Tag Archives: reuse

There is a Styrofoam Hummer at SFO

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There is life-size and detailed Hummer made of Styrofoam at San Francisco International Airport. It symbolizes all the excess and waste in our society; I get it.

It’s part of The Art of Recology Exhibition now in terminal 3, and there until October.

As you may know I’m a little obsessed with Recology (80% waste diversion rate in SF thanks to them! Municipal composting!), and one program I absolutely love is their artists in residence program. Artists (like the one that made the styro-hummer) make all of their pieces out of things found in the dump. There are dresses, paintings, sculptures, the works. Check it out! This one in particular was my favorite because I hate Styrofoam. HATE it. It doesn’t breakdown for over 500+ years, produces toxic chemicals when it’s being formed, and breaks up all tiny and fucks with ocean life. I think it’s actually illegal in SF (oh how I love this city!).

And kudos to SFO for displaying art exhibits in the terminals. Yet another reason why I’m never leaving SF.

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A Zero-Waste & Local Wedding

Well, I got married in March. It was absolutely the best day of my life, surrounded by 70 of our favorite people. Throughout the planning process (all 2.5 months of it) we worked super hard to make sure we had no waste and were minimizing our purchases. Man the wedding ‘industry’ tells you to buy all sorts of shit and it’s kind of hard not to get swept up in it…maybe I do need personalized stationary, a photobooth, and paper lanterns that we set free into the sky. To be honest, taking the minimalist approach also saved us a ton of money.

Here’s some simple things we did (and of course we didn’t get it all right!):

-Online invitations. Yep, nothing printed! I designed it in InDesign, we emailed it out, & people emailed back a yes or no. Simon also made us a great website w/ more details (www.letsbuildafort.com). (See below, free)

-We made sure the location, The Stable Cafe, had composting. The food (Jennifer’s Lunch) was so amazing that there was barely anything left and the catering staff took what was left home!

-Our centerpieces were terrariums rented from the amazing Lila B ($100 total), pieces of free driftwood our friend Shannon found on the beach (she was our wedding designer!), butcher paper that was then recycled, and all of our dishware/napkins/the tent/heat lamps were rented and returned  after.

-Edible favors! Amazing muffins, croissants, pastries, and surprise baked goods from our favorite local place: Craftsman & Wolves. They were packaged in compostable thin brown bags (total spent on favors less than $200).

-Groom & Groomsman had upcycled boutonnieres (Thanks Anna!)

-Reused old wood to write signage on (free)

-Reused an old window pane for seating assignments ($20 supply store)

-Bridesmaids could pick their own dress and one of them reused (1 free!)!

-We didn’t do any decorations – the cafe already had twinkle lights, trees, plants and that was good enough for us! (Free)

-All local and organic food. (Our plates were only $120/person for passed appetizers, bus snacks, chicken/steak/vegetarian options -and EVERYTHING was organic and local!)

-All local wine. With Napa, Sonoma, and Russian River so close, how could we not! Also all local beer except my Dad requested a 30 pack of Coors Light (seriously).

-Our favorite local pies & local legend blue bottle coffee

-We all walked to our after-party at Mission Bowling Club

-Thank you post-cards (save a whole envelope, recycled, soy ink!) from our favorite SF designer, Notify.

-Our rings had no gems or diamonds (conflict free) and were made by a local designer out of gold (mine) and stainless steel (Simon’s)

Eco-fails:

-I bought a new dress. I looked at a lot of reused options (actually tried to get the dress I loved/wore reused but couldn’t find it) and looked at upcycled options but in the end fell in love with my Claire Pettinbone. I also bought new earrings from an NYC boutique and new shoes from Anthropologie. I reused my grandmother’s purse.

-We took the entire wedding party on a cocktail-hour bus tour of San Francisco for 2 hours. Definitely better than doing cabs or something but we could have just stayed put and not put those bus GHGs into the atmosphere. Again, it was totally worth it. It was one of my favorite parts of the wedding and the first time to SF & to the Pacific for many of our family members!

-We had Shannon pick up and make sunflower bouquets from the SF flower market. They were very simple and incredibly gorgeous (and we composted them), and I don’t regret it, I just loved them.

-Groomsman all bought a new shirt and Simon bought a new vest and tie.

-We had a ‘sign in chair’ but also printed a postcard of ourselves and each person that came to the wedding and had them write notes on them. That, one menu for each of the 6 tables, and pieces of paper that Shannon wrote table numbers on were the only paper we used.

Enjoy the pics below and feel free to ask any questions about any of the above choices!

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Perhaps an eco baby gift?

