Sunday, January 6, 2019

Cleaning Up after Christmas

We all have those strings of holiday lights that have finally failed. Or you keep looking for that one bulb that went out and have given up.

The great news is strings of lights can be recycled - the bad news is they can't go in your regular bin. They end up getting deconstructed for their components, like the wire inside.

There are *numerous* programs in the broader Seattle area that take them. Act quick! Some of these are only recycling lights through mid-January.

West Seattle Recycling (West Seattle)
Recycling Depot (Georgetown)

Multiple Locations
Ace Hardware
Girl Scouts of Western WA
McLendons Hardware

South of Seattle
Point Defiance Zoo / NW Trek / Metro Parks Tacoma
Tacoma Recycling Center
University Place Recycling Center

Mail-in Programs
Christmas Light Source - You pay postage but get a 10% coupon for future light purchases. Proceeds from recycling benefits Toys for Tots.
Holiday LEDs - You pay postage but get a 15% coupon for future light purchases.

King Country Solid Waste Division
King 5 News

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Looking Back at 2018

Happy New Years, friends!

We covered a lot of ground in 2018 with 33 posts:

We discovered alternatives to curbside recycling.
We learned about specialty stores for recycling or purchasing used electronics.

I saved $43 on cute office shoes, and had some free entertainment.
We saved about $6 and made the most of our favorite lipsticks by making our own tinted lip balm.
I got Pacific Northwest stylish and saved $23 with a thrifted plaid shirt.
We saved $371 by committing to thrifting and rental fashion.
We easily repaired broken jewelry to extend its life.
We protected ocean life by being choosy about sunscreen.
I saved $70 on a vacation wardrobe.
I saved $65 on a leather purse through local gifting.
Our DIYs failed, but we quickly pivoted.
Our thrifting sometimes failed, but we got amazing pics out of it.

We reloaded or responsibly recycled our holiday gift cards.
We saved wrapping paper, and were influenced by the classic Japanese wrapping style.
We saved a gift bag by sewing reusable gifts bags.

Being Neighborly: 
Our neighbors taught us about free organic fertilizer.
Our other neighbors taught us about creative reuse of packaging waste.
I was on the receiving end of my Buy Nothing group, and saved $6.
We saved room in our garages by borrowing rarely used tools.

Where We Shop: 
We supported businesses like IKEA that are working towards reducing their footprint and educating customers.
We supported businesses like Republic of Tea who are creative about their shipping packaging.
We learned about companies that will incentivize you to recycle your old threads.

In the Kitchen: 
We made an easy DIY goo remover and saved $6.90.
We saved $1 reusing fruit netting to scrub our pots and pans.
We gave new life to past-their-prime veggies through roasting.
We turned leftovers into *cookies*!
We turned orange peels into candy, and had a celebratory cocktail after.

Inspiration and Action: 
I saved $131.34 taking public transit in style.
We participated in our office's Earth Day events. 
We were re-motivated by discovering a plastic bottle washed ashore 50 years later!
We made our voices heard through voting.
We got inspired by TV shows and documentaries.

Overall, we saved $723, and made a big dent in our personal impacts on the landfill. Way to go, and here's to a new year and new ideas!

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Orange You Glad for By-Products

Winter is the perfect time for citrus, and my Imperfect Produce box is overflowing with more oranges, grapefruits, and lemons than I can get to. Fortunately, I love some fresh squeezed juice! 

I've been reading about ways to use the peels. Having already tried (and not loved) soaking them in vinegar for homemade cleaner, I wanted to try something else: CANDY!

There are many recipes for candying orange peel. I tried and liked this one.

First step: slice your orange peel into 1/4" strips. Go ahead and leave the white/pith. It won't be bitter when you're done. 

Next: boil the peels for 15 minutes. Dump that water. Then add 2 cups sugar, 1 cup water, and simmer the peels for 45 minutes. 

Finally: strain the peels (don't toss the liquid! keep reading for why), and a few at a time, toss them in granulated sugar to lightly coat. Set them on a wire rack and leave uncovered for 24 hours until fully dried. 

