2012-01-31

Minimization

As you may have noticed, if you occasionally look at my 101 in 1001 list, we got rid of a bunch of dvds. This picture is the top tier of one dvd tower. We were able to get rid of two of these. It's nicer having shorter towers, and we didn't need that many dvds anyway. Since it's the start of a new year, we are on a little minimization kick that we hope to do every year. Each Monday has been a new project. So far we have done two Mondays. The first one was minimizing the bathroom (a half of a box). The second one was the kitchen (a full box). Future Mondays: Bedrooms, closets, and living/dining area. In addition to everyone's token "lose weight around the midsection" goal, how about trying to lighten your possession load this new year? It's a freeing feeling, simplifying our lives.

2012-01-27

Two week trash can!

I just wanted to say that today marks the end of the second week since we last emptied our kitchen trash. I'll take it out tomorrow, because it is at capacity by now.

The last time we emptied the kitchen trash was Friday, the 13th, prior to our movie night. We had to empty it then primarily because we had filled it up by going through our keepsake boxes and discarding a bunch of things, including many photos that were out of focus or pointless or held no special memories for us.

The time before that was the 6th, but that time was because Virgil shoved a 4 qt Pyrex bowl off the ledge and it shattered all over. I didn't want to leave a bunch of tiny bits of glass in there for another week; when the can isn't heavy the cats will knock it over to see what's in there.

What's in the bag?

Well, like I said we emptied it just prior to movie night. So a not-small portion of the starting contents of this can is the fast food trash brought in by others.

Then we filled it up. I had to make some mandatory deposits courtesy of our kitties. I think it's safe to say that might actually account for the majority of this bag o' trash. The rest is our own fast food trash, because we still can't seem to resist the call of Taco Bell, McFlurries, and Arby's. And just tonight we're going through a few more old photos, weeding out the ones we don't need. We'll end up scanning many of the ones we keep so we can throw those away and not have clutter. And hopefully try not to acquire too many more physical photos.

Unrelated, but still cool
Oh, and I forgot to mention when I was telling you about the office recycling. One day I had an extra cup on my desk that I'd been using for QT tea refills for a while, and I was having some of my monkey-picked oolong tea, and I had this idea to collect my tea leaves like we do at home. So I dumped my leaves in the cup. Then my brother Jim did the same with his leaves. Then I threw an apple core in. And Jim started throwing his banana and orange peels in there. It's my super-classy office compost bin!

Note to self: Don't bring it home to dump in our pail at home. You may not realize it just looking at it, but if you fill up a 32 oz cup with compostables, that's a whole quarter of your compost pail. Must remember to take it by Whole Foods on my way home from work in the future.

That's only half of it.

Knit produce bag and upcycled bowl

Just wanted to post some pictures of what Lacey and Matt got us for Christmas. These are super awesome. Since they are both eco-friendly gifts, I thought I'd share.
This is an upcycled bowl made from magazines. Love it!

Lacey crocheted this produce bag. Crafty!

Recycling at work

For a while I've been in the habit of collecting some things on my desk at work to bring home to recycle. My brother would put some things on my desk to recycle. Occasionally Steve would put some things on my desk to recycle. Martin started putting some things on my desk to recycle.

So I figured it'd be so much easier to collect all this in a box that I can take home periodically. I made a nice sign to hang from it. Two signs, actually, because we expanded to two boxes so I had one to take home and could leave one behind.

Martin generously offered the unused cart next to his desk to put our box on. And then we started officially using the second box full-time when he came up with the brilliant idea to separate the cans from the rest so we can fit more and keep it a little more "organized", reducing the chance of spilling and getting Martin's desk all sticky.

Then Martin and I saw our boss throw away a can, so I grabbed another empty box and went in and succeeded in getting Dave to recycle his cans!

Anyway, here are our bins. As you can see, Steve drinks a lot of Pepsi Throwback. My next step is to acquire some additional boxes to put by the printers in our area and make a slightly different sign to encourage the recycling of all paper that doesn't need to go in the shred bin. Although, if Cintas does for our shred bin what they seem to do for their free public shredding events, maybe the shred bin isn't so bad after all. Sounds like their shredded paper gets recycled.

2012-01-22

No more microwave

We've been intending to mention this for a while, but as it turns out, freeing up counter space tends to mean filling up the counter space with other things like dirty dishes or MRU small electrics. So we kept forgetting to take a picture during the times we could get a clean shot. Until now!

Look ma, no microwave!


Who needs one? We've been air-popping our popcorn for a couple months now and I figured out that you can melt butter by putting some in a little prep bowl and setting it on top of the toaster as you make your toast. There weren't all that many other uses we put it to besides the popcorn and butter. Plus, Jess saw this article a while ago and whether you believe 45-year-old Russian studies or not, maybe there's a chance this is even good for us.

The greatest part of this is how much extra space we have on the counter now. We've never really had any sort of prep space in the kitchen. I still make bread at the table, but that may actually be habit now. Perhaps I'll give it a shot over here now. After all, the counter is a much sturdier kneading surface than our table anyway.

