Gardening with a (Re)Purpose

April 14, 2013 by  
Filed under Blog, DIY, Front Page, Gardening, Repurposing, Slideshow

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Starting a backyard garden doesn’t have to involve spending a lot on containers, watering systems and soil additives. In fact, you could probably plant a rich, healthy and visually attractive garden right now with what you have lying around your house. Everything from that pile of recyclables to the yard waste sitting at the curb can be used to build a low-cost, low-maintenance source of kitchen herbs, vegetables and day-brightening flora. Following are a few ideas to get you started and to spur on your gardening imagination.

Consider using all those leaves, sticks and pine cones you rake out of your yard every couple of months as free and effective mulch in your garden. Leaves and pine straw are a great finishing touch to your garden beds as they help your soil maintain a consistent temperature and moisture level as well as help to keep out weeds.

Planters with a New Purpose

Instead of asking yourself, “What can I repurpose and turn into a planter?” you should be asking what you can’t, because just about anything that can hold soil and drain water can be used for your planting purposes. Assorted old coffee tins make great containers for flowering gardens and the two center holes of stacked, staggered cinder blocks can be filled with potting soil for a unique wall garden.

Have an old wooden wine box? Drill some holes in the bottom, fill with a short layer of gravel, top with potting soil and hang from sturdy eyelets screwed into the four corners for an intriguing and useful kitchen garden ….

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Break Out of Throwaway Culture in 2013

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For decades, a disposable culture has permeated every part of our society, leading to environmental degradation, waste, and inefficiency. If your family is locked in a throwaway lifestyle, there’s no better time to make a fresh start. Here are a few trends that are helping people around the country save money, live better, and protect the planet.
1. Repair Shops

Disposable culture caused the near-extinction dozens of repair trades like tailoring, cobbling, and small appliance repair; but in environmentally conscious regions, these professions are making a comeback, mending tennis shoes and t-shirts as well as high-end luxury items. For a few bucks and 20 minutes of their time, not only are people saving something that would have been thrown away, but keeping someone local employed as well. Repair swaps are also popping up all over the country, where once a week or month groups get together to help each other repair their items for free. Check your local living section of your newspaper, the classifieds, and Craigslist to find repair shops or repair swaps in your area….

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A Laptop Sleeve to Love from GreenSmart

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Like you (I’m making an assumption here, but it’s a fair one since you’re reading this website), I hate the idea of billions of single-use plastic water and soda bottles going to waste, littering our waterways and landscape. It’s about time someone figured out a way to put those discarded bottles to good use. GreenSmart has done just that with a rugged and cool-looking laptop sleeve.

I was intrigued, though frankly a bit skeptical, when I received an offer of a laptop sleeve made from recycled water bottles. But I was pleasantly surprised when it arrived — and I remain delighted. I’ve been using my GreenSmart laptop sleeve daily since July, and it’s been amazingly durable.

When I say durable, I mean it’s withstood several plane trips and lengthy road trips, and traveled back and forth to the office each day in an overloaded computer bag for more than six months. Frankly, I’m hard on both my laptop and my computer bag. It’s not that I’m careless, just that I tend to carry way too much on every trip — including my daily commute….

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Can I Really Recycle My Ex’s Wedding Ring?

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Most of us are guilty of stockpiling jewelry at some point in our lives. It may not have been intentional, but more often than not we still end up with a jewelry box or bedside drawer full of tangled necklace chains and unpaired earrings. The majority of the time, we feel torn between two options when our jewelry stash gets too big: keep it or throw it out. To respect the feelings of those who have given it to us, we tend to hang on to more than we need or even want. The new solution? Recycle it! …

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3 Creative Party Ideas for Kids (That Cost Almost Nothing)

October 24, 2012 by  
Filed under Art, Blog, DIY, Front Page, Kids, Repurposing, Slideshow

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What parent among us hasn’t scratched our head wondering what to do for our child’s next birthday party, Scout meeting, or club activity? Here’s a collection of simple projects that will spur kids’ creative juices to flow, save you money as a host, and teach both the value and fun of repurposing….

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Repurposing Goes Classy in UpCycled Style

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Candi Karsjens is an ecopreneur in every sense of the word. She is an environmentalist, who repurposes and upcycles other people’s cast-off bottles into gorgeous glasses, bowls, vases, and more, giving each one an entirely new for years to come. She also creates candles and creams free of toxic chemicals and even pours candles into her upcycled glass holders. Karsjens has two built-from-the-ground-up small businesses she’s now combining into one: Aromatic Infusions/Upcycled Style.

Next weekend, Candi’s products will make their first appearance at the Des Moines Farmers’ Market. If you’re in the area, I encourage you to meet the designer and see her full range of cool products….

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Iowa City Summer of the Arts Goes Green

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To get a sense of the strong community living in Iowa City, attend one of its summer festivals. This weekend, the annual Iowa City Jazz Festival will take over the downtown area and provide residents with delicious food, music, and the opportunity to learn about the environment.

