Zero Waste Hallowen

10.24.2017

0600

Growing up Halloween has always been representative of dressing up and going out at night to trick-or-treat. As a kid, Halloween was a fun holiday for me because if all the free candy we would receive as we went out at night to go trick-or-treating. I didn’t grow up with much candy in my household so Halloween also meant that I would get to stock up on a large amount but I also had to ration my favorite candy pieces to last for awhile.

When I moved towards a zero waste lifestyle this holiday became slightly tricky. A lot of the joy I experienced came with the inevitable result of producing trash. All of the small wrappers of the individually wrapped candy pieces added up to a lot of trash. I wanted to figure out how to celebrate this holiday but still practice my zero waste lifestyle.

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There are three areas of each holiday I like to tackle: decorations, food and entertainment. For Halloween, you can decorate your spaces using

  • Reusable fall and Halloween decorations which you can pull out each year
  • Use dried leaves from trees in a bowl or a jar. I usually string rope across areas of rooms and I’ll hang  up the leaves using clothespins.
  • Use fresh fruit or vegetables as edible decor such as pumpkins and then once the holiday is over, you can even make delicious dishes using thm
  • You can arrange twigs and fall leaves in a vase
  • You can tie pieces of sticks together and create a wreath to decorate with colorful leaves
  • Any decoration that is compostable or reusable is a great option

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Food options can vary due to location, seasonal fruits and vegetables available.

  • Look for seasonal fruits and vegetable to make dishes with
    • Some seasonal vegetables to keep an eye out for:  pumpkins, winter squash, broccoli, spinach, lettuce, sweet potatoes
    • Some seasonal fruit to look for: cranberries, apples, pomegranates, and grapes
    • Search for recipes available on the internet for this seasonal favorite. Websites such as YouTube , Pinterest , All RecipesFood Network, Better Homes and Gardens and Taste of Home. If you’re anything like me, my searches always start with “simple” in front of my topic because I tend to lean towards simple ingredients and fewer steps when making dishes.
  • Bulk candy is also a great way to sneak in sweets during this holiday. A lot of bulk candy locations have a variety of options from chocolates to sour candies. The grocery stores I frequent have these options but my local movie theater has the name brand candy in bulk, that I love to eat as well.

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For Trick-Or-Treaters, consider handing out non-candy options. I’m still a big believer in feeding a child’s creativity so some of these items on the list are geared more towards art than just toys. During this season, children are usually in school, so if you hand out items they can use during school, it’ll also benefit the children. Here are some options other than candy, that you can hand out:

  • Crayons
  • Bouncy Balls
  • Play Doh
  • Coloring books
  • Mini notepads
  • Halloween Pencils
  • Mini slinkies
  • Bookmarks Pencils
  • Halloween Erasers
  • Hand out mini packets of herb seeds
  • Loose change such as dimes and quarters
  • Decks of playing cards
  • Compostable packaged snacks (crackers, raisins, pretzels, etc.)

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Entertainment can vary depending on what you have planned during Halloween.

  • Costumes
    • Check out costume rental stores, they always have a lot of variety and sizes to choose from, but remember to to check the stores early so there are more options available
    • Check out thrift stores for options of clothing to create your costume from
    • For families, check if you can swap costumes with neighbors, classmates or friends. You can even set up a costume swap meet if that helps get the word out.
    • Borrow clothes and items from friends, family or neighbors to see if you can assemble your costume and look of your character
  • Movies
  • Karaoke
  • Board Games or Card Games

Check out these other blog posts from some other Eco-Sustainable Bloggers:

I hope this list is helpful in creating a zero waste Halloween. If you choose to adopt only one of these ideas, you’re still helping the environment by creating less waste. It’s a step away from the standard Halloween traditions but it’s a more environmentally friendly outline for this holiday. Have a great Halloween!

Tank Top Bags

09.12.2017

0600

Materials:

  • Two Tank Tops
  • Sewing Kit

Tools:

  • Sewing Machine

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This hack has been published before, but I made these years ago and I thought I would share it. Depending on the type of material the tank tops are made out of, the bags may be better used for carrying smaller and lighter items. These tank top bags stretch well, so a lot of items can fit into these bags.

First I turned the tank tops inside out and hemmed the bottom of the tank tops. I pinned the hemmed edge using sewing pins and tied off the thread ends.

I turned the tank tops inside out and that’s about it. Using the straps of the tank tops as the handles, the tank tops become small bags.
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These are really simple and quick solutions if you have extra tank tops or shirts that you may not want to get rid of. For t-shirts, just remove the sleeves, and hem the existing openings of the shirts and you can use the collar opening to fill up the t-shirt bags. You can always repurpose items into useful items. Living a zero waste life doesn’t necessarily mean to live with only glass or aluminum items, it also means to repurpose items so that you won’t purchase unnecessary items as well. Considering where materials are foraged for the products we use, and how much clothing is donated each year, sometimes repurposing clothing just seems to fit better for some memorable pieces. It’s the reason why I tend to repurpose clothing items when I can.

For the clothing items that mean more to you than others, consider making it part of a quilt or a bag or even a pillow cover. You’ll be able to hold onto the items, and they will also serve another purpose as its initial purpose may have expired.

Fact:

In less than 20 years, the volume of clothing Americans toss each year has doubled from 7 million to 14 million tons, or an astounding 80 pounds per person. The EPA estimates that diverting all of those often-toxic trashed textiles into a recycling program would be the environmental equivalent of taking 7.3 million cars and their carbon dioxide emissions off the road. Trashing the clothes is also a huge waste of money. Nationwide, a municipality pays $45 per ton of waste sent to a landfill.

