When Trash Becomes Treasure: The Joy of Repurposing & Upcycling

Lately, I have been on a repurposing kick.  It’s an area of my green journey that I didn’t visit as much before.  Many things I would have thrown out or recycled, have suddenly found a second life, a reincarnation into something new and inspiring.  So, please enjoy this photo essay of upcycling and repurposing by myself and other bloggers.

Turning Old Jars Into Gems

Why recycle when you can reuse? Remove labels from jars by soaking jars in water for an hour or two.  After that, labels will easily come off .

 

Jars for Storage

Nut butter jars now store whole nuts. Spice jars are refilled with bulk spices. A small jar now houses rose petals for tea.

 

Store an avocado, carry your lunch or put homemade nut mylk in repurposed jars.

Store an avocado, carry your lunch or put homemade nut mylk in jars. The possibilities are endless.

Make your own wholesome dressing and put in a mason jar.

Make your own healthy dressing & put in a mason jar.

Other Containers Creatively Reused

An old mug houses a bottle cleaning brush.  A jar is reused to hold veggie scrub brushes.  A tiny clay pot hold steel wool.

An old mug houses a bottle cleaning brush. A jar is reused to hold veggie scrub brushes. A tiny clay pot holds steel wool.

Clockwise:  A spray bottle is reused to contain vinegar and water to condition my hair. A bath salt jar gets a second life holding a homemade body butter.  A silicone lid from a broken travel mug becomes the perfect soap dish.  A protein bar baggie now houses one of my many sample soap bars.

Clockwise: A spray bottle is reused to contain vinegar and water to condition my hair. A bath salt jar gets a second life holding a homemade body butter. A silicone lid from a broken travel mug becomes the perfect soap dish. A protein bar baggie now houses one of my shampoo bar samples.

A jar lid becomes a plant dish.

A jar lid becomes a plant dish.

A strawberry container upcycles into a linen closet organizer.

A strawberry container upcycles into a linen closet organizer.

 

Coming up, here are some of my favorite upcycling ideas from others:    

A chair becomes a towel rack and shelf. Courtesy of the blog, Twisted Sifter.

A chair becomes a towel rack and shelf. Courtesy of the blog, Twisted Sifter.

Incandescent lightbulbs become mini hanging vases.  Courtesy of Red Ship.

Incandescent lightbulbs become mini hanging vases. Courtesy of Red Ship.

Oh, lovely.  A bike is held by old bike handlebars.  Courtesy of Upcycle That.

 A bicycle is held by old bike handlebars. Courtesy of Upcycle That.

Apparently, all you need is a glass cutter and very coarse sand paper.  Courtesy of The Art of the R's.

Apparently, all you need is a glass cutter and very coarse sand paper to transform wine bottles in glasses. Courtesy of The Art of the R’s.

Who wants this beautiful lamp made from a wine bottle?  Courtesy of HGTV.

Who wants this beautiful lamp made from a wine bottle? Courtesy of HGTV.

This mirror is made from collected sticks that are painting white and attached to a mirror.  See HGTV on how to do this.

This mirror is enhanced from twigs that are painted white and attached to it. See HGTV on how to do this.

An old wine box transforms into shoe storage.  Courtesy of Twisted Sifter.

An old wine box transforms into shoe storage. Courtesy of Twisted Sifter.

 

Ever wonder what to do with old, mismatched kitchen utensils?  Courtesy of Twisted Sifter.

Ever wonder what to do with old, mismatched kitchen utensils? Courtesy of Twisted Sifter.

Need to decorate?  How about framing an old piece of wood with character?  Courtesy of HGTV.

Need to decorate? How about framing an old piece of wood with character? Courtesy of HGTV.

Transform your old jars into a decorative herb garden!  Courtesy of Camille Styles.

Transform your old jars into a decorative herb garden! Courtesy of Camille Styles.

 

Have you ever repurposed or upcycled?  What ideas would you like to try? Share the inspiration in the comments section below.

The Magic Of Rainwater For Your Hair

 

Who enjoys dancing in the rain?

Who enjoys dancing in the rain?  Photo Credit: Praise Philly

Nature is absolutely magical and sometimes even beautifying.  The simplest things can be the most profound.  Take rainwater, for instance: while I used to resist being outside in the rain, particularly in cold weather, I now remind myself, when caught in a spring sprinkle,  to relax and enjoy.  The rain brings out the child in me who wants to splash in puddles, muse at drops glistening over leaves and enjoy the sensations of tiny droplets falling on my skin.  Not to mention, rain does amazing things to my hair.