Leah (yes the Leah who wrote about period cups) is preggers!! I’m super excited for her and her hubby and my mind obviously went straight to baby gifts. We sent them a few PeopleTowels in the mail (honestly, who doesn’t need a PeopleTowel) because I’ve heard babies are messy and then we put together this gem:

 

Things started off good; I found a Burt’s Bees Baby Bee set while at Target. I’ve been iffy on Burt’s since they were bought by Clorox, but still use a few of their products with positive GoodGuide ratings. This set contained no parabens, no fragrances, no sulfates, no phthalates, no petrochemicals. It was certified cruelty-free AND the tray was made from potato starch and the box is 60% post-consumer content. It also seemed to contain all of those things you need for a baby (diaper cream, baby shampoo, you know).

I was feeling pretty good until I took a tour down the baby clothing isle and ended up with this adorable duck face baby towel. I probably should have bought a similar organic cotton version online (if I was being truly eco) but the thing was so damn cute. I made up for it by then heading to my new favorite reuse center SCRAP. I LOVE this place. It only sells reused crafty things and it also is a non-profit that focuses on getting art donations to low-income schools and teachers. I browsed around and found half a roll of yellow wrapping paper and a cute wicker baby carriage (I also bought a hurricane candle holder, several items to make a jewelry board, another basket, and a hangy thing with hooks and the total was $6).  I got home, wrapped everything together with some twine that was once on a present of mine, made a card out of recycled paper (scroll style, sweet right), and felt pretty smug about myself.

That was until I spent an hour researching DLimonene.  I figured I should check GoodGuide before I actually gave them the present, and while most of the BB products I use score an 8 in health, several of the items in the Baby Bee box were at a 4 (environment and social categories were high so overall scores were 6). Crap. The reason was the same in each category: D-Limonene, a completely natural ingredient found in lemons (which is why I hate that meaningless word natural!). I read EPA reports, Scorecard summaries, and in my opinion the research is sketchy and it seems pretty harmless. It hasn’t really been proven to do anything bad. And, many doctors and naturopaths recommended ingesting it for cancer prevention, as a digestive aid, and to treat gallstones. It’s found in almost every food that has a citrus flavor (gum, pudding, OJ) and the EPA classifies it as low-toxicity. The best summary article can be found here.

I still gave Leah the present and will let her make the choice on whether to return it, but I did mentally kick myself for not pulling out the GoodGuide app at Target and figuring all of this out before purchasing it. I think this also just goes to show that no matter how hard you try, you very often will not get it all right.

I’m in love with our new table.

People seem to think that the eco-friendly option is always the more expensive one. I’m sure this stems from years ago when anything organic or Fair Trade was 50% more (side note market demand is starting to really even some things out!).

One eco-friendly item that isn’t more expensive than its regular counterpart: our fabulous new kitchen table. I was strolling through SF’s Indie-mart, a mecca for the local/eco minded, and came across J and his shop The Dirt Floor Studio. My breath caught as I slid my fingers across a reddish-brown farm table with dark knots, wide beams, exposed screw heads, and bench seats. I fell in love, but it looked like something I could never afford. I have a phobia of talking to any sales-type person if I know I can’t buy what they’re selling. However, for this table, I pushed my limits. We didn’t talk dollars. We talked reclaimed wood, reuse, and how he could make something to fit any budget. (Any budget I thought? Even a recent grad student’s?!). I took his card.

He seemed so nice and honest that I found myself working up the nerve to call him a few days later. I paced around the apartment waiting for dollar signs that would crush my dream of owning this or a similar table. I researched similar reclaimed tables at Pottery Barn and at antique stores and the prices for one bench SEAT started at $549 (the same size table at Pottery Barn would have been $2200). Our budget was about $600, crap.

I panicked as I told him this over the phone, but all I heard was ‘ok, I can work with that.’ YES! We chatted further – he could get less fancy reclaimed wood and joinery; there is a way. We had another phone call and a few emails as I saw pictures of his work and pointed out things I liked. This all led straight back to the original table I saw. After one of our chats, J told me he would sell us THE farm table for $700 with the two benches included. He also lowered the table and expanded the benches for no additional cost to fit with our space and the style we had in mind.

Less than a week later, we had this gorgeous piece of art to light up our living room. The wood came from an old barn in Nevada, he built it by hand, and though ours has a polyurethane seal because it is a soft wood, many of his tables instead are finished with a hot linseed oil soak, multiple rubs of Tung oil with a beeswax top rub. So, buy local, buy reused, chat with the artist. The result can be incredibly unique.

