothes, handbags, wallets, car seats, bedding, upholstery, etc. Knowing how to sew and understanding how to repair fabric products has been a life saver for me. I actually learned how to sew by hand, and didn’t learn how to use a machine until years later.

Learning how to mend items can save you money, time and stress. Even the simple act of sewing on a button is helpful. You can save a simple dress shirt, like I did, from sending it to a donation station.

Plastics In The Bathroom

07.01.2019

0600

I definitely have plastics in the bathroom. I did try to transition to glass bottles for my bathroom products, but the glass was too slippery and didn’t seem efficient. When it comes to products are used in the bathroom, I do have a set amount of items that I can refill. However, there are items that do come in plastic packaging and plastic bottles, that end up being recycled or go into the landfill.

I have bottles that I refill for my Dr. Bronner’s liquid peppermint soap, my body lotion, and my conditioner. I use bar soaps a lot, so I buy bar soaps that either don’t have packaging at all, or come in recyclable paper packaging.

For the items that do come in plastic packaging, that includes my sunblock, my face moisturizer as well as dental floss.

My bathroom isn’t completely zero waste. I do use plastic containers and refill them as needed. And for specialty items, they come in plastic containers. I wish sunblock didn’t come in plastic containers, but so far, mine do. I think it’s entirely possible to have zero waste bathroom though; mine just isn’t. When it comes to my conditioner, I will transfer some of it into a larger stainless steel water bottle, and add water to dilute the formula. I’ve noticed that my hair responds better when my hair doesn’t have residue left over from the conditioner. For my other items that come in plastic containers such as dental floss, face moisturizer, I haven’t found a good alternative is for my skin yet. I’ll keep looking though, I think the battle is always on going when it comes to striving for a zero waste lifestyle.

Car Floor Mat Towel Sleeves

04.01.2019

0600

Materials:

  • 2 Bath Towels
  • 4 Hand Towels
  • Sewing Kit
  • White Fabric Pencil

Tools:

  • Sewing Kit
  • Sewing Machine

It’s interesting how we pick up habits from our parents or other figures in our lives. When the rain season comes, my  mother has always wrapped an old towel across her car mats to absorb the extra water that would get dragged in by everyday use. To this day, I’ll see her break out the towels around the middle of October.


As for me, I never cared for my floor mats in my car. I honestly never liked my car. The car was bought without my input and I was stuck with it thereafter. But recently I did get new car mats, along with a new car, and since I didn’t want to drag a bunch of water into my car, I too, wrapped my car mats in towels. But I soon realized that the towels would get tugged and moved around from the daily use of them. I had to solve this issue. I didn’t want to constantly re-tuck the towels under my car mats, because sometimes they were already dirty and wet.


The front floor mats were a large size and I knew that bath towels would be a perfect fit. I decided to make some towel sleeves for my car mats. Since my carpet in my car is black, I knew I had to find black towels to create my towel sleeves. With the towels sleeves, it would be easier to catch the dirt and rocks that would be brought into my car, and the towels would be easy to clean, since all I had to do was take off the sleeves and throw them into the washing machine. 

I found two bath towels that were 52″ long by 30″ wide. Since my front floor mats are about 31″ long and 21″ wide, I only needed the width of the floor mat sleeves to be about 22″ wide. the size of these bath towels would give me 26″ width. I didn’t mind if the towel wasn’t long enough to cover the length of my floor mat because the mat could stick out a little bit.

I folded the towel in half, length-wise and pinned the edges together, to prepare for the sewing process.

I wanted to leave one of the shorter edges open, so I could slide my floor mats in and out easily. In one continuous line, I sewed along the yellow arrows (in the picture below). For the corners of the towel, where the material was thicker, I angled the long sew line and continued on. I then went back and hand stitched the corners, so they would stay together better.

As you can see, the folded towel was still large enough to fit over my floor mat, and there was still extra room.

In order for the sleeves to fit to the car mats better, I sewed rough outlines of the shape of each mat on each of the sleeves. First, I flipped the car mats over, onto the back of the car sleeve. Then, using my white fabric pencil, I drew rough outlines of each mat. I did this because I didn’t want the white washable pencil to show, when I fit the sleeve over the car mat.

I only outlined the rough outline of the car mats, because I still needed to remove them easily. I created the outlines about 3/4″ from the actual edge of the car mats. I left a bit of a boarder, for the fact that the towel might shrink in the washing machine and also, I wanted the sleeves to slip off easily, when needed. Towards the closed end of the car sleeve, I tightened the outline a bit, but in general, I kept the outline lines straight in from the open edge.

I placed each of the front floor mats into my car, and folded the edges underneath the floor mats accordingly. You don’t have to fold them under, but I chose to.

