Archive for the ‘Reusing’ Category

A couple of days ago, Husband dropped his phone into the toilet. For being a so-called “smartphone,” I’m still not exactly sure how it let itself fall into a toilet (seems to me like a dumb thing to do…), but whatever. At least the toilet was clean. Anyway, his phone was making cracking and popping noises, and the touch screen wasn’t really responding. Uh-oh, not good.

But…..there’s a surprisingly easy fix for a wet phone.

Take it apart into as many pieces as you can: back plate, battery, etc. Lay them in a bowl or container of some sort so none of the pieces overlap, and pour dry rice over the pieces enough to cover them. Leave it sit overnight, and the rice will absorb all the excess water.

No, you don’t have to keep reading. That’s really it. It really is that easy.

I wondered in the back of my mind if this would actually work, but in the morning, his phone was truly good as new, and worked just fine.

Apparently those silica gel packets–you know, the ones labeled with “DO NOT EAT” that come in shoe boxes and stuff–work better than rice, but really, who has tons (or any) of those lying around??

That does leave us with the sad task of throwing out all that rice, which seems a teensy bit wasteful, but let’s face it. Neither of us will be eating the thus-nicknamed “toilet rice.” And that’s way less wasteful than trashing a phone and getting a new one.

On a side note, my “dumbphone” would never do such a thing as leap into a toilet. I’m pretty sure it knows better.


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I guess that means I’m still a kid when I think the box is just as cool as what came in it.

I recently got a new pair of shoes, and there was a note stamped inside the bottom of the shoe box that read, “Turn this box inside out and use it as a storage box in your wardrobe, reuse it as a gift box, or you could bury your dead pet hamster in it. We are sure you will find some creative way to use this box again.”

The inside of the box was decorated with a really nice pattern, and it was super easy to flip the box inside out, obscuring entirely any logos, shoe size, bar code, or anything that might give away that it used to be a boring old shoe box.

Challenge accepted, Vivobarefoot Shoes. I believe I shall find a new creative way to use your box. Thanks for making my day, and thanks for putting out there a thoughtful, useful design that is just plain cool.

Has anyone else been caught off guard by a brilliant yet simple design lately?

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One of the best ways I’ve found to save money (and our planet!) is to stop buying things that have no other purpose than to be thrown away. When I really think about it, it makes me angry that a company would market something and make me feel like I need to buy it just to trash it after a few minutes of use. I decided not to play that game anymore. And not only do I have more money in my pocket, I feel better about not making so much trash. Granted, some paper products can be composted, but we have limited compost space in our tiny “yard” behind our house, and have to be really careful about filling it up faster than the stuff can break down.

Anyway, here are some tips if you’re interested in cutting back on your paper trash.

Keep an eye on all the disposable stuff you throw away. For any one-time-use item, there’s always a reusable option. Paper towels, tissues, sponges, swiffer pads, diapers, wipes, feminine products, toilet paper, the list keeps going. What do you spend money on that you just throw away?

You probably noticed in my list here, that with every item further on the list the “grossness factor” seems to go up. I know you’re thinking it: I don’t want to re-use THAT! Don’t think about it. Start with something you CAN do, like using rags instead of paper towels. When you tackle that, you’ll be ready for the next one.

I’m onto reusing things I never thought I’d be able to transition to, and it’s really not a big deal. Just keep focusing on the money you’ll save and the good you’ll do for our planet. Think of it this way: I estimated saving about $200 a year by using rags instead of tissues. If someone just walked up to you in the street and gave you $200 you wouldn’t say “Thanks, but I’d like to send this to Proctor & Gamble, because they need it more than I do” would you? No way! But that’s what we do every time we buy something just to throw it away.

Ok, now onto suggestions for actually making the switch:

I don’t have kids, so I can’t comment on cloth diapers or reusable wipes, but I do have some suggestions for replacing other kinds of paper products.

Doing laundry: I’ve been doing a separate load of rags/reusables (with the water level set appropriately to a lower setting), just to keep this stuff separate from my clothes and such. It works out pretty well. I also have a few of those mesh zippered bags to keep some stuff separate. Like I’ll put all my toilet paper squares in a bag so they’ll all stay together. It also helps to use specific types of fabrics or colors for each purpose. Not that I don’t trust my washer, but I don’t want to clean my counter or wipe my nose with one of my toilet paper rags. Each kind of rag in my house is a different kind of fabric, so I know quickly which is which.

All-purpose rags. Just about anything goes for replacing paper towels. I use old t-shirt scraps because I have so many of them, but you could use just about anything. Old clothing with holes in it, old wash cloths, cut up towels, get creative. What kinds of fabric items do you have but not use anymore?

Glass cleaning rags. Certain kinds of fabric leaves lint on glass and mirrors, but old sweatshirt pieces work really well for this. I keep a separate pile in the rag bin just for these types of rags.