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Creating Sliding Drawers

06.20.2017

0600

Materials:

  1. One sheet of brown peg board
  2. KOMPLEMENT drawer handles from IKEA
  3. Bulk rope from Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Store
  4. Extra nuts and bolts to secure the handles to the peg boards

 

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I first had to measure the width of my cabinet openings, due to the fact that they were old up-cycled cabinets from when we had first moved into this house. The cabinet drawer opening measured 12″ wide and 24″ deep. Ideally, most new cabinet installments would add a nice overall look and clean up the space a bit, but the way new sliding drawers are built, the thickness of the wood would eat up a lot of the width opening. This is why I decided to make some generic sliding drawers.

I measured out the dimensions of 11-1/2″ wide and 20″deep on the peg board, and I had just enough board to make up three drawers. Because the peg board came with pre-drilled holes, it was easy to guesstimate where the handles would be located, and not all of the handles would necessarily be centered. Also, the screws that came with the handles accessories package were designed to fit a 3/4″ thick board, but the peg board was only 1/4″ thick. this is why I had to gather a few extra nuts to infill the space between the original handle screw and the end of the handle itself.

Once I cut the boards to the right size to fit the openings, I placed the handles where I wanted them to be located and attached the nuts and screws accordingly. Because I wanted these drawers to slide, I went to a local fabric store and bought some thick bulk rope. I used this rope to wrap around the long sides of the drawers so that they would slide out easier. The rope also evidently contained the items sitting on top. You can also contain the items that would sit on top of these drawers by screwing a thin piece of wood onto the top of the drawer so  you have a more secure way of holding your items.

Because the motion of the drawers is more of a pull-out motion when in use, I was more concerned about the items falling off in the back of the drawer when the drawer was pulled outward. Once the rope was tied on, I placed my items inside my small rectangular, fabric containers.

 

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Drawer Guides:

I nailed down 12″(L) x 1/4″(W) x 3/4″(D) wooden pieces on each side of the drawers, inside the cabinet, as guides for the drawers. I chose to use a 12″(L) because the depth of the cabinet is 24″. I braced the guides up against the front of the cabinet, in which these guides will help slide out the drawers along a smoother line.

Conclusion:

These drawers are very simple sliding drawers made form material found around the house. There are a number of designs to secure drawer guides in place, and this one was a very simple design. If I had used a 1/4″ bottom for the drawers, I would have secured a different drawer guide design underneath the drawer. I genuinely like the fact that these drawers slide on the rope and it makes virtually no sound when pulled out and pushed back in. It doesn’t’ scratch the surface of the cabinet shelves and it’s simple enough to take apart if I no longer have the need for this design. Maybe this design will work for you, in other areas of your home. I hope this post might have helped brainstorm some ideas.

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Returning To The Beach

06.06.2017

0700

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On my journey to a more minimalistic life, I donated items and slowly learned to not live without others. I didn’t donate everything to donation stations, but I also tried to donate to organizations that I knew, could use my items. For my college textbooks, I donated some of them back to the school libraries so perhaps other students could use them. For my alumni collegiate programs, I donated my scanner and other art materials to the materials library for future students.

When it came to items that I had collected from camping trips or even small rocks I collected throughout my childhood, I knew I had to return those items back to their rightful spots.

The beach was always a place where I still have fond memories of, along with my family. The smell of the air and the sand between our toes, and watching the ebb and flow of the tide coming in, all form a significant part of my childhood memories. We never lived by the beach, but it certainly impacted me enough to this day.

Among my “items to donate,” I found a bag of sea shells that my brother and I collected when we were young. I knew I had to return them to the beach, because that’s where they belonged. As a kid, I was so fond of the beach, I always wanted to take it home with me. I remember being excited to create a small sea shell collection and that all of these smaller items were mine. I wanted to know why I felt this way, and why I approached collecting items the way I did.

Our sense of ownership emerges at a very early age. Growing up, we learn to become attached to items, and the feelings of ownership over our possessions is a part of our culture. In psychology and behavioral economics, the endowment effect (also known as divestiture aversion and related to the mere ownership effect in social psychology), is the hypothesis that people ascribe more value to things merely because they own them. This means, that we value items more more highly as soon as we own them. Part of this reason is tied to how quickly we form connections between our sense of self and the items we consider ours. Even as children, we believe that our objects have a unique essence and prefer to not have a duplicate of the same item.

Looking back on my collection of sea shells, I never separated the idea of owning an object, and keeping the memories that the object produced. It seemed that having an object from that event, could and would bring forth the memory of that event. Even so, if I had to attach an object to the event, I think I would only choose to attach a photo to it now. But with all of the social media and everyone seemingly documenting their lives, even photographing events wears on me.

So I’m returning the sea shells. I’m returning them to their rightful home and where they belong. I return a lot of items that I know have homes other than my own. I’ve returned dry cleaner hangers to my local dry cleaners, I’ve donated my books to the library,  and I’ve donated my old records to Rasputin Music & Movies. (Most of the records were not in good condition, but I knew the store would dispose of them properly). This list could go on and on, but I really do try to return items to appropriate locations and organizations.

There is a home for every object in our lives. If we take a little time out, and do a little bit of research on your own, perhaps you can find the best home for it.