Just two days ago, I got caught in the rain.  I told the part of me, that wanted to hurry to my destination and get out of the rain, to relax.  I slowed my pace, relaxing into the sensations of a light, cool rain showering all over my skin.  I was wearing flip flops and seemed to inadvertently splash some dirt, from puddles, up the backs of my legs.  There was a joy to this messiness.

Once I got indoors and spied my reflection in the mirror, my previously flat, slightly frizzy hair, was now wavy, soft and glossy.  Hooray!  I have also noticed that when I get caught in a rain or mist, that I can go an extra day without washing my hair.

So, what is about the rain that creates this hair magic? Rain is a soft water which hair loves. Hard water doesn’t wash your hair as well; you can’t lather as well and it doesn’t rinse out the soap scum very well either.  Also, rainwater doesn’t have chlorine, which is harsh for our skin and hair.

Digging a little deeper, what I found out from a company called,  Rainwater Connection, is that rainwater is a “high quality water” that “is soft, neutral in pH, free from disinfection by-products, salts, minerals, and other natural and man-made contaminants.”   However, they caution that you should properly collect and filter your rainwater for personal use.

When googling about the benefits of rainwater for hair, several websites cautioned against using acid rain.  Holistics.com cautions: “Rainwater still has chemicals in it, but it won’t contain some of the heavier chemicals found in hard water. Rainwater is not safe to drink without filtering it first. If you live in an acid rain area or any place where a layer of smog casts a pallor over the town, washing with rainwater is not for you.”  I even looked at a map that showed acid rain prone areas of the United States. It looks like I live in one of them.  Still, my hair seems to love getting caught in the rain.

Here are some other website pages that tell you how to wash your hair with rainwater and also things you should be cautious about when using rainwater:

I keep wondering, however, if there is something else about rainwater other than it’s softness, lack of chlorine and lack of other contaminates?   Unlike treated tap water, it comes from the sky and is part of the cycles of nature.

It is alive.

A selfie of yours truly, enjoying a light morning rain.

A selfie of yours truly enjoying a light morning rain.

The Persistence Of Nature In The City

 

Springs lushness ignites the soul.

Spring’s lushness ignites the soul.

Spring has been springing for over two months now and I’m still in awe.  A city that had felt hostile, cold and barren now dances in bird song and explodes in green lushness, flowers and joy.  I just can’t get over it and nor do I want to.

The beautiful merging of man-made and nature.

The beautiful merging of man-made and nature.

I often take the scenic route, avoiding busy or ugly streets, preferring the magical blend of beautiful architecture, lush gardens and the sway of trees sighing in the gentle wind.

Every bit of green helps.

Every bit of green helps.

You see, ever little bit of green helps in an urban environment.  The less cement, the better.  I often wish the sidewalks were narrower, giving way to plant life instead.  Perhaps, our walkways could be like quaint brick paths with little grasses, weeds and dandelions creeping up  between the bricks, exposing the soil and the richness of life.

Nature persists.

Nature persists.

In spite of the concrete, pavement, dense buildings and humanity’s intent to control and contain nature, she persists, determined to burst forth.  You see her in between sidewalk cracks, growing up the side of buildings and taking over the yards of vacant homes.

Nature persists through concrete.

Nature persists through concrete.

I often wonder about her rich soil and microorganisms trapped beneath streets, buildings and sidewalks, wondering if they persist too?  I wonder about the rain water that longs to feed the soil and give birth to life, that is often left to trickle down the cement and into storm drains instead?

And, I wonder if cities could be like forests, seamlessly merging man-made with nature in a mutually nourishing  and symbiotic dance expressing the web of life?

 

 

Looking At My Plastic Waste Footprint

RESIZEerinplasticwaste4

Last week I began to take an honest look at the plastic waste I generate.  I have been reading the book, Plastic-Free by Beth Terry (highly recommended), because of my desire to eliminate plastic– something I consider to be a huge environmental hazard.  Her book includes an exercise (Plastic Trash Challenge), which is also on her blog,  to assess and truly get present with the amount of plastic waste we generate, both recyclable and non-recyclable.  Anyone, care to join me?

