Upcycling Milk Crates to a Shoe Rack

02.06.2018

0600

Materials:

  • 2 Milk crates (about 12″ cubes)
  • Twelve 2″ Multi-Purpose Construction Screws
  • (Optional) Three 1″ wood screws – (for creating the holes)
  • 2 Wood boards (12″ x 11-1/4″ x 1/2″)
  • 16 small screws for holding seats in place
  • Pencil

Tools:

  • Power Screwdriver
  • Table saw / Mitre Saw (or saw it by hand with a rip hand saw)

So I needed a small bench shoe rack piece of furniture. All of the designs and products I flipped through on the internet weren’t quite what I had in mind. I needed a fairly short lengthed bench that didn’t need to store a lot of shoes. I also wanted a compact design. I only own six pairs of shoes and I don’t wear them all in the same season so the rest of the room would be for my family.

I knew I had a few milk crates, which I saw the potential use for this project. It was simple idea and I knew what I wanted the final product to look like.

The interior space within each milk crate was 12″ wide, 12″ high and 10-1/4″ deep. The height of the crate was enough room for two levels for shoe storage.

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Since I was going to use two milk crates, I went ahead and found two random wood boards about 1/2″ thick. The boards I found were slightly wider than the depth of the crates, but I left the extra inch for larger shoes.

So using a miter saw, I cut each piece of wood board down to 12″ x 11-1/4″.

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Next I divided the interior height in half and created a guideline down the middle. Since the crate is plastic, I used an exacto blade to lightly score the midline.

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Using the wood screws and my power screwdriver, I pinpointed the locations of where I wanted my 2″ screws to be located. I like using the wood screws when locating holes in plastic because I can hold the shank of the screw and still guide the power screwdriver to create the straight hole.

wood screw Diagram

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After the holes are created, I took the 2″ Multi-Purpose Construction Screws and screwed them into the premade holes.

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For the four screws that were located further towards the back of the box, I screwed the 2″ Multi-Purpose Construction Screws inwards. And for the two screws located towards the opening of the box, I screwed them outwards.

I wanted the back of the box to be supported more since it was further back. Also, I didn’t want anything sharp located towards the front opening.

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I simply install each box with a board, placing the boards on top of the screws. The boards fit well and were snug enough where they didn’t move either.

Most shoes are longer than 10-1/4″, so leaving the extra 1″ helps with different sized shoes. If you need to store boots or shoes that wouldn’t fit the original designed space, you can simply remove one of the boards and the two screws closest to the opening. (I left the two screws here to show the original design)

So there you have it, you can create a simple seat and shoe storage very quickly and with simple materials. You can install a wood board on top to create a bench or stack these crates on top of a 2″ x 4″ frame to have one more level. There’s a variety of designs this can break out into. I might just do that when the spring season rolls around.

Hope this post jogged up ideas!

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Update:

I wanted to secure a seat on top of the crates so I took another extra piece of wood board and lined it next to the piece I usually keep on top of the creates.

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I took my pencil and traced the crate pattern on the underside of each board and then used small screws to outline at least two crate holes using the small screws. In order to know where I had to place my screws, I flipped my screws over so that they would be standing on their heads and then gauged where the sharp end of the screw would land. The head of the screws had to hug the insides of the traced corner, so I knew where to place it. Wherever the screw could touch both edges of the location, was where I knew I had to place the screw.

I measured the location for the screws in this manner because I wanted the screw to fit right inside of the hole I traced. The head of the screw as well as the thread of the screws had to fit comfortably into the existing holes, once it was flipped over.

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I didn’t screw the screws in the entire length of the thread, so be very aware of the depth of the wood piece you pick out and the screw length that you choose as well. The idea here was to still have the screws sticking out of the board so it would fit nicely into the holes that were traced.

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Once I placed the boards back onto the crates, the top was created into a quick seat to use while putting on shoes (or taking them off).

 

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So there you have it! I like this much more now with the seat on top, and secured into place.

 

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How To Daisy Chain Your Long Ropes

12.26.2017

0600

Storing long ropes can be a hassle, but if you know how to organize the ropes, unraveling them each time won’t seem as daunting. I like to wrap my long ropes in a daisy chain so that when I open the rope, it’s a quick process and it doesn’t get tangled.

A daisy chain is a simple method to store long ropes. It’s also known as a chain sinnet. It’s a method of shortening a rope or other cable while in use or for storage. It is formed by making a series of simple crochet-like stitches in the line. It can also reduce tangling while a rope is being washed in a washing machine. Rock climbers, concert stage workers have used this method in their professions. I’ve found that wrapping the ropes up in a daisy chain can be just as quick as unraveling it once you nail the method down.

