Thursday, June 14, 2007

Plastic Bag Crochet Project

OK, you know the pile of plastic grocery and shopping bags that we all accumulate? (Ever wonder if they actually start breeding after a while? I do.) Well, about a year ago, I was searching the web for what to do with all of these darn things, and I came across plastic bag crochet. You can crochet with grocery bags? The hell you say! Yes, indeed, you can. So, I started saving my bags and sorting them by color (I'm nuts, I know, and I accept that). A few months ago I finally decided to tackle the project and pulled out my trusty rotary cutter and mat and set to work cutting the bags into strips....until I also cut the heck out of my finger. I then took a break in the project until I could acquire a Klutz cut-resistant glove (made by Fons and Porter, highly recommend it if you are a klutz like me ;) ). Then with my hand protected I could finish the cutting portion and set to the real work. If you want instructions on how to make the "yarn", see this site: I made my totes using her plastic bag tote patterns ( and ), but I have also used a lot of her other patterns as well. Thanks Marlo! So, here are the finished bags I have so far, and I'm so proud of them! (I've included a close up of the mostly red bag - my husband loves that one because it reminds him of imitation crab meat.) The plastic of regular grocery bags is really easy to work with - the heavier department store bags are another story. I'm working on a bag now with the heavier plastic, and my nice shiny plastic hook is all scratched up. :( A helpful hint: don't mix different weights of plastic, or your bag (particularly the round ones) will get all wonky. Once I run out of regular bags, I'm going to try the plastic that disposable training pants come in, toilet paper packs (the large ones you get from Costco), and other miscellaneous packaging. I'll let you all know how it goes, since I know you will all be sitting on the edge of your seats until then. (insert cricket noise here) I have been using the finished bags when I go grocery shopping, and the checkout people and baggers are always amazed by them. Next I need to figure out how to make produce bags. I'm thinking Lion Brand organic cotton or maybe muslin. Anybody have any patterns to share?

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Being easily entertained is sustainable.

I posted this elsewhere and thought it would be appropriate to post it here. A big part of being sustainable is being a mindful consumer. One of the most unsustainable habit we have as a society is overconsuming. Be it food or items. I've been compacting since the end of last year and I think my inner consumer is dead.

I notice it in the little things: last night I came home and we had received the MEC Spring/Summer catalogue in the mail. In the past, I would have looked it over carefully, dreaming of my next adventure and seeing all sorts of things I could upgrade to. I didn’t even glance at it. I know what they sell and chances are, if something breaks down and absolutely needs to be replaced, I’ll go there to get a replacement, but only after checking their online classifieds for a used one. And for you compacters out there, I'm mostly thinking safety items here.

Something that has been keeping me tremendously entertained, as stupid as it may sound, is my public library. I never used to use it, I patronized the bookstore and the video store instead. Everytime I read about a book or movie, I quickly log on to the library’s website and request it, without thinking too much since it’s low commitment. So at any one time, I have at least 10 library books checked out (mostly non-fiction: knitting, fibre arts, environmental, peak oil-related, sometimes a good novel too) and they keep me entertained. It’s mostly stuff you wouldn’t read from cover to cover so I go from one to another if I get bored.

I don’t feel the need to reward myself with things anymore, I no longer get the: “I met this impossible deadline, let’s buy a new shirt” urge. It’s more: “let’s celebrate by including something really good complete with dessert in our next menu plan”.

I guess I’m easily entertained.

Friday, March 2, 2007

My First Bulk Buy

I'm trying to buy more in bulk. We don't have a co-op here so it's really important that I try to buy in bulk when I can. My food budget is pretty tight but there is a little bit of room if I plan ahead. This month's bulk buy was 25lbs of organic sugar. We don't use sugar a lot but I do bake with it and my dh likes to have sugar in his coffee. We were normally buying it in small plastic pouches. This 25lb bag was all paper. I'm storing it in 3 glass gallon jars in my cool/dark pantry. The lids do seal closed so they should be well preserved until I need them. The one thing I'm not happy with is that it's from South America. However, I'm not ready to give up sugar.
Next month, peanut butter.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

February Goals Report

Citrus peels--I've made another batch of candied peels and I have been faithfully slicing and freezing the peels that come off of our oranges, lemons, and grapefruit for cooking at a later date.