I have been on my green journey for years and, perhaps, some people would consider me a little hardcore. So, as you can imagine, I was both humbled and surprised to see how much plastic waste I generated this past week– me the super greenie.  To be fair,  half of the plastic waste I generated was from a gift I received  in the mail (those darn plastic packing pillows!) and also snacks that my boyfriend purchased that I couldn’t resist enjoying as well.  You will also notice things that don’t look like plastic in the photo, such as cat food cans (all cans that hold food are plastic-lined), brown paper frozen berry bags (also plastic-lined) and my old, cheap, ruined boots (made from synthetic petroleum-based fibers.)  Now that I have justified my waste to feel less guilty, let’s get to the juicy stuff.

In the book, Beth invites her readers to truly get present with their trash.  Taking sage wisdom from her meditation teacher, she suggests that we feel our feelings as we look at the pile of waste that we have created.  Like any river, emotions (e-motion) need to flow so we can stay unblocked and clear.  With this clarity we can make wiser choices.

Yesterday, before I meditatively sat with my trash, I initially felt overwhelmed and filled with a flurry of anxious questions– did this mysterious wrapper for my butter have plastic in it? What about this cap to my wine bottle? It didn’t seem quite like metal nor plastic- but some strange combination.  Could I recycle, at the grocery store recycling bag drop-off,  the plastic packaging for my veggie burgers and the small plastic baggies that I had accumulated from snack items?  Was I ready to stop buying plastic-packaged foods and start making things, like bread, from scratch, even though I don’t really like cooking or baking?  The last question really overwhelmed me. I imagined hours of my life disappearing to extended kitchen duty as I made several staple items from scratch.  Ugh.  I even feel overwhelmed just writing about it.

Today, however, I meditatively sat before the plastic waste I generated in a week’s time.  I was actually surprised at what arose.  Instead of the overwhelm bubbling to the surface again, a calm clarity came over me.  It actually felt good to witness my waste.  The plastic waste I generated was no longer a vague idea.  Seeing everything before me so clearly, I intuitively felt the next steps I was ready to take. I didn’t worry about what I was not yet ready to deal with.  I knew, in time, my plastic-free journey would flourish like a garden, growing out of the abundance and the joy of living in harmony with the Earth, not deprivation, overwhelm and constriction.

In closing, I’d love to hear your feedback on going plastic-free and also the plastic waste we all generate.  Have any of you ever taken an honest look at your own trash? If so, I’d love to hear your experience.

Go Green 8 Week Challenge

RESIZEgogreen

This is not my usual blog post, but I hope you will join the fun and spread your green wings with me.   The parameter of this challenge is to pick one green goal per week for eight weeks.  Your goals may be things that you have been meaning to do, but keep putting off.   They may be goals that are a little out of your comfort zone.  Or, maybe, you just want an inspiring launching pad to take your green journey to the next level.

Why Do An 8 Week Go Green Challenge?

Sometimes, our personal journeys can get a little stagnant.  This challenge provides an inspiring structure for us to play our edge and create new possibilities in our lives.

Going green also means taking better care of ourselves.  This is an opportunity to nourish our bodies and souls with healthy, sustainable choices.

We all know, somewhere deep inside of us, that we depend on a healthy planet to sustain us.  We also know that are a lot of environmental issues happening now like climate change, species going extinct, pollution driven health problems, habitat destruction and ocean acidification (to name a few).  This 8 Week Challenge is an inspiring chance to empower you too make a difference and realize how much you matter.

Instructions

Choose one green goal per week for eight weeks. After you complete your green goal, blog about it. Then post your blog link in the comments section below with a short synopsis of what your blog post is about.  This weekly challenge starts on Monday, May 26th and ends on Sunday, July 20th.

If you don’t have a blog, no problem!  Share a few sentences about your goal each week in the comments section.  Share with friends and family- maybe, they will even join you in taking the challenge.

Did you find out about this challenge a few weeks after it started?  No problem!  Jump in any time over the next eight weeks.  When the official challenge ends, you can continue on in anyway you see fit.