For the rear seat floor mats, I found eight hand towels to create the set in my car. My rear seat floor mats are 24″ long, by 16″ wide, so I found hand towels that were 26″ long and 16″ wide. The sewing process for these floor mat sleeves follows the previous steps for the front seat floor mat sleeves.

I stacked two hand towels on top of each other, making sure that the tag was facing inwards for both towels. I then sewed along the yellow arrows around the towels. I left one of the long edges open because I wanted to slide the floor mat in easily. For the corners of the hand towel sleeves, I angled the long, linear sew line to complete the stitch, and then I went back to each corner and stitched them together carefully. My machine doesn’t like it when the material gets too thick, because it can’t pass under the needle easily.

These rear seat floor mats had a lot of extra room around the edges, so I knew that I might have extra floor coverage.

This size hand towel seems to accommodate different car brands and the mats still fit really well within the parameters.

Now, when I need to clean my floors, I’ll just remove the floor mats from the towel sleeves and either wash them or shake them out. I might have to vacuum the edges, but that doesn’t take long at all. These towel sleeves makes my life a bit easier, by allowing me to keep my floor mats clean, and that’s always a good perk.

Created Slim Hanging Organizers

08.01.2017

0600

Materials:

  • Three 7 inch-8 centimeter, white zippers (for one pillowcase design)
  • Two 12 inch, pink zippers (for the second pillowcase design)
  • Two Velvet Hangers

Tools:

  • Sewing Machine or sew by hand

I always try to take up less space than necessary when it comes to my home. It’s not that I dont’ have the room to spread out, but I personally don’t think it’s necessary. I don’t like my items and possessions spread out over a large space because it takes more energy to find things and living a more compact lifestyle helps me keep my possessions to a minimum. As a designer, it’s an interesting challenge to minimize the space that I take up.

So I decided to create a slim organizer for my closet. I had a hanging closet shelf but I wanted to get rid of it. In order to get rid of it, I still needed some type of organizer in its place. The items that I needed to organize were small clothing items as well as small accessories. This slim organizer only needed to hold the weight of those items. I did move some stuff out of the original hanging shelf to other areas of the house, so what you see in the images below isn’t a direct transfer of items to the new slim organizer.

Hanging organizers actually already do exist in stores, but from what I’ve seen, these organizers tend to have the user access the pockets from the front of the organizer. It would be easier for a person who has a walk-in closet to use those organizers, but I wanted to make a slim organizer which I could access from the side.

So in the end, this organizer helped me reduce my space by half:

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Here is what I did…

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I gathered my pillowcases and designated one of the pillowcases to be divided into three sections and the other pillowcase would be divided into two sections.

I took one pillowcase and hemmed the open end of the pillowcase. I then folded the pillow case into thirds and marked the lines using sewing pins. This pillowcase would have the three 7 inch-8 centimeter, white zippers sewed to it.

 

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I sewed along the lines to close off the three separate sections, then I placed my zippers down to mark the location of the zippers. Depending on how I wanted to access my slim organizer in the closet, I had to choose which side of the pillowcase to attach the zippers. Since I wanted this slim organizer to be on the right side of my closet, I wanted the openings on the right side of the pillowcase so that when it was hanging up, I could access the slots easier. I also left about an inch margin between the zipper and the edge of the pillowcase because the items inside will create a bulge that I had to take into consideration.

I used an ink pen to make tiny dots at each end of the zipper. I actually marked the dots in between the zipper teeth at each end, this way, it also centered the location of the zipper. I connected each set of dots to create the cut lines in order to fit my zippers into the pillowcase. I just used scissors to cut these lines.

 

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After I cut the lines, I inserted the hanger into the opening that was on the end of the pillowcase that was originally closed. I folded the pillowcase in half (vertically) to find the center and pretty much wedged the metal hook through the pillowcase. I chose to place my hanger on the original closed end of the pillowcase because if I used the hemmed end of the pillowcase for the hanger, the weight of the items in the organizer might weaken the that end of the pillowcase over time. I had to consider the weight of each pocket that was created, so I constantly thought about the overall weight that would pull on the material itself.

Once I placed my zippers into each slot that was made, I folded the edges of the pillowcase down to the zippers and pinned them together with sewing pins. Then I hand sewed the zippers to the pillowcase (making sure I sewed both the hemmed layer and the top layer of the pillowcase to the zipper).

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Once I was done, I used the same process to create the double pocket slim organizer. The triple pocket slim hanging organizer will be used for small items and the double pocket slim organizer will be used for some extra pieces of clothing items.

I don’t know if this is a favored design, but I personally like how much less space it takes up. this design works for me and, my space. Hopefully this design may jog some space organizing ideas for you as well.