Sewed Fabric Bags For My Makeup Tools

05.23.2017

0600

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So originally, I had created these bags for my Utensil To-Go Kit, and I realized that I could create smaller bags for my make-up tools. So I tested it out and this is what I came up with.

I had some old zippers from awhile back that I never used and these were a great fit. I first undid and removed the drawstring from the bag. Then I cut the original bag in half and sewed the sides of each to create two smaller bags. Because I cut straight thorough the original drawstring hem, I took the string and also cut that in half.

I measured each zipper and made appropriate cuts on the front of each bag for each zipper. Using small sewing pins, I attached each zipper to each bag and then I hand sewed the zippers to the bags. I inserted the smaller drawstrings through the new drawstring hems and tied them off.

The end product were bags that could be accessed through the zipper or through the top where the drawstring closed the bag. This was an interesting solution because when I place items in these type of bag designs, I never have items of all the same height. This bag allows me to access the taller items from the top opening and the smaller items from the front where the zipper is located. I’ve used this for make up tools, writing utensils and also my “Take Out Silverware Kit” that I keep in my purse.

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Make-Up Brush Bag Hack

05.09.2017

0700

Materials:

  • Plastic store bought brush bag

Tools:

  • Razor Blade or scissors (Please be careful when using the razor blade)

So I bought an e.l.f. Angled Blush Brush from Target back in 2016 and it came in a clear plastic bag such as the ones in the pictured below. I didn’t want to add it to my trash collection, so I set out on trying to figure out how to convert it into a product that would be useful in mylife.

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I knew I wanted to create a holder for all of my brushes (luckily I only use two types of brushes) So I came up with this design to hold my vertical make up tools, such as my mascara, eyeliner pencil, angled blush brush and my EcoTools, Bamboo Smudge Eyeliner Brush.

I sewed the flap that covered the holder to the bag itself. I did this because, I didn’t want to remove the flap to access a clean opening but to also reinforce the bottom of the holder. (At this point I had decided to hang this object as a vertical brush holder).

I opened the other end of the holder by cutting a small slit across the top side of the bag and hold punched a hole on the opposite side. I only put one hole punch on one side because I would be using that side to hang the bag and I didn’t want anything blocking the opening of the bag. Lets call the hole punch end the “Top” and the sewed end of the bag, the “Bottom”. (you kinda have to picture this bag vertically hanging like that)

I used a permanent marker to show you where I placed my cuts on each side of the bag. On the same side as the hold punched hole, I sliced a longer slit on the bottom third of the bag. On the opposite side of the bag, I sliced a shorter cut closer to the top. These cuts do not cut through both walls, please keep that in mind. This design will only work if both walls of the holder are not cut at the same spot.

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For the taller brushes, I am able to insert both of my brushes through the opening at the top, however, I can also slide the brush I tend to use through the slit towards the top.

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The same rule applies for the slit towards the bottom third of the bag. I can use the slit I had created to hold my mascara and eyeliner but be able to access them from the outside. The next few images demonstrate the versatility of the cuts better than how I’m describing them.

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Here is what the bag looks like when it’s hanging up and being utilized. You can see that my EcoTools, Bamboo Smudge Eyeliner Brush is inserted through the opening I had created (towards the top of the bag) and that my angled blush brush is actually on the inside of the bag. I use my Eyeliner brush more than my angled brush so this is why I keep it on the outside, for easy access. On the opposite side of the bag, you can see my small eyeliner and mascara sticking out from the small opening I had created towards the bottom. I also use my mascara and eyeliner often so I like to have access to them easily.

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When I travel or move around with my makeup brushes, I can easily tuck everything inside the bag and nothing with get caught during transportation. I actually do have a bag for my toiletries when I travel and this brush holder goes into that bag as well.  The last image shows what the brush holder looks like once everything is tucked inside the entire bag. I know that this bag with eventually fall apart and I will end up adding it to my trash pile, but as long as I don’t stretch the plastic by putting too many items into this holder, it might hold up well.

This is a simple and interesting design manipulation of what we receive along with products we buy and how to re-design them to accommodate to our own needs.  I really like this design manipulation because I tend to hang things a lot and I didn’t have to throw any packaging away.  I hang things a lot because I like to keep my surfaces clean. Maybe this design might accommodate you somehow, I hope it will.

Revisiting Design Hacks

02.28.2017

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Design is ever changing. It evolves, grows up, mutates and sometimes dies. As someone who consistently designs functions for different objects, and re-designs those function issues, I’ll come across methods that are better for the product itself. It never stops. As people grow in the sense of mentally, physically, emotionally, we will change our habits and routines. Sometimes it’s based on a simple scheduling issue, sometimes it’s a physical disability that we all the sudden need to integrate into our routines. Maybe our routines change due to new people coming into our lives and that includes children and adults.

For these many reasons, I re-visit many of my design ideas. I re-visit them as often as I can.  know that I’m designing from my own perspective and from what I know, but I also know that there’s a whole different world out there who may not have the same resources or the same materials readily available.

So let us take a walk down memory lane… and we’ll re-visit some of my old blog posts and some updates I have for this one.

In addition to my Car Hacks blog post, I had to add one small change. I actually learned this from my mom, but since it made sense, I started doing this as well. It’s very simple. IF you have the room, it’s easy to organize you’re items using boxes in your truck. I have two different sized boxes so that when I go grocery shopping, I can place my bulk liquid items in the smaller box and I know that they won’t spill on the drive home. I use the bigger box for larger bulk items and even for my take out food containers. It’s nice that the smaller box fits well inside of the larger box and I can limit the movement of the objects when in motion.

