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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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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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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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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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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Light the Way for Clean Water – But Hurry!

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One of every seven people in developing countries around the world does not have access to clean water.* It’s a shocking statistic for those of us who take daily showers and use flush toilets with no thought at all. Women and girls, in particular, may walk miles to carry water back to their families. Try moving up on the economic scale when so much of your time is consumed with providing the basic necessities to your family. Not likely.

But organizations around the world are doing ambitious projects to change that. Global Greengrants Fund oversees many of these projects, with serious funding support from Aveda — a company best known for creating organic hair and beauty care products that are sourced from around the world. For the past three years in April, Aveda has been raising funds for Global Greengrants water-related projects by selling their Light the Way candles.

In addition to Global Greengrants, Aveda is supporting 21 regional partners through their Earth Month activities. According to the Aveda website, the projects this year include: “training 3,500 people in sustainable and organic agriculture methods [which keeps pesticides and herbicides out of waterways]; helping 20 communities implement local water resource management plans; enabling 100 communities to take action against toxic industrial pollution and hundreds of other projects that have helped protect water rights and water access around the world.” …

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Sustainable Futures Repurposes Glass Bottles – and Human Lives

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“I was like one of those used wine bottles. I was used and discarded. I laid on the ground, my label faded and my contents dried. I forgot the good that was once inside, the joy and happiness I once knew. I hated what I was and what I had become. Life was dark, bad and not worth living. The prison took what little hope I had reinforcing what people and drugs had told me about myself my whole life. I came to the work center looking for work. I was told I had to have a job or I’d be sent back to the prison and someone else who was employable would take my place. Once again I was not worth keeping, I found a job here at Sustainable Futures and I was recycled. I was picked up, washed off a little and was cut off at the top, sanded down and polished. I’ve been given hope, worthiness and self love. Now I shine, not just on the outside but on the inside. I’m like the glasses we make. I have a new use.” — Lisa Childers, IDOC inmate

Sustainable Futures is a brand-new nonprofit that repurposes glass bottles — and gives new purpose to human lives. It’s a simple idea: Businesses donate used glass bottles to their Boise, Idaho-based center, and hard-to-place workers process the glass to produce new and improved glassware. The company then sells the repurposed glassware back to the businesses. “It’s a great product, and it’s the right thing to do,” says Carlyn Blake, executive director of Sustainable Futures….

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National Cristina Foundation — Connecting Used Technology to Worthy Recipients

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“The National Cristina Foundation (NCF) is a not-for-profit foundation dedicated to the support of training through donated technology,” says the organization’s website. In 1984, NCF co-founders, businessman David Bruce McMahan and special education instructor Yvette Marrin experienced an “aha moment,” when McMahan’s daughter, Cristina, one of Marrin’s students, suggested her father could provide the school with much-needed computer equipment. McMahan and Marrin made a critical connection between problem and solution that resulted in the establishment of the National Cristina Foundation.

They saw a way to address the convergence of several issues: managing the increasing stockpile of millions of obsolete computers, the benefit access to computers offers disabled and disadvantaged people, and the environmental challenge of responsible reuse and recycling of outdated electronics.

“We felt sure that computers coming out of their first place of use, where they were considered of little value, could be transferred to places where they would be of great value,” Marrin stated. Since that time, the foundation has worked to assure that no functioning equipment that can be repurposed is ever wasted….

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“This Product Is Made from GARBAGE”

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At first glance, the title of this post might seem like a slam against an inferior product. That’s not the case at all. In fact, the title comes directly from a product insert I received with two sample items from XS Project.

When a representative for XSProject first contacted me, I was intrigued with the description of how their products are made — and why. The email I received said, “Don’t be surprised if you soon spy some hipster with an accessory you can’t take your eyes off of (something that makes you think, ‘Oh, what a piece of garbage’).”

Who could resist finding out more? …

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Earth-Friendly Fashion Cry – “Save the Ties!”

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A few years ago Brooke Costello couldn’t use the word “recycled” in describing the unique line of fashion accessories she produces at the helm of her independent Chicago-based design company, Tongue Tied.

“That didn’t help the sale,” she explains. “So I coined the term ‘respirited.’ I’ve seen it used by other people since, but I believe that term originated with me.”

Now the association of her wares with the recycling movement contributes substantially to the bottom line. “People across every socioeconomic level are responding to the concept,” she says. “Shopping in resale boutiques is born of the philosophy that you don’t have to spend a king’s ransom to wear couture.” …

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“Recycle Your Imagination” with Vocal Trash

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Texas-based Vocal Trash uses some pretty odd materials to make music. They describe themselves as an a capella production that uses instruments made out of trash.

Yes, trash.

If you attend a Vocal Trash concert, you’re likely to see instruments made from car parts, water bottles, pots and pans, buckets, and brooms. It’s not exactly what you might expect for musical instruments, but this is a trademark that the group is genuinely proud of. …

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The Repurposed Home Takes Curb-Shopping to a Fine Art

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When was the last time you took a look at the old, cast-off furniture sitting in the corner of your basement or attic? You know, the pieces that were once useful and in style, but that haven’t seen the light of day for decades. Before tossing that chair in the dumpster, or letting that those end tables get musty in your basement, consider another option for your old furniture.

Lori Jacobsen, interior designer and co-founder of The Repurposed Home, can help you find new ways to use those seasoned pieces. The Repurposed Home helps customers use what they already have and make it new again. Jacobsen also does some serious “curb-shopping” to save classic pieces from the landfill….

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Event Banners Get New Life as RetroActif Fashion Accessories

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Take a walk through any major city, and you’ll see tall banners fluttering from light poles or hanging from rooftops on the sides of a museum. Most are colorful and attractive. Some are splashy, with eye-catching designs. Nearly all are time-sensitive, advertising this month’s music festival, tomorrow’s convention, or next weekend’s exhibit.

Because banners have to survive the elements day and night — often for months at a time — the material they’re made from is generally not biodegradable. So what happens to these used banners? Do they retire to a storeroom to collect dust, or make a one-way trip to the landfill?

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