Tissues. As one who gets lots of colds, has allergies, and in general almost always has a runny nose from something, I’ve found rags are actually gentler on my skin than tissues. And I certainly don’t miss having to buy the expensive lotion-infused paper ones anymore! Flannel (or any other soft fabric) works nicely for this purpose (think old worn out pajama pants…).I cut up a few old pillows to use the stuffing for a sewing project and ended up saving the outer fabric for these types of rags. They’re also white, so they don’t look so odd when I pull one out of my purse or coat pocket. Speaking of traveling with these, I also don’t miss the little paper “flakes” that would end up all over the inside of my purse, or the mess that would end up in the washer or dryer when disposable tissues accidentally went through. At home, I just fold them up and keep them in the same old tissue box I used to use. It works out really well!

Sponges. Ok, not a paper product, but these things are still unnecessary. A few years ago, my sister crocheted me (I know, everyone in my family crochets but me!) a set of reusable sponges from yarn. They work really well for doing dishes, and when they start to smell bad (or even before that), just toss them in the wash and they’re good as new again! Mine look really old and faded, but they’ve been really effective. I imagine you could use strips of fabric rags instead of yarn to crochet with and that would work just as well.

Dryer Sheets: Again, not a paper product, but there’s still a reusable option. Check out my posting on laundry for the specifics.

Swiffer pads. I actually don’t have my swiffer anymore, but when I did, I quickly got tired of constantly replacing the disposable pads. A few rags and some clothes pins or rubber bands will do the trick just fine!

Toilet paper. I just switched to using these this past week, so I’m still in “prototype mode.” But after using pieces of nice, soft, thick microfiber, using paper sounds totally barbaric now. I don’t want to totally get rid of all my toilet paper, as I’d still like to have some as an option when we have guests, but I found quickly that if it’s on the spindle, I’ll use it out of habit. So I found a way to hang a basket of rags where the roll used to be and moved the extra paper roll to the back of the toilet. I also placed a small bucket right under the basket for the used pieces. When it comes time for laundry day, here comes the need for that mesh zippered bag I was talking about earlier. Put the bag over the bucket, turn it upside down and dump all the rags into the bag. Zip it closed and toss it in the washer. No touching necessary! Please excuse the ugliness of my prototype contraption in this picture…..I wanted to make sure it works before worrying about having it match my bathroom.

Feminine products. You knew this one was coming, ladies. That’s a lot of trash every month, and too much for me to ignore on here. I got a pattern from my sister for making reusable pads (which I really like), and recently started using a divacup. For this one though, I’ve got enough to say for a separate posting, which gives you some time to get started on these other things first, before having to worry about tackling this one ;). In the mean time, check out divacup’s website if you’re interested in more info, and be relieved in knowing that I switched to reusables three months ago, and I didn’t die from being grossed out. In some ways, its actually LESS gross. More on this later.

What ways have you found to reduce paper product use?

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A while back I bought a couple of hard-cover books at the Goodwill to make into hollow book boxes. More details on the books I picked out can be found here. Though I think my efforts started off as a perfect “what not to do when making a hollow book” tutorial, I eventually figured it out, and the books turned out great.

What I started doing first was gluing pages together one at a time, starting at the back of the book. After about 25 pages or so, I decided that was going to take waaaaaaay too long, so I just started painting with Elmers glue along the outside of the pages of the closed book. But when you do it, you should make sure to put a piece of plastic between the cover and the rest of the pages so as not to glue your book shut. I actually caught this one before the glue dried, so it was ok, but using a bit of plastic would prove to be a well-thought-out “I’m being proactive” step. Also, if you’re thinking about lining your book with something or putting some kind of clasp on it to keep it closed, don’t glue the last page to the back cover just yet; slide a piece of plastic between the last page and the back cover. And if you want to line the bottom of the box with the title page or something, this is also a good thing to pull that page out before you glue all the pages on the outside. I did ok salvaging the title page, but again, it might have looked a bit nicer if I had thought it all the way through before gluing. I made two books: the first one using basic Elmers glue, and the second one using mod podge, and they both came out fine. You’ll eventually need the mod podge to finish the inside though, so you’ll need to have some on hand for later steps anyway.

So after you glue or mod podge the heck out of the outside (with the plastic in place first, of course), then comes the waiting part. Put something really heavy on top of it and leave it until it’s dry. Overnight would definitely do it, but if you’re impatient like me, a few hours might be ok.

Then comes the fun part: the cutting. You’ll need a small exacto knife and maybe a box cutter too. I used both, but you could get it all done with just the exacto. Use a ruler and mark about 3/4 inches from the outside of the book on all sides. Take your exacto knife and start cutting into the pages and removing them a few at a time. It will take a long time to do this, so be patient. Keep going until you get all the way through to the last page, but be careful not to cut through into the back cover.