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For the front of the car, I actually looped an S-Hook through the rope that I exists from that original Car Hacks post. The S-Hook allows me to hang my purse when I need to as well as smaller bags that may roll around. When I brought my lunch to work, I would hang my bag from this hook, and (thank goodness for the consistency of gravity) my food never spilled or toppled over. I really like this hack.

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At my work desk, which I wrote here, Work Desk Essentials, I now changed items out and the final setup is a jar of bulk green tea, and a jar of raw almonds and dried cranberries. I have one extra jar in case I run to a grocery store to grab some hot food from the hot foods bar. My coffee tumbler is by Contigo and it has a 20 oz capacity.

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On my desk… I now keep a set of utensils, tea infuser, lip balm and hair bracket in a bag. In the other bag I keep my earphones and phone charger together too. I carry  a handkerchief now and store it along with my napkin. I use my leftover Aquaphor to help me moisturize my skin during the winter.

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In my shoulder bag, I now carry a pair of chopsticks and a handkerchief along with my set of utensils and cloth napkin. Although when I air travel, I will replace the metal utensils for my bamboo set (knife, fork, spoon). My coffee tumbler is also by Contigo who has an excellent spill proof lock.

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These are only a few design hacks that I keep revisiting. As a designer, your perception of a good design always changes and it take a few trial designs to settle one final design. also, as life moves on and time marches on, your routines and needs will change- so your designs will have to adapt.

Seeking Simplicity

02.07.2017

0800

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I think people in general will seek a level of simplicity in their lives. I know I  strive for my own simplicity. This may boil down to simplifying a routine or a room in my home, or simply clearing my mind of clutter. It makes living and creating memories much easier to accomplish and it frees up my time for activities that I want to participate in, rather than feel obligated to do.  I honestly work at this each day. Due to the ever changing winds that we deal with in life, I constantly reevaluate my routines and make sure that I’m not taking on activities that I either don’t want to do or know that it will complicate my life in ways that are unnecessary.

Sometimes the clutter in our lives will come in, even for a short period of time. But let it only stay for a short period of time. I found this article from Apartment Therapy, who outlines steps to Seeking Simplicity very clearly. I hope you enjoy it.

Seeking Simplicity: How to Start Living a More Minimal Lifestyle (from Apartment Therapy)

  1. Give yourself a clear, personal goal (and a timeline)
    1. What is your personal definition of a more minimal home and life? Is it to have only the bare minimum of objects? Is it to declutter a whole room of stuff you haven’t looked at in months? Is it to learn to live with less or stop buying things you don’t need? There’s no “right” way to be a minimalist; we can all have our own definitions of simple and stress-free. Just take the time to define it for yourself. Not sure where to start defining what you don’t want in your life? Focus on what you do want — what makes you feel alive, what you’re passionate about — and then begin to strip away the things (physical and otherwise) that are getting in the way of you doing more of what you really want to be doing.
    2. Give yourself a clear goal, with broken-down steps to attain (and remember to write down the things you need to complete those steps). And then give yourself a time frame to achieve each step (not just the final goal). Consider making alerts on your calendar so you are held accountable. And don’t just write down what the goal is — write down why you want to live more minimally (less stress, more money, less stuff to haul on your next move — it can be anything that means something to you).
  2. Decide how your home can help you live a more minimalist lifestyle
    1. Your quest for a more minimal lifestyle might point you in the direction of a smaller or simplified home. This is a big step for folks who own or rent homes, but not impossible. Again, start with a goal of what you want — be specific. Not sure what you want? Do some traveling — and look to stay in homes in the size range you’re thinking about. You’ll be able to visualize your future life easier if it’s a size you can downsize to. Or perhaps the size and type of your home is okay but it’s what’s in it…
  3. Declutter
    1. This seems pretty obvious, but it can be the most painful step for folks who have a real attachment to many of their items. Start slow and intentionally. Throw out or donate everything you obviously don’t need first. Then take and hide everything you think you could do without for a few months, to give yourself distance to be able to give them away. Then use that motivation to gather the courage to take decluttering as extreme as works for your dream, minimal lifestyle. Keep reminding yourself that stripping away as much stuff from your life will make it easier to achieve a more simple life and allow you to have more freedom. You don’t have to only live with a bed and a laptop; again, you get to decide what living more minimally means to you.
  4. Train yourself to live with less
    1. If you’ve been used to creature comforts for a long time, you might not be ready to take a minimal plunge all at once. Consider having comfort-free weekends or months, slowly eliminating comforts and luxuries (even as simple as pricey haircuts or weekly movie dates) and seeing what feels okay to lose, and what things are too valuable to your happiness to give up.
  5. Ask yourself “do I really need this?” all the time
    1. Before you swipe your credit card, ask yourself “Do I really need this?” And ask yourself all the time. At first you may easily justify purchases out of habit, but as the question sinks in, you might find yourself realizing you don’t need many of the items you impulsively buy.
  6. Be a re-user
    1. Another great habit to explore on the path to a more minimal way of living is learning to be a great re-user. Save packaging to reuse for other things. Learn to repair and fix things rather than replace. Use old clothing for scrap fabric for DIY projects. Be open to being creative to find ways you can reuse something you already have rather than buy something new.
  7. Invest in high-quality
    1. When you do have (or want) to buy something new, splurge on high-quality items that are meaningful for you. Remember that it might be nicer to have a sparse home filled with dreamy designs you adore versus full of things you just sort of like. But also remember that, again, you define what minimal means.
  8. Be clear about why you want to be more minimal (and remind yourself often)
    1. Go back to the first step above regularly, especially when things get tough, so you can remember why you’re trying to live more minimally in the first place.
  9. Forgive yourself and keep trying
    1. As someone who has given away everything they owned one and a half times now, I can assure you, we manage to acquire stuff at impressive speeds. And also sign up for a lot of work obligations, too. This is just human nature. But don’t give up on your quest to simplicity if you wake up one day and notice you’ve let a lot of unneeded stuff clutter up your home or schedule. Just start over at the top, breathe in, and keep trying.