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First find the middle of the rope and tie a knot to mark the middle point. It’s easier to create a loop while making the knot to make it more distinguishable.

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At the ends of the rope, tie knots to keep the rope from fraying.

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Before starting the chain pattern, it’s easier to step on the two loose ends of the rope so that the chain is taught when you’re creating it.  Take the end with the middle knot and loop the other end over it creating a loose loop.

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Then bring the rope through the loop you just created.

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Pull the new loop through the opening and bring it downwards so that you can see the hanging rope through the new loop.

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Grab the rope through the new loop and bring it through, towards yourself.

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Once you grab hold of the rope, bring down the chain so that the loop pattern is more taught. Once the pattern is tighter, you can bring the chain back up and repeat the process. DSC_8310DSC_8311DSC_8312DSC_8313

Once you get towards the end of the rope, just grab the leftover rope and pull it through. Make sure the ends of the rope won’t slip through the opening by tightening the last loop.

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When you need to use this rope, simply open this end of the daisy chain, give it a little tug and your rope will unfold quickly and easily. I’m sure there are other methods of storing long rope, but this is my favorite way of storing my own. I usually use these ropes in my Sport Emergency Kit, so it comes in handy when I’m in the snow. This method also allows for a quick unravel for my gloved hands.

I hope this blog post helps you store your long ropes if you choose the Daisy Chain Method.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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

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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!

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 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.

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

Replacing Items to Become More Minimal

06.29.2016

0800

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There are times when I purge my possessions and I’ll tend to donate my smaller items that are contained within larger ones. I know that I do not need certain items any longer and that will bring me to the question of ‘Should I replace it with a more convenient and logical container?’. There are a few reasons why I tend to trade out items for others. Sometimes the function of my possession will not benefit me any longer or simply that it takes up to much room.  As someone who tries to continually downsize and minimize my life, I’m in a constant battle with this issue.

When I look at what I’ve accumulated over the years, I can pinpoint each moment in my life when I bought all of my possessions. Each of those memories mark a certain age, stage of life and mindset I was in at the time. As I’ve grown older and my dreams changed as well as my goals, certain items in my life no longer fit. It used to take lot for me to let go of items. I never owned a lot of items to begin with, but the notion of letting certain items go was still not easy for me to get used to. I tend to look at my items and wonder “What if I need it someday?” and that question has always created hesitation.

As our society has changed, one of the newest discoveries was that services such as tool rentals or car rentals or lending  and trading services have become more accessible. I really do enjoy the fact that I can let go of certain items now because there is a service out there that can fulfil my  need for household chores or auto service and even more. The fact was, I used to want to hold onto items because I wanted to depend on me and only me to have the tool ready whenever I needed it. However that came with the burden of the items taking up room and the maintenance of the item. If I can find a service that can fulfil certain items I’m purging from my collection, then I will donate it and never look back. That decision in itself changes the way I look at everything I own.

Downsizing will usually result in the purging of items and I don’t think it’s such a bad idea. My life is still divided into functions and routines and even different areas of my home are separated, so by downsizing into smaller and more reasonable possessions- well it makes sense.

For instance, recently I donated my large toolbox for a smaller and more reasonably sized tool carrier. The length is shorter and the width is smaller but it still contained all of my tools perfectly. Also, I donated my old purse for my shoulderbag. I simply needed an a shoulder bag that could carry more items due to my current lifestyle.

Replacing items isn’t exactly living minimally but it is living zero waste. When I donate my items, I know that I do not need them any longer and they do not serve a purpose in my life anymore. Trying to make my life as compact as possible tends to be the reason for the tradeouts. Also, the smaller my containers are for different areas of my life, simply reminds me of the minimalist lifestyle I’ve committed myself to.