My fabric stash--I was able to make a considerable dent in the hoarded fabric. In February, I made three tea towels, one grocery bag which was given to a bagless shopper at the food store,
and four hankies. Those hankies are turning out to be a very good idea. I'm sick at the moment, and my runny nose welcomes them!

Books--I released forty books through bookcrossing. I also got caught up on labeling books...
until I was given 200 more! I've registered two boxes + three bags full. It's a start!

Other things I tried this month--counted the number of miles we put on the car in one week--68, walked as much as I could (while combining bookcrossing releases with combined errands),
only sent one trash bag to the landfill, made and used spray starch for ironing, unplugged the power strip to the stereo and etc, unplugged the dustbuster, made a valentine for my sweetie,
took jars that I want to keep for other projects and filled them with water and froze them to in-crease the freezer's efficiency, darned a sock, recycled a vacuum cleaner bag per Tightwad
Gazette's instructions, and started making a ball of plastic yarn from the bags that the newspapers come in.

I'm going to work on formulating some goals for that it's here!

Carolyn in CO

Monday, February 19, 2007


Here she is!

And the lucky winner is...

this lovely lady that I met at the store just about half an hour ago!

I had so much fun with this pledge that I've amended it. I will give away another bag made from a sustainable resource for every 10 people who sign the pledge between now and June 3rd. The pledge count is now at 11, so if 9 more people sign up I will be giving away a second bag.

How are you all doing with your monthly goal(s)?

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Spreading the Word on Reusable Bags

I'm putting my money, time, and energy where my mouth is by making a pledge at
Please take a minute to check it out and see if you'd like to participate!
Carolyn in CO

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Waste reduction challenge

Our main waste problem is food packaging. We use calico bags for grocery shopping and I recycle all the cardboard and paper that comes with the shopping but there seems to be so much of it. In the winter I use the cardboard to help get the fire started but in the summer months it is overwhelming. I keep paper like butchers paper to drain oily food on and notices from school and the like are clipped together to be used as a message pad by the phone.

Plastics are a big problem. They just go out in the rubbish. I try to buy things with minimal packaging but there is still too much. Our milk comes in plastic bottles , they can be recycled but with a family of 5 we go through a lot of milk.

So the challenge for our family is to cut down on food packaging.

Friday, February 9, 2007


As I mentioned a few weeks ago, paper seems to be a big problem in my
home. Between the school papers, DH's papers, my work for school, we
seem to have a lot of paper come through my home. I also read in an
old copy of Plenty (magazine) that 35% of waste comes from paper

We recycle paper, but I still feel guilty about doing so. So, I have
found new ways to reduce and reuse paper.

1) I have started to post assignments on the web (WebCT) and allow
students to turn in their work online rather than printing off papers.

2) All paper which is not used on both sides is cut into quarters and
used as notepad paper

3) I have started to make paper out of paper that we cannot reuse.
This weekend the kids and I made valentine cards for school. I plan
on also making a bunch of thank you cards for the future (which will
also cut down on purchasing thank you cards!)

reducing paper waste one step at a time!

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Make Lemonade

This is a yummy, yummy lemonade.

5 Organic lemons squeezed
1/4 Cup organic maple syrup
1 Quart of water

We make this about every other day and so we're not buying any more juice. Try rolling the lemons on the counter before squeezing them, they release more juice this way. We use filtered rainwater for drinking and we try to use as much of the pulp as we can. It's really yummy!

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Waste Not, Want Not (February)

These are the things I want to work on for February:
  • Citrus Peels (yes, really)
  • My Fabric Stash
  • Books

We usually toss our orange and grapefruit peels into the compost pile, or dry them and grind them up for various baking projects. I recently learned how to turn them into tasty treats by candying them. My plan is to save the peels as I use the fruit, slice them up, and freeze them to cook at my leisure. DS has already requested a care package of candied orange peels to be mailed out post haste.

