Archive for the ‘Re-using’ Category

Real food, real gardening, real housekeeping. We’ve broadly defined “real” here as make it yourself, grow it yourself, source it yourself, do it yourself, but the whole concept is a minefield of an issue for people trying to step lightly on the earth.

Some of us live in suburban or rural areas, where one cannot easily reduce automobile use, or a city like Chicago which inexplicably doesn’t have city-wide recycling. There are options that are not open to us. I used to haul my recycling to a nearby suburb, but now they make you show a resident’s ID. My alderman suggested I take it myself 30 miles south to the city recycling facility. I asked him if I could deduct my time and mileage cost from my taxes, since I would not be receiving this service, which other city residents get. Some entrepreneur set up recycling bins in a nearby parking lot, but it’s always full to overflowing.

A lot of what we do vis a vis “green” living in America is based on perverse incentives. We make it easier to use gas through small cars, ethanol additives, and subsidized roads and pipelines, but insist that so-called public transportation like Amtrak and municipal buses show a profit. Which just encourages us to drive. We provide recycling and “post consumer” packaging, encouraging us to throw things away. We worship green space, discouraging the economies inherent in density.

I want to stop bringing stuff into my house. I want to live lightly on the earth as much as I can. So what can I do in the face of societal barriers to responsible sustainability?

Don’t take another single bag from a store
I mean it. Not a single one. Carry small bags in your purse and large bags in your trunk. Bring them with you into stores. ALL stores, not just the grocery store. You don’t need the plastic Macy’s bag any more than you need the plastic Safeway bag. Did you leave the bags in the car? Go back for them. Get to the check out without them? Wheel the unpacked groceries to the lot and pack them yourself. Better yet, encourage your city council to pass deposit laws–stores need to be charging for bags, or cities need to be taxing the stores for giving them away. Bags aren’t free. That cost is just being passed to taxpayers who pay for trash hauling and landfill.

Carry a hot cup AND a cold cup
I have yet to encounter a restaurant or even hot dog stand that won’t use the cup that I bring. If I don’t have the cup with me, I don’t get the drink.

Don’t buy it if you don’t need it
I counted and realized I have seven different types of personal cleaning products in my shower. My husband has four. You only need three– soap, shampoo, toothpaste, and I’m on the fence about shampoo and toothpaste. Look around you. What are you duplicating? What items have only one use?

Don’t buy it if it’s in plastic packaging
This one is hard. Really really hard. Everything is in plastic. When you start to try doing this, it gets kind of horrifying. I’ve started looking for products that are in boxes instead of plastic bags (like laundry detergent), or from shops that allow me to bring my own reusable containers (harder). I have started buying soap and bar shampoo from artisan makers; my supplier wraps it in simple brown paper lunch bags. No more plastic bottles into the waste stream.

Fix it
This will cost you. You can still get irons and radios and tvs and shoes and watches fixed. The problem is, these items are so cheap and available, that it can literally be a quarter the price to buy it new than it is to fix. If you really can’t get it fixed, find a repair shop that will take your broken item and drop it off. Don’t throw it away. Everyone in Chicago now knows to leave broken electronics and appliances on top of the trash dumpster, because scavenging businesses will pick them up and fix them.

Use less
In other words, lather and rinse. But don’t repeat.

What are you doing to really reduce your impact?

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I shared this on my blog, Unearthing This Life, earlier this week. I thought I’d pass it along for all of  you looking for a way to be crafty while (re)using thrift store purchases. Everything but the ribbon is vintage in this item. This was way more fun to design than purchasing something brand new! I hope you enjoy!!
pillowcase purse

This summer I picked up three or four sets of vintage pillowcases to make a few dresses for the Kid. I had originally intended to create a matching top for myself with the extra cases, but I thought it would be much more fun to create a new purse! Now I don’t claim to be any good at sewing. I’m much more of a free-form artist and sewing is so… final. So instead of digging up a pattern and trying to follow it, only to mess up and despise what I created, I decided to design my own pattern.

pillowcase purse

Once I decided which pillowcase design I wanted to use, I checked for any mending needs. If you’re like me, you have several old, worn out purses hanging around. So instead of purchasing a new handle I looked through what I had. (I have my eye on a few purses at the thrift shop just for their handles!)

pillowcase purse collage1

Next I played around with shapes for the purse. I folded the pillowcase and centered upon the design. I didn’t want a humongous purse that would fold under weight, but I wanted something big enough to carry what I consider my essentials. Think about where the pillowcase opens versus where your purse will open. My pillowcase opened on the “bottom” of my purse so I had to figure out where I wanted the top of the purse to be. Be sure to add an inch to the top for a rolled hem and a 1/2 inch to the bottom for seams and hems.

I was fortunate that I had enough “scrap” pillowcase leftover to make a liner for my purse. This is a must have if your pillowcase is older and the material is soft and worn. Because I didn’t want my purse quite as wide as the pillowcase I needed to trim it a bit. I wanted the purse 2-1/4inches narrower than the original pillowcase, but wanted to allow for a 1/2 inch seam, so I trimmed off 1-1/2 inches from one side. (I left the folded side of the pillowcase alone).

pillowcase collage 3

Once I trimmed down the pillowcase, I made a simple zigzag stitch on all raw edges to prevent running. Make sure to stitch the liner as well. If only because I can’t do anything simply, I decided that I did not want a plain rectangular purse. Instead I opted to blunt the corners of the bottom of the purse. Before I commited to a shape, I pinned the corners to get a visual. Three inches inward on both the side and bottom was pleasing to the eye.  I added 1 inch for the bottom seam, so only trimmed off 2 inches in either direction. Before going any further I made a quick zigzag stitch on these raw edges.

pillowcase collage 4

Next I sewed a seam on the bottom and bottom corners. Turn your purse inside-out so that you’re looking at the wrong side. Line up both edges of the bottom of the purse (and corners if you don’t want a straight bottom). Sew a straight straight stitch 1/2 inch from the edge on the bottom edge and up the open side. I sewed an extra seam 1/4 inch inward for additional strength. Next do the same with the liner. Iron seams open.

Now it’s time to stitch everything together. Insert the liner into the purse and turn everything inside-out so that you’re looking at the wrong side of the liner (If you look “inside” the purse you should see your design). Line up the top edges and make sure your sides match up as well. Roll the top edges of both the liner and the exterior down 1/2 inch and iron flat. Fold all the way around a second time (1/2 inch) and pin then iron flat. With matching thread, use a straight stitch to sew the hem closed 1/4 inch from the edge.

pillowcase collage 5

Now to finish up! Take some matching 1 inch ribbon and line it up with the hem stitching on the interior of the purse. Tack it down with some pins. If you want to incorporate your handles like I did, insert them underneath the ribbon, then sew the ribbon and handles onto the hem edging (don’t go all the way through to the exterior of the purse) with a needle and thread. I used some craft glue for additional strength. The ribbon hides all the handwork and the sloppy ends of these handles. If you’re using straps or handles with rings, sew the rings onto the interior hem edge (without going all the way through the purse) and then tack on the ribbon by hand to hide the hardware. Finally, make the purse yours! I added some iron-on sequins I happened to have in my craft box. It was the perfect addition and required no fancy handwork.

pillowcase purse

I’m absolutely thrilled with my new purse and I know I could not have purchased one brand new quite as cute!

pillowcase purse

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