Types of Green Goals

The sky is the limit, but here are some ideas to get your creative juices flowing:

  •  Personal steps to green your life: buy organic and/or sustainable local food,  start a veggie garden, shop with reusable bags and eliminate disposable bags , stop buying bottled water, convert to sustainable personal care products, buy minimally packaged or unpackaged items when possible, buy your next piece or furniture or article of clothing second hand or made with sustainable materials, conserve water, research renewable energy options to implement in your home, watch an environmental documentary, etc.
  • Activism: Volunteer at a local environmental organization, go to an environmental rally, inspire awareness and sustainable action in your community, contact your elected officials about environmental issues, etc.
  • Inner ecology:  We are part of the Earth and its ecosystems. Taking that concept further,  we are each an ecosystem onto ourselves.  We need to allow our inner gardens to flourish. What unnecessary clutter, time-consuming distractions and out-dated perceptions take you away from your well-being and doing the things that matter most, like living in harmony with the Earth?

Want more ideas?  Check out my goals below and click around my blog.  You can also check out other green blogs, books, documentaries and resources.

Tips

  • If a goal seems too large to do in one week,  it can probably be broken down into smaller, more manageable goals that can be accomplished over a few weeks.
  • In a non-judgmental fashion, notice what feelings, thoughts and reactions arise when you embark upon your goal.  This is an opportunity to get to know yourself better and find what flows for you.
  • Remember to not force anything.  Check out my blog post on finding the flow in your green journey.  

My 8 Green Goals

Just in case you’re curious (and also for accountability on my end), here are my green goals.  They will be in the category, “My Green Journey”. They may not happen in this exact order and I may change one or two:

  1. Take the Plastic Trash Challenge to get an honest look at the plastic waste I generate, so I can make better choices.
  2. Set up my green YouTube channel and post my first video.
  3. Go on a electronic diet to reduce unnecessary distractions in my life.
  4. Call or email a one or two food companies I like and suggest more sustainable packaging alternatives.
  5. Talk to the neighbors in my 54 unit building about enrolling in the Organic Waste Collection program.
  6. Start a microgreens and/or herb window garden.
  7. Lighten my load and sustainably get rid of items I no longer use or like.
  8. Go to a rally to stop fracking or some other environmental cause I am moved by.

Last, but not least, tell your friends and spread the green goodness!  And please don’t hesitate to ask me any questions.

 

Solar Powered Cars Anyone?

solar power car

Photo: Daniel Borman, Flickr

Renewable energy cars are totally possible!  Our only challenges are the people profiting from the dirty energy of oil who do not want these new technologies to replace our gas engine cars and our collective beliefs that we are helpless to these people.  Deep in my heart, however, I do not believe that to be true.  We can find peaceful, creative ways to overcome that challenge.  I will be writing a blog post on that topic shortly.

So, without further ado, check out this inspiring article about a Nigerian student who converted a Volkswagen Beetle into a wind and solar-powered car:

Nigerian Student Converts a VW Beetle into a $6,000 Wind- and Solar-Powered Car

Also, I would LOVE to hear your thoughts on this article and on renewable energy cars in general.  Perhaps, you know something I don’t or have a unique perspective.  Do share, brilliant one!

 

 

 

 

 

You Can’t Scare People Into Going Green

Occupy Wall Street

A man paints a sign at Occupy Wall Street: “Give The Earth A Vote.”

How is truly sustainable global change created? 

I used to think that people would adopt a greener lifestyle if they truly knew the staggering and heart-breaking damage caused to our beautiful planet and the well being of the human race by many of our modern habits.  Perhaps, they would even persuade politicians and corporations to follow suite.  I used to feel that people were just unaware of the effects of their day to day habits (after all, we aren’t taught these things in school or via popular media) and if they were aware, they would change.

While I do think awareness is part of the key (it certainly changed me), I sure as heck know that the energy of fear, anger, begging, pleading and the doom and gloom scenarios of the climate change (and other environmental disaster) is not the answer to inspire most people into effective action.

A few days ago, I came across an article that shone to me like a beacon of light. It was like a missing ingredient in a grander dish where all the other flavors can finally begin to pull together into a successful, positive creation.   In this article, the author articulates the need to educate and inspire people, while giving them manageable, life-enhancing and personally rewarding actions that create positive change.  Please enjoy Creating A Culture Of Hope–Not Fear–Around Sustainability.

In closing, here’s a little food for thought.  Sometimes, when we are confronted with the potential of creating deep and meaningful change,  our own fears, frustrations and self perceived limitations can surface.  I truly believe that these larger issues that face us, like climate change, are an opportunity for us to both personally and collectively heal our perceived helplessness, complacency and self-imposed limitations to creating the peaceful and sustainable world we truly want.