Tag Archives: reuse

10 reasons why you’re not green!

Recycling is not the answer

Recycling doesn't mean you're green

First, there were the hotels with their “Please reuse your towels so we can save water” cards. They were one of the first industries to get on board with greenwashing about a decade ago. I admit, at first, I was happy to see this, and reused my towels. Yet, it was really just a ploy to save money for if they really cared about the environment, they would have also had recycling boxes in every room and offered non-disposable plates and cutlery in the restaurants.

I’m starting to see this same kind of green superficiality making its way into our society. With its guise of being positive (and I’m not saying it’s 100% not) it’s not challenging us to question our daily habits and make changes that will really make a difference. I constantly hear  “Oh I’m green because I recycle” or “I’m green because I buy energy-efficient lightbulbs” and “Oh cool, my X brand coffee cup is compostable”. As if it took just a purchase to be green.

You are not green simply because: Continue reading

Cat owners rejoice – how to reuse pet food bags to reduce litter waste

How to reduce litter waste with cat food bags

Reduce plastic bag and litter waste by reusing resealable pet food bags

If you’re like me, you hate cleaning the cat’s litter box. On top of that, you probably use your grocery store bags, but now that you’re using reusable grocery store bags, you have fewer of these left and they’re reserved mainly for your garbage can. Am I right?

Here’s a tip i discovered. Nowadays, a lot of dry pet food comes in these resealable zip lock type bags. So, rather than throwing them out, I reuse them for litter waste.  One 9lb bag reduces the need for 10 grocery store bags.  This bag will last 1-2 weeks and I can clean out the litter box more frequently. This makes my cats happier too.

Smart? I think so. Just another way of implementing the 4 R’s of waste management.

Rethink -> Reduce -> Reuse -> Recycle

Putting the litter in the resealable cat food bag

Putting the litter in the resealable cat food bag

Not only can you clean the litter out more frequently by using this same bag, there’s also less odor since i can easily store this bag on my balcony.

Clean litter box

Clean litter box thanks to reused pet food bag

Why recycling is not the answer

screenshotThese days, many people believe think that being “green” means recycling. Don’t get me wrong, this is good, but it should be the last resort in the green solution.

Consumption = (extraction, production, distribution, consumption, disposal) Cycle Remember in elementary school when we learned about the 3 R’s, (reduce, reuse, recycle)? These are the 3 steps in solving our waste management problems. However, before we even start the consumption cycle, we need to rethink our actions and how they will impact the environment. If we rethink our actions, we possibly eliminate the need for waste management in the first place.

RETHINK-REDUCE-REUSE-RECYCLE

For those of you who have seen the Story of Stuff, good for you, for those who haven’t, watch it, it will literally change your life. This has become my environmental bible as it gives an excellent ‘big picture’ of the world in which we live.

WELCOME TO THE 4 R’s

RETHINK We drastically need to rethink our purchases and reflect on the difference between ‘wants’ and ‘needs’.  Do I really need to upgrade my cell phone and computer every 2 years? Do I really need to buy brand new furniture or could i buy second hand?  The objective of ‘rethink’ is to see if we can avoid generating waste. Ex. Instead of buying liquid hand soap, why not buy bar soap?  By purchasing bar soap, we reduce the need for the 3 R’s (waste management), because we no longer have any packaging to throw away.

REDUCE

The objective of ‘reduce’ is to use less of the products we buy, thus reducing our consumption. Ex. Vinegar is an excellent cleanser, degreaser and disinfectant. By buying 1 bottle of vinegar, you could reduce your consumption for at least 8 bottles of commercial (toxic) cleaners.

  • disinfectant spray (Lysol)
  • window cleaner (windex)
  • hardwood floor cleaner
  • drain declogger (Drano)
  • degreaser
  • metal cleaner
  • coffee pot cleaner
  • carpet cleaner

REUSE

The objective of ‘reuse’ is to reduce our consumption of products by reusing them. Before sending something to the recycling bin, or worse the landfill, could this ‘item’ still be of use for either myself or someone else? Ex. Computers, TV’s, furniture, clothing, electronics, cell phones, cooking equipment, dishes, home décor etc. All of this can be donated to so many organisations that exist in your area. Do a google search. Myself personally, I reuse the plastic containers that soup or salads come in as Tupperware.  You just have to make sure you hand wash them as they can’t go in the dishwasher (Low grade plastic).