Use What You Have

 

12.20.2016

0800

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“Why I don’t recommend a lot of separate items…”

You’re looking at everything I own in my kitchen. That’s all of it, although my silverware and kitchen tools aren’t pictured. Some kitchen items are marketed to have specific uses, but you’d be surprised at how many kitchen items can have multiple uses and how some kitchen tools really aren’t necessary at all. Even when it coms to bathroom items, I don’t have a separate soap for my body and my face (I use separate bars… but it’s still the same bar soap brand). I use baking soda as toothpaste and I don’t use band aids (I use paper tape with gauze).

For those of you who are moving into this lifestyle, I understand the need to buy compostable cotton swabs or a bamboo set of utensils to carry around, instead of grabbing a set from your existing silverware. In order to transition to this zero waste lifestyle, you’re altering your behavior that you’d developed for however many years you’ve existed on Earth.

However, I don’t recommend buying into the “buy all new things because nothing else can substitute it” mantra. The likelihood is that you already have items that you can use, but for different purposes and the transition is simply altering your behavior and mindset. I understand the novelty behind this zero waste movement, but a lot of the times, I’ve noticed that a few bloggers will recommend a lot of new items. Part of this movement is to try to NOT create waste and when you buy more stuff, more than likely you’re producing some form of waste.

For kids, I understand that it make take a few colors and some ownership of their personal products so they can personally take part in this movement or to break away from what they already like and know. Also, a lot of glass and stainless steel items  may be to heavy for them to carry around, or that they may not be careful enough to take care of such items. For adults however, I think we should really try to  create as many uses for a single product, as much as possible. Products that are designed for a specific use and a certain function, will likely not be as versatile for any other use.

Here are some of the items you don’t necessarily have to buy:

  1. Handkerchief –> Use existing fabric napkin or you can make your own from old pillowcases (just try to make sure the material is 100% cotton)
  2. Cloth napkin in  your “To Go Lunch Kit” –> Use existing fabric napkin
  3. Silverware in  your “To Go Lunch Kit”–> Use existing silverware (unless you’re going to pass through TSA [Transportation Security Administration] at the airport or some kind of security metal detector, then carry around a set of bamboo utensils)
  4. Eco lunchbox –> Use existing Tupperware
  5. Placemats –> Make your own from old bed sheets or pillowcases (Just remember to layer them up so it’s a thicker pile)
  6. Re-useable Produce Bags –> Make our own re-useable produce bags from old bed sheets and pillow cases (just make sure it’s cotton, with a decent thread count so it won’t fall apart as easily.)
  7. Spice Jars –> Just re-use the space jars you already own (remember to tare the weight before you refill it up. I usually carve the weight into the lid so I never forget)

This list could go on and on, but I’m keeping in mind that each person has a different journey on this path of zero waste. But if you can, reuse what you already own, there’s no point to wasting your money if it’s not necessary. Also, the more stuff you buy and if you’re not purging items in your home, you’re essentially just adding to the amount of possessions you’ll now be responsible for. So don’t give yourself more work, seriously… life will do that down the line… apparently it’s plentiful.. like pens.. stupid free pens.

Christmas Ornaments Hack

12.06.2016
0800

Materials:

  • Keychains
  • Extra thread or string

Tools:

  • Sewing Kit

So when I decluttered my sentimental possessions, I pulled out the few keychains I had leftover and decided to turn them into Christmas ornaments. I’ve done this before for other years as I was slowly decluttering my sentimental possessions, but these are the last keychains I own. So with the last set of keychains, I thought I’d show you how I upcycle these items.

I have a habit of writing the year I received each ornament on the ornament somewhere. I actually didn’t start doing this up until about a decade ago. For the ornaments that came before then, I literally reserved a random Saturday and recalled ALL of the years that each ornament came into our lives. The years help me remember a time in my life, or what was happening during that year, and even what was going on around the world. Keychains hold the same sentimental value for me that ornaments do. I used to collect keychains, but that goal was short lived being that I realized that I didn’t have enough zippers to attach them to. Also, with the certain keychains, they get in the way of the function of the bag I’m using or it just becomes an extra piece on my bag that will inevitably get caught in something as I’m walking or moving around and rip off. I also don’t use keychains for my keys.

I know that sounds strange, but as I got older, and I had to be responsible for more keys to more places and items. I prefered to not weigh down my keys with so much excess weight. (It’s also annoying when I’m driving and I have a large chunk of metal just hanging and swinging from the car ignition). I like my leg room. I also don’t want to hang to much weight from the ignition in case it ruins the tumblers in the ignition over time.

Some of my keychains are from my own purchases and the rest were given to me. For this post, my last keychains that I used (from left to right), a pewter cat keychain from my brother when were first took in an older feral cat who was a variation of greys. She was a sweet and fat cat. She left us after four years or so, never saw her again.