The fabric stash is made up of the curtains and tablecloths snatched up from thrift stores to be made into gift bags. Since I already have enough for my own use, I want to make up bag sets to be given away for Christmas. When I'm tired of that, I'll be making new covers for toss pillows, dish towels, napkins, handkerchiefs, and whatever else I can think up! Pre-Compact, I would've just folded up the fabric and sent it back to the thrift store.

I've been a very active bookcrosser for the past 3+ years, and I've made sure that people know that if they have books they're not going to reread I will be delighted to pick them up and release them for new readers to find. I've been slacking off lately. Where I used to release up to a hundred books a week, it's been more like five since before Christmas. I was just given two huge bags and a box of paperbacks, and it is clear that I need to take some time to register and label them so that I can move them out the door.

These are the targets I'm shooting for. I might not get everything where I want it to be by the end of the month, but making this public commitment will serve as a reminder to at least try!

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Ups and Downs

My progress in seeking a sustainable lifestyle is so up and down! I suppose this is another one of those progressions where I should enjoy the ride without just focusing on the destination, but I'm not too good at that. I like quantifiable results, things like being able to see how much my outgoing trash has shrunk, or how many plastic bags I'm sending to the landfill each week. Just
saying that "I'm moving in the right direction" doesn't satisfy me.

My utility bill frustrates the heck out of me! We live in a house that is over a hundred years old, and we've been trying to make it more energy efficient as time goes on. We've remodeled the bathroom to include a low-flow shower, changed out the toilet for one that uses less water, bought Energy Star appliances, installed better windows, and gotten a furnace that should be about 8x --I may be exaggerating here--more efficient. You'd think I would be able to see how these changes are paying off, wouldn't you?

Well, I can't. There's no way to tell by how much money we spend on energy. Petroleum prices have gone up and down, we've opted to buy some shares in wind-produced energy, some months are hotter, colder, or windier than others. We also can't really judge our progress by number of units of energy consumed. Sometimes, despite our most determined efforts, things happen that we can't control. Last month, the Roto-Rooter guy came to unclog the sewer line.
When he was doing that, we had to facilitate the process by running as much water as we could through the line. Last month, our furnace shut down and we had to have a plumber come out
and fix things. While he was doing that, he had to turn the heat on and off several times, making our gas consumption unlike what it normally is. Can't I have just one "normal" month? I have
no idea what normal looks like!

Today, I'm setting the trip odometer in the car on zero. I want to see how many miles we drive in a week...THIS week. I just want a number I can hold onto. I know our car is mostly used to get DH to and from work. We also use it to run errands that can't be done on foot. Since we joined the Compact [last February] we've done pretty well at combining trips, and I'm certain that we've cut our usage a lot, but I want to see that number to compare our car usage with "the average American family's car usage." Anyone here know an "average American family?"

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Husband on Board!

My husband is totally into this reduction of waste effort. He just came from the grocery store, a trip he combined with a business meeting and other errands. We live far, far away from everything so we are the king and queen of combining trips. As we were unpacking groceries, he said that he was so aware of the packaging that everything comes in that he didn't want to buy anything and chose to leave the store without some of our regular purchases. This is a big step for him. He checked out the bulk tea department today and the bulk cereal department and has already purchased granola in bulk and pointed out that we can buy flour from the bulk section for the home-made oatmeal cookies that we have been making the past couple of weeks to get us off of our organic fig newmans.

He's agreed to cut meat consumption to once every week or every couple of weeks. We haven't bought any meat in over a month! I was a total veg until I met him and now since I've stopped nursing, I can go back to it.

I've learned a lot and am completely convinced that humans don't need/shouldn't eat meat anyway. Cutting out meet will greatly reduce the waste/garbage in our house. Our goal is one bag every two weeks instead of every week.