Voila! Perfectly candied orange peels! You can eat these as-is, garnish other baked goods, or dip in chocolate for a decadent treat. 

The end result? Something like this:

(image credit arsheffield on flickr)

These are not a picture of mine. Mine didn't turn out as pretty due to one main mistake: I used microwaved chocolate chips for my dipping chocolate, which re-hardens pretty quickly. I recommend using baker's chocolate in a double boiler for prettier results. Regardless of how pretty, they will taste amazing. 

Now, back to that liquid gold that is left in your boiling pot. The sugar water that you simmered your peels in is now orange-infused simple syrup! This is the perfect addition to a mocha or a cocktail. 

Cost of candied orange peel: $0.70 cents of sugar
Cost of simple syrup: FREE by-product!

These are a beautiful and festive treat as you wrap up your holiday season. Happy snacking. :)

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Waste Free Gift Wrap #2 - Gift Bags

With the holidays approaching, let's talk gift wrap: Each year, billions of dollars are spent on wrapping paper in the US alone, with millions of pounds of wrapping paper usually used once. Holy cow!

In February, I showed one alternate way to wrap presents, by wrapping the gift with another, such as a tea towel or scarf.

In this post, I'll share another: fabric gift bags. Gift bags are pretty easy to make. They are essentially tote bags, made in a variety of sizes. Last year, I got a bunch of holiday fabric by the yard at Seattle Recreative. You could also work with curtains, tablecloths, etc, from a thrift store near you. Not only are you up-cycling the fabric, but you are also creating wrapping that can be used over and over again for years to come. By using thrifted fabric, the cost comes to about $3/bag, about the same cost as a new paper gift bag.

1. Cut out the 4 sides of your bag, slightly larger than your gift. Add a few inches of length, which will be used to create the bottom of the bag. If your fabric is thinner, might fray, or you just want a contrast lining, cut out 8 sides (you'll be making two bags, outer and lining).

2. Sew the four panels together, with the pattern on the inside. 

3. Sew the bottom shut. Note: For this bag, all my sides are equal width. Check the placement of my seams when I go to sew the bottom. Two of the sides are folded in half; this is important for making the flat bottom of the bag. If your bag is rectangular instead of square, make the shorter sides the halved sides. 

4. Sew perpendicular across the bottom seam on the two corners, resulting in two isosceles triangle points. This triangle should happen naturally when you flatten the sides of the bag. 

5. When you flip the bag right side out, those triangles formed the squared base of the bag.

6. To make handles, sew strips of complimentary fabric into a tube, and then flip right side out. These can be any width you like, but keep in mind if you can't fit your finger inside, you will have a very difficult time flipping them right side out. 

7. Put your lining bag inside your outer bag. Fold the rough top edges inside, place your handles, and pin together to hold everything in place which you sew this top seam.

8. Once you've trimmed any long threads, you are now ready to fill your bag with gifts! Want reusable tissue too? Use complimentary fabric squares.

Not crafty, or running out of time? You can purchase reusable gift bags from many places:
From TheRubySwan on Etsy - ribbon closure means no tissue needed!
From Cohasset Party Supply on Etsy
From Appleby Lane on Amazon
From Illumen on Amazon
From The Container Store

The example bags above average $6, meaning payback after just a few uses.

Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Conscious Cookies!

With Thanksgiving having just passed us, do you have any leftover pumpkin puree? I know, crazy question, just like those articles talking about uses for "leftover wine".

If you do, try baking it into cookies! If you don't ,did you know that mashed sweet potatoes or butternut squash make an easy substitute, and it's a creative way to repurpose those leftovers?

I can't claim credit for this recipe (that goes to Lauren Miyashiro on, but I did taste test it for you. It a fairly basic sugar cookie recipe, with just 9 basic ingredients, including pumpkin puree and pumpkin pie spice. They're then topped with a cream cheese frosting, with just 5 ingredients. The ingredients are almost entirely kitchen staples.

(The final product - yum!)

The recipe calls for 2 cookie sheets. It easily made 3+ dozen cookies.