The next keychain I bought was when I went to Vietnam in the summer of 1998. This was my first trip to Vietnam and as a teen, it changed my view of the world and I knew how blessed and lucky I was to be born a United States citizen. My father and I had a stopover in South Korea after 12 hours in the air. I played soccer for a very long time throughout my childhood, and I continued to follow different clubs and leagues  from around the world. Although this keychain said “2002 World Cup Korea”, it was the first World Cup to be held in Asia, the first to be held on a continent other than Europe or the Americas, the last World Cup during which the golden goal rule was in force and the only World Cup to be jointly hosted by more than one nation. It was a landmark world cup tournament and it was exciting to have Japan and Korea join together to co-host such a celebrated event. I actually bought this keychain at the airport where we stopped over, it wasn’t anything big, but it was the first marketing item I had seen for the 2002 World Cup. The United States hadn’t even released marketing for that World Cup yet.

The third keychain is a beetle, yup a beetle. My father had mailed me the keychain from Vietnam for my sixteenth birthday. It came with a card. Although it was pretty unconventional, the beetle was actually a beautiful specimen. I don’t have a fear of many things at all, and I actually understood why my dad had mailed it to me. He was purely focused on the the colors of the beetle and how nature could create such an interesting yet iridescent bug. I kept that keychain on my backpack throughout high school. It was either a great conversation starter, or I simply received strange looks from passer byers.

The last keychain is from my mother when she went to the Grand Canyon. I’ve actually never been there but she brought this back for me. It was a fun trip for her with her friends and I thought that I should finally add it to this project.

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Using pliers, I unhinged the chains that attached the metal rings to the metal chains. I keep all metal rings from items that I manipulate, because rings are very versatile when creating my DIY projects.

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I rummaged around my mother’s sewing kit (good thing she keeps her thread samples from old clothes) and found some thick thread to use for these ornaments. I chose thread that was dark, so that it would blend in with the fake Christmas tree branches.

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Because keychains come with a built-in loop for the metal chains, I simply created large loops so they could be placed on the branches easier. I carve or write the year of each ornament on the it before I put it away.

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I actually haven’t bought new ornaments in thirteen years. I’ve been creating ornaments from small memorabilia that I’ve owned for a long time. Each year, I go digging through the decluttering process (I told you it takes time to go through everything), and I’ll create one or two more ornaments each year.

With making my own ornaments, I actually donated quite a few sets of nice ornaments to different causes. By keeping my ornament count low, I’m not unnecessarily hoarding a bunch of extra ornaments. My Christmas tree is only five feet tall, and it’s actually the same Christmas tree my family has had for the past twenty-five years. I have just enough to cover it.

I hope this might give you some inspiration to make ornaments from your own keychain memories. Now, go grab pliers, thread and all the keychains you’ve got! Because who doesn’t want a iridescent beetle hanging next to Christmas Snoopy?  And if you carve the date into your ornament and get cut, blame the Electoral College. It’s always their fault.

Here are some other ideas for homemade ornaments. They’re eco-friendly and easy to make. Check these out from some other sustainable bloggers…

Zero Waste Christmas

12.01.2016
0800

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My family has used a fake Christmas tree for the month of December  since I was brought into this world. I’m not sure if we simply did not want to go get a fresh chopped down tree or if it was more that when my family came to the United States, buying a fake Christmas tree was just more convenient. Either way, I’ve never had a real Christmas tree, and as I got older, I understood the extra steps needed to take to keep a real tree in your home for a whole month.

After the Christmas, the sidewalks around my neighborhood had dead Christmas trees laying out on the sidewalks or street curbs for pickup. However, this was not always the proper way of discarding Christmas trees in accordance with each city’s municipal recycling center. (Check with your local city’s municipal recycling center for holiday recycling items) After seeing all of the trees laying out on the street curbs, I was thankful that my family used a fake tree after all these years. In fact, we never seemed to buy new holiday decorations either.

We use the same holiday decorations and the same tree that we’ve used for years. Unfortunately, there was a time when we had family staying with us (let’s just say that they’re not the brightest bulb in the family) who had decided to take it upon themselves to throw away all of my family’s Christmas ornaments and replace them with brand new ornaments. They didn’t comprehend the concept that ornaments hold sentimental value and also mark a point in time when it was brought into the home. They saw our nineteen years of old ornaments as ugly and had no value, so why show it off. All of my brother’s and my childhood ornaments were tossed out, that included ornaments from when my parents first came to the United States too. For years after that, we slowly built up our ornament collection again.

This was when I started making ornaments from my family’s sentimental items that included small memorabilia we had collected over the years. (My next post will give you instructions on how I make key chains into ornaments- it’s actually very simple). Our tree is now covered in memories of  vacation trips, landmark life events, graduations, jobs and companies we were once a part of, and so much more.