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5 Questions to Ask Before Purchasing

06.08.2016

0830

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When it comes to making purchases, I like to carefully consider my reasons for the purchase. It’s easy to give in and buy a new product. Who doesn’t like new items, but do you really need it? But once you carefully consider essential reasons before a purchase, you might find that purchasing the item may not be the best decision at the time. These are the questions I will ask myself before I purchase an item:

  1. Do I really need it?
    1. There are times when I see the potential for buying an item. When I see or encounter problems during my day, I try to brainstorm ideas for solutions on the spot. This usually leads to the search for a product that I don’t currently own. These moments happen often so I always sit on my design solutions for a few days. IF after a few days, I cannot find another solution I’ll usually research solutions and see what design solutions are possible. A lot of the times when I find solutions within the current products that I own, I won’t need the new purchase.
  2. Do I already have something that can do the job?
    1. This question is essential because there are other solutions to my design problems that I can make or manipulate with my design tools. A lot of products can have multiple uses if we search hard enough.
  3. Can I trade someone an item or a service for it?
    1. The question helps me brainstorm family members and friends who may own a tool that I can borrow. This questions also allows me to turn to tool rental locations to search what they have available to rent.
  4. Can I make it myself?
    1. I always ask myself this question and the deciding factor is “Do I have the right materials to make it with?”
  5. Have I looked at a thrift store or discount grocer or consignment shop for it?
    1. This question helps me delay buy purchase- for good reason though. Usually when I sit on the idea of a purchase, it only takes me a few days to decide if I truly need the product or not. I also take extra steps to ensure that I can purchase the item with as little waste as possible. I search through thrift shops and secondhand stores to find the solution I need.

These are simply a few of the questions that I ask myself before purchasing items. Living a zero waste life means it’s living a conscious and accountable lifestyle. You’re accountable for the items you buy in every area of your life because you’re choosing to be responsible for your impact on the environment. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, the beginning of this journey is a lot of work, but once you find that comfortable routine from buying groceries without packaging to going on a picnic without producing trash, it’s very rewarding. By not buying items when I can find an alternative answer actually keeps my life simple. I use materials that I already have and I know that the materials that I currently own are dependable materials. I hope this helps for any future zero waste folks out there.

Choosing What To Keep

 

05.04.2016

0800

When it comes to choosing what to keep versus what you want to throw out, it’s a toss up between how you feel about the object and how will it serve you. I tend to approach the choice of keeping items based on function. I don’t have much of an emotional attachment to objects and for the items I am attached to, they’re usually small enough to fit into my photobox. For all of my paper items that are sentimental, I digitize them and keep a PDF or JPEG file of them in my external hard drive, as well as my clouds. For all of my other sentimental items that are larger, I select a handful to keep and I integrate them into my everyday life sceneries.

With living a zero waste life, I try to be aware of how much trash I’ll produce by donating items or simply tossing out trash. A lot of the times, when I donate items, I try to donate items in good shape so that it has a better chance of being purchased or picked up.

Recently, I had to make a decision about keeping my set of clear glass cups or keeping my mismatched mugs. Although my cups are a nice set, and none of them are chipped or cracked, nor have I lost one to gravity and clumsiness, I still wasn’t happy with owning so many beverage containers. I actually inherited these cups when one of my friends moved from California to Virginia to be back in her home state with her family.

I took all of my mugs and set them out on a table and then I compared them to my clear cups and honestly- the mugs had so much more character and history that the decision was easy. Although my mugs are of all different heights, thicknesses and diameters,  they can contain temperature better than my cups and have handles (always a plus when working with hot beverages). Each mug comes from a certain time period in my life and each evoke a fond memory. Although, I don’t want to own anymore mugs after I took a look at this set, unless I accidentally break one. This is the perfect amount of mugs for my collection and I’m glad to have it.

Owning mugs seems like such a minor issue, and it probably is. This post is written more for the sake of the moment when I decided that imperfection is perfect, at least for me it is. I’ve always been conditioned to own sets, sets of dishes, sets of cups, sets of books, sets of jewelry, etc. Even when I went into stores, items on display were displayed in sets with matching cups, dinner plates, bowls, gravy dispenser and so on. After I moved into my own studio I felt the need to have “perfect sets”. The clear glass cups that I traded out for my mugs were a perfect set too, yet I was not happy with them. Ironically, it was in my first apartment when I decided to live a zero waste life too, so perfection slowly went out the window.

Perfection doesn’t lead to happieness for me and I came to that realization when I donated the glass cups. However, I did wrap each individually and carefully and donated them to a local charity, so the next owner would receive a clean and carefully put together set.

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Seven Tips To Begin A Zero Waste Life

03.14.2016

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

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

2016-03-02 15.56.362016-03-02 15.41.30I hope this list helps those of you who are starting out on your own zero waste life journey. I know it wasn’t a simple and short type of list, where I only listed tasks to do in a bullet point format. I wanted to explain why I chose these seven items to anchor the beginning of the journey for zero waste newbies. Good luck to all and if you have any questions, please email me, my email is in my about section of this website. Also if you want to see what items I have purchased, please check out my store link.