You can also make one simple swap in this process, replacing the parchment paper for silicone sheet pan liners. Not just for baking, silicone keeps your pan from having baked on messes, is easily washable, and replaces disposables like aluminum foil and parchment paper. Silicone is becoming popular with those trying to reduce waste, not only because it replaces single use items, but it's also non-toxic and doesn't contain BPA. T, as the primary dish-washer of the house, is *loving* my increased use of silicon, which is cutting down on time, elbow grease, water, and soap. They don't need to break the bank either; I got a 3-pack for around $15, and they also have measurement markings. They will pay for themselves within the first year, considering the cost of other single-use products.

(These sheets make it so easy.)

(Cook until browned, then let cool.)

These cookies are the perfect compliment to your coffee or as a dessert this fall. What are some of your tried and true recipes to re-purpose leftovers?

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Food for Thought

As the world population grows and with it, the waste reduction movement becomes more mainstream, we're starting to see TV programming join in. Here are a couple shows to check out to give you some great ideas about minimizing food waste:

1. Wasted! The Story of Food Waste (85 minutes documentary). This film was produced by Anthony Bourdain (RIP) and was organized around two simple ideas. First, there are billions of pounds of food wasted each year and there are billions of people that are food insecure. Seems like a 1:1 problem that we can solve. Second, the EPA has a pyramid for ways to utilize food. The film follows each step of the pyramid to look into areas where waste is created (from farms and fishing operations, to restaurants and grocery stores, to end consumers) and solutions for each (from big to small).


I haven't found Wasted! for free yet, but it is available for rental as low as $1.99 through Amazon Prime Video or a number of other apps referenced on their site. You can also request a community screening; I learned about this through a community screening at my work.

2) Scraps (series on A&E, now in season 2). Chef Joel Gamoran goes around the US making incredible meals out of parts of food that would otherwise be discarded. I learned about this show first through my mom (Thanks, Mom!) and then was lucky enough to have Joel be a guest speaker at work. He spoke about things that we often don't think to eat that make great dishes and often become mainstream (think: using carrot greens for pesto). You can take classes at a Sur La Table near you on the theme, for example, how to re-purpose Thanksgiving leftovers. He also has a cookbook, Cooking Scrappy, for more inspo.

Next steps:

  • Check out these shows for inspo! (And let me know if you find others. :) )
  • Think about how you can insert a step in your own life before compost or the trash. Can you you use the heels of your bread loaves to make homemade bread crumb? If you have a recipe that asks the the whites of green onions, can you meal plan to use the greens? 
Happy Scrapping!

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Blame Hilary!

(Aka "When thrifting goes wrong")

Tats and I went to Goodwill tonight. Tats was making a large donation and then we treated ourselves to some shopping. It didn't disappoint, with richer than usual stock of kitschy holiday tees and Halloween leftovers. 

I decided I needed a fall jacket, after having coveted some Uniqlo lightweight down jackets last week. Lo and behold, I found a light down jacket that fit perfect for $30 (Uniqlo's were $70).

We browsed around for a little while longer, until we came across the "themed leggings" rack. Staring at us were a hundred neon Hilary Clintons!

(We were excited to see each other.)

Problem is... I set the jacket down to take these pics. I looked behind me to pick up my jacket and another woman is holding it.

Do I take her down like a lioness defending her kittens? Or a New Yorker at a sample sale? Would she fight me back and start a brawl? Or, do I awkwardly back down and clumsily ask: "Oh, are you looking at that jacket?"

I chose the latter.

Before I know it, she's putting the jacket on. And another one on top of it. And filling her bag with other clothing items. I start to gesture to one of the employees, look at this woman. She's actively shoplifting in front of us.

She catches our eyes, and bolts for the door. I shout after her, "Hey! Stop!" and look around desperately: "She's stealing those clothes!" But she takes off running.

The employees are all staring at me, mouths agape, surprised that I called out after a shoplifter. Tats said they were probably thinking "Oh, bless her soul." (Southern sarcasm intended.) They shrugged it off like this happens every night, and unfortunately, it probably does. I'm sitting here torn between "she must need it if she needs to steal it" and outraged for Goodwill  and sad for myself. "But... my jacket!!"

Keep in mind, this would have never happened if we hadn't been preoccupied with Hilary.