For gifts, we actually don’t give gifts to one another as much anymore. Counting the birthdays, mother’s day and Tet (Vietnamese New Years) celebrations, Christmas is just a time for our family to get together, watch movies and indulge in delicious holiday food. During the year, the items that each family member may need usually gets purchased throughout the year. We don’t really ever save up a wish list and make it known for the holiday. So here are some of the gift ideas as well as some gift wrapping ideas that I’ll go through to give as gifts…

  1. Gift ideas- Zero waste ideas
    1. Experience ideas
      1. Sporting events ( football, soccer, tennis, gymnastics, baseball, etc.)
      2. Theme parks (Great America, Raging Waters, Six Flags, Disneyland, etc.)
      3. Outdoor experiences (pedle boating, wind sailing, kayaking, rowboats, canoes, skydiving, zip lining, rock climbing, trampoline time, golfing)
      4. Gift card/money for food / drinks (breakfast, lunch, dinners, coffee / tea, desserts, wine bar, wine/beer tour)
      5. Gift card/money for activities (cooking classes, yoga, spin class, kickboxing, zip lining)
      6. Gift card/money for events (museums, concerts, festivals, fairs, movies)
      7. Gift card/money to treat yourself (spa, massage, facial)
    2. Food gift ideas
      1. Main dishes, side dishes, trade food/drink recipes
    3. Fruit gift ideas
      1. Seasonal fruit, fruit basket gift
    4. Zero waste shopping starter kits
      1. Cloth produce bags, shopping bags, reusable jars, water soluble crayons to write PLU codes onto the bags and jars
      2. Help tare the weight on all of the reusable items
    5. Bulk bathroom gifts
      1. Soap bars, bulk soap, bulk bath salts, recipes for homemade makeup
    6. Bulk kitchen gifts
      1. Bulk staple foods, bulk spices, combination of some bulk spices, create a meal kit from bulk items for  a loved one
  2. Wrapping Ideas
    1. Reusable cloth gift bags with string to tie bows (if wanted)
    2. Fabric sheets/bandanas to wrap and tuck around gifts
  3. Service Ideas (This will differ based on location, so check your local listings)
    1. Volunteer for a charity or organization that will help hand out food during the holidays
    2. Donate toys, clothes, coats, shoes to an organization that will help distribute them this season
    3. Volunteer your time in a hospital, care home, nursing home to those who may not have family near or at all

Here are links to some more Zero Waste Christmas ideas from other bloggers:

Alternative Dish Scrub

11.15.2016

0800

Materials:

  • Two Laundry Mesh Bags
  • Sewing Kit

There are a few things that I struggled with replacing in the zero waste lifestyle realm. The dreaded dish scrub was always one that I consistently tried to tackle with different alternative solutions. So breaking away from the traditional dish sponge was an issue I constantly had to re-visit.

At first, I tried to use cotton dishrags, but I wasn’t a fan of the oil and stains that would show up, even after throwing it into the washing machine. I then moved to the stainless steel sponge, but at times, this material was unnecessary and a little harsh on my dishes.  I needed something that fell between these two materials. I needed a zero waste solution that was durable, breathable, washable and readily accessible.

So I finally decided to tackle this issue once and for all, and I came up with a solution. I made my own dish washing srubs from laundry mesh bags. So this is what I did…

  1. I took a delicates, laundry mesh bag with small holes and one with large holes, and took them apart. I separated all the pieces that assembled it. I choose the two different sized holes so there would be more grit during scrubbing and more variety in the uses.
  2. I unstitched the bags to remove zippers and separate the individual pieces.
  3. I then folded the large pieces of material so it would end up as a rectangle shape and sewed the edges of the rectangle to keep its shape. I then sewed the two shorter edges together but left the center of the rectangle to form a loop . (You can shape your scrubs however you like, mine just happen to fold into square shapes.) I used a dark thread on the heavier grit scrubbers so that if the thread stained or became discolored, you wouldn’t see it as easily. I also used lighter thread just to see how much it would stain. I did this because I wanted to hang the scrubbing pads on the neck of my sink spout. This way, it can air dry and it has a place to be hung up when not in use. It will also drip into the sink when it is air drying. I know that this part of the design concept may not apply to everyone, but you can still hang it up wherever you want or hang it off of whatever you want in your sink area.
  4. These can be hand washed and rinsed or thrown into the washing machine.

For my own use, this dish scrub has helped me solve my dish sponge/stainless steel wool pad/dish washing rag issue. My scrubs dry pretty fast so this design had worked out well for me. They seem to lather well and rinse off even faster. I actually enjoy hanging them on my sink’s spout neck because I know it’s the last step in the design of this product. I hope this post helps for those of you who would like an alternative to the dish scrubbing sponge issue.

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T-Shirt Quilt Process

 

09.28.2016

0800

Materials:

  • Old Comforter you want to use as the backing for the quilt
  • Enough t-shirts to cover the back of the comforter easily
  • Sewing machine

Tools:

  • Sewing machine

Not everyone in my family is big on donating items as quickly as I do. I don’t mind that, so I wanted to come up with a solution that would satisfy the use of the items but still make more room in the closet. In this case, the clothing item were the cotton t-shirt collections my family had accumulated. My older brother has a small collection of printed shirts from years of working for different companies or they were from different social events. I have kept a small collection for my mother over the years from elementary school t-shirts, to college t-shirts. I kept these because they marked a point in my life history that was significant. It bothered me that my t-shirts were stuffed into a bag in my old closet, so I wanted to make good use of them.

For both collections, I decided to make a t-shirt quilt for each family member. My brother’s shirts filled up one quilt and by combining my t-shirts as well as some of my mom’s, I would be able to create a single quilt for her. I found my brother’s old comforter which had The Transformers print on it and used that as the backing for his. I used my old comforter which had The Wuzzles print on it, for my mom’s quilt.

A few examples of t-shirt quilts that I’ve come across, suggest to cut out perfect squares in which the logo or image is centered in the middle of the square. I didn’t want to use this method because I didn’t want to waste any t-shirt material. I didn’t see the point in having perfect squares when the images varied so much on where they were located on each shirt. Also, I knew I could overlap the rows and create a slightly thicker quilt by leaving the extra material in place.

