Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Recycling Old Wool Sweaters

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This was one of my favorite wool sweaters. Somehow, it managed to get mixed in with the laundry and that was the end of my sweater. Or so I thought. After searching the Internet, I found all kinds of ideas for felted wool projects. You can make mittens, scarves, blankets, hot pads, boots and shoes, and even a winter hat.
To felt the wool, place the sweater in a pillowcase and wash in hot water. Dry in the dryer. When it comes out, the wool is felted and ready to cut. It doesn't fray at all. I've now got lots of project and Christmas gift ideas from my shrunken sweater. I made the mittens from the sleeves and they fit perfectly. The sleeves would be too big for children's mittens so one website suggested using the bottom edge (ready made cuff) and tracing the child's hand. Cut two pieces and sew together. I hand stitched mine so no fossil fuels were used in the making of these spectacular mittens. I love this idea. It embraces the Reduce, Reuse and Recycle theory of green living 101.
Although they aren't perfect, they are handmade and perfectly serviceable. I've already tried them out and they are super warm. Perfect for winter hikes.
Have you already tried this? Please send pictures or leave comments and I'll get them posted.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

It's Easy Being Green...In The Kitchen

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Being green, for me, is not just being a "band wagoner" nor am I part of Al Gore's supposed plan to take over the world. Being green has been a way of life for me and it's just plain common sense. My grandparents lived through The Great Depression and World War II. They lived green out of necessity-- not because some politician or celebrity told them it was cool. They instilled many of these ideas in me so it's sort of second nature.

The basic idea is this: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. How simple is that?We have put some very easy to implement ideas to work in our household that city dwellers, suburbanites and country folk can use. They take very little time and/or money. In fact, they may actually save or earn money.
Ten Easy Ways to be Green in your kitchen:
1. Clear the clutter and don't accumulate more. Although, I have many collections and way too many dishes, we try to keep it down to a dull roar. Step away from the mall!!! We try to live with what we need instead of everything that we want. This also applies to certain kitchen gadgets that are unnecessary and end up in the landfill. (I'm thinking of a certain boxers electric indoor grill and by the way, it was a gift.)
2. Buy high quality items that will last and look for items made from organic or recyclable materials. Don't forget to check out yard sales. I purchased my very high quality chefs knife at a yard sale for $1. I also lucked into a stack of brand new Williams-Sonoma kitchen towels last year. I could still kick myself for not buying that mandolin for $15. Someone else's seldom or never used item, may be just the thing you're looking for.
3. The more fresh items that you use in the kitchen, the less packaging to throw away. Enough said.
4. This leads me to gardening. We have an organic vegetable garden. No fuel is used getting our veggies from the farm to the table. Our little 15x15 plot yields more than enough for two people and we have some left to freeze for the winter. We use only human energy with no power tools allowed. Once the soil is prepared and the garden is planted, it takes very little time to maintain.
5. "The Earth Machine" AKA ,the compost bin, lives in the back yard. We purchased it at a yard sale for $3 but before that we had one constructed out of chicken wire and some cheap wood that was leftover from another project. The chicken wire was even purchased at a yard sale for $1. Composting sounds more intimidating then it actually is. It takes no more time to throw something in the compost bin than the garbage. I keep a bowl handy to throw scraps in and then it get taken out to the compost heap.
6. Don't waste food. Eat the leftovers. What ? Are you too good???
7. Recycle as much as possible. We don't have recycling available with our trash service so we keep three garbage cans outside for aluminum cans,steel cans and plastics. When they are full, we take them to our local recycling center. We paid for all of the garden supplies for this year and had some money left over, from our recycling. This is great!!! Somebody is paying me to take my garbage. Awesome!!
8. Take your own bags to the market. More on this to follow...
9. Use non-toxic cleaning products. I prefer Method products because of the affordability but there are lots of other great products out there. Don't forget baking soda and vinegar.
10. Minimize the use of paper products. We use cloth napkins and bar towels to minimize our paper towel use and I don't think we even have any paper plates. Yuk!!!!
So there you have it. Even if you can only do a couple of things to help out our planet, that's a couple more than you were doing before

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day is Every Day

OK, technically, today is Election Day but we vote every day.

We vote with our money. When we purchase a cheaply made, lead -laden piece of Chinese crap, we are casting our vote. We are letting big business know that it's not only OK to import this junk but we approve it and will purchase more. When Americans flock to the local Walmart to stand in line at 5:00 in the morning on Black Friday, we are casting a vote.

Think about it. We, collectively, can change the way that this country does business. We can let them know that a vehicle that gets ten miles to the gallon is not acceptable. We can purchase our food from local organic farms and send a message that we want our local farms back. I don't want to purchase fruit and veg that has been shipped halfway across the world. We can purchase fair trade coffee so that the farmers can get a fair days wages. Every dollar that you spend is a vote.

For years, we have let big business and industry tell us what we want. Where has it gotten us? It has left us with inefficient cars that are built to last only five to ten years. It has left us with chemical filled foods. It has left us with a country that doesn't even grow enough food to feed itself. It has left us with little or no public transportation and urban sprawl. We can send a message by investing the little money, that we have left, in green technology. It has left us with a consumer driven economy that has failed because they told us what to purchase. They helped push our greed along by telling us to have it all and have it all now. It has left us with the same energy dependence problems that we were facing thirty years ago.

So how do we change things? We change it little by little. I am reminded of our power when I walk into a store and name brand items are now available in Eco -friendly counterparts. For example, I usually purchase Seventh Generation or Method cleaning and laundry products. Now all of the major brands offer green products. If we, collectively, purchase the green products then perhaps they will completely do away with the bad products. I would rather purchase fewer items and purchase quality then purchase ten tons of unnecessary crap.

I have been an environmentalist (tree hugger, as my co-workers say) for twenty years. I purchased my first reusable canvas bag in 1990. It was called the "Earth Bag". I still have it.
I thought people would never catch on. Then being green became fashionable. I am amazed at how far we have come in just the last few years. We can continue to do more. So remember every time that you are making a purchase that you are casting your vote. Cast it wisely and with forethought so seven generations after us will still be enjoying this thing called Planet Earth.