See how huge it was?


We only had four inches or so of counter space in front of this thing. And it's kind of ugly (sorry Mom and Dad).

We have considered the possibility of acquiring a toaster oven. The jury's still out on that idea though. A toaster oven would be more energy-efficient for many uses since it's got a significantly smaller volume to maintain a high temperature in. However, a toaster oven too would take up space. Though I imagine that besides pizza we may be able to make most of our oven-baked goods in a smaller oven. But still, I'm not sure if going back to less counter space sounds that great to me. Perhaps if we found some stuff we don't need and could find some cabinet space to store the toaster oven? Or perhaps it wouldn't look too awful where the bread box is. Oh yeah, we want to get rid of our bread box too. Who wants it? Or the microwave?

So, as far as a de-cluttering idea, I give getting rid of the microwave an A+. Waste-wise it makes no difference because we hadn't been using microwave popcorn anyway. Energy-use-wise it might be a bit of a wash, given that we will be heating up an oven for leftovers now. Still, I'm really happy to see that thing go.

2012-01-20

Finally composting

My parents got us this compost pail for Christmas! We've been wanting to compost for some time now, but I think we were dragging our feet because of living in an apartment. But, the more I educated myself, the more I couldn't bring myself not to. And, after reading the article in the KC Star where this other zero waste couple took their compost to Whole Foods to drop it off, we decided it was the final little push we needed. If we get a house in the future, we plan to do some of our own composting, but this is an easy way to transition. I honestly had no idea there was a compost drop before reading that article (I don't generally go into the cafeteria where it is, so I never really noticed it before. And, I'm not really sure it's meant to be used as a place for people to bring their own in, but we haven't been called out on it yet). We were entertaining ideas of balcony composting and all the difficulties that would entail, but this proves to be a way easier option. Typically we fill this pail in a week's time and then take it with us when we make our weekly grocery trip. So far, it's been working out just fine.

2012-01-19

Making pasta, a lot easier with a machine

I meant to post this a long time ago. Sorry guys!

As Jess mentioned, I got a pasta machine for Christmas. I'd tried to make some a while back, but it's difficult to get it thin enough with a rolling pin, and nearly impossible to cut thin enough strands of it to be anything remotely like spaghetti.

So the pasta machine is still a bit of a hassle, and I had a somewhat frustrating evening because of the touchiness of moisture in the dough, but eventually when I threw the pasta in the pot all the strands separated from each other and it all turned out quite nice.

I guess my only complaint with the final product was that I left it in too long. I know, fresh pasta cooks fast. But steaming green beans on top of it makes it a bit tricky to time well.

I can't, in good conscience, give you the recipe I used because I think it was a pretty crappy one. So next time I do this, perhaps if it turns out well I will get a couple pictures of the process and provide a recipe.

Anyway, here's what it looked like:

2012-01-17

Shampoo

Lately, I have been using this shampoo I was able to find in bulk in Topeka. I just pour it into my own container shown here. Now, I know that's a drive, so it's not ideal and the only reason I justify it is because I can get it when we are in Topeka anyway visiting family (we don't just go to Topeka for the shampoo obviously). I wish we could find bulk shampoo around here, as that would be more convenient. Rob is still working on his current bottle of shampoo and then will be using this with me. We are open to other ideas as well though, and we've heard about shampoo bars and no poo. Rob tried the no poo though and ended up not liking it. My hair would be disgusting if I didn't wash it often. I really like the smell of this bulk kind and we will just go this route for the time being, but may experiment with other ideas in the future. Advice and ideas?

2012-01-11

2012-01-09

Zero waste purchases, an oxymoron?



Shaving soap in bowl form. Rob has been using this kind for awhile now, though we just got him a new wooden bowl for Christmas since his old ceramic one broke into pieces. Shaving with soap and a brush seems to be more zero waste friendly as the only waste ends up being the cardboard the new soap comes in (this can be recycled) , no plastic tubes or aerosol cans. Love the look of the wooden bowl :)



New reusable shopping bags. Rob got me some new ones for Christmas as some of our older ones were on their way out.  These are super cute, have no store logos, and the best part - the straps are long enough for me to put them over my shoulder.


Mark another thing off my 101 list. We got some reusable handkerchiefs now that we have phased out Kleenex. So far, I think they are working great. I also enjoy not having randomly themed Kleenex boxes in almost every room of the house. It actually frees up space. Obviously it eliminates needless waste, which is the ultimate goal.

We got a pasta maker! Rob has been wanting one for awhile and now we will be able to make our own spaghetti, crackers, etc. I don't want to write about this too much because I know Rob will make a post about his yummy pasta experiences soon. I'm looking forward to it.

2012-01-04

Swiffer with a twist

Why was I throwing away swiffer pads in the past when a washrag sprayed with my water/vinegar mix does the same exact thing? This was an easy switch and I still get to use my swiffer, which is easy and convenient. Saves money and the environment!