RECYCLING

This is the last step in the waste management hierarchy. It reduces the inputs (energy & raw materials) needed for production and reduces the amount of waste for disposal. Recycling gives us one last chance at diverting waste from landfills which is unsustainable and environmentally harmful.  However, not all recyclable items can be recycled indefinitely. Paper will still need a percentage of wood fibres due to the degradation of the recycled fibres. Not all municipalities recycle and some don’t even recycle what is picked up which is a big shock for residents.  Recycling still uses vast amounts of energy and water to recreate new materials and it still keeps us active in the consumer society without questioning our actions. There is no doubt that in an urban society, it is not possible for us to grow our own food, make our own homes and reuse what we make, like tribal societies who have an extremely small carbon footprint.  We can’t make our own cereals so we our dependant on buying them, only able to recycle the cardboard box and so many of us depend on frozen meals because we simply don’t have time (or even know how) to cook. Thus we need to be able to recycle. But let us not forget to rethink our entire actions and see if we can divert from waste management in the first place.

CONCLUSION

We live on a finite planet meaning we have a limited number of resources so we cannot keep on consuming the way we are presently in a linear fashion. The only reason it currently works is because the majority of humans on the planet are poor and are not a part of consumerism. But India and China are waking up and we are nearing a crisis for the need of resources to keep up with Western levels of demand. The only chance we have at diverting a catastrophy and ensuring our kids future is healthy is to RETHINK.

What to do with that damn old couch?

Do you have an article of furniture, a love seat or couch that you want to get rid of but don’t think anyone would pay for it?  You dream of having a fancy new modern couch in the colour of your choice but feel guilty when faced with the fact that you’d have to throw yours out?  Or maybe you were like me, you had a couch with a great structure by your wonderful feline friends took a liking to it, destroyed it and now you don’t know what to do?

Wait, before you throw it out and contribute to our every growing landfill problems, why not consider reupholstering it? I did. I had a great sofa bed couch that I paid more than $1200 for but because my cats had torn the living day lights out of it, I didn’t even think I’d get $200 for it if I sold it on Craigs list and that bothered me because deep down, she really was a good couch.

Giving it to family wasn’t an option as sending it to Vancouver would cost way more than it was worth so I was faced with the dilemma of “what do I do with it?” I did a little research and realised that reupholstering was the best option.  If the couch structure is good, reupholsterers can make a better quality couch then what you could purchase these days.

They completely redo the foam, the lining and the fabric.  They also use better quality materials so the couch ends up lasting longer too.  And dare I mention that their craftsmanship is much better then the couches that are made on assembly lines in China these days?

I knew nothing about it but figured it couldn’t cost that much. I took to the the yellow pages online and started searching for reupholstering companies in my neighbourhood.  Most wanted you to send them a picture by email in order to figure out how much material they would need in order to give you a quote. Ha ha, silly me, I thought it couldn’t cost more than say, oh I don’t know, $200-$300? Well, in reality, it cost almost as much as a new couch, but then I had to tell myself that the quality is so much better and I would save my couch from ending up in the landfill.

So if you call a re-upholsterer, don’t expect great customer service, someone to sell you on the idea of how amazing reupholstering is or how you are saving the environment.  They are craftsmen and could care less about great phone skills but boy do they do a great job. My guy even threw in extra arm covers!

The guy came to my house with fabric samples and I even did tests by rubbing pet hair on them, then vacuumed it up to see how easy it was. He didn’t care. He was knowledgeable about the durability and because he wasn’t a “salesmen”, didn’t hide anything from me. He was even upfront about the cost of fabric and his profit, which when you count the hours it takes to reupholster a couch, isn’t much.

All in all, I can say I was very pleased with the results and would recommend it to anyone. Do check around with different reupholsterers though. The price varied by $500 depending on who I called. But trust me, it is well worth it. Has anybody else considered doing it?

Update: February 15th, 2009 Due to popular demand, I am now posting the website of Creatif reupholstering, the company that reupholstered my couch.