A Move Made Green

We have moved, yet again. This time (luckily) we only moved across town, instead of across the country. While I have no tips for moving across country except to not ship anything breakable, ever, I do have some easy ways to stay green if you’re moving somewhere close by.

First, you do not need bubble wrap, newspaper, or any packaging materials that will just end up in the trash. Use your clothes instead! I wrapped every glass, dish, picture frame, and even Nana’s china platters in clothes, towels, and sheets that were already coming along. It saves you a ton of excess material waste and cost, is easier, and as long as you are not shipping the boxes (nothing survives shipping no matter how you wrap it), it stays safe. 100% of the items we moved across town wrapped in clothes made it perfectly intact. To wrap a glass, I like to use a T-shirt. I stick one sleeve inside the glass, then roll the it up. I put jeans or pants in the bottom and top of the box with layers of these T-shirted dishes inside.

 

 

 

 

 

We also buy bankers boxes that can be reused over and over again instead of shipping boxes. While the previous bankers boxes didn’t make it across country (you can’t ship them because of the handles/top), we used our last ones for 3 moves and storage and know we’ll get a lot of use out of these new ones too. They are 65% post-consumer recycled (the good kind remember!) at Staples. We also labeled them generically as ‘bathroom, bedroom, living room, storage, or kitchen’ as there is almost no chance next time you move you’ll put the same exact things in each box, but you can easily put items from the same room in each box. If you’re moving across town or driving to another state you don’t really need to know what exactly is in each box, only where you should put it. The bankers boxes also fold and unfold for easy storage. We also used reusable bags, boxes, and suitcases that we had around the house and are proud to say we only used 1 garbage bag (I’ve seen some people move with ALL garbage bags) that we then promptly put into our garbage bin to reuse!

Moving is also a perfect time for purging and donating what you don’t need to your local reuse center – in our case GoodWill. Those pants you’re saving to wear for that one special occasion that hasn’t happened in 3 years, the shoes that don’t go with anything, and even that frying pan that you bought at Target for $10 but don’t use because you were given really nice pans as a gift – they all will be put to great use by others!

Finally day-of details. Instead of borrowing friends cars and moving things piecemeal, we rented a UHaul for $20 and moved everything in one shot (less gas = less pollution = less GHGs). We also hired day laborers from SF Day Labor, a worker-led nonprofit that allows those with barriers to employment (language, education, prior life choices, etc) a place to come together and organize. The nonprofit pays the workers 100% of the dollars we gave them (they keep themselves afloat through grants and private funding), and the workers were fantastic (and cheap!). Two movers for 3 hours each was only $100 total and it felt great to be able to employ a fellow San Franciscan who really wanted to work. Check into these type of organizations (another larger one in SF is Delancy Street which employees only ex-convicts), as you get really reliable people trying to turn their lives around. What better way to support the sustainability of your city or town?

My Ultimate Challenge: Going Fashionably Green

Buying clothes is where my sustainability quest falls seriously short. I get overwhelmed – should I read CSR reports and check out supply chain practices before walking in a store? My brain also doesn’t go directly to thoughts of organic cotton when I twirl a shirt around, rather if it’ll go with my new jeans (that I also bought without thinking about organic anything). But, the toll of ignoring sustainability, pushing it off because it’s hard, feels hypocritical. So, it’s time to try.

My 'new' purchases

I believe simple attainable steps are the path to real change. Instead of starting with store eco-research, I started with my favorite green go-to, the art of reuse. Today was my second time buying ‘recycled clothing’. Unlike pricey vintage or often smelly GoodWill clothes, recycled clothing stores (like Crossroads in the Haight, LA, NY, Chicago, Portland, & Seattle), carry interesting, clean, clothing. And while you may be hung up on the thought of wearing someone else’s shirt, just throw it in the wash and get over it (hot water kills everything). Though I had to dig, I scored three awesome new shirts for $25 total (one has elbow pads, I’m thrilled). This seems like the easiest way to get my shopping fix in and make sure I’m at least not adding any extra eco-torment to the world.

If you really can’t get on board with hand-me-downs (and it’s ok if you can’t, no judging here!), one of my FAVORITE start-up stores, that just opened online, is SustainU. Talk about cradle to cradle, this company ONLY uses recycled materials in their clothing. Right now their shop consists of t-shirts, hoodies, and the like, but as they expand, I know this will be where I shop. Recycled NEW clothes. Yes!

If you don’t live near a Crossroads or if you google ‘recycled clothing stores’ and nothing comes up in your hood, think about organizing a clothing swap with some friends or at work. Often things I’m ‘over’ are in great shape and perfect for someone else. You can also try your local GoodWill (who knows it may not smell!), or, come visit me in SF and bring an empty suitcase.

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