I decided to make this process in bullet form since a formal post would be too long to read, so here it goes:

  1. Cut off all of the sleeves and collars from each shirt. Put aside the shirt sleeves which have logos printed on them because you will include them in the quilt later on as gap fillers. Keep your scraps when you make this project because you never know when you may need the extra material to fill in gaps.
  2. Lay out the rows to see how you want the over all tile pattern to sit on the quilt and move them around if necessary. (I wanted each color shirt to create a checkered pattern with their base color)
  3. Gather the sets of t-shirt rows and placed them on the blanket in the order from the top of the quilt, to bottom of the quilt. (You can take a picture before you move the tiles from the final layout on the blanket too) dsc_4946
  4. Start pinning the t-shirts together with the shirts all facing upright and face to face. During this time, you may notice that come of the “t-shirt trimming” might be crooked, but that’s fine because that’s why you have the filler pieces. dsc_4950
  5. Sew the tiles together in each row of shirts so that the rows become one piece. dsc_4951
  6. Lay each row on the blanket as you want them to look and start pinning the rows to the blanket. Use as many sewing pins as necessary and be careful, because you may get pricked by those. Keep in mind that these pins may come apart once you move the blanket to the sewing machine, so you may want to pin the fabric together and give extra room on the pin for movement error. dsc_4982
  7. For the areas that I saw were lacking in t-shirt fabric, I added in the t-shirt fillers. This usually happed around the edge of the blanket. dsc_5002dsc_5001
  8. In order for me to fit the comforter into the sewing machine, I rolled it up on one side and sewed it through like this: (you my want to unravel it due to the weight of the blanket and that it may pull against the sewing machine as you feed it through) dsc_4982dsc_4987dsc_4993
  9. Keep sewing, patient and you’ll finish. I sewed these tiles across the blanket. I have seen some people sew in a grid pattern along the tile edges. Since my tiles don’t line up exactly to the row above, I decided to only sew my tiles across the blanket. dsc_4995

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This is a process and it takes time. There were a number of times when my sewing machine stitching backed up and I ended with a clump of thread on the backside of my quilt or when my needle broke twice. Just keep going and you’ll end  up with the final product in no time. It’s an interesting project and you can put a spin on it however you like. This is a completely customized project which makes the intent that much more meaningful. I really am happy about how the blankets turned out and I know that my family is too.

Weekly And Daily Errands To Run

 

09.14.2016

0800

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When it comes to errands, I actually don’t have to0 do much. I don’t have daily errands, mostly because I work long hours and prefer to go home and relax. For my weekly errands, I do buy groceries each week, but mostly the fresh produce items. I’ll stock up on my bulk dry foods maybe once every 3 weeks. I prefer to completely run out of my bulk foods before I go and buy more- this way, I can refill my jars completely.
For fresh produce, I’ll buy local and seasonal items because I know that I’m supporting local businesses, and that the produce didn’t have to travel far to get its destination.
When it comes to my bathroom bulk items, I tend to buy those items once every three months. Because I buy large quantities when I go on each run, I don’t need to make frequent trips. The task of running out of bathroom items is an issue I absolutely dislike dealing with. It’s the reason why I would stock up on items in the past, which also ended up producing even more trash. Now, I simply look under my  bathroom sink and my jars are already full and waiting to be used. My jars also tend to hold more product compared to the bottles I used to buy, so each time I pull out a jar to use, I know that it will last awhile.

This is a simple list of what my typical weekly grocery run might look like:

  1. Breakfast: Oatmeal, cranberries, flaxseed, almonds, cinnamon, green tea, coffee, cane sugar, Straus Half & Half
  2. Lunch: romaine lettuce, tomatoes, onions, balsamic vinegar
  3. Dinner: bread, mustard, potatoes, green onions, broccoli, green beans, cauliflower
  4. Snacks: Bulk bins, Seasonal Fruit (eat skin if possible.)

For less frequent bulk bathroom shopping list, I tend to buy:

  1. Bulk soap bars
  2. Bulk face lotion
  3. Bulk body lotion
  4. Bulk Dr. Bronner’s Liquid Peppermint Soap
  5. Baking soda
  6. White Vinegar

For my more frequent bulk bathroom shopping items, I’ll buy

  1. Toothbrushes
  2. Dental Floss
  3. Face Sunscreen Lotion

Reusing Fabric and Thread

07.20.2016

0800

So I had leftover thread and fabric from making my homemade produce bags, I didn’t want to add them to my trash pile because I knew I could still reuse the material. At the time I didn’t know what to use the extra thread and fabric but I kept it anyway.

Then when I was adjusting my hallway mirror one day, I noticed that the mirror kept banging against the wall (which drove me nuts). I don’t like the sound of an object not secured safely or is unstable in any way. I took my extra fabric and sewed cushions over the metal hanging hooks that were attached to the back of the mirror. I’m lucky that this mirror already had staples on it and I utilized them to secure the fabric to the back.

The first image is leftover fabric that I pulled from my pile of fabric and thread scraps. I took a close up image of the attached hanging hooks and what the hanging hooks looked like afterwards. The last image is what the back of the mirror looks like now. I’ve never tried this before but it worked pretty well. I may just go around the house to look for more items to cushion against hard surfaces.

If you have extra fabric around, I suggest to keep it and find a way to reuse it. It’ll keep the fabric out of the landfill and you get to reuse the material for something useful.

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