Environmental education may not be what you expect to see at a festival. But, Iowa City’s summer events attract thousands of people, and that generates a lot of trash. To reduce the waste that Iowa City’s festivals send to the landfill, Summer of the Arts (SotA), the organization behind Iowa City’s festivals, has begun a program called Green Initiatives (GI)….

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Trends in Industrial and Retail Sustainable Packaging

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In a recent report from the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), companies in the food, beverage, and consumer products industries plan to cut packaging waste by 4 billion pounds between 2005 and 2020. They’ve already reduced waste by 1.5 billion pounds since 2005, leaving 2.5 billion more pounds of packaging waste to eliminate by 2020. And, as sustainable packaging trends in today’s market steadily increase, 2.5 billion sounds like a highly reachable goal.

So how, exactly, are manufacturers cutting down on waste? First off, they’re looking at the entire life cycle of a package — from sources to production to end-of-life disposal and beyond — and identifying where and how they can improve sustainability. Then, they’re making changes to each step of their process to implement packaging solutions that not only consist of sustainable materials, but ones that got to the shelf by way of sustainable practices….

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The Green Side of Art – Making New Beauty from Old Objects

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Have you ever looked at a beer bottle and thought, That would make a good candle? Like many people switching to a more environmentally friendly – “green” – lifestyle, artists are finding new ways to show their creativity while recycling material that otherwise would be tossed in the garbage.

Tom Brown has found an outlet for his creativity by participating in the Iowa City Public Library’s Altered Book Sale and Exhibit.

For the past few years, people of all ages have been encouraged to participate in creating fun works of art using old books as the focal material of the work. Those who participate have the option of using their own library for material or picking up an old book from the Iowa City Public Library (ICPL).

Using recycled material such as books and copper, Brown went to work creating his piece for the exhibit: a lamp. Brown made the body from copper tubing and the shade from the pages of a medical encyclopedia.

“It was covered in skulls and kidneys and other body parts,” says Brown….

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My 5: Louis Hayner, CSO, Alteva

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Louis Hayner, Chief Sales Officer for Alteva, responded to our favorite question for the folks we interview. Alteva provides hosted unified communications to businesses. Following is Hayner’s response.

BPGL: What are the five most important things we can do to protect the planet?

* Implement Hosted Technologies.

When a customer chooses a hosted vs. premise-based phone solution for its communications, they contribute to an overall reduction in resources and costs of power and cooling by up to 84 percent. By reducing energy consumption, they reduce the carbon dioxide gas emissions produced as a byproduct of generating electricity.

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Ripley’s Believe It or Not! – ENTER IF YOU DARE!

September 15, 2010 by  
Filed under Art, Blog, Books, Environment, Front Page, Recycling, Slideshow

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Ripley is a name long associated with uniqueness and — let’s be honest — oddity. The latest book in the Ripley’s Believe It or Not! series is no exception. Flip to any page in this attractive, hard cover book, and you’ll find bizarre stories about all sorts of topics that will keep you reading and turning page after page:

* training pigeons to evaluate art by rewarding them with food, page 77
* a Russian man with a tree growing inside his lungs, page 111
* hair scissors that fit on the tips of a stylist’s fingers, similar to Edward Scissorhands, page 144
* and so much more.

The idea of reusing discarded items in new ways is hardly unique these days, and you might wonder how reuse and repurposing would fit Ripley’s definition of “odd.” Yet several of the entries in this book show highly unusual ways to reuse discarded items….

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ReUse Connection – Ideas for Repurposing, Freely Shared

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  Ian Moise is the founder of ReUse Connection, a Facebook page and future website dedicated to finding alternative uses for items or materials people might otherwise throw away. For example, do you ever wonder what to do with used plastic tape dispensers? ReUse Connection readers suggested ideas as varied as making candle holders, using […]

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The Green Garmento – An Eco-Friendly Dry Cleaning Tote

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“Using The Green Garmento for your dry cleaning is similar to the reusable totes movement, which started as something grocery stores were offering and has changed the way people do their grocery shopping,” says Jennie Nigrosh, president and co-founder of The Green Garmento.

Nigrosh’s product is a dry cleaning bag that consumers use over and over again, both as a hamper at home and as a way to transport their dry cleaning without plastic bags. “Way beyond the fact that we have an interesting product that helps make life easier, helps to organize your closet, and helps you be green all at the same time,” Nigrosh adds, “it’s a new category.

Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL) interviewed Nigrosh by phone from her California office to learn more about The Green Garmento as well as its acceptance in the dry-cleaning world and in homes around the nation….

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Bag Green Guilt by Jen Pleasants

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Going green can be overwhelming when you’re just getting started. For beginners, the steps involved may seem too complex to digest and act upon.

This can cause a large amount of anxiety, resulting in impaired physical and mental health, such as high-blood pressure (a leading cause of heart attacks) and paralyzing guilt. Bag Green Guilt: 5 Easy Steps: Turn Eco-Anxiety Into Constructive Energy by Jen Pleasants explores options to reduce such needless stress….