Once you cut all the pages out, slide your title page under the cut pages but on top of the back cover and glue it down. Glue the cut pages onto your title page and let it dry. Then, you can mod podge the inside of the box with a thick layer. Leave it open to let it dry completely on the inside, and you’re done!

Here’s how mine turned out. Not too bad, I think!

The glued edges of my books, and one with a ribbon closure

The inside of my dictionary, with the title page in the bottom

A close-up of the inside

The inside of my other book (soon-to-be pencil case). The book title page says "Better Than Life," and I had husband add above it "Art Is"

Anyone else ever attempted making a hollow book have any other tips to share?

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Ok, I think I’ve got my little towel cat finished. I re-did the bad stitching that connected the head and body, added button eyes, and stitched the nose, mouth, and whiskers. I also readjusted one of Sootie’s old collars I had made so it fits. Now it looks more like a stuffed animal than a chunk of towel shaped kind of like a cat.


My finished Sootie tribute


Looks much better, I might say.

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Those of you who know me know that my beloved cat of 16 years left us last night (actually, early this morning, but it was dark and time for sleeping, thus night time). I’ve been heartbroken over her illness and her departure. And after laying her to rest (in the most eco-friendly way we could), I needed to use my sewing skills to make a tribute to my little grey cat, Sootie.

Here’s one of my favorite pictures of her:

My cat Sootie. Isn't she adorable?

I knew I would need a little cat to take to bed with me, so in my grief, I went to the nearest toy store looking for a little grey cat with bright green eyes that would work. Then I snapped out of it and realized that even if I was able to find exactly what I was looking for, I would know deep down that it would mean more if I could make one, even if it’s not store-quality. And that’s the best option for our environment as well. No extra chemicals, no unnecessary consumption, and no taking advantage of underpaid workers. So when I got home, I hopped online and came across this pattern for a terrycloth cat:

I cut up an old towel that reminded me Sootie, tore up an old pillow for the stuffing, and found some unused buttons for her eyes. And while I was stuffing her, I added a little clipping of Sootie’s fur, so there’s a part of her there too. It’s not finished yet, but here’s a picture of what I have so far. I think this is all I have time for before bedtime.

My own version of the "towel cat." Not perfect, but full of love...

I’ll add another picture after I put on her eyes, stitch the nose, mouth and whiskers, and maybe add a collar or something to cover up my shoddy (but love-filled!) stitching of where the head meets the body.

It’s not perfect, but I have found it was a tangible way to channel my grieving into something much more meaningful and much better than buying something. Rest in peace, my dearest Sootie.

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When I was gearing up to move to the Boston area from the midwest, my car died. I took it as a sign that I wouldn’t need it when I got here, and we’ve been car-free for going on 4 years. It took a lot of getting-used-to to walk or take public transit everywhere, but now it’s second nature. Though waiting for the bus in the rain still stinks, the truth is, parking in this town sucks even more. And so does shoveling out your parking spot in the winter. And the parking spot territory wars that go on on our street. I’m really glad to have no part of any of those things. And taking a car off the road is something great for the planet too. When you don’t have a car though, you need a good set of wheels to help you carry groceries, laundry, and other large, heavy stuff where it needs to go. Our solution was to get a “bag lady cart,” or a “personal folding shopping cart,” as they’re called. We got one like this:

Image from premiercarts.com

Our trusty cart has served us well for 3 years, but it’s been gradually falling apart. The pins that hold the wheels on have all rusted out and have been replaced by paperclips. The tread is mostly worn off the tires. The biggest issue, though, has been that the back wheels have been gradually caving in on themselves. When the spokes started falling out so the wheels really could collapse, we knew we’d have to surrender and get a replacement. Small, rusted-out pins, I can fix, but large wheels….well…they’re pretty badly busted. But I refused to ditch the whole cart when only the wheels needed replaced. So that left us with either fixing our wheels, finding replacement wheels somewhere that would fit, or getting a new cart.

Fixing the wheels seems nearly impossible for us. I don’t have much welding experience, I’m not good with scrap metal, and I don’t know exactly how to pound these back to the right shape.

Our local Home Depot didn’t turn up much, and though those mega-sturdy handtruck wheels (accessorized with snow chains for the winter) would have been killer, I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t have fit on our cart:

Image from homedepot.com

But they would have been really awesome.

So our last options were google search or get a new cart. What’s a bag lady cart called anyway? It really took me a while to find a cart that looked anything like ours, let alone replacement wheels. But the internet is really an amazing thing. I was not only able to find wheels, but the exact wheels to fit our cart. They came in the mail a few days ago, just in time to test them out for our weekly grocery and laundromat trips.

Check out our (almost) good-as-new cart!

It’s still a little rusted around the joints, the red plastic-coated paperclips stick out like, well, red paperclips, the tread is still worn off the front tires, and the bottom is bowed down from all the heavy stuff we put in it, but all in all, our trusty old cart is definitely NOT fit for a landfill. Cart, we can still have many good years together.

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