For February:

  • Stop buying Tea in packaging.
  • eliminate feminine paper products
  • eliminate diapers and pull-ups--yeah potty training
  • Eliminate yogurt containers(these can be recycled if you return them to Stoneyfield Farms, but then there's the cardboard box and postage)
  • Eat more oatmeal to cut down on cereal.
  • Stop buying juices and squeeze our own.
  • No personal care products;
    • baking soda for toothbrushing
    • soap for body/hair
    • no styling products
    • bar soap for shaving
    • no lotion for face/body- make own from Vit E and Olive Oil and essential oils using washable glass container
    • Using radius recyclable toothbrushes(these have replacement heads so you don't have to toss the entire toothbrush)
    • Finish all packaged cleaning products and use only baking soda, vinegar, salt, lemon, etc for all cleaning.
  • Trying to think of more ways.
Happy reducing!

Waste Reducing Goals

This is what I'm focusing on reducing for the month.

  • Feminine products

  • Paper towels (down to one roll in the house)

  • Paper napkins in kids' lunches

  • Junk mail

  • Buying fresh food or food in bulk to reduce packaging

  • Reuse glass & plastic jars

  • Unsubscribe from magazines & read at the library

  • Save newspapers for garden

  • Keep cloth bags in car to reduce amount of plastic bags

Monday, January 29, 2007

Where we are waste-wise

I know I'm a bit ahead of schedule (it's not February yet) but we started actively reducing the amount of garbage we create as a family since the beginning of the new year.

Already, we had less garbage than most of our neighbours but we have gone from about 1 to 1 1/2 large trash bags per week to less than 1/2 a bag per week. That's for a family of 4 and it includes diapers.

Area where garbage could be reduced most easily: the kitchen!

What helped most: composting all our kitchen waste.

We had been lazy about that. It was just easier to put it in the trash can than walk to the parking lot and dump it in the compost bin. Between all the eggs we eat (egg shells can be composted), the coffee we drink (coffee grounds and unbleached filters can be composted), the rest of the food prep that happens in our home and the fruits eaten as snacks, that's a lot of trips in the cold to the compost bin (but we're doing it!) and a lot of stuff that doesn't end up in the garbage.
Tip: We keep our compost container inside the refrigerator until it's full so we don't get any fruit flies or odors.

Other things that helped:

Picking the rest of the garbage apart to see if anything got missed and could possibly be recycled (a used tissue in the garbage can? It should be moved to the recycling bin).

I found it easier to sort the content of the small wastepaper baskets once in a while instead of taking every single little item to the recycling bin right away. So once a week, instead of dumping the content of those small baskets into the garbage, it's quickly sorted. Most of it seems to be recyclable.

Not being afraid of picking something out of the garbage and putting it in the compost or recycling instead (children seems to forget to put apple cores in the compost and guests put all sorts of recyclable waste into the garbage).

Compacting helped too. Obviously, if I'm not bringing in anything new, I have less to throw away.

One thing that doesn't help:

Our toddler is in disposable diapers. That's the drawback of not having a dryer. In the winter, it would humidify the house too much to be line drying cloth diapers indoors. I do have a dozen prefolds I could use comes spring and summer, I would just have to find covers in his size. I can just imagine how little garbage we would have if we didn't use 'sposies, maybe I'll have to try setting them aside to see.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

February Challenge: Waste reduction

The challenge is on!

I will be working on:
  • paper towel use
  • junk mail
  • packaging of items - fewer prepackaged items
  • reusing containers (and choosing containers that can be reused)
  • kid related papers

Friday, January 26, 2007

monthly challenge?

With a new month approaching, I was wondering if each of us would want to have a monthly challenge toward sustainability. Thoughts?

We could either all do the same thing each month or have our own personal challenge. Then we could post these specific steps we have been making. ideas?

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Keeping it Real

I read/heard once, and can't remember where, that if you wouldn't eat it, you shouldn't put it on your body. is a great resource for all kinds of information and today, they have a great article about personal care/cosmetic items. Here's the link:
I've definitely been giving this a lot of thought lately and we've decided to make our own personal care items from real organic ingredients. Think about doing this for yourself, too.


I created this blog so that some members of the yahoo group could share projects, etc.