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Creating A Locking Mechanism For My Carabiners

05.16.2017

0700

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I’m a big fan of carabiners. I have all different types and designs, however, I tend to favor the Asymmetrical D-Shape. On a whim a few years back, I bought two S-Binder carabiners. I really liked this design because the items I would place on the bottom half of the carabiner were separated from the top half. The top lever was the lever that I would use to hook and unhook the carabiner to other objects.

This also lead to an issue with the way in which I used it. Each time I would wrap my hands around the carabiner to press open the top lever,  I would inadvertently press my palm against the bottom lever and the objects had a very good chance to slide out. This involuntary action happened a few times and I had to come up with a quick solution.

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First, I wrapped a small piece of Velcro around the bottom lever, but over time, the Velcro started to become weaker and would become unattached, which left the end flap of the Velcro unattached. I knew I had to come up with a more permanent solution. I knew other carabiner brands sold their Asymmetrical D-Shape carabiners with locking mechanisms or had an external accessory that helped lock their levers in place. I had to make my own locking mechanism in order for me to not drop my keys all over the place.

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I took a old piece of an iron on elbow patch (I had bought a set years ago and never used them all up), and I cut the length to the distance that it would take to cover the lever and half of the basket of the carabiner. (If you don’t know where the ‘basket’ is, I labeled all of the parts of a carabiner in the first image).

With a few sewing needles, I marked the locations of the fabric of which I would have to sew the fabric together. I removed the fabric from the carabiner and sewed it up. I needed to create a snug fit for the locking mechanism so that the fabric didn’t move easily when in use. When I sewed my second locking mechanism, I sewed it a little too snug, but with fabric, you have a slight chance to stretch the length and width of any product due to the material. This was material for iron-on elbow patches, so it was a very, very slight stretch .

Once I was finished sewing both the locking mechanisms, I slid the pieces on, moved my key rings over them and then slid it back over the levers. It’s a simple solution to a very basic tool I use everyday.

If you use any other kind of fabric, perhaps 100% cotton,  you may have to sew it a little tighter because cotton tends to stretch more. And, you may want to extend the length of the locking mechanism so that it can’t slide back and forth on the basket as easily. The idea is to make the fabric slight “stuck” on the spine of your carabiner. If it has a hard time sliding around the basket, then it most likely won’t slide around when in use.

I hope this might give any of you some ideas as to how to approach design problems such as this one. Happy sewing and don’t loose those keys!

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A Climber’s Guide To Carabiners

The Problem With Disposable Chopsticks

11.17.2016

0800

The world’s fast growing appetite for Asian food has a lot to do with both population growth and economic development on the continent. Demand has soared in China, where GDP per capita has increased more than ten fold since 2000, and also in Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia. The long-standing myth that disposable chopsticks are produced with scrap wood products just isn’t true. In fact, an estimated 25+ million mature tree (each usually over 20 years old) are logged each year just to make chopsticks that are used once and then thrown away. The statistics behind disposable chopsticks are surprising:

  • In China, about 57 billion pairs of wooden disposable chopsticks are made each year. They’re made from cottonwood, birch, spruce and bamboo.
  • Half of these disposables are used within China itself. Of the other half, 77 percent are exported to Japan, and South Korea.
  • With China’s 1.3 billion people, in one year, they go through roughly 45 billion pairs of the throwaway utensils; that averages out to nearly 130 million pairs of chopsticks a day. (The export market accounts for 18 billion pairs annually.
  • Globally, about 1.4 billion people throw away 80 billion pairs of disposable chopsticks each year
  • In the U.S., Americans threw out 31 million tons of plastic — including plastic utensils — in 2010, making up 12.4 percent of the nation’s municipal solid waste. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, only 8 percent of that plastic waste was recovered from recycling.

The impact of so many discarded chopsticks is of course unsustainable. With China now the world’s largest importer of wood, governmental organizations are aware that the nation cannot sustain the level of deforestation needed to manufacture so many throwaway products. In 2006 China imposed a 5% tax on disposable chopsticks, a move which resulted in a drop in manufacturing.

Greenpeace China has estimated that to keep up with this demand, 100 acres of trees need to be felled every 24 hours. Think here of a forest larger than Tiananmen Square — or 100 American football fields — being sacrificed every day. That works out to roughly 16 million to 25 million felled trees a year.

The chairman of Jilin Forestry Industry Group noted that only 4,000 chopsticks can be created from a 20-year-old tree, 2 million of which were being cut down each year to produce them.

Then there are the restaurants. The alternative to wooden disposables is sterilizing the tableware (plastic, metal or durable wood chopsticks) after each use. But the cost differential is significant: Disposables run about a penny apiece, while sterilization ranges from 15 to 70 cents. Restaurants, especially the low-end ones, worry about passing the costs on to customers. And the worry would seem to be warranted: Consumer advocacy groups from 21 Chinese cities published an open letter in March arguing that the costs of sterilization should not be passed on to consumers as the food safety law obligates restaurants to provide free, clean and safe tableware.