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Find Bargains Fast with GarageSalesTracker.com

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Been to a garage sale yet this summer? It’s not too late to catch bargains in your own neighborhood or even at a distance, if you know where to look. Drive around your town most any weekend, and you’re likely to see garage sale signs posted on several residential corners. But there’s an easier way (and one that takes less gas) than cruising the neighborhood to look for bargains: GarageSalesTracker.com.

Blue Planet Green Living spoke today with GarageSalesTracker.com’s head of marketing, Rich Ruddie, who assists founder Franz Longsworth with everything from “answering emails to contacting people about working together, to taking phone calls like this, to customer support, and everything in between.” — Julia Wasson, Publisher

BPGL: How did the site get started?

RUDDIE: It came about when Franz was driving around and saw a garage sale sign. He wondered if anyone had ever thought to advertise their garage sales on line instead of always just putting out signs. He looked into it, and didn’t find much of use. He decided to make a site that was easy to use, specifically with the bargain hunter in mind for garage sales, flea markets, and estate sales. He added the Google map feature, which allows the user, when you sign up, to get turn-by-turn directions from your home address to the garage sale. That way, people don’t have to waste money on gas trying to find the address….

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The Creative Circus Students Say, “Nice Backside” to Used Paper

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As you might guess from its name, students at The Creative Circus, an advertising portfolio school in Atlanta, are among the most talented and creative minds in the nation. Constantly immersed in the creative process, they learn what it takes to excel in the advertising, interactive, design and photography industries. And they learn that “what it takes” is often a lot of paper.

A small group of students realized that students were discarding more than 5000 sheets of paper per week on campus. More shocking: Most of this paper was being recycled after it had only been used on one side. At a school where creativity reigns king, they knew something unprecedented had to be done to change the way paper is used.

On Monday, July 19th, students, faculty and administration were stunned when they arrived to a campus adorned in advertisements and free notebooks made using students’ previously discarded paper. The message? Flip the page over and use the backside. Fresh ideas don’t need fresh sheets of paper….

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Recycled Wedding Dresses Get New Life with Shakespeare

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“We use every part of the animal,” says renowned costume designer Lindsay W. Davis. He’s holding what used to be a pink party dress. “This little girl’s 1950s party dress had chocolate stains on the front. We opened it up and stuffed it, and now it’s a bustle!”

By “animal,” Davis isn’t talking about a living creature, but about previously worn clothing that he deconstructs and re-imagines into costumes for venues such as Iowa City’s Riverside Theatre Shakespeare Festival. To their previous owners, they are castoffs, but in the hands of Lindsay W. Davis, they gain a new life and vibrant personality.

Davis, whose impeccable credentials include designing the original costumes for The Mystery of Edwin Drood, a Tony Award Winning Best Musical on Broadway, is no stranger to the notion of recycling old clothing into wearable art….

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Children on MiniMonos Show Adults How Sustainability Is Done

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I first met Melissa Clark-Reynolds, the CEO of MiniMonos, online. We connected through a shared love of the environment and children, as we followed one another’s “tweets”. Dedicated and deeply generous, Melissa has poured her love and values into developing the children’s website MiniMonos, a place where she hopes that children will learn and share ideas about sustainability, generosity, and caring for one another, all while having fun together.

An eco-friendly children’s virtual world, MiniMonos is underpinned by the values of sustainability, friendship, and generosity. The children assume monkey avatars and play on a virtual island, where caring for their environment forms an intrinsic part of the experience. Their in-world living treehouses require nourishment and care, including recycling to keep their treehouse tidy, and capturing clouds to power their tree’s wind turbine. The appealing games across MiniMonos Island carry underlying cooperative and eco-themes, rewarding the children for such activities as cleaning up a lagoon, using strategy, and sorting recyclables accurately….

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Radius Scores with Source Toothbrush and Natural Floss

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How many times a day do you brush your teeth? If you follow the advice of WebMD, you’ll brush twice a day – morning and night. (You’ll also floss once a day.) So, in a given year, you’re brushing at least 730 times. But when you count the strokes of the toothbrush in your mouth, you’re talking about a number in the thousands. Doesn’t it just make sense that you’d use high-quality tools for something you do so often to protect your oral health?

For years I’ve used whatever toothbrush my dentist gave me at my semi-annual checkups and with replacements from my local drugstore in between visits. They’re fine toothbrushes. Soft bristles. An relatively comfortable handle. Colorful and sometime even fancy, but certainly serviceable. And until recently, I thought of them all as disposable.

When I received a free sample of the Radius Source toothbrush, I got a whole new experience with dental hygiene. Once out of the package, its unique, molded shape fit my right hand perfectly….

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My 5: Carlyn Blake, Sustainable Futures, Executive Director

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Blue Planet Green Living asked Carlyn Blake, Executive Director of Sustainable Futures, to respond to the two questions we ask everyone we interview. Sustainable Futures, based in Boise, Idaho, repurposes used wine and soda bottles to create beautiful and useful glasses, bowls, candle holders, and vases. The company also provides jobs for hard-to-place workers. Following are Blake’s responses….

1. Recycle everything you can. Take advantage of city, county, and state recycling programs, and do your part to recycle paper, plastic, and glass….

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