Friday, September 30, 2011

simple substitution

Despite working in an eco-friendly building, my office’s restroom stocks paper towels instead of electric hand dryers.  If there’s one thing I hate, it’s using something once and then throwing it away.  To combat this issue, I brought a seemingly strange item to work: a favor from my sister-in-law’s wedding.  It was originally intended as a lobster bib or a golf bag accessory but since we don’t regularly lobster or golf (and its way too cute to turn into a dust rag), it’s been sitting in my basement for about two years.  Now it’s been repurposed now as my personal office hand towel.


I did the math to figure out how much paper I would save by making this easy switch.  Excluding weekends, vacations, holidays and sick time, I work about 218 days per year.  I visit the girls' room about four times per day and on each visit, I use two to three paper towels to dry my hands.  We’ll call that ten paper towels per day and a grand total of 2,180 towels or 10.9 lbs per year (yep, definitely got busted weighing a small stack of them on the mail machine scale).  That’s a sizeable house cat worth of paper products that I’m not consuming and not tossing into a land fill, where, as William Rathje, director of the Garbage Project found out, newspapers can actually take decades to decompose.

As you can see from the picture, my hand towel conveniently has a grommet and carabineer poked through the corner, which makes it perfect for hanging it on a bathroom stall hook.  You don’t need either to make your own though.  Simply snipping a hole with scissors and threading a lanyard or bit of string through would work just as well and save just as many trees. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

sweat equity

There's been talk of renovating the kitchen for ages but this weekend, the right time was finally upon us.   There was no looming wedding, no trips to the Cape.  Just 48 hours and a sea of beige linoleum.  


An order of tasks was established and the cabinets came up as the first logical step.  In an effort to keep perfectly good materials out of a landfill, we decided to refinish them instead of replace them.  Let me tell you though.  Things quickly spiral out of control when it comes to home renovation.  


No sooner had the cabinet doors been removed than we began eyeing the hideous laminate backsplash, Beau's least favorite kitchen feature.  A few chisels, two hammers and an hour of elbow grease while belting out Bon Jovi later and the backsplash was relegated to the garbage can.  Meanwhile, the cabinet doors sat around in a pile, patiently waiting their turn.  We were too busy congratulating ourselves and admiring the lack of backsplash to bother with them at the moment.  The new look of aging adhesive clinging to the naked dry wall feels like an improvement.  We're calling it the "distressed" look, like those sandblasted jeans with holes that cost $100.   

Attention was eventually returned to the heap of cabinet doors, quietly teetering on the stove.  I couldn't help but notice the ancient, wall-mounted microwave right above it - my least favorite kitchen feature.  Not once in over two years of habitation has it been used, namely because it looked capable of irradiating a small village.  It was just an evil, greasy waste of space.  
Drinks celebrating the lack of nuclear microwave

Several minutes later, the offending appliance was detached from the wall and sitting atop the precarious stack of cabinet doors.  This is when we found out that microwaves from the early 80s weigh as much as a sectional couch.  Determination won out though and it was relocated to the garage where I assume it is now terrorizing the cabinet doors, which after much perseverance have now been stripped, sanded and painted.  

Thursday, September 15, 2011

stick it in water, see if it grows

Awhile back, I read about a woman who takes random produce - garlic, potatoes, onions - and puts them back in the ground to see what will happen.  Sometimes she's rewarded with fresh growth, sometimes she digs up a rotten tuber.  I admire that entrepreneurial spirit of homesteaders who aren't afraid of a little failure now and then.  It's a wonderful attitude to adopt.  The last bunch of scallions that I bought were the first victims of my own experimentation.

After cutting off the tops for dinner one night, I plunked the rest in a cup of water, using skewers to keep the bulbs from completely submerging and potentially getting the ick.  The photo above was taken less than 24 hours after I plunked them in their new hydroponic haven.  As you can see, after that short amount of time, there was already new growth creeping up from the cut line.  

A few weeks later and they've completed regenerated.  They just require a change of water every couple of days.  I have no idea how long they'll last this way but considering I've learned how to cut the cost of a bunch of scallions at least in half, I'd call this test a success.  

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

where to begin?

Once I realized just how much I could create instead of purchase, the options were mind boggling to me.  Instead of asking myself "what can I make?" I now ask "what can't I make?" Instead of turning the house into my own personal department store of randomly selected crafts, I narrowed my focus down to a few basics that I use on a daily basis: pitas, pickles and skirts.  

Before starting on my baking on Labor Day, I needed to procure a rolling pin.  Instead of heading to William Sonoma, I pointed Beau towards my old dress form stand, which has been sitting in the basement since it was ousted by my new one this past Christmas.  Ten minutes later, he emerged wielding my upcycled rolling pin.

Baking looks much scarier than it actually is.  I followed the directions prescribed by the very first pita recipe that popped up after I googled "how to make pitas" and was rewarded with fresh, pillowy success.  Whole Foods is insane to charge something like $5.00 for a package of them.  These cost me less than $0.50 and taste exponentially better.

My pickle budget was also an embarrassing $5.00 a week.  Is there anything cheaper that tastes that good with falafel?  I don't think so.  I haven't progressed to canning yet, which made this item a little harder to replace.  That was, until I found Red Fire Farms quickle recipe and promptly reused a few old Claussen jars that were loafing around.  Quickles don't require actual canning, so I was able to do without those supplies.  They just need to live in the fridge instead of the pantry.  Not a huge sacrifice.  Pickling cucumbers are at the top of my gardening list next year, which will reduce each batch to pennies a slice.    

I wear skirts almost every day and most of them are either showing their ages or er, getting a little tight in the waist.  This khaki one is the second skirt to date and by far my favorite.  I used Buttericks 5421 again but the similarities end there since this time I had an inkling of what I was doing.  Since it's grand unveiling a few weeks ago at my nephew's birthday party, it has already become a staple of my work wardrobe.  And at under $10.00 for the entire bolt of cotton fabric at Ikea, it is also, an absolute steal.

I'm happy to think of how much plastic packaging will stay out of landfills from my new ability to make these three little items.  I'm also avoiding an array of unseen chemicals, saving oodles of money and not fueling a garment industry that pays its workers an unlivable wage.  This is a slippery slope I'm on.  What's next?  What can't I make?