Here’s the kicker:

Disposable chopsticks are made by boiling them in toxic chemicals. Disposable chopsticks tend to be consistent in color. The exact same color. This is due to the manufacturing process. Sulfur dioxide is used as a preservative on the wood. It’s used to create a consistent color and texture throughout the products.

In 2005, a Chinese consumer council warned that sulfur dioxide from throwaway chopsticks was connected with an increase in asthma and respiratory problems. Sulfur dioxide is a toxic gas and source of air pollution. Small amounts of sulfur dioxide can be used in the wine making process, sometimes even in preserving dried fruits. Technically, you’re not consuming your wood chopsticks, so it doesn’t count?

The most environmentally friendly option is to stick with metal chopsticks — Korea’s preference in utensils — but they can be quite weighty and slippery to use for beginners. You can also buy a set of formal chopsticks with a carrying case, and use those.

Out of all the animal protein options available, I tend to favor fish. My friends and family are also big sushi fans. Whenever we go out we tend to chose sushi diners to indulge ourselves with. (Good thing is that sushi fills us up quickly.) Almost every sushi restaurant I’ve ever been to, uses disposable wooden chopsticks. I always felt bad for using these chopsticks because I know that all of these chopsticks will end up in the landfill. For this reason, I added a pair of chopsticks to my travel utensil bag. It is a bit odd to pull it out during dinner at times, but then again, making waves is always odd in the beginning. Maybe I’ll just invest in a set of metal chopsticks instead. Also…. don’t eat your chopsticks.

The Simple Route To Less Trash

11.01.2016

0800

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The route to the zero waste lifestyle is quite simple. As you can see from the illustration above, this route can have nine stops along the way. Even with nine stops, some of these steps can be combined with one another being as the actions follow one another quite closely. The beginning of the journey is a little difficult because you’re still unprepared to get rid of your wasteful items and you haven’t bought items to replace the functional use. To prepare for this, I do suggest you examine what you ABSOLUTELY NEED in your daily routines and then find/purchase products that will compensate easily. Here is a simple outline of how you can get started:

  1. Simplify:
    Edit your belongings. Understand your true wants and needs. This can be in a list form or simply going through each day and examining each routine you go through.
  2. Refuse:
    Refuse single-use disposable items. That’s anything you use once and then dispose of it. This can easily be done because all you really have to do is say no.
  3. Bring your own:
    Have durables to keep single-use plastics away. Items like a reusable bag, straw, tumbler and water bottle. Always bring these items items wherever you go. I’ve been stuck a few times in situations where I did not pack all of my utensils (reusable cup, fork, spoon and metal straw) because I didn’t think I’d run into situations where I would need them.
  4. Whole Foods:
    Become resourceful with food by learning to make easy & quick meals from unprocessed and unpackaged foods. I like to make simple meals from whole produce combined with food I buy from the bulk bins. I don’t like spending a lot of time cooking, so my grocery list is pretty repetitive and simple.
  5. Compost:
    Separate your food waste! From backyard to warm composting, don’t let your food scraps go to the landfill! Composting is a great way to divert your foods waste and also create better soil for your garden.
  6. Buy Better & Repair:
    Buy less, buy better. Seek multifunctional, repairable, and lasting products.If you can learn one or two stitches with a needle and thread, you’d be surprised how much longer you can extend the life of your possessions.
  7. Recycle well:
    Recycling is good, but it’s not the solution. Reduce the amount you recycle by reducing  the amount you consume. This is a really good rule because although “recycling” seems like a solution, there’s still energy and resources being put into the recycling plants and not all “recyclable items” are 100% recyclable. Some items cannot be broken down and others have to be picked apart in order to extract the recyclable materials, which means the rest of the materials that made up the item will subsequently go to the landfill. The best solution here is to simply not rely on recycling alone.
  8. Use your voice:
    Kindly use your voice to express how you want products designed and recovered. Give companies businesses and manufacturers incentive to make the change! If you speak up, companies will listen. It may not feel like it or seem like it, but as a consumer, you have the choice to make each time you purchase any item. You’re voice speaks through your actions and that’s pretty loud.
  9. Support the community:
    Get to know your community. Shop local or start a community garden. You can walk, bike, bus, as a means of transportation too. I tend to shop at local stores because I don’t want to purchase items that are simple cookie cutter products. At times, yes, I will need a cookie cutter item such as a power strip or power cord, but majority of the time I don’t. Local businesses do need our support and voice to continue to let them thrive and flourish. Create a change- be the change.